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Cloth Diaper Co-Ops – One Mom’s Testimonial Of How Co-Ops Hurt

When I got started cloth diapering I was quite the novice. I didn’t know a pocket from a prefold. I quickly searched the interwebs for answers to my questions; and boy did I catch on quick. My searches landed me in some online forums where I found a couple other moms talking about these great deals they were finding on these things called “diaper co-op”. What’s a co-op? It stands for cooperative, but in the diaper world its where lots of moms go in on one single order of something (diapers, inserts, you name it) to get “whole sale” price or cheaper. Sounds great, right? Well, the bad news is a lot of mainstream businesses forbid co ops, so you will usually only find co ops running off-brand Chinese made products. A diaper for under $5? I was sold…hook, line, and sinker. Who wouldn’t want to save even more money on an already so economical way to diaper your child?

So I sought out these co-ops, joined, and gazed at gallery upon gallery of photos of diapers in all the colors, patterns, and fabrics. My first order included 25 diapers, 1 wet bag, and more inserts then I could have known what to do with. That’s plenty of diapers to cloth a baby in, right? But they were so cheap! At nearly $4 per diaper I figured, why not go a little overboard. So I joined another co op, then another. Soon, before I even knew it, I was paying hundreds of dollars for cheap off-brand diapers that I hadn’t even touched, used, or seen. But at the time it was so exciting! Feeling like I was saving so much money and would have a stash the size even the cloth diaper veteran would be jealous of.

But then it all came crashing down. I realized there were fees involved. “Co op fees” they call them, and paypal fees, and shipping to host cost, and shipping to me… Soon I uncovered the harsh reality that I wasn’t saving a ton of money at all. Sure, after everything was said and done I was probably averaging about $11 a diaper. Once I realized I was spending more money then I would have spent on a decent stash of name brand dipes, I raced back to the interwebs for validation for my purchases. I poured over YouTube tutorials and testimonials, read countless bloggers’ reviews of these nicknamed “China Cheapies” (a term I learned during my search.) The reviews were mixed. The negatives I uncovered were: no quality control, bad customer service, no warranties, no guarantees, short life span. The positives were: decent products, worked well, great fit, okay customer service (via e-mail), INEXPENSIVE. Inexpensive. That was key. I had to remind myself, diaper for diaper I was saving some money. I felt validated.

Then the waiting began. After I paid what was due it was time to wait for other moms to pay their invoices. Then I had to wait for the co op host to make the order. Then wait some more to get an estimated shipping date. Then even more waiting for the giant shipment to be sent to the host. Then more waiting for the host to separate, sort, and ship out everyone’s individual order. It was over a month per co op buy, minimum, before I got my order. One order took three whole months to complete.

What did I think of the products? That is a post for another day. I will shortly say they were as good as to be expected. I used them. They worked. Some failed but most didn’t. Was I pleased with my purchase? I would have to say no. I spent a small fortune on these diapers and they were just average.

Co ops hurt business and consumers alike. Period. I could have taken three quarters of the money I spent on these co op diapers and spent it at a small business buying name brand diapers that have quality control, customer service, warranties, and guarantees. No worries, no headaches, and MORE money in my bank account. They hurt consumers because as the popularity of these co op buys increase, the less interest people have in trying main stream diapers first.

Why buy a $17 diaper when I can (in theory) buy a $3? I can spend a small amount of money to see if I like cloth diapering, then invest more later.

The problem with that mentality is a lot of times these diapers fail for one reason or another. And it doesn’t always have to be poor workmanship, it could be improper laundering, the use of diaper creams, etc. These diapers don’t come with directions. They rarely come with packaging! Having such a poorly performing diaper with no customer service to ask questions can scare a lot of would be full time cloth diaperers from committing and never trying decent, backed up brands of diapers that I’m sure would please them and exceed their expectations. Also, something is to be said about instant gratification. I would have had diapers in my drawers and on my daughter’s bum in DAYS instead of months. That time alone makes up for the negligible savings diaper for diaper.

