Return of the Product, The Byford Files

Return of the Product: Top Five Things That Suck About Kids’ Products

I would never complain about being able to provide for my daughter wonderful toys and gifts because I realize how blessed we are and the many shower gifts are simply too generous. Never would I have expected such an outpouring of kindness and excitement in the birth of our Baby Ellison. For that, I offer up my utmost gratitude.

Now that we got that out of the way, I’ve discovered in my infantile two months as a father, I have some definite severe aggravations coming from a host of products targeted at young children and infants. As a parent who has reached his end, I feel that we dedicate one throw-up of “Return of the Product” to the TOP FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK ABOUT KIDS’ PRODUCTS. We’ll put it out there, let it be done and move on. But I can’t act like I don’t have a problem with it anymore. I have mad problems.

Let’s start at…


Is it not possible to make some sort of sleep-inducer without the sound of a bird infestation? One of Ellison’s swing/bouncer/rocker has a noise device on it that replicates the sound of a biblical plague of birds. That’s not relaxing. That’s downright terrifying. I hate birds. I’ve hate them since as a young boy I found a sparrow (my default when I don’t know the make or model) protecting her nest and she pecked a small little hole in my arm. Since then, I’ve hated them. We had parrots growing up when my father remarried. When that bird was let out of his cage, I shuddered in fear. When he took flight, I’d scream like…like a little girl. Birds do not put me at a calm. They’re little flying mice. They’re small, they’re many and they do everything you don’t want them to do. They crap on things, dive-bomb your beagles, leave feathers in their wake and make too much damn noise. When there’s hundreds together, it’s a sound that can outmuscle fifty chainsaws. It seems that virtually every product at this age has “bird infestation” as a sound setting on it. I know that infants have no idea what a bird is, but their parents do. Not sure many people would miss this setting on the toys if you went from “FEATURING TEN DIFFERENT SOUND EFFECTS” to “FEATURING NINE DIFFERENT SOUND EFFECTS.” Bird sounds come cheap, I know. But they have take an expensive toll on the minds and nerves of the parents. And now, I present to you…


It’s my paranoid belief that somewhere along the line, Fisher Price, Mattel, Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart, Duracell and Energizer made a pact that any piece of moving plastic for kids would run on batteries. Nothing could happen on it’s own. Nothing would happen by a crank or a lever. Nothing could move off of air, weight or the might of a young mind’s creativity. Everything would be powered magically by battery. And, preferably a bigger battery. I remember when we’d play with Linkin Logs, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, little toy soldiers. None of those required batteries. And if they did, we never put them in. We’d just play with them without batteries after the cheap-ass manufacturer’s batteries quickly ran dry. Figure into your budget batteries for every piece of product you buy for your child. It’s the reality of all toys in this day and age. Greedy companies probably specifically design toys to blow through batteries. And, no I don’t care how cheap you find them out there, no retailer is losing money on batteries. The margin is mad nice. And, if buying them isn’t hard enough for me, I have a hard time just throwing them away. I feel like every time I throw one away, Al Gore’s gonna hunt me down and tell me how bad of a person I am because I just killed a whale. It can’t be good for the world, can it? Well, if batteries aren’t, I know for damn sure that neither are…

