One of the things that we decided as parents early on was that it was important to us to continue to do the things we love to do (in our pre-baby lives) and to socialize our kid(s) into “our lifestyle” rather than completely restructuring our entire lives around them. This meant finding a way to continue to go out for meals at some of our favorite restaurants without being the parents with the screaming kid that everyone wishes would just leave (fodder for another post).
Our Highchair Dilemma: one of the first things we noticed was that a lot of our favorite places didn’t even have high chairs, and the ones that did were pretty nasty. So step 1 was to buy a fabric cover so that our son was at least sitting in a clean chair (not that we are freaky about germs or anything, but I wouldn’t sit in a chair if it were as dirty as what they offered us for our son). This worked fine, doubled as a shopping cart cover, but was bulky to carry around and no help when the establishment didn’t have highchairs.
Lobster in the Big City
This past winter we were planning a weeklong trip to NYC and I decided to leave the bulky fabric chair cover at home and invest in a clamp on highchair. After looking at a lot of models I settled on the phil&teds Lobster chair. I liked the compact and light weight design it offered and included travel bag, especially because I was planning on carrying everything on me or in the umbrella stroller. Once in the field I discovered that the Lobster was a real lifesaver…80% of the time.
- The C-clamp style attachment design lets it attach extremely-securely to tables (from 0.8 – 3.75″ thick) with no concerns of it coming off.
- It folds up really quickly and compactly with one hand, is light (under 4lbs) and easy to slip into your tactical Daddy bag.
- It holds our load of a son comfortably with the built in 5-point harness and can support children up to 37 pounds.
- The C-clamp style attachment design does have limitations as to what it can attached to: tables with a support lip underneath the table surface, glass top or center supported. This ruled out about 20% of the tables we encountered.
- Like all clamp and hook on seats, you should never use them on tables with a center pedestal only. However, two of our favorite restaurants have these tables so we do and just keep our foot securely on the support leg with a chair under his seat (I’m not recommending this to others!).
- The plastic tray that comes with it is great so that your kid’s food can stay off the table, however the tray does not have a mechanical attachment to the seat, so after 15 seconds it gets removed and used as a toy. We threw ours away after the second use and have to pick up all his food off the floor (see below for response from phil&teds)
- Lots of people complain about the travel bag that comes with it because it has no closure, but we never had an issue with it (see below for response from phil&teds)
I spoke to Lindsey Heckel, Marketing and Graphic Designer at phil&teds, on the phone this week and she told me that the travel bag that had come with the chair was “packaging” and never intended to be used as a carrying case. The new models that started shipping in April, 2012 were no longer going to include the bag as they were now being sold in cardboard boxes. She also said that customers can purchase the bag directly from phil&teds, however no MSRP has been set for the bag at this time.
I also asked her about the seemingly universal complaint from users about the unsecured tray design. Heckel said that she had not heard that feedback from customers and that she would talk to the design team about it and email me. Her reply said “I talked with our customer care in North America and they said they have never had a complaint about the food tray on the Lobster”. This is despite the fact that of the two reviews phil&teds posted on their own website, one of them devotes an entire paragraph to the tray problem once you click the link to the full review.
Heckel also wanted me to mention that the Lobster Chair won the 2012 Cribsie award in “The one thing you should never travel without” category. I’ve never heard of this, so I spent some time looking at the Cribsie website and it does not explain much, or show how many votes each product got, so I’m guessing it’s a mom’s popularity contest? Which is seemingly confirmed by the website’s non-Dad inclusive tag line: “You nominate. We select. Moms vote.”
The Bottom Line
At $70 it’s one of the most expensive seats on the market, (and is $20 more than the similarly-designed Metoo clamp on chair), but I would buy it again. I am a little frustrated that the travel bag (or “packaging”) is no longer included and that the price point didn’t go down at all.
However, I wish that when we were in NYC I had carried a case of these chairs with me, because I’m sure that I could have sold them to the parents that were constantly coming up and asking me about it in restaurants, wishing they had one too.
The real bottom line…
(this article originally appeared in-part on Huckleberry’s site – check it out!)