Toys R Us dies the way it lived: disappointing children

Guess who got stuck holding a Toys R Us gift card?

No, it wasn’t me. That would have been sad.

It was my nine-year-old son. That’s even sadder.

Last weekend Big Brother decided it was time to buy a new game for the PS4 he got for Christmas. He dug through his wallet to count his money. In the midst of digging, he exclaimed, “We can just get a game from Toys R Us. I have a gift card!”

He produced a bright, festive, probably worthless, Toys R Us gift card with the unfulfillable words, “happy birthday” emblazoned across it. He must have got it at his party last summer.

bankrupt

What kid doesn’t want a lesson in bankruptcy law for his birthday?

I knew Toys R Us is going out of business, and even though they are still selling toys for cash money, some bankruptcy court somewhere had given them the right to refuse their own gift cards as payment.

Did I know my son was holding one of those quickly-expiring cards? Nope.

My son probably knew he had a Toys R Us gift card, and maybe he knew Toys R Us is in the process of going out of business, but being too young to understand the logic of the adult world, he certainly did not know that a business can lawfully stop honoring its obligations to its customers even though it is alive enough to accept money from those same customers.

Toys R Us has been in the business of killing joy for years. One Christmas I tried to order something online for my kids. It was in stock online, but I couldn’t have it delivered because it was available in stores, except it wasn’t in stock in any store within 100 miles, so I couldn’t get it either way. They’ve always played these games, which explains their demise.

I warned my son to ask the Toys R Us cashier about his gift card before he picked out a game. Sure enough, we’d missed the deadline for redeeming by one week. The worker couldn’t even tell us how much the card was worth. Instead, she handed him this paper.

File a claim

Step 1: File a claim. Step 2: Hold your breath.

As much as I would like all the stiffed nine-year-olds in the nation to file claims with the US Bankruptcy Court, I would advise them it’s not worth the effort. The form is several pages long. If they fill it out and file it properly, they might get some portion of their $20 gift card refunded, but probably not, because unsecured creditors (e.g. gift card holders) are last in line for repayment.

Big Brother found a game on sale at a different store and used his money. He got over the gift card disappointment faster than I did. (I’m sure I’ll get over it soon.) I can’t even completely pin this on Toys R Us, though I’m not ready to exonerate them. It seems to me, this is the American legal system putting giant corporate lenders before individual children.

The foolish children spent their money on games instead of lobbyists.

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Will work for toys

What would a four-year-old most like to do for fun on a beautiful Saturday afternoon? You guessed it: wash windows.

My wife and the baby were out when the boy came to me and asked, “Can we do some housework? Let’s wash some windows.” He then went on to tell me, “We’ll need a bucket and some soap and water.”

No, the boy is not the reincarnation of my grandmother. He really couldn’t care less if our windows were coated with gook. This sudden desire to clean up is not about windows or good housekeeping at all. It’s about toys.

The boy has noticed that there are lots of shiny new toys in that wonderland warehouse known as TOYS R US. Except for some of the toys in the aisles that virtually glow with pinkness, he wants them all. At the rate his parents buy him toys, he has calculated that it will take him months, or even years, to collect them all. This is unacceptable.

It has been explained to him that the lack of all the money in the world is the principle reason why he cannot have every toy. To combat this problem, he is determined to collect all the money in the world himself. Mommy and Daddy have proven willing to give him some money for doing extra chores, but there may be some flaw in his imagining that all the money in the world can flow to him through Mommy and Daddy.

boy with windex and rags

If you hire a four-year-old to clean your windows, make sure you have plenty of Windex, because the spraying is a lot more interesting than the wiping.

Our three-seasons room has lots of windows, and though I was in no hurry to clean them, it seemed a good opportunity to reinforce his work ethic. This could be done just as well with a bottle of Windex and some rags as by schlepping around a bucket of dirty water. We went to work at once.

He was able to reach only the lower part of the windows, leaving me responsible for the rest, for which my only reward would be cleaner windows. The boy kept himself motivated for a while, but his interest waned by the time we got to the outside. “You’ve got to finish the job if you want to get any money,” I warned him.

“So I can get a paycheck?” he asked.

“That’s right.”

“Well, I don’t want to be in a mentoring program.”

This was an out-of-the-blue head-spinner. Then I realized that the reference was from one of the inappropriate cartoons we like to watch together. As I recall from the cartoon, a mentoring program entails a slacker employee carrying his mentor, in a harness resembling a Baby Bjorn, while the mentor barks commands at him. I don’t want to be in a mentoring program either.

The boy stuck with it until the job was done, perhaps motivated by the image of a nagging father strapped to him. I gave him two dollars to put into his wallet and two quarters for his piggy bank.

“Can I have two of the dollars with Mr. Lincoln’s picture on them?” he asked.

“These have Mr. Washington’s picture. He was a very good man too,” I explained.

“Yeah, but Mr. Lincoln’s dollars have fives on them. These only have ones.”

Next time he wants to earn some money, I’ll have him do my taxes.

view of back yard through windows

Thanks to a boy with an ambition, we have learned that there is a back yard beyond our windows. Who would have guessed there was anything so useful beyond all the dirt and grime?