So after everything was said and done….You know what I’m doing now? Trying to sell off these diapers to invest in the name brands. I can sleep better at night knowing if my diaper fails tomorrow I can speak to someone over the phone who can troubleshoot with me and solve the problem. I cannot say that with any of the off brand diapers that I own. Had I just tried the name brands in the beginning I would have spent FAR less money and time in the end. But that is what I get for not doing my research. I’m glad these brands didn’t turn me off from cloth diapering, though because it is so rewarding… even with all the money spent.

I hope you can find rewards in your cloth diapering journey! And I hope my experience will help some of you curious would be cloth diaperers…. Really do your research, take out a pen and calculator and add up fees, costs, and what your time is worth and put it up against a mainstream retailer. I would bet the mainstream retailer would win!

Happy fluffing!

Bio: This author wishes to remain anonymous but wanted to share her personal experiences with others.

Would you like to be a contributor on The Cloth Diaper Whisperer? We’re always looking for creative writers who would like to share their cloth diapering tips. To find out more Contact Us


  1. Laurie said...

    Thank you for sharing! I've been briefly tempted by co-ops but am happy that I spent a little extra on name-brands from reputable retailers.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Very well said. I too had a journey from cheapies to mainstream diapers.

  3. Beth H said...

    Thanks for sharing. I hadn't heard a lot about them but now Iknow to stay away.

  4. ExpectingMommy said...

    I am still expecting my first baby right now, so I have no experience with diapers at all. Just yesterday I was tempted to buy some of those $3-diapers, but I hesitated because a few days ago I actually already ordered a package of Grovia diapers. I thought why not buy some more cause they're so cheap compared to Grovia. But now I'm glad I didn't.

  5. Roberta Cole said...

    I haven't tried any "china dipes". I head dove into a brand name…and their "warranty" has gotten me no where. I have some diapers that I was putting in the dryer on extra low because the packaging said "dry on low or hang dry" now they are saying "oh the covers cant take that heat" Their new packaging states to not dry the covers. I love them and it wont affect me buying more. Another company has been awesome! My wetbag zipper broke off and they sent me a new one no questions asked, AND let me keep the broken wet bag (all it needs is a new zipper tab thingy).

    Warranty sucks and this wasnt a rant I meant to go on!

  6. Anonymous said...

    I've used co ops for over a year now. I also have diapers that were not from co ops. The co ops that I'm in do sell diapers ranging from $3 -$8 depending on the company and not all of them come from China. The co op fees are usually $2 per order. The fees go to the supplies that the host of the co op needs to print shipping labels and for packing supplies. They usually don't make any $ off of co ops or it is a very small amount if they do. The paypal fees are very minimal, depending on the amount of your personal order it usually isn't more than $1 or $2. Shipping to host is usually free or already calculated into the cost of the diapers. Yes, you do have to pay for shipping from the host to you just like you would if you purchased something from most businesses but it is also a minimal charge. Diapers are pretty lightweight. They don't cost much to ship. Every once in a while you get a diaper that isn't top quality, snaps that break or a diaper delaminating. I've never heard of the company not replacing the diaper though, even Chinese companies, and usually you only have to send in a picture to get a replacement and don't even have to return the diaper to get a new one. After paying for the diapers along with the fees and shipping costs I was still saving a ton of money compared to buying directly from retailers. I personally wouldn't have kept up with cloth diapering if it weren't for co ops. You do have to have patience when dealing with co ops but if you get into one that has hosts who treat it like a business you should never have to wait anywhere close to 3 months for your order. The longest I've ever waited was 5 weeks and that was only because it was a custom order. Most are in my hand within 3-4 weeks after paying for my order. Before I was buying diapers for $17 – $20 a piece and only had 5. You really can't cloth diaper full time without at least 12 and that means washing on a daily basis. Co ops may not be for everyone but for some, it is the only way to be able to cloth diaper. I've also found that most of my American made diapers don't fit my child as well, he is very quickly outgrowing them. Then you have all the work at home mom and dad businesses who sell diapers ranging from $20 -obscene amounts. You have to wait for them to make your order while they are also making orders for many other customers. Doing research is always a good idea but co ops are not as evil as the author of this makes them seem. For some, spending $200 – $300 on a diaper stash that will last 2 days is just not feasible. That is how co ops help, they make it possible for anyone to cloth diaper.

