Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A note to the toy companies

I was going to say "toy makers" but, alas, most of the toy makers aren't here, they're in China, where a goodly number of them are apparently using lead paint, the date rape drug, and a lot of other nasty things to produce toys for our little ones.

(As Christmas approaches, toyland is certainly an Opinionated Marketing theme, as seen on John's post - and Mary's comment - yesterday.)

So, here's what I have to say to the toy companies who have been so blithely and blindly producing and MARKETING more and more, cheaper and cheaper, shoddier and shoddier, built-to-discard tomorrow (if not later today) crap:

Hah, hah, the backlash and losses that you're going to experience this Christmas serve you right.

(And I'm not letting American consumers off the hook, here, either. Our dazed, crazed, never satisfied desire from more and more, cheaper and cheaper, etc. etc., nonsense to shove in our maws - or, worse, the maws of our children - has been going on mindlessly for far too long. Time to think: about the implications of all this junk on children; about the implications of turning a blind eye to less than stellar safety, environmental, and worker-related practices in China in exchange for the devil's bargain of more crap. May this be the season when we all start to think straight on this.)

Now that I've got that out of my system, what constructive message would I send to toy companies?

Here goes:

  • Maybe you're already doing this, by why not establish a certification program and put it on all the toys that you, personally, will attest have been created with safe inputs; are of high quality; and have been produced under humane and decent conditions? Have it be like Sarbanes-Oxley: the CEO is responsible for ensuring that all this happens. Which will mean a lot more feet on those Chinese streets to make sure that standards are being met.

    Parents could look at a toy and see that the CEO of, say, Mattel had signed off on it. Or else.

    Sure, there might be illegal knock-offs that made their way into the country. And, sadly, they'd no doubt end up in cheapo-depot stores that sell to poor people. But at least some people would feel and be more protected.

    Oh, and, by the way, as with SOX attestations, the CEO can go to jail if he/she signs off on something that ends up, say, killing a kid. That might put a little backbone in the system, no? (Of course, the toy companies are not likely to do this on their own, but it's really time for them to stop taking the Chinese middle-men to the middle-men to the middle-men's word for things. They really do need to take ownership of what's going on in their supply chain.)
  • And while you're at it, why not come up with some "built to last" products - and not just ones that you're going to market at a premium to all those high end, elite parents who can afford to pay extra for something made out of wood painted with non-toxic paint. How about a decent quality toy line for everyone. I'm not saying complete death to plastics, but why not a little less of it. (I'm guessing that a lot more little girls hang on to their Raggedy Ann dolls forever than they do to one of their two-dozen Bratz.)
  • Set up a Made in America product line. You will clean up. People may have to pay more, which means they may buy less, but is anyone going to buy less than they are this year?

As I said, the toy companies may be all over this already.

As for those who are shopping for kids this season, my advice is two-fold: books and less.

What to do with the left-over money?

Put it in the kid's college fund, or make a donation to a charity in the kid's name. By the time a child's seven or eight, they're perfectly capable of understanding that - greedy guts that they are - they have a lot more than some of the other children out there.


Minter said...

Right on Maureen. The problem of over-consumerism and mass-presents is probably partly responsible. Less and less attention to value or to values in the gift giving acts. Let's strive for some quality over quantity... or dare I say "content" (as in interesting/educative) in at least some of the toys.

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