Wednesday, November 2, 2011

About the only item, aside from groceries, we buy new without second thought

Thrift store family of horses for my Little Pie, my Piper.
This weekend I picked up this family of horses at Goodwill. They are tucked away for the holidays for my little Piper. I will not wrap them. On Christmas morning, they will be sitting somewhere about the living room for her to spy. Besides, would it not be animal cruelty to box them? From my daughter’s imaginative point of view, these horses have feelings, personalities and eventually names. Shouldn’t I respect that?

She loves horses and when she cannot play or ride real ones, she turns to her extensive collection of Papo and Schleich figurines. Piper ensures she has the current pocket-sized catalogue to determine what Papo figurine she might like next for a treat or birthday. Sometimes she just looks at it like I used to thumb through the JC Penney catalog. Yes, these are mass produced toys, but the quality is certainly not lost.

Yes they’re imported from France and Germany and, yes, they’re plastic. But, the only shelf packaging they have is a small price point tied about one of their legs, easy to remove without leaving that annoying sticky residue. Tear it off and you’re ready to play. Daddy doesn’t get a hernia attempting to open some ridiculous packaging.

Piper plays with these figurines for hours a week.
In this photo we see the fairies have rounded up the horses in a tinker toy corral.
I know a lot of children play with Papos and Schleich. Rarely, I mean, very rarely does one find them in a thrift store. I imagine that’s because they become a legacy toy, something that is kept for the next generation. They withstand the wear. This is just like it’s highly uncommon for one to spot a wooden train set in a thrift store.

A Papo or Schleich can even enchant adults and most other brands of plastic figurines just don’t make the cut.

The family of horses I found at Goodwill are not Papo. They larger figurines, more expensive than their little Papo and Schleich cousins. These horses sit on the toy store shelf in loads of packaging for about quadruple the price. Do consumers ever think of the price of packaging? No one knows for certain. If we did know, we’d probably rather not pay the price of the cardboard penitentiary and just set our toys free. Regardless, I’m happy to pay the thrift store price, sans packaging.

After the round up, the horses convene on their own.
I graduated college in the early 90’s recession. Until I landed my what I will call the career job at The Lincoln Park Zoo Society in downtown Chicago, I worked the floors full time at Crate and Barrel. They did something unique in store display and design. Naked and alone stands the KitchenAide Artisan Empire Red Stand Mixer, daring Crate and Barrel consumers to see it for what it really is.

Time after time, I witnessed the disappointment in a customer’s eyes when they eagerly brought an espresso machine off the display shelf up to the register desk and I’d journey to the stock room to pull an espresso maker, new in the box to send home. Often, the customer didn’t want the one in the box. They couldn’t see it or touch it. “Can’t we just take this one?” While holding the actual item, they realized that photographs on the box were not enough to make them satisfied about their purchase. The same thing happened with glassware, china, and pot and pans. We watched it over and over again.

Let’s have a round up of wise toy purchases for children. Aside from the Papos and Schleich figurines, my daughters have experienced a lot of mileage on Thomas the Tank and Brio wooden train sets, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. If you’re going to invest in toys, invest in something that will be a toy, meaning it spawns imagination not hands it over.

Thoughts? Ideas?