  7. Jillian said...

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience. I have been cloth diapering for 6 years and co-oping for 5. I have had nothing but positive experiences and great deals. There are unfortunately some co-ops out there that have overcharged and have not been completely trustworthy, but if one researches and approaches co-ops wisely, they can be a very positive experience and provide great savings. It does take time to research the co-op and make sure the offers are worth it, as well as control over one's spending, but I have had nothing but good deals in my 5 years of co-oping.

  8. Anonymous said...

    You obviously weren't in the best co-ops if your pricing ended up $11 per diaper after fees. My latest purchase was $4.65 per diaper (including fees) and was to me in less than a month. Seems like you didn't go about co-oping very intelligently. I don't mind waiting at $4.65 per diaper. Also, the only issue I've ever had with a Sunbaby is a broken snap- which they sent a replacement for quickly with no issues.

  9. Aubri Parmenter said...

    I have to say I disagree with this post. I'm a member of a great co-op, and we run more things than just "China Cheapies". We have GREAT hosts, fewer fees than the post mentions, and awesome support. Its not just a bunch of people who combine orders, its a community. The author may have had a bad experience, and there are a LOT of bad ones out there… but they aren't all bad.

  10. Anonymous said...

    I use cheap co-op diapers. I love them and use them more than my big name brands. If you are paying hundreds of dollars you, my friend, are doing something wrong.

  11. Anonymous said...

    I think the wait time is something you have to think about when ordering from a co-op. Co-op groups are wonderful for those who cannot pay the high retail prices look others. I love co-op groups and I will continue to use them! All I ever used wete the china cheapies with my son. We never had a problem with them and I would NEVER go to a store and buy a 10-50.00 diapers!

  12. nana said...

    Co-op work for us in Malaysia. Maybe because we actually co-op the branded names diapers too. I have tried buying diaper through co-op, which saves more money despite the long waiting time.

  13. TeawithFrodo said...

    Co-ops can be great for some items. The trick is to be informed.
    I use it to buy fabric, toys, popsicle molds.
    But I would never buy diapers I didn't know about or the "fake ergos".
    Like anything you buy, co op or not you should always be aware and informed.

  14. Anne Sweden said...

    I hear about diaper co-ops over and over again, but have always been hesitant to try them out because of the things you pointed out. Thanks for a great post!

  15. Jess said...

    Thank you for posting a great article. Small retailers go above and beyond to help with customer service issues. They are willing to answer questions, trouble shoot, and help at every turn–but they will only be around if we continue to support them.

  16. Wonderful article – us small business cloth diaper retailers appreciate conscientious consumers such as yourself. We pride ourselves on customer service, assistance, and QUALITY products that we personally recommend. Thank you from all of us!

  17. Anonymous said...

    I would just like to point out, as a fellow cd-ing mom and a member of a co-op, that this information seems quite biased and more of a post lashing out at co-ops. My first point will be that no one forced you to order as much as you did, and if you had done your math before ordering you would have realized the cost. I do not know what co-op you are a member of but I have never even doubled the price of a diaper with fees and shipping. Sounds to me like you got ripped off, or possibly had buyers remorse. Secondly, co-ops are not hurting small businesses or WAHM/D, I have a local CD store and their supply is seriously limited, half of the time they don't even have what I was looking for so I wasted my gas to drive all the way there just to turn back with nothing in hand. I do still purchase for my local store, so essentially they are not losing my business. Also, many people do not have access to a CD store and cant support a local business that is not there. And before you think, well they can just order online or whatever, often I have found that ordering the "name brand" diapers on line includes a hefty shipping fee if my order is under x amount of dollars (where as a co-op will more than likely charge you EXACT shipping, instead of $10 to ship 1 diaper). Third, and lastly (I think), is your point about not supporting WAHM/D, a co-op that I am in runs co-ops with work at home parents quite often, in fact that is how I found my favorite WAHM and now pay full retail for her diapers, so how did the co-op hurt that person? It didn't, actually I liken it to groupon, groupon gives you a discount to wherever, in the co-op they are giving you the wholesale prices or discounts to whatever. Of course their are co-op fees (to help purchase supplies, and even make a SMALL amount of money for their time) and you are responsible for shipping, do you not pay shipping when you order from most other online sites? I would recommend anyone that has read this post to do their own research, don't let one persons negative (or even my positive) review/opinion be your deciding factor. DO YOUR RESEARCH and decide for yourself. These China Cheapies are not all bad, in fact of my stash they are probably half of what I have and have been using for quite a while with no issues. The American CD companies are not always "American made" think of that the next time you purchase those "expensive" diapers. There are many forums and review sites you can find to help you make the best decision for yourself and your family, use those to your advantage! As with anything be informed from both sides and not just one.

