Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Some fabrication required.

Clone received a jungle climber outdoor toy by Little Tikes for his birthday. There wasn’t a chance for me to try to assemble it until last night. After mowing the lawn, I dragged this box of plastic formed parts from my basement outside to assemble said climbing toy. I figured this would take me the better part of an hour to get together. I was wrong… by an hour. It took me two hours. I’m not the handiest person to in the world, but I have plenty of skills. I reran the electric in my house with my father, redid the plumbing. My front porch, I built by hand with my father. My father is a plumbing and electrical engineer. He taught me many things. When growing up we constantly were building something. We did everything from furnishing the basement to adding an addition to the house.

Why did this toy give me such a problem? Because there is no such thing as quality control in the children’s toy industry anymore. Those of you that don’t have children nor have assembled some of these mass produced children’s toys probably don’t understand what I’m saying. Those of you that have, are smiling and nodding. As a warning to perspective parents, and to those thinking of purchasing an item as a gift for someone else, I’m posting EXACTLY how this went.

After getting the toy outside and out of the box (That has no handles), I found the directions. Now I kid you not, the English part of these directions read like they where written by a high school drop out. Don’t believe me. The first line of the directions is:

When assembling wall C to wall A, insert Wall C at an angle close to wall B. Then rotate wall C forward to “lock” it in place. Make sure bottom hooks are “locked” in place.
Where is the step for assembling wall A to wall B? Sure, there is a diagram, but it just shows one happy dad pushing two walls together. The next diagram shows happy dad holding walls A and B together as happy grandfather slides wall C into place easily.

This brings us to our second problem. The parts don’t fit together. Angry Contagion tells irritated Ktreva to hold the walls why he tries to rotate wall C into Wall A. Wait, wall C’s brackets don’t match. I verify that I have all the parts in the right direction. Yes, that’s the way they are supposed to go. After looking at the parts, I determine that the molded plastic forms are not in the correct shape. Using muscle, I try to force the pieces together. Irritated Ktreva is not strong enough to counter the muscle of angry adrenaline pumping Contagion. I proceed to push irritated Ktreva and the toy around like a tackling dummy trying to get the pieces together. You have to understand Ktreva is 5 foot 4’ and 120 dripping wet, she definitely is not of a zaftig build. I tell her to switch sides with me; I’ll hold the wall once we get the parts started. She will then try to push the wall into place. Giving credit to my wife, her bosom heaving, she strained against that wall and it finally locked into place. It also distracted me enough to let my blood pressure drop.

The next step is to add the slide to the piece and getting it to “pop” into place. Again, the parts don’t fit into the slots they are supposed to. Part of it is because the formed plastic pieces appear to have warped or sunken in at different places. However, angry vein in forehead pounding Contagion and Irritated Ktreva were able to force the pieces together relatively quickly.

Next, we had to add on the first platform. The directions state:

Insert platform E first into wall C. Then rotate platform into wall B until it “pops” in place.
Sounds easy enough… IF THE PARTS FIT! I was able to get the first side attached easy enough. I try to rotate the platform into place and succeed in rotating the whole toy. The picture shows happy dad holding the platform while happy grandfather steadies the toy. In real life, angry Contagion snaps at Irritated Ktreva to “Get your skinny ass over and hold this piece of shit in place.” Nope, that didn’t work; again, I’m pushing Ktreva and the toy around like a tackling dummy. We did this before, we switch spots and she pushes as hard as she can. Nope it won’t “pop”. I look at it, good enough; go on to the next steps.

I have to install another platform on the other side of wall B that actually connects to the platform I was having trouble with in the above paragraph. The directions state:

To assemble platform G into wall B, insert the left hook on platform G under the hook on platform E and slide towards wall A. Push right hook in and rotated platform down until it “pops” in place.
Again, the diagram shows happy dad sliding and pushing the piece into place easily while happy grandpa holds the toy so it doesn’t move. Angry Contagion and irritated Ktreva try it just the same way. It doesn’t work after looking at it; furious Contagion notices that there is NO way these two pieces are going together. They don’t fit, and not in that warped plastic kind of way. They are two completely different sizes. They are supposed to fit together easily and yes, I had the correct pieces. There was no way this would work. It would be like me telling you to slide this large coffee can through a hole the size of a pop can. I’d finally had enough with this toy; I grabbed a saw and started cutting away the excess parts. Once I was finished with that, the piece went in the way the directions said. The next part was where I was supposed to push the platform down until it snaps into place on an upright.

I push down as hard as I can, but the knob on the upright will not go through the hole of the platform. I try various things. It won’t go through. I’m sitting on the toy bouncing. It will NOT snap together. DAMMIT, why did I have to become so damn svelte? I have Ktreva go get me some cooking oil and a mallet. Cooking oil will not dissolve the plastic parts like some other oils will, which is why you use it on toys. That and if the child licks it, it’s not going to hurt them. I tell Ktreva to liberally coat the pieces in oil. She ends up soaking them with it. We’re both laughing at this point. After a couple of good whacks with the mallet, the pieces go together.

Now we have to get a threshold piece for the ropes in place. They assemble easily enough. Next, we are supposed to pick up the walls, slide the threshold under and just snap them together. It shows happy dad and happy grandpa doing it easily. Well guess what, no they didn’t fit together either. I tried bouncing on it, everything… it doesn’t fit. So I grab the mallet and take a swing on the wall to get it snap into place, it worked before… CRACK! Uh, bad idea. Angry Contagion cracked the wall. Irritated Ktreva spouts off, “Did you think that was actually going to work?” Anyways, that piece isn’t firmly attached to the toy, but for what it does, it really doesn’t need to be.

The next adventure was trying to get the ropes in place. This is just rope netting for kids to climb on. All you have to do is slide the noted end of the rope through a hole and pull it down into place. Well the knots where way to big and they melted the knots in the nylon rope so you can’t untie them. I look into the hole and see my problem. They never cleaned out the holes after the molding process. So there was excess plastic clogging up the hole. I pull out my pocketknife and cut it all way, viola it fits, it’s still hard to get it into place, but it fits.

Now it was time for some home modifications. These toys have been being stolen out of yards in our neighborhood for a while now. Originally, I was going to fill this one with cement or sand. However, there are no holes for you to be able to do that. I had a large stake with a chain attached to it for securing large heavy objects. I drove that into the ground and with a pad lock, I attached the toy to the stake. It’s not the most secure, but it actually is better then filling with sand or cement.

As for Little Tikes, this is the third toy by them that I’ve had this problem of parts not fitting. I’ve vowed to never by another plastic form toy from them again. I had a similar issue with Radio Flyer, but at least that was relatively easy to fix and didn’t require drastically altering the shape of the pieces. Remember this story if you think of getting one of these toys. Some assembly required is a lie, it should read some fabrication required.