by Kinsey Marie
Cloth diaper co-ops are a fun and exciting way to save money while buying cloth diapers. Co-ops are formed when a group of buyers comes together under the organization of a host to buy diapers in bulk for steep discounts. Many popular co-ops are found on social media groups, though some of them are secret (a secret buyer’s club that saves you big money… isn’t that alluring?)
A great thing about co-ops is the way it boosts the WAHM (work-at-home-mom) community. Many WAHMs decide to sell to co-ops and give them great prices on handmade goods such as cloth diapers, unpaper towels, wool dryer balls, custom jewelry, and much more. The co-ops and the WAHMs enjoy this mutually-beneficial relationship where moms help each other both save money and make it!
Cloth diaper co-ops can be controversial, since the majority of foreign manufacturers that work with co-ops are Chinese, and some big brand diaper manufacturers will not work with anyone without an authentic business ID. A few Chinese manufacturers have been known to sell poor quality diapers, or to be very slow in communication with buyers. Even with these caveats, buying through a co-op can be a great option for patient cloth mamas looking to build their stash cheaply.
While there may be questionable foreign suppliers, and questionable manufacturers, this article won’t focus on that, because a good co-op host will do her best to attain a safe transaction with reputable suppliers. As you may learn in your co-oping experience, a good host is worth her weight in gold. With that said, it’s important to note that there are NO guarantees when buying through co-ops. They provide amazing deals, but there is a risk, and it is important to work with a reputable host with a good track record when trusting them with your money.
Here’s how a co-op works: A host communicates with a supplier to negotiate a bulk buy at a discounted rate. The supplier gives a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) and pricing for the order size. Sometimes, there is a drop in price when the order hits certain quantities. The host then compiles orders for a group and structures the buy to close when the MOQ is hit or by a certain date. The host will give pricing for all the products, and all the details of the order as well as any co-op fees associated with that buy (typically $1-10 depending on the quantity you personally order.) The co-op fee goes to shipping supplies, printer ink, and other expenses the host incurs while running the buy. (Co-op fees are not the same as marking up a product for profit to the host, because that would make the event a “buy-in” instead of a co-op, and should be stated up front by a host.)
Everyone must have their order in by that set date, and once the buy closes, you are not supposed to change or cancel your order. It’s important that each member pays as they promised, because if orders are dropped after closing, it puts the entire buy for all members in jeopardy. Meeting the minimums is the most important part of the buy. Sometimes, if the group is having trouble meeting the minimums, they will close the order for anything except for “fills” on the items that need to meet their minimum requirement. Once everything is filled, the host completes the buy. Once the buy closes, the host will typically send invoices via PayPal, and everyone has 24-48hrs to pay for their order.
The host then submits the final order to the supplier and pays with the money she has collected from the group. The supplier will give an estimated time for production or will give an estimation of when the order will be shipped. Depending on whether the diapers ordered were in stock or need to be custom made, the production time can be 4-6+ weeks. Buying in a co-op takes patience. Once the order is shipping to the host, the supplier will notify them and should provide them with tracking information.
When the host receives the order, she will take the time to individually sort and package each person’s order. This can take hours or days, depending on the size of the order. Some larger co-ops will run a buy for more than 2,000 diapers at once. This takes an amazing amount of time, dedication, and organization to sort and deliver. All packages are weighed and exact shipping from the host to the co-op members is billed through Paypal, or posted on the order spreadsheet to be paid to pay the host. All payments to a host should be done as *goods or services* in Paypal so that the buyer has protection and can file a claim to get a refund should the products not get delivered. If money is gifted to a host, you are placing an immense amount of trust in her because Paypal will not back your transaction with their Buyer Guarantee.
Once the host has received your payment, she will mail your order and send you tracking information. When you get your order, it’s important to verify it was what you requested and is in the condition advertised. Remember that it isn’t the host who produced the product, so if there is a problem with the diapers, the host is not responsible for any defects or other issues. She should be notified so that she may be able to work something out with the supplier, but she will not be able to refund you unless the supplier refunds HER.
99% of the time, co-op buys go just as planned and everyone is happy with their purchase. There are times that hosts have “gone rogue” with people’s money and not delivered product as promised. That is a risk you are taking by ordering through a co-op. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you find a host that you can trust and always pay through Payal so you can get your money back if there is a dispute. When joining a new co-op, look through the history of completed buys to see how successful the host has been in delivering her products. Also take note of how openly she communicates with members during the buying process.
From time to time, orders are assessed a Duty bill. This is an extra tax that is assessed on goods that are imported. Some brands are subject to this more often than others, but there is no way for a host or a supplier to know ahead of time if their products will be subject to this tax. If a Duty bill is given to a host, the fee will be evenly distributed among all members of the buy according to the amount each person bought individually. You must pay your portion of any Duty on your order.