  18. Anonymous said...

    I haven't found actually any of this to be true, coming from buying from not only multiple coops but also "American" brands and WAHM/D businesses. Frankly, I've found experiences like this are what you make of them. Every "problem" that was listed could easily be resolved by using reputable coops with capable hosts and utilizing their knowledge and courtesies. I understand that you are only speaking of your personal experience but I do hope others research further before letting this deter them from what can be a very positive and enjoyable one.

    On an un shopping related note, Coops have been a great source of like-minded friendship, opportunities, information sharing, and entertainment over the past year for me.

  19. im not sure what co-op you were apart of but i think you were ripped off! the fees that your talking about are way to high for any legit co-op like the one im in charges a fee of 2$ for 1-10 items ordered and 3$ for 11-20 and etc etc which is a fair price for their time and effort plus the cost of ink and paper and such. And then yes you have a pp fee which is generally 1-3$ depending on how expensive your order is but generally it is just a fraction of a dollar per item that you order. As far as some china cheapies being crap or having horrible cs thats true its the same for us companies too not all of them have the best cs just saying; but everyone should do their research and make wise decisions before they start making an investment in cloth 🙂 And as far as the wait time, its coming from china, which is out side of the us, on the other side of the WORLD, ofcourse its going to take a few weeks (and depending on if it was a custom order or not) might take a month or two ive never NEVER had an order take more than 60ish days which was for some custom alva wetbags which i LOVE they are huge and could easily hold 3 days worth of diapers (sorry gotta brag cuz these things are freaking awesome!!! lol) But generally in any co-op the buy that is open has some information in it such as if the shipping to host is included or not (if not ive never seen it get more than 5 per person) and when the buy is expected to close and when the payments are due and the production time that the company in china will take; all that info is there so that you can make an informed decision on rather or not you want to order form that buy or not like if it will get in in time for your loved one (if your prego). Im sorry and yes truly sorry that you had such a crappy experience with a co-op and i hope that you either find a new one that is fair and awesome like mine and or are able to sell off your china cheapies (which hold their value well on the buy sell trade boards) to afford a cd that does work for you 🙂 and sorry for the rambling post but its just horrible that you went through this when there are really good co-ops out there where the women in them arent just strangers with a similar addiction, they become friends and mentors and drs when you cant make it to the drs office that day for a rash that worries you ( i cant count how many times my group has comforted me and answered my stupid questions which really helps since im a ftm) I hope this dosent scare anyone away from being apart of a co-op you just have to find the right one! Good luck in your cloth diapering adventure mama have a blessed day!

  20. Jessica McCaul said...

    Why stay anonymous? Unless you are hiding something. I have been cding for 14 years next week and have tried many many diapers I bought cloth diapers through catalog mail order before many companies had websites This was befor Cding was cool and trendy. I had no choice my babies needed diapers so I choose to Cd. Co ops are a tool for familes to cloth diaper their babies. Many families can't afford a $20 + diaper made by hand in the USA. So what are they to do these women got creative and formed co ops to provide for their families. Good for them, their children have clean diapers to wear.

  21. Tanya said...

    I do some of my purchasing from a local co-op group. We've been cloth diapering for about 2 years now, and I am very happy with my co-op and what I've gotten.
    I think as long as your co-op leaders are up-front about fees, dates, etc. (which mine definitely are) it's totally up to you whether or not to use them. My group does buys for more than just diapers, so we are able to get some great stuff made my local businesses/mamas as well.

  22. Anonymous said...

    I bought name brand from a local shop and love them. But then I discovered coops and was able to change my cd stash to all aios for 30% or less of the cost than the name brand. Yes they are not perfect but that's what I get for the money. You do have to be ready for the delivery taking several weeks and plan ahead. If I have an urgent need I still go to my local store.