#3 THE…

The Phillips screw. It’s quite a simple concept. More leverage with the increased points of impact. From going from only two (the flathead) to four (the Phillips), you increase the speed and precision at which you can inject a screw into some device, structure or fence post. One small innovation and it changed the world. Then why in the hell do we have the Allan wrench? Just because some guy named Allan went on an ego trip in the tool shed and determined that a hexagon was better than a crosshair when driving screws into blocks of wood? The reality of the Allan wrench and screw is that you rarely need to use one. That’s the problem. It’s the customary system of the tool world. Don’t you think it’s aggravating to travelers who come to the United States and have to convert kilometers into miles everywhere they go when the rest of the world is measured in kilometers? The Allan wrench is like that one last holdout. You’re trucking along on a project and then, smack, an Allan screw. It’s the turd in the punchbowl. You go looking for your decoder ring Allan wrench tool in the garage. Can’t find it. Frustration mounts. Then you realize they included a wrench in the box. Then you think, “Why would they make a screw that everyone needs the tool included to use?” What a freaking waste? Was the Phillips not sufficient? A screw that virtually everyone has a screwdriver for? No one invited you to the party, Allan. Just go home and take your crappy beer with you. I almost put my head through a wall when trying to put together that crib which was assembled primarily with Allan screws. It’s like an learning activity for adults. You have to find the right sized wrench for the tiny hexagon you’re trying to screw. Allan screws suck and, therefore, so does the Allan wrench. We don’t need you. We got Phillips. More frustrating, however, is…


This has gotta be a problem that only worsens with the older you child is. Every toy manufacturer has gone from Styrofoam (my other nemesis) to corrugate and those weird twisty ties. I don’t even know what they’re called, but they’re annoying as hell. And they grow legs and run off like remote controls and that one black sock. But they can never escape the vacuum cleaner. You’re going along with the vacuum and, then all of the sudden, a “POP” and the sound of an automatic weapon. It sounds like the vacuum threw a rod. You turn it off and flip it over and, no doubt about it, one of those twisty thingies is caught up in the spindle thingy. After you spend about five minutes dislodging it and the three or four others, you continue with your housework only to suck up ten or fifteen more. These things suck. It’s like what happens with ingenuity and packaging companies throw up…when they vomit. They come up with horrible ideas like this. It’s like they’re readying the toy for the electric chair. Can they not find smaller packaging to ship product in instead of putting small items in big boxes with fifty twisties to make sure they don’t move? They day after our shower, my wrist hurts until mid-week from maneuvering every little toy from the corrugate it was shipped in. The sight of them just aggravates me. And does no one else consider these things incredible choking hazards? Sure, the toy might be safe, but it’s the packaging that gets ya.

It’s with great reluctance and sadness that I present my TOP THING THAT SUCKS ABOUT KIDS’ PRODUCTS. I apologize to my dear mother and father who raised me on the works of this man and others. I was raised right when it came to music. My parents represented hawd. But number one on the list is Grandpa Baroque…


Bach definitely paid the price for his greatness. Accomplished composer and organist, he gave his life to music and his music to the people. And then the people pimped him like crazy. Known to many sleepy fathers and mothers as “that guy that wrote that piece,” Bach composed masterful compositions and his accomplishments in organ composition have never been matched. He was revered as one of the greatest composers of all time. And then public domain came along and the development of lullaby recordings developed and many largely relied on works of Bach, most specifically the swaying melody of the tenth movement of his composition Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 or, as we all know it, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” This is the equivalent of having your hit song popping up in an detergent commercial. You’re either the processional in a wedding or background music for some crying baby to sleep to. I’ve developed not only an aversion to the piece because of its commonality (see also: Pachebel’s “Canon in D”), but I hate it. I denounce all continued use of it as a lullaby for children. I heard a version the other day that had a Duke Ellington swing to it. For Christ’s sakes, leave the man alone and stop using “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Has he not done enough? Have I not endured enough that I have to be reminded of how gutless and spineless the children’s consumer products industry is because of their tasteless use of Bach? I can’t wait until Coltrane and Miles Davis become public domain so we can finally retire Bach from his shamed position as the man who made millions sleep. It’s mad annoying. You’ll hear it everywhere you go. In conversation. On the toilet. You’ll hear it in the toilet. You’ll hear cows mooing it to you. You’ll hear birds singing to you. It’ll become this faint white noise that surrounds you. In fact, it’s so synonymous with lullabies, that when I was first holding my Baby Ellison, I swear I started humming it.

Sunday. Halloween. I’m dressed as a proud father.


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