Saturday, July 28, 2007

Another open letter, this time to the people who make things

Dear People that Produce and Market things:

Thank you for your relentless interest in my opinions, as evidenced by your insistance to have me participate in your surveys. I know I'm a person with relevent ideas for these crazy times, but I would think that you might have better ways to invest your marketing budget than by calling me (almost daily) at 6 pm with a 20 minute survey about my radio station likes and dislikes or by insisting on my completing your survey simply because I ACCIDENTLY rolled over your ad with my mouse. And although I like shopping at your stores, I don't want to spend 20 minutes on the phone with a 18 yr old just so I can save 10% the next time I shop in your lousy store. You want my opinions? Here's a few.

Toys and other kid-related items:
While I am as price conscious as the next person, please do me a great favor by producing toys that don't break. For example:
  • Publisher's International's Story Reader: My 3 yr old loves this toy (which reads stories, as the name suggests). The only problem is, we've gone through 3 of them because they are made for careful treatment more likely of NASA astronauts than 3 yr olds. (Thank goodness for Toys-R-Us' product guarantee thing.) Great product, zero durability, which is somewhat key when dealing with the under-5 set. The lamest thing about your product is that not a part can be replaced or repaired, save the batteries. It breaks, you throw it away. Off to the landfill it goes. I'd pay a few more bucks for a toy that would last longer than 3 months or that could at least be repaired. Really, I would.
  • The Pit Stop from JC Penney's Christmas catalog (made by an unknown company based in Beijing): My sons received this last year and the idea is great (you build a car). The problem: after being played with for 5 minutes I have parts from a pit stop all over the house because no one on your engineering team had kids. They all assumed that the kids would politely rotate the tires instead of dismanteling the entire pit stop to use in a jousting match. A word of advice: think like a kid. I'm not talking only about eliminating chokeable items or making toys without lead. I'm talking about putting toys together with real screws so that the legs don't fall off just because you need to move it 2 inches. I'm talking about not having a cardboard sign that isn't attached to the toy in any way, shape or form, and which is also used as a frisbee much to my chagrin.
That's the basic lineup for my toys opinions: make them well and have an orangutang do a beta test before you go marketing the product to toddlers. That will orient you a bit.

Language related items:
To whomever invented our alphabet, thanks a lot. More specifically, thanks for the letter P. Really appreciate that because now my 3 yr old can call his brother a "peepee head" and say "I mean P, like the letter in the alphabet. That's what I mean, I'm not calling him a bad word, Mom." (Yes, he does that. Often.) Or he'll say "L-M-N-O-Poop. Or is it P? Which is it, Mom, I forget? Poop or P? I'm just trying to say the alphabet." (Also an oft-heard refrain, but it allows for both poop and pee so it's a bigger hit all around.) So thanks for that, Mr Roman-guy-been-spending-too-much-time-in-your-toga-but-got-to-invent-the-alphabet-anyway. Glad you got to make the alphabet decisions, that was really wise of you. Clearly YOU didn't have any toddlers in your life.

Clothing, particularly kid-related, since that's mostly where my clothing budget goes:

  • Start using the same yardstick. Why, Mr/Ms MBA in Fashion Merchandising, do I have to be an expert in each store, knowing who runs big and who runs small, instead of just knowing that if it says 18 months, it means the kid is X inches tall and Y pounds heavy? Why must I have to carry around more information in my brain, like that Gymboree is a little on the big side except for their sleepers or that Old Navy is a bit small or that Target tshirts can run somewhat short? I have enough to think about, trying to keep track who wants their toast diagonally cut and who'd rather swear flip flops than tennis shoes. It's not metric here in the US, if that helps clarify anything. And there's no way on this green earth that my kids will be trying on clothes in your stores to see if they fit. I'm lucky to get them on one time a day without falling victim to internal bleeding due to the fight to resist the horrors of being clothed. Truly. Find a measuring tape and stick to it. I think all your brains can work together and solve this one easily.
  • Regarding sleepers, particularly newborn-sized ones: make them as soft on the inside as they are on the outside. My sons' littlest sleepers must have been awful for them, with the bulky seams and not-so-soft fabric. I could touch the sleeper and feel cozy, but the inside isn't always.
  • Kill the tags. There is no need of them, do the Carter's thing and stamp your info on the clothes. Tags are lame and make little kids itch.
  • Dress my boys nicer. As one blogger put it, boys have the option of being sports stars or Little Lord Fauntleroy. I'm painfully aware of that. Take Old Navy: the little girls section is about 6 walls. The little boys: 3 half walls, all of which have jeans, none of them very interesting. I also think that under Title IX aren't boys required to have as much clothing options available to them as girls? (Perhaps that relates to women and sports, but you see my point.) As much as I adore the jeans-saggin'-and-boxers-showin' look, I'd rather not see it on my 3 yr old. Put together a few items that aren't pseudo-gangsta or ring-bearer costumes and you'll have a satisfied customer.
  • On a positive note, all stores should be required by law to have a TV. Gymboree rocks my clothes-buying world (and budget) by having one not just in the store, but right next to the clearance rack. So they are dialed in whereas Gap Kids gets none of my cash because by the time we make it to the right section, my baby is attached to the stroller by only one limb and my toddler is laughing riotously and trying to do tickle him.

