Free my child's toys from cruel restraints

December 27, 2007|By Chicago Tribune

Dear toy manufacturers:

I write to you as a parent curious about the robust product-restraint systems employed in your packaging. In particular, I am inquiring about the wires, clips, tapes and molded plastic shells used to keep your articles safe, secure and out of the hands of my children.

As I opened the Handsome Groom doll (Barbie's fiance) to put under the Christmas tree for my 5-year-old daughter, I quickly discovered that the young man's arms, legs, torso and throat were tightly bound to the box with eight pairs of meticulously twisted, impossibly thin wires.

Another strand had been lovingly inserted behind the collar of his black tuxedo, under his starched white shirt, around his well-muscled chest and out of reach of my fat, caffeinated fingers.

The point of my letter is this: I seek to understand the reasoning behind your ever-more-elaborate packaging.

Is the purpose product safety? Are the clamps and rivets meant to keep the toys from shifting in their original packaging during transit, thereby minimizing (at least in the case of dolls) injuries to various body parts?

Or maybe it's about crime prevention? Are the painstakingly inserted and knotted wires designed to prevent your products from being removed from their boxes and shoplifted from stores?

Is it about job creation? Are all the plastic knots, loops, hoops and harnesses the result of some unpublicized treaty concluded to boost developing economies through the employment of hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers in mind-numbing manual wire-tying?

Or perhaps it's simply a diabolical plot - the twisted wires the product of twisted minds (corporate lawyers, safety engineers, government regulators) bent on tormenting parents. This seems to be the most likely explanation, given the implausibility of the other three. (The nail-breaking, finger-cutting clamshell case seems to support this theory.)

In any event, no longer are Christmas mornings scenes of gleeful children tearing open presents, eyes wide and mouths agape. No - they have become tableaux of mothers and fathers struggling mightily to liberate Polly Pockets, Bratz and Transformers while short attention spans wander to something else.

So I ask you: Come clean about why your toys come bundled in packaging that can only be opened with a box cutter, bolt cutter and large kitchen knife. I'm sure there's some reasonable explanation.

While I await your response, I shall go and undo more of the ties that bind my children's new playthings, restrain their happiness and knot my stomach.

Happy holidays,

Robert J. Inlow

Robert J. Inlow lives in Charlottesville, Va. This originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

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