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My Nephew Knows How to Work a Shill at Toys R Us



Whenever I'm back in Windsor, I have a tradition. I take my nephew Nicholas (aka Nick) to McDonald's and then to Toys R Us. I LOVE McDonald's but I've found it nearly impossible to get anyone in my age group to go for fast food with me. Everyone always wants to get Thai food, it seems. I'm happy to have my nephew along. Although, even my nephew can barely sit still through his kid's meal (McNuggets, no sauce, just ketchup) as Toy R Us beckons. Eating after Toy R Us is out of the question, as he wants to rush home and play with his new toy.

I've watched a lot of his mental development through these shopping expeditions. I'm sure Piaget would have named his developmental stages differently if there was Toy R Us in his time. For several years my nephew could not read prices. He only understood the cruder aspects of size and color. A $3 giant red plastic bat amused him when he was 4.

Nick at 6

Eventually, Nick discovered Lego. They all do, don't they? He still didn't understand prices, however. He went right for the largest box of Lego he could find. It was about $100. I liked to get him a gift in the $25-30 range. I suggested it was too much and he should select something else. He grabbed a small set for about $8.

"Great! I get off cheap today!" I thought.

He grabbed another $8 set. Then he grabbed a third $8 set. He shuffled and reshuffled the sets through his hands like a Solitaire player unable to accept he wasn't going to win this round. His face went through pained contortions. Finally he looked up at me with pleading eyes. "Uncle Karl, I can't decide which one I want."

The math was easy. Three sets at $8 was well within my $25-$30 budget.

"Nick, you can have all three if you want."

His look of anguish dissolved, replaced by joy. I WAS THE GREATEST UNCLE EVER!

The question remained in his mind "Yes, but how great of an uncle?" Holding his three boxes tightly to his chest with his left arm, he reached out with his right and grabbed a fourth box. This box was from the $60 row.

"Can I have four?" He asked with a smile.


We bought the $60 box.



Nick at 9

At age 9, Nick was now under no illusions about what things cost. He had recently come into his own money. When I moved to Seattle from Toronto, I gave him all the Canadian pocket change I had been saving for several years. I gave him about 90 pounds of coins.

One Thanksgiving (American not Canadian), I took him to Toys R Us. Our quarterly visits had been whittled down to yearly expeditions. Before taking him, I got him to agree that on this visit we couldn't head straight home and play with his purchase. Time was limited. We would have to trek over to the mall and go Christmas shopping. It seemed a fair bargain.

Arriving at Toy R Us, he headed straight for the Lego. There was no joy on his face, however. He scanned and scanned the rows for several minutes. He approached a Lego set and then stepped back, leaving it untouched on the shelf. He approached another Lego set and stepped back again. He gave up after a time and just stood there, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

"What about the Star Wars Naboo fighter set?" I suggested, hoping to spur him on.

"I don't like space ship Lego. I like cars. But I can't see anything I want."

My body started craving coffee and my mind started craving a DSL connection.

He got down on his haunches and looked at the bottom row -- the row with the largest Lego sets. He pointed to one.

"I like that one but it's too expensive."

It was $100. The boy was entirely correct.

I turned around to look at the shelf behind me, hoping it contained additional Lego sets. It contained only Duplo. Why didn't my sister give me a niece instead?

When I turned back around he had a box in his hands.

"I like this one," he said, "but it's $60. That's too much right?"

He went to put the box back in a curiously slow and dramatic fashion.

Not so fast, lil mister.

"No, Nick, $60 is okay I guess." It sure beat $100.

Again, he walked out with a $60 box.






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Copyright 2002 Karl Mamer

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