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It pays to know your audience
on July 7, 2011
My wife and I are communally owned by three cats. One of them, Sissy, is fascinated by anything we do, and anything can potentially be a toy. She has great fun swatting soap bubbles manually made the old-fashioned way by blowing through the ring of a bubble wand. That is, we blow and she swats; we wear out before she does. So, when we saw a mechanical bubble gun being used by bunch of kids, we thought it just the thing to entertain Sissy without too much expended effort on our part.
The LIGHT UP LED TRANSPARENT BUBBLE GUN arrived ready to fire with a 50mL container of "Bubble Water" and three AA batteries already installed in the gun's grip.
It should be no surprise that the gun and bubble water are manufactured in ... China. For the record, a small sticker on the side of the weapon indicates that it was QC'd at the manufacturing site by "09". 007 was apparently on a secret mission and otherwise occupied.
The gun's housing, as advertised, is completely transparent. The "light-up" feature is accomplished by three LEDs spaced along the long axis of the top of the "barrel" inside the housing; they sequentially flash green, blue and red when the trigger is pulled. At the front tip of the device, also inside the housing, a blue LED at the position of a front sight continually lights-up when the trigger is pulled, as does the ring structure of the bubble generating assembly, which glows green.
Sissy was immediately fascinated as we removed the toy from its packaging; she was ready to party.
After screwing the bottle of Bubble Water into its receptacle at the front of the gun and pulling the trigger, we first thought we had a defective product. Only one of the LED lights lit-up, and the gear wheels that pump soap solution through the internal tubing didn't turn. Thinking the batteries in place had weakened over time, we replaced them with three, charged rechargeable batteries even though cautions on the packaging state: "Non rechargeable batteries are not to be recharged" and, more to the point, "Do not use rechargeable batteries." In any case, the forbidden replacements only lit up the three LEDs along the barrel's top and failed to get the gears wheels turning. At this point, the wife was prepared to send the thing back and/or ask for a refund. But, I'm made of sterner stuff, and one must keep Sissy happy or she becomes insufferable.
I made a special trip to the store to buy a fresh pack of non-rechargeable, brand-name, copper-topped AAs. Once these were inserted, the gun worked - a fact that deflected both a nasty email to the distributor, Flashing Panda in Campbell, CA, and a "0 star" heading to this review. Lucky for them!
The toy's instructions state: "Squeeze and hold down the trigger a few times to start." This is true for the first use and any subsequent use where the gun hasn't been fired steadily. Presumably, the internal tubing that carries the soap solution to the bubble generating ring must re-prime. Once you get it going, though, it puts out a steady stream of bubbles that will satisfy the most demanding user. Sissy is demanding, and she is absolutely thrilled.
Another instruction states: "After use, rinse water through toy." This is probably a good idea; such preventative maintenance will likely stave-off at least some of the complaints coming from other reviewers who claim that this toy (or ones similar) suddenly stopped firing bubbles.
The packaging of the BUBBLE GUN displays some interesting statements too good not to mention:
"I'm your lovely friend. Take me home." This is perhaps directed at impressionable 5-year olds. In my experience as an adult male, it usually only comes from "working girls."
"As good as a play." Really? Definitely better, though, than some plays my wife has dragged me to see.
"Collect them all." You mean there's more than one? Perhaps a shotgun model.
"For ages 3 and up." Happily, Sissy at four meets this requirement. Can't have the Toy Police swooping-in to confiscate the thing.
As for the other cats, Amanda and Rags:
Amanda is old and grumpy (like me); pull the toy's trigger and she simply stalks away in disgust. Rags, about Sissy's age, is the shy one; just the noise of the gun doing its thing sends her fleeing under the bed.
It pays to know your audience.
P.S. 7/21/11: I'm reducing my original 4-star award to three. The bubble gun's output has become considerably less even though it seems to be pumping and lighting-up as it should, and I've rinsed the line with water after every use. Perhaps it's because I've replenished the original "Bubble Water" with another brand of bubble solution, though I can't see why that should make any difference. It's a mystery.