Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bribing: a cautionary tale

When my in-laws were in town this summer, we all went to Toys R’ Us Times Square and Bubbe and Zayde let the kids pick out something as a gift. This is an endeavor which could potentially take hours and involve fatal amounts of whining and arguing, so I braced myself but after five minutes, Primo has found the perfect choice and persuaded Sec to get the same thing. It was called Fizz N’ Find: Monster Maniacs, and it was a golf-ball sized capsule that looked like an eyeball. Drop it into hot water, watch it fizz and crack open to reveal plastic pieces that, when assembled, make a tiny ghoulish monster! For a spook-obsessed four year-old and his space-saving mother, this was, indeed the perfect gift. The packaging pictured other monster figures that belonged to the collection.

As soon as Primo dropped the tablet into water and watched the first mysteries bubbles pop up, he was hooked.

“I want to collect them ALL!” he said, breathless.

I wasn’t thrilled about the materialistic gleam in his eye but, I figured, we could use this new addiction as leverage, set up a sticker chart, maybe get the kid to go to sleep at a decent hour again. I told him that if he did a good job sleeping for three nights, we could get him another Fizz N’ Find – why not?

Colossal mistake.

I highly encourage you never to make promises of gifts to your children unless you are one hundred percent sure you can deliver. Because the next day, when I called our local toy store to ask if they had any of these toys in stock, the told me they’d never heard of it. So did every other store I called, including Target, which is better-stocked than Santa’s workshop this time of year. I searched the web and found one place that sold the damn thing but the shipping was double the cost of the actual toy and I refused to shell out more than $4 for the piece of crap which I already wished had never been invented.

But I’d promised Primo the toy and I am resolute, almost to the point of insanity, on keeping my promises to the kids. So after spending three days wasting a terrific amount of time and energy in fruitless searching and dealing with my whining fizz-junkie of a son, I did what I vowed never again to do – I went to Toys R’ Us Times Square. I called ahead and made sure the infernal toy was being held for us and by 10am, the children and I were waiting at Customer Service.

I think you can guess where this story is going. The toy had gone missing. Primo went apoplectic. It was embarrassing. I decided the magic ingredient which caused the toy to fizz in such a thrilling way was crack-cocaine and I cursed the people at Wild Planet for manufacturing it. But, said the saleswoman, they were getting a delivery of Monster Maniacs the next day so why didn’t we just come back then?

I gave her a withering stare and told her we had come in from BROOKLYN. I said it like I was saying “Tunisia.” Brooklyn isn’t far from Time Square unless you’re dragging a two year-old thrill seeker and four year-old fizz-junkie jonesing for a fix. I pointed to said child, stamping and shrieking, and asked her if she really wanted me to bring him back tomorrow. She agreed to have the toy shipped directly to my home. I told her to order four of the cursed capsules as long as we were at it since I would rather walk barefoot over hot coals then ever endure this torturous odyssey again.

The toys arrived a few days later, and by that time, Primo was frothing at the mouth in anticipation. With shaking hands he dropped the tablet into the water and out came -- the same exact monster figure he’d gotten a week before. He was aghast.

“I wanted to collect them all but this is the SAME one I already have,” he choked out with tearful eyes. I looked at the packaging and explained that the fizz figures worked like baseball cards, so what you got was a surprise and you couldn’t choose.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset?” I ventured.

Yeah, right.

“But that’s not FAIR,” he shouted, “You TRICKED me!”

He began to sob and kick and yell and I realized that I had created a monster, not dissimilar from the ones in the package, only cuter. I should have taken the rest of those Fizz N’ Find toys and thrown them out the window. Instead I rewarded his abysmal behavior by giving him ALL the toys at once.

“Here,” I shouted back, “here’s all the ones we have. Crack them all open, but after that, I never want to hear the word fizz again! We are never buying another one of these GODDAMN TOYS!!”

He promptly ripped the packaging open, and deposited each one in the water to find the same toy bobbling to the surface. Primo wasn’t just disappointed; he was downright demoralized. He had believed in these toys and they had let him down. They had deceived him.

“Why,” he whispered, a broken man, “why didn’t they just let me choose?”

I explained the idea of marketing to him, and how it was just a way for the company to make more money. He was outraged. When David came home, he rushed right over to him with his five identical ghoul toys and yelled, “DADDY DADDY! We got more Fizz N’ Finds, but they did MARKETING on us!!!”

That was when we decided that there was nothing stopping us from making our own fizzing capsules with toy pieces hidden inside. And our recipe, I decided, would not include crack cocaine, thank you very much.