Last week, a small parcel arrived in the mail purporting to be from Toys R Us and containing a "free gift" inside. Alastair understands the inherent magic in the daily ritual of getting the post and opening this little box was like a fat icing flower on top of a corner piece of Ukrop's birthday cake. Out of the first box comes a smaller box decorated to look like a locomotive. "Choo, choo train!" Alastair chirped brightly. I opened the train engine box to find a small wooden Thomas the Train, and Alastair's little brain turned inside out with excitement.
Along with the train engine was a letter address to "Dear Parent" that began "As boys approach the age of two, they become fascinated with trains and train play..." as well as a full color catalog of the many trains, cars, tracks, and accessories that form the Thomas the Train toy line. And, of course, a couple of coupons to help get that collection started.
(Now before anyone gets overly excited thinking that TRU is Big Brother or that they've taken to hiring psychics to do their marketing, long ago I signed Alastair up for their Birthday Club. Crass Commercialism has the 411 on my kid.)
The free Thomas the Train is not a cheap toy. I priced this little booger out at $12 on my last trip to Target. (Anyone remember the Brio train sets? This is similar except branded as Thomas the Train) Other sets of train cars range from anywhere from $12 to $25. Then there are wooden tracks, tunnels, bridges, buildings, a display table, storage, and beyond just the train set is a multitude of other Thomas-related merchandise.
Alastair is totally happy with his train engine, toting it around, telling me that his choo choo train has a face and that it does not pull dirt. He is completely ignorant of the wide range of other Thomas the Train cars that go with his engine. But Mommy and Daddy know. Mommy and Daddy see how he looooves his new toy, how happy it makes him. And they want their little boy to always be happy, right?
Man, these fuckers at Toys R Us are some wily ones.
Momma and Daddy A are resistant to Toys R Us' "the first hit's on us" marketing ploy. At least so far. We know all about the perils of expensive hobbies. Last thing we want to do is get Alastair addicted at such a tender age.