About two weeks or so before Christmas we were cruising through the mall when the boys spotted a toy store. Naturally they wanted to check it out. This particular store was not one of the year round types you generally see. No, this was a seasonal toy store. This should have been enough reason to avoid it all together, but the boys curiosity overrode my common sense and we went in anyway.
The first part of the store had several remote control vehicles on display and quite o few of them were being demoed by the handful of employees present. One item immediately captured the attention of Anthony, a small foam bodied RC helicopter. The guy flying it seemed to be having a ball as he ran it through its paces. Up, down, side to side it went, following each of the commands issued by the controller. Anthony really lit up as he took in the flight in front of him.
Now, before I continue, there's something you should know about Anthony and helicopters. He absolutely loves them, and has his heart set on flying one someday. So much so is this passion, that he saved and saved and saved his money last summer until he could afford to buy a very sophisticated flight simulator for the computer. After talking to one of our neighbors who has and flies RC helicopters and further talking with the local hobby stores, he was encouraged to first master the simulator and then move on to the real thing. With a starting price of around$200 for a decent, non-toy, chopper and repairs of $20-$30+ when it crashes, Anthony realized the wisdom behind their suggestions. Since purchasing the simulator he's logged in well over a hundred hours and can fly a virtual helicopter quite well now. He is currently saving his money once again for his first "real" chopper this spring/summer.
Okay, back to the original story. The toy he saw being demoed sure looked like fun. It was small, lightweight and best of all, could be flown indoors safely. This was something that held a particular value when you consider we're in the middle of the long, wet northwest rainy season. Another nice feature to the toy is that it had a price tag of only $34.95 making it downright affordable. Heck, how could you go wrong?
I could see the gears turning inside Anthony's head as he was readying his big sales pitch, when I quickly suggested he consider putting this on his Christmas wish list. Rather than plead his case as to why we shouldn't leave the store without the prize in hand, he consented to do as I suggested. Personally, I think he knew that "Santa" would find it in his heart to bring the helicopter to him and as an added bonus, he would still have all the money he'd saved to put toward the real deal. Either that or he was just understanding and yielding to the wisdom of his dad. . . naaaaa, it was definitely the first one!
It all seemed to be working out quite nicely. Mom, (aka grandma to Anthony), was looking for one other thing to get for him and this was right in line with the budget. Perfect!
Fast forward to Christmas day. The great moment of unwrapping truth came and low and behold, there was a shinny new RC helicopter with Anthony's name on it. With a smile from ear to ear he eagerly removed it from its plastic packaging and went in search for the battery that it required. Thank goodness for a well stocked supply at moms house. With a pair of AA's in hand he opened the cover on the back of the controller to expose the battery slots. As he did this, part of the plastic hinge snapped, which meant once the batteries were installed, the cover would not be able to close. Something of an auspicious beginning we thought, but not the end of the world. A piece of tape would solve that little problem, and it did.
After a quick charge and a couple of adjustments to the controls, it was time for lift off. EUREKA it worked! Up and down it went as the ten year old pilot navigated it around the dining room nearly avoiding a crash landing into the pumpkin pie on the kitchen counter. Another couple of flights and he was buzzing his brothers head as the younger of the two flailed at it like Godzilla going after a Japanese zero. This would continue for what would become the very short life of this small propelled marvel. Less than two hours after opening the package, Anthony went to click the tiny blue on/off switch to the off position, and the danged thing sheared off, rendering the helicopter completely useless.
There sat a very dejected little boy. We fiddled with the thing for several minutes trying to figure out a way to make it work anyway, but there was no use, it was dead. He got the package it'd come in and carefully put it back so that we could return it the next day.
With receipt in hand we went back to the store and told them what had happened. The girl at the counter said, "Just a minute, I'll take it back to the technician to have him look at it." A moment later the "tech" (aka store manager) came out of the back room and said, "This thing has been abused, there's nothing I can do."
"What?!? abused? are you kidding me?" I replied.
This went on for the next several minutes while he told me that it had obviously been mistreated and he certainly wasn't going to exchange something that had been intentionally damaged. To say I was hot would be an understatement. Over and over again I told him how Anthony had done nothing other than try to operate the toy as normal and the cheap piece of crap had just broke. The more I argued, the more he dug in his heals and refused to budge. This is when my "Take no shit 101" training kicked into full gear. (thanks dad) I informed him that I was not going anywhere until he exchanged the toy or refunded my money. Our very heated debate continued and he finally said he would exchange it, but if I tried to bring it back again he would refuse to even talk to me, and there was no way in hell he would even consider another exchange!
This is when I, in no uncertain terms, told him exactly what I thought about his store policy and exactly where he could place his piece of crap helicopter! I also informed him that if he continued to give me any grief, that I would tell each and every one of his customers what a complete ass he was and how I had been treated. At this point he asked, "Do you want me to call security and have you arrested?"
"You want to have me arrested for telling the truth?" I replied, "You go right ahead and do that you @%*!$ " (Insert you favorite colorful metaphor here. I'm sure I used them all!) . At that point I turned around and proceeded to tell several of the customers in the store what they could expect if they bought anything and had a problem with it later. I then grabbed a replacement helicopter and informed him that I was taking it and leaving the original behind and if he wanted to call security he was more than welcome to do so. He grabbed a cell phone and started dialing as I walked out the door. It was obviously a bluff because no security guards came running after me.
Now, you want to know the real comical part of this whole thing is? The replacement helicopter didn't work either! Knowing I'd probably be serving time in Sing Sing for murder, Lisa took the second one back and was able to exchange it for some headphones and Matchbox cars.
I'm including a picture of the store front so that if you ever see it in your area you can avoid the unpleasantness of purchasing anything from it.
I currently have a call into the mall management office to tell them about my experience in hopes that they will take it into consideration for next year when these dirt bags try to set up shop again.