Refunds: Baby Einstein DVDs

Ta-dah! The whole educational video claim has come to roost. Baby Einstein, aka Walt Disney Company, is offering refunds on Baby Einstein DVDs purchased between June 5, 2004 and September 4, 2009. They’re not defective. They’re just not educational, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you have no business showing them to a child under age 2.

Don’t be confused by Baby Einstein’s refund page titled “DVD Upgrade / Moneyback Guarantee.” Read past the counter-offers for a book, CD or coupon and you’ll see the full-refund offer of $15.99 per DVD.

Read the nitty-gritty details at the New York Times. In short:

The videos — simple productions featuring music, puppets, bright colors, and not many words — became a staple of baby life: According to a 2003 study, a third of all American babies from 6 months to 2 years old had at least one “Baby Einstein” video.

Despite their ubiquity, and the fact that many babies are transfixed by the videos, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under 2.

In 2006, Ms. Linn’s group [Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood] went to the Federal Trade Commission to complain about the educational claims made by Disney and another company, Brainy Baby. As a result, the companies dropped the word ‘educational’ from their marketing. But the group didn’t think that was enough.

‘Disney was never held accountable, and parents were never given any compensation. So we shared our information and research with a team of public health lawyers,’ Ms. Linn said.

Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004.

Now, I’m not sure that parents need “compensation.” How do you compensate for wasted educational time, or worse, slowing your child’s development? (According to research, children who watch baby videos have smaller vocabularies).

But, the American justice system is a strange one. In some countries, corporations can actually be dissolved by the government. In America, corporations almost run the government, having a heavy, heavy hand influencing politicians and our laws.

The court system is one of the few ways to, in some small measure, balance out the power equation. In other words, you, John and Jane Q. Nobody, should love the courts because if you ever get wronged, it’s the little recourse for justice you’ll ever have.

And so when companies throw around claims about offering educational products, and those products ultimately can have the opposite effect, hey, hold the companies accountable in whatever manner possible.

I doubt this move will hurt Disney much. Not that many parents will be aware of the refund, nor have much interest. Baby Einstein could sell a DVD labeled “One hour of Babysitting” and it would become a best seller.


15 Responses to “Refunds: Baby Einstein DVDs”

  1. Jennifer says:

    No matter what the studies show and prove, there are still going to be too many parents with these videos. I fear that most people who hear about this refund will still keep the videos and continue to show them because, in their minds, it hasn’t harmed their children. Sure, it hasn’t given them any bruises…but their language development?

    I never liked these videos and hope that they quickly disappear.

    October 24th, 2009 at 9:57 am

  2. lindsey says:

    It is all about moderation. I don’t think 20 minutes of a BE video is going to irreparably harm their language development, but you get these parents that park their kid in front of the television from sun up to sun down and are surprised when they aren’t top of their class.

    October 24th, 2009 at 10:59 am

  3. Darren says:

    I may be minority opinion here, but I think that any parent who thought these videos would make their kids geniuses don’t deserve a refund. Watching them in moderation may be fine (and I’m sure there’s some expert somewhere who would still argue the benefits) but it should be common sense that watching a TV screen won’t turn a kid into Einstein. Disney probably even knew they could fight this, but decided that it was cheaper and better press to just offer refunds.

    October 24th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

  4. Sally Murphy says:

    how exactly do I claim my refund?

    October 24th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

  5. Mary says:

    The link to Baby Einstein’s site doesn’t work.

    October 24th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  6. AJ says:

    Whoops, the link went dead. I’ve updated it. Click the bolded “Baby Einstein’s refund page” link in the article above.

    October 24th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

  7. Joelle says:

    It’s not really a refund – it’s an exchange for an Einstein book or DVD. But it’s great that Thingamababy is sharing the news as the less time kids watch screens, the better.

    The best refund would be one put towards classic blocks (wood or otherwise) – which research shows is the best toy around.

    October 24th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

  8. AJ says:

    Nonono, don’t be confused by the book/cd/coupon offers. The last option states: “or you may return it, and we will refund the current retail value of the DVD ($15.99).” Disney is offering a full refund based on today’s value, but I’m sure it’d prefer you to choose a less-expensive exchange that keeps you using Baby Einstein products.

    October 24th, 2009 at 3:35 pm

  9. Christy says:

    Here’s my problem. I’ve got tons of the DVDs. My mom got them all for us when my daughter was born in 2005…most are still in the original shrink wrap.

    She liked a few of them, but we used them so rarely. And the only times that we did use them were when I needed to get something useful done, like cook dinner.

    While I didn’t think that they would make her a genius, I didn’t think that they would stunt her either. She’s 4 now, and clearly un-stunted. (Good lord, is that even a word?)

    I’m just wondering what they are going to do with the returned DVDs. Re-package them and sell them again? ;)

    October 24th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

  10. Paul says:

    We tried these enthusiastically with our daughter when she was born but after one or two watchings we all decided it was crap (us & our daughter!). Tried again when our son was born with the same conclusion.

    On the other hand I’ve always believed that listening to classical music is great for kids. I don’t know whether it fosters brain development and mathematics but it instills an appreciation of history and classics, sets a foundation for later discussions about what a composer is, and is great naptime music in the car. It seemed to work for our daughter who begged for piano lessons at 4yo, and our son who loves classical but sometimes when I put it on makes the funny comment “Turn it off, I don’t want to fall asleep now!”.

    As a great follow-on to getting used to classical, there is the amazing and amazingly funny Beethoven’s Wig series that I think AJ made us wise to. We have them all, and even bought extras for gifts over the past couple of years.

    October 25th, 2009 at 7:16 am

  11. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Yep. AJ reviewed them two years ago and the Beethoven’s Wig is GREAT.

    October 26th, 2009 at 6:32 am

  12. Carson Park Ranger says:

    Whew. I was afraid that I’d be surrounded by a generation of smart young people.
    Still, I hope that your children turn out to be smarter than my generation was.

    October 26th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

  13. ericafromamerica says:

    I think anyone who actually expects these videos to passively make their child smarter is a dunce themselves. My family has enjoyed them simply for their stimulation and entertainment power. They have reinforced many concepts I have already exposed my daughter to and have good humor and soothing music which I enjoy. They have also been a GREAT babysitter when I need to get something done around the house. My daughter is verbally advanced (so I’ve been told by every other adult she encounters)so I guess we are some miraculous exception. I’ll decide what is good for my child. Don’t watch TV if that is what you believe to be right for you and yours. We LOVE our Baby Einstein videos (all 24 of them…).

    October 27th, 2009 at 11:34 am

  14. JenRae says:

    my friend swears by the one that teaches sign language, and is there one with another language? I on the other hand thought they were crap. we got one as a gift from my baby shower, and I promptly sold it! :-)

    you have to hand it to them though… it was a genius idea to sell sub-par baby toys and dull dvd’s to millions of people just because it has the name “einstein” on it. wish i would have thought of that! haha!!!

    October 27th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

  15. AJ says:

    What new parents were or were not thinking the DVDs would do is beside the point. The term “educational” is not the same as “fun.” It conveys a meaning, a claim, that was apparently not supported by research. Worse, independent research indicates the DVDs could negatively impact vocabulary. I support at least a basic level of truth in advertising.

    November 1st, 2009 at 10:30 pm