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The high cost of Binkying up Baby

MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published January 18, 2004

It's challenging enough for Jennifer Ball to raise two young daughters while working full time with a long daily commute.

Then the Binky people had to make life even more complicated.

Ball, a program coordinator for the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute in Dade City, had raised her first child, Sarah, now 9, on a certain kind of pacifier. Playtex makes it - the Binky Firm Comfort. In the world of pacifiers, it's old school: no cartoon characters, no neon colors.

Sarah would accept no substitute.

Ball's second child, Abigail, 2, also loves her Binky. But about five months ago, with Abigail's current pacifier showing some wear, Ball looked for a replacement.

She couldn't find one. Anywhere.

She started at Publix, where she had always bought them for about $3 apiece.

"I see this new and advanced Binky," Ball, 30, said. "It's nowhere even near close."

She looked and looked for the Firm Comfort and gradually became a bit obsessive about the pacifier hunt.

"I went crazy with it," she admits. "I went on both sides of Pasco looking. I live in Hernando, and I looked in Hernando."

Whenever she and her husband, Brian, were out driving, she'd make him pull over if a store looked promising. The search reached its apex one workday, when Ball hit seven stores on her lunch hour. She came up empty.

So she decided to go to the source. She called Playtex.

The Binky Firm Comfort was discontinued in 2002, she learned. They now offer - I'm not making this up, folks - the Binky Safe 'N Sure, Binky Comfort Flex, Binky Angled Orthodontic and Binky Comfort Flex Most Like Mother.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

A Playtex spokeswoman suggested Ball call a warehouse named Teepop that sells discontinued merchandise. Ball said the Teepop folks knew exactly which Binky she was talking about. And they had exactly none in stock. Seems they had a few at one time but sold out.

Ball had turned into Desperate Mom. This was not about spoiling her child. Abigail is her baby, and Ball is not ready to take away her pacifier.

"This is the only pacifier my daughter will go to," Ball says. "I've tried buying other pacifiers, like by Gerber, that have a similar nipple to it. And my daughter knows."

So a reliable company upgrades its product right out of your child's mouth? Where's a parent to turn?

The Internet.

"This hit me like a bolt of lightning - I'm going to go on eBay," Ball said.

The online auction site had an offering of three Binkies for $20. Ball, an eBay novice, bid $23. Time passed. She checked the bid again. $50. She was outbid. The auction ended.

Ball's sympathetic husband said weaning might be the only solution. (He's no Desperate Mom.)

But then an e-mail arrived from "Sportna," the eBay Binky seller. The pacifiers could be had for $60.

Sold.

Ball realizes the outrageousness of the purchase. But Desperate Mom would have paid anything.

"It's that mother in you," she said. "You're like, "No. She's my baby. She's not ready to be weaned. I will pay $20 a Binky.' "

Sportna, who lives in Pittsburgh, reports that she herself is a new mom. She stays home with her infant son and sells baby items on eBay for her boyfriend, who buys them from various wholesalers. Sportna can relate to Desperate Mom. She's making a killing off her.

Ball, meanwhile, plans to put Abigail in preschool next fall. She will have to be weaned by then. So with three Binkies on hand that each last about three months, the search is over.

"I'm set," Ball said. "For $60 I'm set."

To Desperate Mom, that's pocket change.

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