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Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's Next? No, Wait. I Don't Want to Know (Jan. 2009)

The toy designers have reached a new low. Now, I’m not one to weigh down a soapbox to rant about any old thing. I’d like to think I rant when the point warrants it. So indulge me. At 7 one morning in mid-December I walked the aisles at Toys R Us to get some ideas for what my son might want Santa to bring. Field research, to help St. Nick. Despite the fluorescent lights above, I was not completely awake. I’m usually up by seven, but not dressed and in a toy store, stuck within a maze of 10-foot-high aisles of toys, stretching as far as the wallet could see. I made it past the inflatable jumpees, bypassed clothes and bikes, and had located the section where the Thomas the Tank Engine loot lay. My eyes scanned the display racks nearby, and it was then that I saw IT. Was I seeing things, given the early hour? No. A second look confirmed that I was not dreaming. I got out my ever-present camera.

The toy in question is small and portable, so your child will never be without it. It can come with you in the car, to the park, in the crib or bed, in the bathroom, on play dates. Anywhere and everywhere. It will never be far. It’s a child-size ATM. (Shudder.)

I took a photo of the one for girls. Yes, the designers have ensured that the maximum number of kids will want this, by designing a pink-on-pink one for girls, and a silver-on-gray one for boys. Here is their sassy sales pitch: “Just like the real thing, this Pink Zillionz Deluxe ATM from Summit Products is so advanced it even knows your name.” Wonderful. Not only will it encourage an obsession with money, it also is now on a friendly, first-name basis with the child!

Having documented the existence of this toy, I moved on. After all, it was mid-December and therefore I was in semi-crisis mode. Each day that passed added to the pressure to get EVERYTHING ready for Dec. 25. I had other things to do besides stare at pink ATMs.

Fast-forward. It’s now late January and my life has returned to its usual chaotic pace, thus allowing me to tackle unfinished business, like fuming over pint-sized ATM machines. It just made me mad. Young children have enough trouble understanding that money doesn’t grow on trees, that they can’t have everything they see. Putting them in front of a plastic box that spews “money” out as fast as they can push buttons? That’s helpful.

But being the ace-wanna-be-reporter that I am, I did some research. I needed to know more before solidifying my condemnation of this toy. First I learned that there are many toys out there like this. Not only is there a Hello Kitty ATM, there’s also a Barbie ATM (pink, what a shock), and a myriad of generic ones. The one I’d seen in person actually takes real money, not Monopoly-style fake bills. It’s a bank, storing money inside until the child elects to withdraw an amount. The online parent reviews ranged from complaints about the cheap quality to enthusiasm about fostering an interest in math and investing. So perhaps I reacted too quickly. Seems there is some good to this toy, after all. Guess it’s time for me to eat some humble pie. I’ll even pay for it. But I need to hit the ATM first…


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry, my computer blew up...

    Is it scary that I know someone who owns this? And no, I didn't buy it. I make all toys and such what not that I give to short people.