Laugh if you will (and I can almost guarantee you will by the end of this story), but I decided to brave the cold and go out to Toys R Us when it opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. The sales flyer was enticing; 50% off this and that, buy one, get one free, and on and on. The possible savings were too good to pass up.
I decided that I should arrive by 9 p.m. in case of a line. But if you know me, you know that I'm always running late. So, I arrived at 9:30. I noticed a line, but it didn't look too bad. And the store opened in 30 minutes. No sweat. It turns out the line that I could see was just the part on that side of the building. But still, it wasn't too far around the other side.
And then the cold wind reached me. I knew it was single digit temps, but I decided not to check my handy-dandy weather channel app on my phone to find out the actual temperature and wind chill. That would just make me feel colder. I did know that the wind chill earlier in the day, when the sun was still up, had been below zero. I plunged my gloved-hands deep into my warm coat pockets and did what I do best; I struck up a conversation with the two lovely ladies in front of me and nice couple behind me. We talked; we stomped; we hopped up-and-down in place, waiting, waiting, waiting for those doors to open.
People continued to arrive and get into line. The employees working the line estimated more than a 1000 people were there. I was approximately 250 in line. They let about 5o people in every 5 minutes once 10 p.m. arrived. I finally got inside; I wasn't sure I still had toenails; my face and hands were numb with cold, but that was OK because I was about to start saving money. And THEN, I realized it.
My wallet was at home, not in my purse! (I did, however, think to bring a bottle of water in case I was parched by all of the hard-core shopping.) I thought and thought, trying to figure out a solution. I decided to call DH at home. I noticed that my phone was showing low battery, but I figured I had enough battery remaining to call and discuss my predicament with DH. Uh, wrong. My phone died when DH answered and completely powered off. I walked around, dodging jolly, focused shoppers and their carts full of money-saving deals, until I could feel my extremities again, and then I left. When I started my car to drive home, I noticed my gas tank was on E. Seriously, someone was trying to tell me something. When I got home, we had a big laugh about the whole thing, but it took the rest of the night for me to warm up.
And the worst or best part of the story, depending upon how you look at it, I went back at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, and got everything on my list, but one crucial, A-listed-by-Darling-1 toy. I'm OK with it though, these are the kinds of things that happen to me. There was a happy, Christmas-y, congenial mood in the line that made it worth standing out in the frigid night. And let's face it, as parents, we will go to great lengths to get the toys our kids really want and get a good deal too.
Which Toy is the Safest?
It's easy to spot a good deal in a newspaper flyer or online, but it's hard to know how well a toy is made or to predict whether, after 50 million have been sold during the holiday season, it will be recalled in the next several months because there's lead in the paint or the tiny magnetic eyeballs fall out and pose a hazard, or the wheels fall off of a bike when a child is coasting down a hill, etc.
Recalls have been prevalent in the U.S. toy industry in recent years. Some of these recalls are so ridiculous that it's hard to imagine that the toy makers did not know of these issues before placing them on store shelves.
Toy safety standards for the U.S. are governed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There have been standards regulating toys and attempting to keep kids safe since the 1970s. The Standards are ever evolving in response to research and reports, new technologies and current trends. ASTM F963 is the general safety standard for toys.
ASTM F963 is cited in the CPSC's Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which was created in response to the numerous toy recalls in the past several years. ASTM F963 includes guidelines and test methods to prevent injuries from choking, sharp edges and other potential hazards.
The new toy safeguards include: establishing the lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world; setting limits on the use of certain phthalates; converting the voluntary toy standard into a mandatory standard; and working with Customs and Border Protection data systems to track shipments as they are in transit from other countries thereby increasing our effectiveness in discovering dangerous products coming into U.S. ports.
Source: CPSC Press Release
The Scope of ASTM F963 is as follows:
This specification relates to possible hazards that may not be recognized readily by the public and that may be encountered in the normal use for which a toy is intended or after reasonably foreseeable abuse. It does not purport to cover every conceivable hazard of a particular toy. This specification does not cover product performance or quality, except as related to safety. Except for the labeling requirements pointing out the functional hazards and age range for which the toy is intended, this specification has no requirements for those aspects of a toy that present an inherent and recognized hazard as part of the function of the toy. Such an example is a sharp point necessary for the function of a needle. The needle is an inherent hazard that is well understood by the purchaser of a toy sewing kit, and this hazard is communicated to the user as part of the normal educational process.
There is another standard for electric toys: UL-696. And yet another standard that includes Safety of Information Technology Equipment: IEC 60950-1, Second Edition. This includes the hundreds of varieties of electronic child development tools sold as toys: child laptop computers, handheld devices for games and learning, electronic reading toys, etc. ASTM 1148 is the standard for home playground equipment and ANSI Z315.1 is the standard for tricycles. There is even a standard for toy chests: ASTM F834.
All toys sold in the U.S. must conform to these standards. CPSC continues to monitor the effectiveness of the standards and update them as needed. According to Wikipedia, the new standard may be the toughest in the world.
Annual Toy Safety Report
The good news is that toy-related deaths have significantly dropped in the past year. The CPSC recently released its Toy Safety Report for 2009. According to this report, there were only 12 toy-related deaths in the U.S. last year, compared to 24 deaths in 2008 and 24 deaths in 2007. The highest number of deaths was attributed to tricycles. All three deaths occurred when a child fell into a pool while riding a tricycle and was drowned. While the deaths and injuries reported are not necessarily caused by toys, they are related to toys. Even still, the overall number of injuries related to toys is quite high. In 2009, there were an estimated 250,100 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments.
CPSC feels that the new standards are making a positive impact and restoring consumer confidence in the toys available. Only time will tell if these new standards are indeed making toys safer.
While these Standards are meant to be followed by toy manufacturers and inspectors, the parents must continually be attentive and do inspections of the toys in the home. It's important to watch for toys that are broken, have missing pieces or loose screws, etc. Parents should remember to watch for small pieces that come with larger toys that might be inappropriate for younger children and pay attention to the warnings given on the toys and their packaging.
On Wednesday, I will post tips for making sure the toys your kids are playing with are safe and how to be sure to spot any toy recalls that may affect you. I do have a Giveaway starting Thursday and ending Friday of this week. I'll post about that soon. Don't forget to weigh in on the Sunday Spotlight article this week. Over and out…
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