Doorstep hires and returns – a small plea…

In the three years since I’ve been coming, it’s been a pleasure to watch Morecambe Bay Slings go from strength to strength. It might seem hard to believe now but, when I first came along, with a not-quite 3 month old in my arms, we all used to fit around one table in the Cornerstone and the amount of slings available to hire would have easily packed into a small car boot. Today it’s a very different story, with over 50 slings on hire at the time of writing and a massively expanded community of folk coming to us from all walks of life – which is wonderful news for all concerned.

Unfortunately, however, this expansion comes at a cost: while the founding principles of MBS haven’t changed (we aim to offer exactly the same community spirit of any parent-to-parent group and all the money from hires goes right back into buying more slings and improving the library for everyone), the complexity of running the library has most certainly increased. And this brings me to the subject of today’s post…

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had quite a few requests from people to carry out hires and returns from the doorstep (the doorsteps of our own homes, that is, not the Cornerstone/Kerry’s!). In the light of this, we thought it important to be clear about what our stance on this is and, perhaps more importantly, to be clear about why we see things this way. Let’s take doorstep returns first. These are absolutely fine in an emergency – and, let’s face it, there are plenty of emergencies in parenting! – but this isn’t something that we want to encourage on a regular basis. And, at the very least, if you do have to do this, it’s important to make sure that your sling is returned to the doorstep before the meet at which it is due, rather than afterwards. Why is this so important? Well, Abi’s post on late slings explains it all really but, in a nutshell, it’s because many of our carriers are in high demand and we often have a waiting list of parents waiting to try them: we generally encourage those parents to come in for the meet when we know (or think we know!) that a particular sling will be coming back, so that the carrier can be passed on to its new ‘home’. So if said sling does not materialise on time, someone could have had a wasted trip to us, as we may not have anything similar to offer (indeed, this problem is becoming more acute now that we have a facility that enables you to check what’s in stock from home: you might see a particular sling and come in specially for it expecting it to be back…).

Now let’s talk about the other side of the equation: doorstep hires. Again, these really need to be the exception rather than the rule and, as a result, we can only offer these at the discretion of the doorstep owner(!) and with a charge of £5 for 10 minutes maximum. On top of this, we really need to know what you would like the Thursday before so we can bring it home with us from our library session.  After all, if we need to make a special trip to town, root through the cupboard to find it and then travel home again, then that could be taking up an hour or more of our time, not the 10 min you think you’re paying for.  If the £5 on top of our standard hire fee sounds a little steep, then it’s important to explain the context for this. Firstly, think back to the beginning of this article – remember that we have over 50 slings out at any one time and that, as a library, we are entirely run by volunteers. Now consider that each hire can take some time as we’ll need to fit it to you and your baby, show you how to use it, take payment for it and get all the admin done for the hire. So practicalities alone dictate that the most efficient way of providing this service to the maximum number of people is to have all the slings at one location (Cornerstone or Kerry’s) and do all the demos, fitting and admin when the full team is available to help. Imagine trying to do this process outside regular library times at the same time as working (almost certainly), looking after your kids (ditto), cleaning the house (maybe!) and just generally discharging all of the other responsibilities of modern life, and you can see how tricky it might become if we did this on a regular basis. Plus of course you’ll get a much better choice of slings if you come to see us during library times, rather than simply being restricted to what happens to be ‘at home’ at the time!

So, to summarise, doorstep returns are fine in an emergency but must be done before the due date for the sling. And doorstep hires can be offered in principle, but only at the discretion of the volunteer who is helping you and with a charge of £5 for a maximum of 10 minutes, but we would need to know what you wanted to hire by the previous Thursday so that we could bring it home with us ready for you to try.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and hope to see you in the library soon.

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