May 16th passed a couple of days ago, without much notice? However, as it turns out May 16th is National Sea Monkey Day but unless you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s, you probably don’t know what a Sea Money is. Sea Monkeys are small shrimp-like creatures that have been sold as pets in the U.S. since 1960. Children who purchase these ‘Sea Monkey Kits’ get a water purifier kit, food in a package and an instant-life eggs package. As soon as you put the eggs in the water, Sea Monkeys will “instantaneously” appear.
Advertisements portrayed these creatures as real, interactive and fun to own. The ads even proclaimed that they are “so easy to please, and can even be trained.” When in actuality, sea monkeys are little more than tiny brine shrimp that will live for one day–if you are lucky. No tricks, no magic, just plain old brine shrimp that couldn’t hold a briefcase or wear pearls even if they wanted to.
Scam? I think so.
National Sea Monkey Say has gotten me thinking about the lies that toy companies feed American children every day. Many toys claim to be something great and amazing, when in actuality they are lame and boring. Toy companies feed lies to kids and make false promises all in the hope of making a sale. But do they care when little Molly cries because her Sea Monkey isn’t wearing lipstick and smiling like the one in the ad? I think not.
Here is my list of the top 10 scams for kids:
1. Sea Monkeys
Hands down, sea monkeys are one of the biggest scams ever marketed to children as fun, magical toys.
2. X-ray Specs
X-ray specs are glasses that claim that they allow the user to see through solid objects when worn. In actuality the glasses simply create an optical illusion, giving children the impression that they are seeing through objects. No special technology is involved, no x-rays are used; just plain-old fashioned trickery and good marketing.
3. Power Wheels
Power wheels are bikes designed for small kids (most have big wheels on the front) that lead children to believe that they will be able to cruise around the neighborhood in style if they purchase one. The commercials portray children riding around at incredible speeds and having a great time doing it. Think about how disappointed little Timmy must have been when he got on his new Power Wheel and putted down the street at .2 miles an hour.
4. Mr. Fuzzy
Mr. Fuzzy is marketed as a magical toy that will delight all of your friends and family. This little worm-like creature will crawl all over your body, kiss you and even jump. This toy gives kids the false impression that it is “alive” and a “great pet” when it is really just attached to a string. Mr. Fuzzy comes with instructions, but he also comes with a steep learning curve.
5. Wacky Wall Crawlers
Wacky wall crawlers are marketed as having “incredible crawling action” that will zip all over at lightning-fast speeds when thrown at the wall. Kids are promised hours of entertainment as this toy crawls seamlessly from one wall to the next. When in actuality the only entertainment that this toy ever offered me as a kid was watching my mom clean up the trail of slime that it left behind. Funny, yes. Magical, no.
Ah, the most iconic child’s toy of all time: the slinky. The slinky is marketed as an amazing toy that stretches, bounces up and down and performs a number of tricks including traveling down stairs and reforming itself when it reaches the bottom. How many times as a kid did your slinky actually do what you wanted it to? The only trick that that my childhood slinky ever performed was slapping me in the face when I tried to play with it.
7. Hand Buzzer
The hand buzzer is labeled as a classic joke toy that allows you to shock anyone that you shake hands with. In the ads, you see jokesters laughing hysterically as they trick friends and family with their clever toy. I don’t know about you, but the only person I ever zapped with this toy as a kid was myself. Not fun.
8. The Hypno-coin
The hypno-coin is a small circular toy that has wavy white and black lines all over it. Advertisers tell kids that this toy can hypnotize people when turned in a circular motion in front of someone’s face. The ad claimed that this “new pocket-size invention helps hypnotize in minutes. It must work for you or money back.” I don’t know about you, but I want my money back.
9. Claw Machines
I probably wasted at least 20 dollars in worthless claw machines at arcades when I was a kid. I would see a cute bunny in the machine, hopefully insert a quarter into the slot and try with all my might to get that darn claw to grasp the bunny. But it never did–ever. To think that a flimsy claw that can’t even pick up a feather could pick up a 3 pound stuffed animal is ludicrous.
10. Pet Rocks
The pet rock is probably the biggest toy scam of all time. Paying money for a rock in a cage that is labeled as a great companion? Thanks, but I’ll go get a rock for free out of my garden and save up my money to buy a pony.