  23. Anonymous said...

    Co-ops are perfectly fine. That's where I have bought 98% of my stash. If the author would have done her research on the group and hosts, she would've know exactly what she was getting in to. Her personal overspending issues are no ones problem but her own. Not all of us can afford to buy 30 diapers at $25 each. This article is doing more harm than good by possibly turning more moms away from cd'ing. Some peoples only option of cd'ing is to get the "China cheapies". My China cheapies have held up PERFECTLY for over a year. You don't need customer service to troubleshoot an issue, join a co-op group on facebook and there are tons of experienced, helpful moms who will help you with any issues or questions. To post a one sided view from someone with only one co-op experience, was pretty stupid.

  24. Anonymous said...

    I've bought 'china cheapies' and name brand. I've yet to find a known name brand made anywhere but in China. If you know of a good company making diapers in the USA, by all means, direct me there..

  25. While I appreciate your point of view, I have to disagree with your statement that the diapers end up being $11 each. Let me state in advance that I do run a co-op, so perhaps I'm biased.

    One of the "china-cheapies" that I run, goes for $2.80 each. And yes, there are co-op fees, and pp fees, and fees to ship to the buyer. The co-op fees are scaled based on how much you buy and are used to cover our expenses for shipping materials. For example, I just placed a $80 order for ink, labels, polymailers, packing tape, pens, printer paper..that will likely be used up in 1-2 orders. My "profit" after that is deducted, might be $2-$3 dollars per buy. Hmmm…$2-3 for 20+ hours of work, negotiating with suppliers, setting up spreadsheets, opening the buy, loading pictures, answering questions, closing the buy, invoicing, dealing with those who don't pay…the list goes on. The point is, us co-op hosts, are NOT making a fortune off of you.

    PayPal fees, okay, yes…we have to charge them. Why? Because we're selling at actual wholesale, not marking them up to cover the cost of those fees.

    As for shipping to the buyer. This varies from co-op to co-op based on how well the person shipping can pack a box. And also whether we ship strictly flat rate or use other options. Me personally, I will take the time to find the cheapest way to ship to you. As the orders come in, everyone provides their zip code…I'm behind the scenes calculating cost difference shipping to each person flat rate, regional rate, first class. And always choose the cheapest, and pack as much as I can squish and squeeze in there as long as the box still closes and is under the weight limit.

    So, back to my disagreement with the $11. Even if you were to just buy 1 of the "china-cheapies" that I run your total would be about $7.30…buy 20 of them and your cost is more like $3.55 each (assuming you lived in zone 7 on the regional chart).

    So really, the only thing that I can agree with is the wait time, and unfortunately there isn't a whole lot we can do about that since it is coming from China.

    Just a little insight from the other side of the line.

  26. Heather N. Kai said...

    Hi, I read this & just can't figure out how you ended up paying $11 per diaper!?! I have been a member of co-ops for a long time & have NEVER been ripped off like that. For instance, I currently have an order for 30 JC Trade Cartoon diapers open totaling $90.95 which includes the co-op & we-pay fees. We all know you have to have inserts with your diapers so in the same co-op I have an order for 30 Charcoal Bamboo Inserts totaling $55.42 which includes the co-op & we-pay fees. Shipping to the host is free. Shipping to me will be in a Large Flat Rate Box & from her zip code to mine will be $16.85. $90.95+$55.42+$16.85=$163.22. When you take that sum and divide it by the 30 complete diapers, you'll see that I paid roughly $5.45 each which is still a really good deal. The quality of these particular diapers, in my opinion, is excellent. I prefer them to my Sunbaby & Alvas even. So I am still getting a good deal on a diaper that I've had great success with. I am sorry you have had bad luck with co-ops, but maybe it's just the particular co-op you were in. I am only in 2 different co-ops so I can't vouch for them all, but there are *some* great co-ops out there that WILL save you money while still providing high quality items. Best wishes to you & your cloth diaper buying! 😉

  27. Megan Shinkle said...

    Seriously? $11 per diaper? Your math is flawed, at best.

