In the run up to the Christmas season, I felt it was time to brush off my corporate annoyance of an alter ego, Alan Paige. Alan's had a busy Christmas period this year, trying to find suitable toys for his son Bradton. Unfortunately, most of those toys are either unsuitable or just plain rubbish, forcing Alan to send in a lot of complaints to companies. Here are the results:
First up, a complaint to Halfords about their children's bikes:
I recently purchased one of your bicycles for my son Bradton, which I thought would be the perfect present for him on account of its wussy girliness (he’s not the most macho of boys). Although I originally purchased it as a Christmas present, due to his incessant whining I let him have it early. The glee on his face as his pasty, spaghetti arms tore into the wrapping paper was like watching a starving man tear into a packet of peanuts. He couldn’t wait to open the package and taste the salty goodness.
Alas, tragedy struck as Bradton found the bicycle to be precariously unbalanced. Due to his cripplingly crippled legs, he hasn’t been able to stay on the bike for more than a few seconds without hilariously cracking his head open in the rockery, or falling down a pot hole.
I don’t think you have taken the necessary design precautions to make sure that your product is compatible for disabled users. I thought I’d offer a few suggestions which would improve your bikes for the disabled community:
1) Give them four wheels rather than two for extra stability.
2) Rather than an exposed seat, you should put a chassis around it to encase and protect the rider. You should include a couple of doors too.
3) A passenger seat so that a supervisor can sit in the bike in case of emergencies.
4) Headlights so that the user can be seen in oncoming traffic.
5) A diesel engine, for faster commutes.
I hope you will take my design revisions into consideration in future.
Halfords sent back a rather bland reply. Presumably they decided that I wasn't genuine and that I wasn't worth bothering with. Not sure what gave them that idea:
Dear Mr Paige,
Thank you for your email.
Halfords welcome feedback from our customers and we will certainly ensure that your comments are passed onto the relevant department for their future consideration.
Thank you for taking the time to contact us and please be assured of our best attention.
Mrs E Valentine
Customer Service Advisor
Next, there was a weird looking shark toy at Toys R Us. Time for a complaint!
Dear People/Humanoids,They respond awesomely:
I am writing to inform you that your shark toys are completely inappropriate for youngsters. I purchased one as a Christmas present for my son, Bradton, as he has a fascination with the natural world. However, due to a regrettable shark attack when he was a toddler (Bradton was badly injured by a loan shark. I used him as a human shield during a disagreement about repayments), this triggered a rather negative reaction. Bradton went, as described by his doctor, “Batshit Insane”, flailing his arms and legs around like a squid in a hurricane. I was forced to punch him until he eventually calmed down.
What I would like to see is a redesign to these toys. If you can remove the sharp teeth and make them more rabbit shaped, I’m sure you’d have a brilliant shark toy on your hands that kids would love.
Yours forever n’ ever
Then I decided to bother a larger company. Lego seemed like an ideal candidate:
Dear Mr Paige
Regrettably, the Air Swimmer Shark is supplied to us by an external company. As a result, we are unable to fulfill the design changes you requested. We can relay your message on to the manufacturers and recommend that they take further care with their products in the future.
At least you made it out alive.
Thank you for your correspondance.
With the darker months approaching, my wife Marlene has been pestering me to buy some presents for our youngest son, Bradton. Despite my protestations that he’d be happier if she stopped dressing him like a drunken farmer, she still thinks we should spend actual money on his happiness. Her suggestion was that I should purchase “a lego” for him.
After researching your products online, I’ve noticed that your bundles include many legos. I don’t think Bradton would enjoy a full set as he doesn’t have the necessary motor skills to build a fantastic medieval castle, or a rocket ship. Could you please give a quote for one lego? I’d like one that is 4x2 and is red in colour. Red is Bradton’s favourite, and I’m sure he’d enjoy the sensation of the smooth side on his tongue.
Thanks in advance
Frankly, Lego's response was even more bizarre than my initial email:
Thanks for getting in touch with us regarding Bradton and a toy for him for the darker months. We can of course sell individual bricks, or alternatively by using Pick-a-Brick on our website, you can buy as many different LEGO elements as you would like.
The quote below is for a bright red, 2x4 DUPLO brick, as if Bradton is intending to lick our toys, we feel the larger the better in terms of brick size, to make sure he does not swallow it.
I've checked the prices for the piece you requested. The total amount is £ 2.84 including VAT and postage. For payment we accept Visa or Master credit cards.
Your order details will be stored in our database for the duration of 4 weeks. After this period of time, the details of your order will be deleted. Please ensure that you contact us before the end of that period so that you can place your order with us.
If you want to order these parts call one of our experts on 00800 5346 5555 (9am - 5pm Monday to Friday). You'll need to give them this reference number: 029772132A.
I also need to tell you that price and availability of these pieces can change.
Did you know that replacement parts can also be ordered and paid for directly through our Pick a Brick (PAB) service online? The price for elements might be lower and you can also order larger quantities. Please have a look at http://shop.lego.com/en-GB/Pick-A-Brick-ByTheme
The elements that we sell cannot be used for commercial purposes I'm afraid, so we ask that you do not use them for any sort of promotional campaign, marketing, PR or otherwise. We also ask that you do not associate LEGO elements with any other company's name or logo. For more details please see our "fairplay" policy on our website:
Thanks again for getting in touch and best of luck with Bradton and his style of clothing for the future.
Then I decided to email Monopoly with what I thought was an outlandish request:
Dear Monopoly Beings
I noticed that you sell a lot of special editions of your once popular board game, Monopoly. I’ve been looking at all of these, and I haven’t found one that I think my family would enjoy. Then, all of a sudden, an idea stuck me. What if the makers of Monopoly would make a personalised version just for us?
What I’m asking is, would you make a version of Monopoly based on my house? It’d be called “Paigey’s Palace” and would include such unforgettable destinations such as “Kitchen” and “The Downstairs Toilet”. The most expensive place would be my wife’s wardrobe. Ha ha ha! Train stations could be replaced with doors (front, back, cellar and attic), and utilities would be “Fridge” and “TV”. Community Chest cards could be replaced by “Do The Pissing Dishes” cards.
Please let me know how much I owe you for the trouble, and if it can be delivered before Christmas.
As it turns out, this wasn't such a ridiculous thing to suggest:
Thank you for your email.
Our personalised Monopoly is known as My Monopoly, please visit our website mymonopoly.com for further details.
Unfortunately the deadline for guaranteed pre Christmas delivery was 21/11/2011 at Noon.
Boards cost £79.99 which includes shipment to a UK shipping address.
Please see our terms and conditions, listed on the website for guidlines on what is permissable to print and the options you are able to customise.
May we thank you for contacting Hasbro and if we can be of any further assistance, either now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.
Hasbro UK Ltd
This has got me thinking about what other versions of Monopoly could be bought to life thanks to My monopoly. Does anyone have any ideas for new Monopoly versions?
I think the overall winner has to be a tie between Lego and Toys R Us. Their responses were wonderful, and will keep me warm throughout the winter. Everyone, I implore you to shop at Toys R Us and buy Lego in the future. Their profits deserve to skyrocket as a result of this.