Keep in mind that China does not have the same intellectual property laws that the U.S. does, and some brands are guilty of patent infringement in the designs or prints of the diapers that they produce. It’s a rare possibility that your diapers could be seized by customs. If customs inspects these diapers and finds them to be in violation of our laws, they will seize them and keep them from being delivered. This is NOT the hosts fault. If this happens, the host will do their best to work with the supplier to refund the money for all the members in the buy. This is very rare, but it is a risk you should be aware of.
Remember that you are trusting someone you may not know with your money.Always track when you place your orders so you know when your 45-day Paypal Buyer Protection would expire. If you are within the 45-day window and the host has still not received or shipped your order, request to be re-invoiced so that you can renew your protection. The host will send a new invoice, and once you’ve paid, she will refund your original invoice amount, minus Paypal fees. If your order falls outside the 45-day window for Paypal Buyer Protection, and something goes wrong with the order, Paypal will not let you dispute or refund your money. If you purchased through Paypal on a credit card, or through your bank, you may be able to follow the process for a refund through the bank. Purchases made with your PayPal balance will not be eligible for a refund outside the 45-day window. Many people purposefully use a credit card to purchase in a co-op simply to have the extra protection.
A good host will be very open with communication and the status of the order. All international purchases have a 60-day Paypal Buyer Protection window, and a host will know when that deadline approaches. If the supplier seems to be taking their time, the host may decide to open a dispute simply to keep within the window of protection, even knowing the supplier is completing the order. This reduces the risk of not being able to give refunds if necessary, and also motivates the supplier to get the product out quickly.
The savings and fun atmosphere of cloth diaper co-ops make it worth the risks for many moms. Co-ops become a fun community where people with like interests and tastes get together and buy things for cheap. Often, the hosts will ask the members what they’d like them to run, and the host goes on a hunt for the bargain. Buying through co-ops is a blast, and can make cloth diapering even more addicting than it
IMPORTANT TIPS when working with co-ops:
~ Always read the Pinned Post at the top of the page that outlines the individual rules of the group, and fill out their Membership Directory.
~ Carefully read the specifics of each buy so you understand all prices and fees associated with the order.
~ Check your order once it is on the spreadsheet to verify accuracy. This is YOUR responsibility, not anyone else’s. If you have submitted an order via a mobile device, follow the instructions for mobile ordering, and leave a comment saying you ordered via mobile.Always check your order for accuracy.
~ Don’t hound the hosts for updates. Most hosts are very good to give you any and all information about the production or development of the order, and will tell everyone when it has been shipped to them and when they are ready to be shipped to members. Buying through a co-op requires patience.
~ Never use the words “CO-OP” in your payments via Paypal. Paypal does not like transactions where money is collected for goods that are not in-hand of the seller, due to the increased risk factor. If someone puts the words “CO-OP” in the notes of a transaction, they will FREEZE THE ACCOUNT OF THE HOST. This is bad news for EVERYONE. Don’t do it.
~ Do not share co-op pricing publicly outside of a co-op group. Hosts work very hard to negotiate for good deals, and if pricing information gets out and members start harassing other hosts who start arguing with suppliers, it can put the buys in jeopardy. Co-op pricing is the private information of those in the co-op. If you have a friend who is interested in a product, you can privately share pricing information so that she can be informed and join the co-op, but do not publicly share specifics on a buy. It’s very bad etiquette.
~ If there is an issue with you paying on time for either an order or for shipping, contact the host immediately. She may be able to make an arrangement with you, or she may have to penalize you via a strike or a restocking fee, but she absolutely must be aware that you are unable to pay as promised after closing. The host is the one who may have to personally pay out of pocket to complete the order if someone drops out after closing. This is unfair to her.
~ It’s helpful to spread the word to those who may be interested. Sometimes, the MOQ on a buy is high, and the co-op members may not be able to reach the quantity without help. As long as you aren’t sharing pricing information in the open, it’s encouraged to bring other members in to help with orders.
~Try not to get addicted. 😉 The amazing deals and community that are found in co-ops makes the process very fun and exciting. Be careful to track what you are spending where, and when your payments are due.
Many co-ops these days are on Facebook, though some are secret and require an invite from a member or host. Co-ops often run buys on more than just cloth diapers. Here is a short list of reputable, longstanding co-ops that you can search and join:
Cloth Diaper Buddies (Secret Group) Request to join via BST page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/630627290353224/
Little Fluffy Bottoms Cloth Diaper Co-op:https://www.facebook.com/groups/Littlefluffybottomscoop/
Glow Bug And Friends, Glow Bug Diapers:https://www.facebook.com/groups/GlowBugAndFriends/
Charleston Glow Bugs: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CharlestonGlowBugs/
The Happy Flute Co-op: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1480995042116179/
Keep Calm & Co-op On: https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepcalmandcoopon/
The Awesome Ninja Queens: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheAwesomeNinjaQueens/
Discount Fluff & Beyond: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiscountFluffAndBeyondCoOp/
Co-Op Deals and Reviews is where co-op hosts are able to advertise the buys they are currently running: https://www.facebook.com/groups/coopdealsandreviews/
Be safe, have fun, and happy co-oping!