  28. Salena said...

    American made diapers are pretty easy to find…Thirsties are ALL made in the US and most bumGenius are now made in the US…
    Whenever you buy diapers from a co-op you do so many people disservice, not to mention risk the safety of your child, these manufacturers are NOT held to regular standards because they are not being retailed. Likewise the cheapies are knockoffs and can often be guilty of patent violations…I mean just think about it do you buy knock off car seats? Offbrand unregulated baby food?…
    Warranties: follow the instructions, when you purchase from a small business they will give you information and answer your questions.
    I have only had one company every give me any trouble regarding a warranty and it was totally my own fault.
    As far as small local businesses go a few things:
    1. if you buy from a co-op do NOT waste the time of the small business asking questions or troubleshooting, it's rude why don't you ask the people you bought them from, that is part of the cost of buying well made diapers
    2. If you are wasting fuel to get to your small retailers shop…here's an idea CALL first…most small businesses will bend over backwards to get you what you want if you ASK!!! and then take their advice, seriously they can't order something if you're the only person that wants it and you haven't paid for it.
    3. Small businesses do so MUCH in their communities, even if it's not a "local" to you, they are helping a small community, the cloth diaper community.
    I guess I'm just trying to say you get what you pay for, and sometimes you get lucky.

  29. Anonymous said...

    Seriously doesn't anyone see how WRONG it is to purchase a diaper for $3-$5? I dare you to make one for that price! The cost of the fabric alone would be more than that! Or perhaps your child once they are old enough? They can start to make diapers for local moms in need at a cost of $5? See how you feel then.

    All you moms who makes claims about not being able to afford expensive US made diapers is not true! You can afford it you are just not prioritizing it. You seem to have enough money to be able to support internet and a computer or cell phone/ data plan each month? How much does that cost you per year? More than cloth diapers I bet!

    When will people realize the importance of supporting local businesses and supporting companies that make products in the US/Canada or that at least use fair labour!

  30. Anonymous said...

    Must say I have to agree with the anonymous poster above me.

    Everyone complains that there are no jobs here yet is so quick to run to walmart or shop from china instead of buying local and home made.

    You all claim to be so great at networking online yet none of you can network in your home towns and communities to see if you can source things locally. Not every small business is looking for a money grab they just want to get by. Im sure if you were willing to place a 100 unit order with them you'd get a deal and a good conscience to boot.

    There are plenty of companies who make their products over here.

    Applecheeks, Easy Peasies, Thirsties, etc.

    Calling the blog poster a liar is immature and uncalled for. She's trying to help warn people. Maybe all you anonymous co-op leaders should back off the defensive a bit. Looks a little desperate.

  31. Meagan Bare said...

    You mentioned the china cheapies fail because of incorrect laundering or the use of diaper creams… what you didn't mention is the name brand diapers can fail for the exact same reason! Furthermore, it is the buyers responsibility to research the co-op before placing an order. The co-op I ordered my diapers from has it at your door within 2 weeks of the close of the sale. Yes, 2 weeks. I paid a $3/order co-op fee ($2 if I picked it up), paypal fee ($9 on a $300 order) and shipping (she will ship whatever way YOU prefer, I chose economy shipping and paid $15). So $330 for 40 pocket diapers, 6 cover, 6 fitted bamboo diapers, 45 3-layer 100% bamboo inserts, 6 5-layer bamboo/microfiber inserts, 6 drawstring PUL laundry bags and 4 disposable liners. You can't beat that with a stick. Those, along with the 5 pocket diapers I currently own, with cloth diaper my 2 kids. To be honest, it sounds to me like you didn't do your research on your co-ops and way, WAY over-purchased (I get it, with so many cute prints). And you were disappointed you ended up with an 'average' diaper? Really? You spent $3. I hope you didn't expect the world for $3! And buying these inexpensive diapers won't break the bank when I do inevitably need to replace a diaper because the elastics went. I can shell out $3 a LOT quicker than $25-30 for a name brand. And frankly, if the name brand, USA made companies didn't charge an arm and a leg, perhaps co-ops wouldn't stand a chance?

  32. Anonymous said...

    I almost gave up cloth diapering thanks to name brand diapers. If it weren't for my china cheapies, I wouldn't be using cloth

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