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The Real Toy Story

The Real Toy Story

I hate shopping. Somehow I am missing that particular female gene. When forced, I make most of my purchases online, which includes children’s presents. This activity generates much unwanted print solicitations in my mailbox. Not only do I get the usual glut of Toys Sure “R” Expensive (as Dave Barry says) glossies, but also the brain-boosting-all-soy-earth-friendly non-denominational offerings on recycled (allegedly) paper since I’m one of those granola-eating-hiking types.  

My kids’ birthdays are coming up, and the toy catalogs are arriving like the plague. Funny that two such catalogs should arrive today because on Sunday I picked up Eric Clark’s investigative study, The Real Toy Story. The subtitle “ruthless battle” is no exaggeration. 

Getting you to fork over a sawbuck for a doll that looks like a street walker on acid or to pay five dollars for a pack of what essentially are six bubble gum card (sans gum, I might add) in hopes of perhaps getting the elusive Blue Eyes White Dragon (but, of course, getting at least another three Dark Magicians) is no easy task.

Sorry to be a Grinch, but here are a few of the startling statistics:

  • Half the 40,000 commercials the average child views a year are for toys. (I read to my kids every day but it’s pretty hard to compete with that number.)
  • Just two companies and three retailers control most of the world’s toys—determining what is hot and what’s not.
  • Although fewer than 4 percent of the world’s children are American, American children consume more than 40 percent of the world’s toys.
  • 3.6 billion toys are purchased each year: 76 million dolls, 349 million plush toys, *125 million action figures (of which my personal home has approximately 120 million), and 279 million Hot Wheels (hard to say no when the damn things are less than a buck each.)

If you are thinking you’ll quit your lousy job because, dagnabbit, (by the way, any time you say “dagnabbit” out loud you should be concerned), because, by golly (time for the meds), you have the best idea since the hoola hoop, think again. The reality is that “fewer than one in 100 new products is licensed from an inventor.” Now, granted, I’m no mathematician, but isn’t that, um, zero? The chances of your product “hitting” are about as great as teachers getting paid what they are worth. Grim, huh?

It’s not all bad, of course. Toys are fun, after all. I enjoyed reading about the different prototypes. I am truly hoping a new game called Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire. The game “is basically a lie detector game for kids. A palm-sized device is strapped to fingertips and measures blood flow and skin responses to such questions as “Have you ever farted in the bathtub?” For this, I will pay top dollar.

By Jamie Wheeler

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