What happened to quality control with toys?

Alright, it’s a few days after the joint Christmas / Hannukah rush and the frenzy of opening up presents to find cool new toys and games, and while I haven’t yet thrown all the wrapping paper away (last year we had a recycling option. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) I have had a chance to see our kids acceptance of new toys that failed or broke within hours – or even minutes – of opening.
My son G- got a pretty impressive remote controlled backhoe (1:6 scale!) that was the apple of his eye until he realized that the remote didn’t really properly control the shovel, so while he could drive around with it, he couldn’t actually pick things up and put them somewhere else. Too bad, it’d be fun to try and plow the snow off our driveway with the backhoe, except, well, it won’t work that way.


And my daughter A- received a “collectible” carousel designed by Thomas Kinkade that plugs in and plays music while lit up and the horses, of course, going around and around. Except we plugged it in, turned it on, and enjoyed how pretty it was, turned it off, and the next time we turned it on the lights no longer work and the music doesn’t play. Elapsed time from opening the box to having it broken: seven minutes.
Personally, I’m appalled and disgusted at manufacturers who produce such shoddy merchandise, whether they’re based in China, Taiwan, Bangalore or Miami, but what astonishes me the most is that while Linda and I were both upset, the kids took it in stride and really weren’t very upset or even surprised by the toys breaking.
And that makes me wonder what kind of society we’re building, when children just assume that things aren’t going to work properly and that stuff breaks, sometimes even within minutes of opening them. When I was a kid, I expected things to work perfectly forever, and had a hard time when my toys or gadgets would break, even if I’d been playing with them for years.
In one sense, it’s probably an inevitable byproduct of our disposable consumer culture where we’ve been taught in the last decade that products only have a short lifespan after which you should toss them (landfill? recycle? does anyone really care?) and dutifully buy something new. It’s the revenge of fashion, where we’re embarrassed by two year old cellphones and one year old iPods, let alone laptops and cars.
And meanwhile, the toys are still broken and while my urge is to send everything back for a refund, that’s not really fair either.
So what’s a Dad to do?

6 comments on “What happened to quality control with toys?

  1. Return the items from where they came. I have found (with the exception of name brand stuff) that the items are usually made to last until the day after their warrenty runs out. Those things you mentioned in your article should have at least a 6 month warrenty on them even if it is just a store guarentee. Well, that is how it works here in Australia.
    Also, check out the products as it may be a simple case of tape over the switch or something. We once picked up a tonka toy backhoe for a fraction of it’s price because the people who returned it didn’t think it reversed. They just didn’t find the switch hidden under the vehicle and the batteries were a little flat. Our kids had years of fun with that.

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  3. Thomas Kinkade .. the artist that artists love to hate … I would exchange the item based on the premise that the person who bought it wanted your daughter to enjoy the music and lights. The backhoe might be another story just based on it’s size. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work. My experience has been similar to Judith’s .. things last until the warranty runs out. Shame, isn’t it.

  4. I highly recommend calling the company that made it.
    Fischer Price makes a little xylophone for babies; I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Well, last year we opened it and discovered that the G key was out of tune. After a few days of fretting about how my daughter’s perfect pitch would be ruined forever by the faulty red key forced me to place the call to Fischer Price World Headquarters. They apologized profusely and in the mail the following week I received the new red key and instructions on how to change out the faulty one.
    Armed with my fresh good experience the next time a toy broke I called the company. It was the makers of a little cell phone that played back a recorded message for baby. Would you believe they sent me a whole new toy? No questions besides what’s you address and I hope you still like us.
    The major pain in this whole discovery is that you have to find the manufacturer’s headquarters and call them directly, during business hours on their long distance number ($$) avoid the 800 number. Finding the phone number is much easier with the internet.
    Good Luck and I’m sure they’ll make it right. You would if you had manufactured the toy I’m sure.

  5. How true this all is. I suppose it’s true that each generation notices and complains about how things are ‘going to the dogs’. But as I recall, my grandparents seemed to grow bitter about things around the age of 55. I am bitter before the age of 30. I guess people have to buy old things or make their own.

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