A word on the seasonal items you all carry, just a quick reminder: it is JULY. As in the 7th month, just PRIOR to August. And ALL, I repeat ALL of the stores I have been in are clearing out summer merchandise including swim suits, tank tops, etc., to make way for cozy fall wear. Another quick reminder: it has been 100 degrees almost every day this week. I know you're anxious to get all the splendors of Fashion Week on the racks, but come on, people. Live for today! Dress for the season we're IN, not the one we hope will come! What with global warming, we might not need sweaters for a good long time. Where I live, it won't be raining for months, and coats just aren't necessary. Quit this seasonal facism and stay with the program. When in Rome, do as the Romans... when it's summer, sell what the people who are living in summer would want. Sheesh. Is this that hard?

There you have it, a few opinions in a nutshell. Whenever you need another one, just send me the 10% off coupon first, and I'll gladly provide you with my wisdom.


Left Coast Sister

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sizzler is sizzlin'

I first remember Sizzler as a kid; it was one of our very special "lunch out with mom" spots. We would go there with her alone--when we had to go into town"to get braces adjusted, or whatever, we might stop for lunch if we were lucky. It seemed very grown up and hushed; I loved getting Malibu Chicken and sitting in the sunroom area.

Then, I went a long time before going to Sizzler again. In college, one opened in our relatively small college town, and we went through a streak of going there for salad bars and iced tea on hot summer (and hot fall, and hot spring) days. They served iced tea then in these huge glasses, and even though it's refillable regardless of the size of the class, somehow that iced tea looms large...

Last night, we went to Sizzler because our kids had earned free meal coupons from their summer reading program. DH and I laughed at our kids' enthusiasm for the mac-n-cheese (with a side of french fries, jello-topped-with-whipped-cream, cookie, and ice cream bar for dessert!). We also laughed at the overall Sizzleriness of it all: ordering from a girl that says your order into a microphone; being waited on by another girl who performs every single waitressing duty except taking your order; lining up with the 70+ set as they ordered their senior meals. It's been at least 10 years since we've been to one, but I could have ordered without looking at the menu (and really, I did: a double Malibu Chicken dinner for me! Fried chicken patties topped with ham and swiss cheese, served with mustard sauce--nothing better.)

Isn't it a funny place?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

HP Moments

1. I'm in line to buy a pair of 80% off flip-flops at JC Penney, and turn around and glance behind me. A late-teen/early 20s woman is reading HP while waiting in line.

2. We're driving home in the afternoon, and I notice a college-aged couple walking back from the grocery store. She's carrying two Winco bags; he's reading aloud from HP as they walk.

3. A group of younger teens is finished with their tubing ride down the river and is waiting in a parking lot in town (a common thing here). Two are reading their HP books as they wait.

It's a pretty amazing shared cultural moment, this mass reading of HP books. V v cool.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

from toddlers to kids

I'll remember this as the summer our kids became friends--genuine "let's hide from mom and play a game," "I wanna do what you're doing" kind of friends. Overnight, these 2 -- one's 2.5, one's 4.5 -- are fully buddies. They play and play and play; they giggle and make up things to do. ("I know--I have an idea!" one will say.)

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows their father that they're also learning to excel in the art of teasing. Yesterday they played all day in their play tent, and at one point, I heard some rustling. I asked what it was. #2 replied, "it's okay mommy. It's only the cranberries (which comes out more like 'cwanbewwies')" Then they giggled and giggled and rustled around some more...and later we found the bag of Starburst candy they'd smuggled in there.

Of course, they didn't figure out how to open it--so they're still not all growed up yet.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Why 3 year olds are not so great

... or, "How 3 year olds can introduce humility into your life."
We've been having some work done on our house, and the other day I was cleaning off some shelves that were holding only dust as a result of this project. The yellow bottle of Pledge was a mainstay in my growing up years, and its smell brings me right home. Not so for my own kids, I've learned. When I got the bottle out, my 3 year old said, "What's that?" As if he's never seen it before.
As if.