Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Toy Scrooge

My company’s HR department is encouraging employees to take part in a program to buy toys for less fortunate children. My only problem with it is the requirement that all toys be purchased new. My own experience with my family over the years tells me that there is a huge glut of perfectly good slightly used toys available.

My family have thrown out thousands of toys, many of which were still new-looking, but we simply couldn’t find anyone who wanted them. They couldn’t be sold at garage sales or even given away at these sales. We often threw them away just to create room in our home. From what I saw of friends’ homes, they could have improved their lives by throwing away more toys.

This whole charity effort has the feel of something designed to pump up toy sales. I have no idea if this is really the case, but adding to the glut of toys choking the homes of families rubs me the wrong way.

I would prefer to see needy children paired up with some of the almost new but unwanted toys in wealthier homes. This would require volunteers to inspect toys and clean them, but this is something I’d have an easier time throwing myself into enthusiastically.

13 comments:

  1. I get your point, but for one day kids want to ignore the fact that they have to compromise everything because their family is poor, and have a brand-new toy like everyone else. I think used toys have their place, but on Christmas day it would probably be a letdown.

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  2. @Anonymous: I think you are projecting adult thinking onto children. In the majority of cases, children will not know or care about the distinction between nearly new and new.

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  3. I'm with anon on this one. I don't disagree that very young children won't care whether a toy is new or nearly new. But, it's Christmas. Something about a gently used toy under the tree doesn't sounds right.

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  4. Wow, CC, I'm at a loss here. I don't know what to say, because to me it's painfully obvious that donating used toys to other children (needy or not) is a win-win situation. In fact, a used toy might even mean more to a youngster if they knew it had been owned by an older child they admire.

    If the child is disappointed that the toy is not new, that would be an incredibly sad situation. I'm certain my boys wouldn't react that way, and I'd be ashamed of myself if they did.

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  5. As far as I know it's a simple issue of health, safety and also time saving.

    If they said we accept used toys, then you'd get all manner of toys which are either dirty (that need to be cleaned or just thrown away), or old and don't met current health and safety regulations, or broken yet the donater insists are 'good enough'. The organizing charity then has to sort through all these toys to find ones that actually are suitable to give children which takes time and money.

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  6. CC and Patrick: It seems that there are very different views on this one. I don't really care how the adults feel about things -- I'm more concerned with the kids.

    @Anonymous: Dealing with used toys is extra work, but a charity will get more toys if they are willing to accept both. If a charity is willing to forgo a large chunk of potential donations to avoid work, that's their choice. I don't see why it would be too much added work if people accepting donations are ruthless -- "Take it back. It's not clean enough." The safety issue is largely overblown. Don't give small pieces to young kids. New toys are as likely as old toys to contain scary things like lead paint, etc.

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  7. Regarding getting rid of gently used toys, I'd suggest seeing whether your area has a Freecycle group (see www.freecycle.org). You can post a message saying you have an item to give away, and people will come and take it off your hands.

    We've done this over the years with many kids' items (as well as lots of other household items, furniture, etc.), which are usually picked up by low-income families who are thrilled to be able to get good quality used items for free.

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  8. @Dan: Good suggestion. I don't have many kid toys left worth giving away, but I occasionally have furniture and other things to give away.

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  9. I have some experience with freecycle too, and it makes sense in theory, but if something is free, I find people are less likely to keep appointments. Out of the perhaps five instances where I've given things away, two or three times people have failed to show up to pickup what I've offered.

    Might be better to list something on kijiji or craigslist for 10% of its true value, though I haven't personally tried this. The small amount of money isn't worth it to me.

    I just wish I still had my childhood Lego sets. Those were great, would love to share them with my daughter.

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  10. @Gene: We still have my childhood Lego sets. My sons used them and we bought more for them as well. I'm keeping all the Lego in case we have grand-children. However, I'm not sure if Lego will be able to compete with electronic toys by then.

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  11. I am with Michael on this one. New toys?! I became disenchanted with charity after a company I worked for made a Christmas campaign for two single-mothers and their children. The 200+ employees got mountains of toys and cosmetic products etc. but we were given a list by the HR who was supervising this campaign: the mother prefers Nivea line of cosmetics, we need more toys for +15 years olds etc. Since nobody cares to say it, I will take the nasty task of putting out this bit of common-sense: "Beggars can't be chosers!". Since I come from a very poor country, I chose to redirect my help there where children don't have ANY kind of toys and where single mothers would prefer anything that would make their children smile on Christmas! Gently used hand-downs are acceptable!

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  12. While I see both sides of the coin, I think the HR department's heart is in the right place.

    Giving (anything, new or not) to those in need is never a bad idea.

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  13. @Financial Cents - You are right and that what bothers me: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions! I met many people who achieved greatness and why?! Because they were humiliated growing up in poor families, because they were humiliated by second-hands, because they didn't want their children to go through the same thing they went through. Yet, shaming is something that the modern society is not supposed to use on children but it uses plenty on adults and I reject it and Michael does well rejecting it too!

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