The XX Factor

Why There’s a $1,500 Stroller

“Cue the sanctimonious rants.”

So said commenter Eric NYC of Helaine Olen’s “Moneybox” column in Slate last week: ” Bugaboo’s Big Bet .” And sanctimonious is absolutely most people’s first reaction to a $1,500 baby stroller. Who would buy such a thing? Who would fall for such an obvious and ridiculous combination of brand-name and bling? Shocks, styling, ease of steering-who were they kidding? What could possibly make a stroller worth $1,500?

Nothing-unless you redefine worth. It’s likely that the components that go into a Bugaboo Donkey or its predecessors, once laughably expensive at just $1,000 or even a tad less, raise the manufacturing costs well into three digits. Consider the braking and suspension on a higher-end bicycle, and concede that there’s (at least a little) more going on here than an artsy design and a price established solely for the purpose of making your neighbors’ eyes bug out. But even granting that Bugaboos are more than revamped $15 umbrella strollers, $1,500 seems a bit … extreme. What would make people-seemingly rational people, if we judge by the Bugaboo defenders who posted to “Moneybox”-drop 1.5 Gs on a baby stroller, even one that can now accommodate two babies?

Desperation. There are surely Bugaboo purchasers out there who did little more than walk into the store and demand the priciest option for the obvious and most abhorrent reasons. But the Bugaboo lured in far more than just the status-seekers. It spoke to the sleepless, the stunned, the world-rocked young parents who’d suddenly found that, just as everyone had promised but they’d never quite believed, nothing-nothing-was the same. The Bugaboo promised to make at least some of those things that now presented a world of difficulty easier. The baby would sleep better on those coveted returns to public life, the stroller would fit through more aisles and be somehow less of an encumbrance and more of an accessory. And, brilliantly, Bugaboo set such a high price on those improvements that it required an investment of belief on behalf of the buyer right out of the box.

I never bought a Bugaboo, but considering the broad stable of strollers we had at our disposal until last year’s big clear-out, I’ll save my sanctimony. Every one of them-the jog stroller, the stacked Phil and Teds mobile, the foldable Maclaren, the wheeled baby-backpack-was an attempt to regain some of the easy mobility I seemed to lose with the arrival of each child, no matter how wanted. And I’m afraid to add up the total cost of our baby wheels collection. I’m certain we’d be approaching Bugaboo territory. To paraphrase (yet again) the great Mastercard marketer: Bugaboo, $1,500. Ability to return life to its previous state of baby- or second-baby-free turmoil? For better or for worse (better, eventually), un-purchase-able. Illusion that a stroller, however pricey, might help? Priceless.