Lost and Stolen

I’ve been running Exeter Sling Library for nearly 10 years and in that time quite
a few slings and carriers have gone astray. Some never came back from hires. In some cases
I knew who had them, but was unable to get them back. In a few cases people
paid for the carrier, in a few cases they did not.

There have also been a few mystery losses over the year – carriers that were
definitely returned from hire but are now no where to be found. I still hope,
ridiculously, that these weren’t stolen but will turn up somewhere, somehow years

But this week has been different.   We moved into Paris Street in October 2023. Its just off the High Street, but it is a slightly more run down part of town. However, until very recently we have not had to deal with any crime.

Last week I bought some new stock of Hana Wraps for my retail stock. Because
we’ve had a hot spell my library ones have all been out, so I also bought two
new ones for the library. I popped them on the library shelves last Thursday,
and Jen hired one of them on Friday. I wasn’t in again till Tuesday and I
noticed immediately that the other was also out. But then I realised that it
wasn’t. It wasn’t on hire. It was just gone. I started looking more carefully at my library stock and realised that I am also missing a ring sling and another stretchy wrap.  All from the shelves nearest the front door.

We’d already been talking about
getting CCTV for the shop, and this made me more anxious to move forward with
that. Today was a pretty normal day, some quiet moments, some busier. At one
point I was helping a couple with a nappy kit demo. A couple of people came in
to feed their baby, and a few others with various enquiries and suddenly there
was a room full of people. I looked up to say hello to a few of the newcomers
and I clocked that along with two Mums with pushchairs whom I recognised there
was also a shirtless gentleman who had come in behind them. I was immediately
on the alert but he turned away and went straight out of the shop, carrying something
in his arms, and was off across Paris Street, down Dixs Field and gone before I
could think.

He had taken a brand new Mamaruga Zensling. RRP £130. Gone.

We are getting that CCTV asap, but it will take some time. In the meantime,
please keep your eye out for my missing slings and carriers on Marketplace and
on the grapevine.  And when you are in
the shop, especially if we are busy, please please be our eyes and ears.

  • Stolen 22 June 2023: Mamaruga Zensling in Wildcats Print, brand new in
    packaging.  RRP £130.
  • Stolen between Friday 16 June and Monday 19 June: Hana stretchy wrap in tan,
    brand new, not in packaging.  RRP £38.
  • Stolen after Thursday 8th June (when it was returned from its last hire): Girasol Light Rainbow Diamond Weave Ring Sling.  Not new.  A well loved, beautifully broken in library sling.  I will really miss that one.  Replacing it will cost around £40-60.
  • Stolen in recent weeks but I’m not sure when: Joy and Joe one way stretchy wrap in sunshine yellow.  Nice little library stretchy.  Rarely hired but I demoed with it quite often.  Won’t cost me a lot to replace it, but I loved the colour and I’ll miss it. 

The next few went missing during the pandemic. They may have been stolen from The Baby Room
when were at Ladysmith, or somehow lost somewhere at an event (though I don’t
think so) or perhaps hired but the paperwork was not processed correctly and
then not returned.  I carried on doing postal hires and lots of doorstep hires as well as (once we were allowed to legally doing socially isolated support groups so we still ran but it was not normal times and easier for things to go wrong. I cannot trace what happened to these slings.

  • Hana Wrap in Peacock. Returned from last hire March 2021, vanished since then.
  • Girasol Rainforest Woven Wrap, size 7. Returned from last hire December 2020, vanished since then.
  • Twingo in Grey. Returned from last hire in July 2019. Definitely seen during 2020, vanished since then.

Now we have a few that were even longer ago.

  • Lillebaby All Seasons Elephant Print. Hired by Samantha Hows in February 2019. Never returned. Found liable in Small Claims court for cost of carrier, unpaid hire fees and court costs. Never paid that either.  I’ve threatened to take people to court a few times.  I don’t want to do that and apart from this one occasion have never needed to follow through. I know that most people who don’t return a carrier are struggling in some way and most will try to make things right.  Sadly this was not the case with Samantha.  She may have been struggling, I don’t know.  But she did not try to make things right, she never returned the carrier, never paid for it or the overdue hire, or the costs.  The CCJ was meaningless because she ignored the order to pay.  There’s nothing more I can do legally. I lost a carrier worth £150, hire fees totalling several hundred and the costs of taking her to court.
  • This one makes me sad. Toddler Connecta, hired to a lady who desperately needed it in 2017. She never returned it, never responded to messages or letters, and ultimately her phone was either cut off or she blocked me, and when I tried her address she had moved away. The carrier was not a library one, but my personal sling that I carried my own daughter in. I lent it to her because the library one was out on hire and she was desperate. I’m still really sad that I never saw it again.
  • Red Manduca Stretchy wrap, vanished c. 2016. No idea what happened to it, maybe stolen from a library session, maybe an admin error and a customer who didn’t return it.
  • Leopard Print Kozy Carrier, 2014.  Customer hired but did not return it to me. She ultimately fled the area due to domestic violence, and told me she had left the sling with a case worker at the Children’s Centre. Despite several enquiries to them I never got it back. I’ll never know whether it was lost by them or whether she kept it. I don’t feel bad about that one. It helped a person in a difficult situation and as far as I know she tried to return it, it just never made it back to me.  If it did end up in the children’s centre perhaps another family in need got to use it, or it may have ended up donated to charity or Baby Bank.  Its likely it benefited someone.

There have been a few other situations where I never got a sling back but people paid for them in the end, that’s OK.  One was taken to Morocco when the hirer moved suddenly.  In one case a hirer’s Mother in Law had donated the sling to a charity shop with a bunch of other baby things. I think the hirer hoped I wouldn’t notice when she didn’t return it, but when I did she confessed and paid!  In a few other cases
people didn’t return until the hire costs had built up to more than they could afford and then they felt trapped.  I always try to help in these situations, and I am just grateful to get the sling or carrier back and hopefully get some of the hire costs.   I often agree to payment plans, discounts and similar, and there have been a few like that over the years.

Everyone has a story.  I know that most people who hire and don’t return carriers had good intentions but things went wrong somewhere.  I hope that those carriers are still out there somewhere and carrying babies.  Even the gentleman today must have a story.  Perhaps he has no money and a baby at home to carry.  More likely it was stolen to sell because his problems are more complex than that and he is desperate in other ways.  Its likely that his story involves not receiving the support and love that he needs from our society and our government.  So I really want to show compassion.  But I have a story too.  And right now I’m really sad that people have stolen from me, and my little business.  The Baby Room is not for profit, and most of the work Jen and I do there is unpaid because we love and want to support families and babies in Exeter.  The sling library and the sling retail business are how I keep my family fed and how I am able to run The Baby Room which benefits so many families.  So I am sad, and angry, but mostly sad right now.

Please keep your eyes out for these missing slings. If you have one of them, even one from years ago, please bring it back or post it. If you can make a donation towards the years of lost hires that would be appreciated too. And if you’ve taken something from our shop – please bring it back. Please don’t come back and take more. Please choose a big company not a small local business to steal from if you have to steal at all.