Thursday, February 12, 2009

In Toys We Trust (By Jarvis Cromwell)

When my brother sent me an Amazon link to Playmobil’s Security Check Point toy I was sure this was either a joke or a phishing scheme. 

Nope.  It’s real.  Buy it here.  Cost of the toy: $62.  Customer reviews: priceless.

Welcome to planet earth circa 2009.  If we had to pick a symbol for the low-trust headwinds blowing a destructive chill around the globe, this might be it.

Needless to say some Amazon customers are having fun with this one, as in this example:

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year-old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!". But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.

Or this one:

Do they make a Playmobil GSE Mortgage Set, complete with little plastic Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae CEO's, ...and maybe little plastic Congressmen that get really rich, really fast when they are in charge of overseeing little Fannie and Freddie CEO's? ...Oh, ...and maybe an armada of little plastic attorneys to protect the little plastic Congressmen and little plastic Freddie and Fannie CEO's.

Other customers are disturbed:

“It's disturbing because the toy teaches children that fear and paranoia is normal. That it's right and correct for society to distrust its citizens the minute they buy an airline ticket…. It erodes trust between citizens, replacing it with trust in a government entity (HSA)--a government that of late has done quite a bit to suggest that it in no way deserves that trust.”

Unfortunately there is a lot to be disturbed about as a parent in today’s world.  Not just the prospect of terrorism and the loss of childhood innocence, but also trust in the safety of the toys themselves.  More than 20 million toys manufactured in China were recalled for lead paint and other hazards in 2007 — 138 recalls in all.  2008 was better, but there were still over 70 recalls.  We note that Playmobil toys, manufactured in Europe, haven’t had any problems.

A quote from the New York Times in 2007 sums it up:

“Nobody wants to be a paranoid parent,” said Ms. Gumbinner, 39, of Brooklyn Heights, who works as a creative director for a Los Angeles advertising agency and is a co-founder of the site “I mean, where do you draw the line between cautionary and crazy?”


  1. I think it's a sign of the times - like scary space alien toys in the 50s or cold war era Russians as bad guys in Scooby Doo. The next generation of fear, captured charmingly in molded plastic.

    Great post - happy to have found it.

  2. Great blog! I'm feeding as of today.

    With respect to toys - I'm happy to share this link:

    Apparently, Lego and Crayola are thriving in this economy - good news on many levels. First, nothing scary or inappropriate about either. Secondly, they inspire creativity and "good, clean fun" - they're both perennial favorites among my kids - and neither have never really faltered in quality. And recalls!