Why Amazon Mom is like a misshelved library book

A trip to the library is a lot like driving on a long-distance vacation.

It’s fun and fascinating, and whether you’re looking for a particular book or just browsing for whatever meets the eye, it’s a pathway to enjoyment that makes the journey as fun as the destination.amazonmom

One time, though, a friend of mine was cruising through the library, and on a mission.  He was looking for a particular book, and nothing else would do.  He visited the right floor, the right section and the right shelf.  The system said it was available, but it wasn’t.  Even the help of a kind librarian was to no avail.

As it turns out, he eventually found that book.  He said he remembers happily holding it, but also scolding it, as if to ask, “If I didn’t know where you were, how could I find you?”

A recent retail experience again reminded him of that misshelved book.

Amazon knows a thing or two about books.  It started as an online bookstore, and eventually diversified to sell nearly anything that can have a price tag placed on it.  It is the largest Internet based company in the United States, and it’s often our first stop shopping destination.

We love Amazon, and it loves us back.  With regular enticements like free shipping, discounts, Black Friday sales, and rewards programs, it’s everything we’d want in a shopping experience, even if we can’t touch and smell the item first.

Then, several years ago it introduced Amazon Mom.amazonmom2

For years, dads have been unfairly mislabeled “Mr. Mom” – a name they find both offensive and erroneous (would anyone dare call a working mother, “Mrs. Dad”?) – so it’s easy to make a sophisticated deduction about what Amazon Mom might entail.

But we don’t want to spoil the fun; here’s Amazon Mom’s own curious self-description:  “(It) is a prime membership program aimed at helping parents and caregivers in the prenatal through toddler years use Amazon to find and save on products that families need.  Amazon Mom is open to anyone, whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent or caretaker.”

So let’s get this straight:  a dad can join a mom program?  The word mom has become a generic term for parent, like Kleenex is for facial tissues?

And then dads must stop to think:  realistically – as a dad – is Amazon Mom speaking to you?  Does this program’s name suggest something that you would want to browse?  Would you walk into a “mom” retailer, or down a “mom” aisle in a bricks-and-mortar store?

Also recently, we had a pleasant 140-character conversation with the friendly folks at 4moms, a baby robotics company founded in March 2006 which makes high-tech baby gear.

4moms enlightened us that its company name is derived from an initial focus group held that consisted of four mothers.

Cute and unique, indeed, but in a baby world where businesses purposely leave dads out of the parenting mix, it’s a saying that’s well-worn.

Had the name been 3moms or 5moms, we would have never taken issue with anything.  But imagine that the wildly-successful burger-maker franchise Five Guys had been named 4Guys – that means something else entirely, doesn’t it?  We’d all perceive them differently, and wouldn’t women be deservedly up in arms?

We’re sure the desire of 4moms to match true company history with the play-on-words was too good for them to pass up, but you know who gets passed up in the process?

Dads.

Dads are parents too, and it’s time businesses start listening to fathers everywhere.

Judging by its products alone, 4moms seems to have a bright future ahead.  And with a financial backing like no other in cyberspace, Amazon will probably carry on for a long time, that is, unless the recent uproar forces at least an overdue name change.

But like that lost library book, if my friend doesn’t know where these companies are or doesn’t notice them because they’re not speaking to him (he’s even a dad), then how can he find them?  They must not care about dads as customers, right?  If a product is not categorized and shelved properly like that book, do consumers stand a chance at ever finding it, enjoying it, or even using it?

If these companies really cared, perhaps they could start marketing their products to its true customers.

As in, all of them.

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Times for a change

I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years.motherlode

Once I pitched a newsletter idea for a sanitation company in a town called White. My original thought was to name it “White Trash.”

Okay, okay, confession: that story and pun was made up.

But even though a pun may fit and might sometimes even seem too good to pass up, it doesn’t make it right.

Consider the New York Times and its Motherlode site. Its goal is “to cover the ways our families affect us, and the ways the news affects our families.”

We love the play on words if it were a moms-only site, and bear with us – we’re not comparing a term like white trash to Motherlode – we’re only using an analogy to make a point. Even its url is listed in web language as http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/.

Note the first word used is parenting, as in moms and dads.

Obviously, families include dads, and with a title like Motherlode, how can it possibly make dads feel welcome, or even make them want to check out the site?

Not surprisingly, the writing you’ll find there is fantastic – very fit to print.

After all, this is the New York Times, otherwise known as media royalty. Everyone in the newspaper world wants to be like the New York Times, winners of a record 114 Pulitzer Prizes. It has been the standard in journalism for 163 years, and of course, it is a wonderful act to follow.

Hardly anyone should ever question what they do because they’re as good as it gets, right?

In that vein, does it not seem like everyone’s giving the Motherlode name – surely a discriminatory one – a free pass, just because it’s the New York Times? As readers, do we even recognize its name’s chauvinistic tone, or have we become immune to the exclusion of dad in its title?

In the last 30 days, I counted just one Motherlode news story directed explicitly at dads and fatherly issues (while the “Deployment Diary” is excellent and referred to dad a lot, it’s not a dad-specific issue). And I only noticed three male writers. So, if “families” is its goal, it’s missing the mark in more ways than title alone.

NBC News, another highly reputable media source, became all the wiser when it suddenly renamed its TODAY Moms to TODAY Parents in June, a far more inclusionary and correct name for the news affecting, well, parents.

As it stands now, the New York Times would rather use the word mother as a generic term for parent, like Kleenex is for facial tissue.

Do you ever ask someone, can you please hand me a Puffs?

In the same way, let’s not let this attitude lead to a society where office forms simply state “mother,” but we have to assume the office wants us to list both the mom’s and dad’s name.

Dads know this oft-forgotten tale all too often.

After all, it was only two generations or so ago that dads were not even allowed in the delivery room. While that practice has changed for the better, let’s be honest, doctors still mostly speak only to moms at child well checks as if they’re the lead parent, making dad to feel like an assistant at best, nonexistent at worst.

Being one of the leaders in journalism means setting an example and acting like it, from top to bottom, side to side, and tiny little bit to Motherlode.