I’d Rather Be a Toys “R” Us Kid

The Toys “R” Us truck we acquired during my husband’s tenure in the warehouse. Image: Sarah Pinault

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, then you were a kid when Toys “R” Us was in it’s heyday. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that as soon as you saw those words, you began singing the jingle in your head, where it will be lodged for the rest of the day. You’re welcome. You probably reminisced with your friends and family when the store filed for bankruptcy. You might have gone in a few dozen times to check out the closing down sale. If you were anything like me, you managed to pick up a $200 race car kit, a steal at $50, not realizing that it wasn’t the full kit but just accessories for the kit, and then it dawned that you couldn’t return it. Certainly, every time you pass by that now empty store, or brand new furniture store in my case, your inner child sheds a tear. When our Target book of toys arrived in the mail this year, I paused for a brief moment before diving in, lamenting that the Toys “R” Us big book would no longer be part of our Christmas traditions.

My husband worked at Toys “R” Us for a brief time after we were married. He has fond memories, and some strange stories. I remember going there with my grandparents when I was growing up in England. Getting the train to the city, and then entering that hallowed place. It was enormous, it had everything I ever wanted, it had all the things I couldn’t even dream up. It was a magical place.

If you are thinking the same things that I am, know that we aren’t romanticizing this at all. In the 1980s one in every five toys was sold by Toys “R” Us. The company was the epitome of a “category killer,” having cornered the market on good toys at reasonable prices. They also cornered the market on the hearts of billions of kids.

I confess, when they announced bankruptcy, I was sad but paid scant attention to the details. “Stores are still open in Canada.” “The company was forced out by Amazon.” “Amazon had purchased all their stock.” “Target was taking over.” “Santa was hiring displaced workers.” The rumors were flying fast and furious. This week the Wall Street Journal put out a piece about the downfall of Toys “R” Us, the company and personal perspective, and it is fascinating.

Also this week, I got hold of a book of toys from Amazon. Yes that’s right, Amazon is sending out a paper catalog of products. No prices listed. Nothing you couldn’t find in any decent toy store, or big box store. None of the weird things you can only go to Amazon for. But it looks like someone’s trying to become a new holiday tradition.

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