First off, I'm a 20 year old college student. I was shopping around on Amazon for some nerdy board games (you know the kind that take up the entire room and take 3 days to play, not exactly "toy" stuff). Anyway, so while looking for a good deal, I noticed the link to the toy forum at the bottom of the page. I saw a lot of exclamation marks and all caps so I decided to check out what all the fuss was about.
I almost cried. The threads in this forum nearly drove me, a 20 year old man, to tears. Everything here is just so... wrong. So I sat for a while and tried to think of something to say to make things a bit better. So here comes the incoherent rant. Parents get there lecture first, but don't worry, sellers/merchants/Amazon get their turn too.
Before I start the aforementioned rant, I would like to share the memory of my favorite toy. It was back in the mid 90`s when George Lucas was redoing the Star Wars Trilogy. Darth Vader 3 3/4 inches action figure. I had a lot of fun with it, playing with my brother (who got Luke Skywalker, I always liked the villains, he liked the heroes, worked out nice).
Thinking back, it wasn't a birthday or Christmas gift, I bought it. I got 1 dollar a week allowance in exchange for the usual household chores. Back in the 90's action figures cost $4, so roughly every month if my brother and I did our chores and behaved we'd go to the toy-store and buy our little action figures rush home to "introduce them" to the other action figures. We still both have those action figures, posed all around the room we both used to share when we were kids.
I recently checked the price of that Darth Vader action figure on Amazon. The exact same one I bought, with the "red light saber" box I found roughly 30 different vendors selling it for new and unopened for about $5-$8. Accounting for inflation, it should sell for about $5.50 in 2012 dollars. There were a couple vendors selling it for cheaper then it cost when it was still in production. Apparently Darth Vader is one of the most expensive ones too. I saw some from the same line going for as low as $3.
Toy companies are still making new Darth Vader 3 3/4 inch action figures as well. Because of some complicated brand/IP related things (there is now a different Star Wars toy line made specifically for kids, $2 MSRP per action figure) the 3 3/4 figures are targeted towards adults, ergo more detailed, ergo more expensive at about $10 each.
RANT BEGINS HERE
Point #1: Unlike many other products, the amount of money a toy costs is not always directly related to how much fun your child will have with it.
A minivan with an MSRP of $30,000 will almost certainly be superior to one with an MSRP of $20,000. This same logic does not apply to toys. Plastic is cheap, a significant portion of the MSRP for toys is paying for fancy clam-shell packaging, advertising and license fees. There are some expensive poorly made toys out there. That being said, there are also cheap well made toys. As mentioned before, my favorite toy was $4 (or $5.50 bought today or about $10 for the currently manufactured equivalent). I did not have "$4 of fun" with it. That toy and the fun I had with it was worth more than money to me. Right now, I'm over $10,000 in debt (college loans) and I still wouldn't sell that action figure no matter how much I was offered.
Point #2: HAVING toys IS NOT fun. PLAYING with toys IS fun.
That toy, that I wouldn't give up for the entire world, is just a little piece of plastic. By its self, it just... sits there... What makes it so special was playing with it. My Mother and Father worked long hours, so they didn't have much free time, but they still occasionally found some time to play Star Wars with my brother and I. Most of the time it was just me and my brother, sitting on the floor, action figures in hand, humming the opening theme to Star Wars. It was fun. When I think about it now, my parents could have handed me a couple of Popsicle-Sticks taped together and than colored black with a magic marker, said to me "Look, its Darth Vader!" and I would of had just as much fun.
Point #3: Your child does not need to have "THAT-ONE-TOY". Your child only thinks they need "THAT-ONE-TOY", because the TV said so.
When I was growing up, our TV had 4 channels. Only 1 one of them had children's content, and that was the Public Broadcasting Network. I'm not sure how well known PBS is in the 21st century, so for those who may have never heard of it, it broadcasts fun/educational content for children (for example Sesame Street) with no commercials. Growing up without viewing cable TV cartoons didn't negatively affect my life at all. These days you can even have the best of both worlds, cable TV cartoons can be watched on Netflix/Hulu/Youtube for less than the cost of Cable, and they don't come with commercials.
Point #4: Learn to say (and HOW to say) "No".
I know that as parents, you all want to be able to give your children whatever their hearts desire. I realize that it hurts you to have to say "no", but its something you have to do. You can say "no" without ruining Christmas, or killing Santa. "That toys very expensive and Santa needs to buy gifts for all the children in the whole world", "I don't think they make those at the North Pole,"... you can see where I'm going with this. An even better approach would be to ask your child WHY they want that toy. If its because "its popular" or "everybody else has one" explain to them why this is the wrong way to look at things. If (for example) they reply that they "want a Barbie with a pretty dress". Barbies have been made since 1959, somewhere there is an unopened Barbie complete with even prettier dress for a fraction of the cost. Unless your child makes a habit of checking the tiny print on the back of the box that says "made in 2001" they'll think its hot off the shelves. They'll probably be the only one of their friends to have that particular doll too.
Point #5: Spend time with your child.
I said earlier that I almost cried when I first read some of the threads on the forum. About halfway through typing point #2 I did start crying. Not the sad kind of crying, the I-am-so-grateful-for-all-these-happy-memo
I want you to think back to when you were a child. What did you want to be when you "grew up"? Firefighter? Musician? Astronaut? Superman? Chances are, things didn't exactly go according to plan, and thats okay.
Now I want you imagine that your childhood self is standing right in front of you. They look up at you and smile. Then they ask you, what they are going to be when they grow up. You look down at them, smile and say; "I buy lots of toys from stores, so I can make parents pay a lot of money for them, so their kids don't cry,". Imagine the look, on your childhood self's face when they hear you say that. If imagining that doesn't hurt, then I feel truly sorry for you.
That being said, I'm not against capitalism. I understand supply and demand. Low supply and high demand means you can charge more, which is what is going to put food on your table and a roof over your head. I'm not saying not to charge more for items in high demand. If there is somebody out there welling to pay 10 times the MSRP for the latest cellphone, fruit juicer, designer watch or whatever, by all means, sell it to them. They are an adult, they can decide wither or not it's worth the price.
I'm not even against charging over the average retail price on toys in high demand. After all, for a bit of money your saving the customer a trip to the toy-store and the risk of being trampled by rabid Black Friday shoppers. But please, I am begging you, show restraint in the markup on children's toys, and when you do mark the price up, do your best to let the customer know that you are charging over the average retail price, and the reason for this. Like I said before, no trip needed, no risk of trampling.
I'm not going to point out specific examples of excessive markup. Everyone reading this knows just as well as I do, what is and is not a reasonable markup.
In conclusion, there are more important things in life than maximizing profit margins or getting "THAT-ONE-TOY". Spending fun times with your family and being able to be proud of your self and the way you've lived your life are worth more than money or colored plastic.