My Toy Story Conspiracy Theory

There are a lot of things I could worry about. Those floods in the Midwest. Oil is around $140 a barrel. We hit the one million mark in home foreclosures recently. Iran. Is Lindsay Lohan going to get her life back on track? But right now, my daily ire is aimed at a toy called Boingee Bubbles.

It was made by a company called Imperial Toy, which may be the finest toy company in the world. It's been around since 1969; they're apparently a well established business that specializes in making toys that involve bubbles. I know next to nothing about the company, and right now, I really don't care to know much. All I know is that this one toy that their name is behind, this one toy that my wife bought yesterday at a Kroger for $6.99, is either the one defective Boingee Bubbles of an otherwise bodacious bunch, or possibly, it's just a lousy product.

It is admittedly kind of a cheap shot to write some commentary and take a company to task in a public forum rather than call up their operator on the phone and asking for my money back. But I'm just fed up, from years of occasionally buying products from a variety of companies and hitting some sort of anti-jackpot of doom.

And, yes, we only paid $6.99, but it's not like we paid that price for a stereo and then are stunned to find that it doesn't actually play music. This is a toy. Shouldn't it work -- at least once?

My wife bought this Boingee Bubbles, some toy-contraption with a fan and "wands." You dip this fan with bubble wands into a tray of bubble soap, and then you press the battery-operated toy, and the fan spins, and the fun begins.
According to the picture on the packaging, you see something like 40 bubbles come out of this toy, and judging from the way this kid in the photo is smiling, I can expect my children to have a memory that they would carry with them into my old age, a memory that would come in handy when they're looking for a rest home to place dear old dad in. Maybe they'll pony up some extra money on a rest home with on-staff masseuses and a heated jacuzzi.

Except it didn't work. At all. My two daughters and I were outside in the backyard, and I watched my oldest, my six-year-old, keep pressing the button and watching maybe half a bubble sputter to life before popping. Then I tried it repeatedly. I had no better luck.

My wife, who knows I am not mechanically inclined, tried it. Our four-year-old tried it. "They lied," my four-year-old said, looking at the package.

Again, this could just be a spot of bad luck, one defective toy out of many that produce bubbles of magical proportions. But sometimes I wonder if companies that manufacture really cheap toys test their product before putting it out on the marketplace. Even worse, I half wonder if sometimes they mass produce a prototype, discover that it doesn't work, and then they sell it, anyway. They send it out to drugstores, grocery stores and discount outlets, where perhaps the expectations bar is set a little lower. Maybe they know that it'll be an impulse buy and that with a little luck, nobody will complain.

I should just go back to worrying about the price of oil, but you know, I admit, fuming over this injustice is more fun. Which I guess is what I was after all along: finally, some practical use out of this toy.

Geoff Williams is a business writer, a rather cranky one at the moment, and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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