Buyer’s Remorse and Broken Toys

This weekend I got to teach my daughter an important but necessary lesson: Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, everyone wastes money every now and then. 

This week Little Bit learned all about buyer’s remorse.

But she wasn’t the only one who needed to learn a lesson.

A Trip To Target

Little Bit is getting taller every day, and now that we are hitting temperatures in the mid 80’s, she’s ready to hit the backyard baby pool. I noticed that not unsurprisingly her bathing suits were looking a little snug. While that’s not a problem in the privacy of the backyard, it won’t do for the “real” pool, the lake, or the beach. Saturday morning we went off to Target to look for some new suits.

At the last minute, Jon asked us to look for some RIT dye so he could dye the kitchen curtains.

The suits weren’t too much of a problem. In the past, we’ve usually just picked out clothes and bought them without bothering with the changing room. but my daughter has gotten to the point that we actually have to try things on instead of trusting that the next size will work.

Little Bit picked out 10 bathing suits, which was a bit excessive. We headed to the dressing room and she began to change. She immediately noticed that trying on bathing suits was not like trying on jeans or t-shirts. She was curious as to why there were signs saying she had to keep her panties on to try on bathing suits, and why there were stickers on the inside of the suits. Still, within a half hour we had happily settled on 3 suits and wandered off to find Jon’s dye.

Which meant going through all of the store.

Which also meant going by the toy aisles.

The Impulse Buy

Before we left home, my daughter and I had gone through the ritual of her weekly allowance.

First, I noted that she had not spent any money last week. Therefore, the Bank of Mom owed her $1.50 interest in addition to her regular $6. Fifty cents poured into her Giveaway Jar. Fifty cents went to her Bank Account Jar. The rest went into her money box and joined the $10.01 that lay within. She had $16.51 in spending money.

Her dad and I reminded her that our family would be heading out for a vacation before too long, and that if she wanted to have money to spend on vacation she needed to start saving now.

So when we went by the toy aisle and I got the inevitable “Can we look at toys?” I reminded her that this was a time to save money, not to spend it.

“I just want to look to see what I might want to buy after we get back from vacation. Please, Mom?”

It seemed harmless.

The first stop was to look at a Barbie endcap. That was easy, Little Bit did not have enough money to buy even the cheapest item on display.

Then came wandering through more aisles. At first nothing was interesting, until she arrived at the section that included the dolls of one of her favorite toy franchises. She found a cute mini doll in a slumber party set. Price: 14.99, or $16 with tax.

In other words, all but 51 cents of my daughter’s available cash.

She was charmed by the 4 inch doll, her pup and lots of tiny accessories.

“Mom, I want it and I have enough money!”

“I thought you were going to save money?”

“I’ll save the rest of my money until we go!”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“It’s my money! I thought I get to spend it!”

I sighed. I had tried my best to talk her out of buying the toy because I thought she’d enjoy having more money to spend later. She was right, though: the point of the allowance was to let her spend her money as she chose. If Little Bit wanted to spend money she didn’t have on vacation, I’d remind her of this decision to spend now and she’d learn a lesson about how important it was to save for special events.

She learned a lesson about buyer’s remorse, it just wasn’t that one.

An Awesome New Toy!

We got home, and Little Bit immediately put her parents to work getting her new toy out of the package. Two hours 20 minutes later, the mini doll and all her stuff was out of the package: a puppy, a couch, a shelf, a remote control, a laptop, a tablet, a board game, a pillow, and a pizza box (complete with pizza slice and 7/8 of a pizza). Some of these things were seriously tiny.

Little Bit immediately started playing with the doll. And she played with it like kids play with dolls. Which is to say, not carefully. the little doll and the dog were doing high dives from the top of the patio rail to a small basin of water if they were lucky. Otherwise, they were doing high dives onto grass or concrete. Tiny accessories were scattered on the carpet.

My daughter played with her new toys all afternoon and then insisted on taking them along when we went to my in-laws house for dinner.

Jon and I tried to dissuade her. “Maybe just take the doll. That’s a lot of little parts.”

No, all of it had to go. At least all of the parts we could find. The tablet was nowhere to be found.

We went to the inlaws and ate a nice dinner. Little Bit stayed downstairs with her aunt while I hung out with Jon and his parents in the upstairs bonus room. Thirty minutes or so later, Little Bit came up with her doll and handed her to her grandmother.

“Nana, I need you to sew her leg back on.”

Huh? This was a plastic doll.

Maybe 6 hours had passed since she had gotten her new toy out of the package, and already the leg had broken off.

The Lesson of Buyer’s Remorse

Naturally, sewing the doll wasn’t going to work. We could snap the leg back on, but we could tell there had been a pin to hold the leg on and that pin was no longer viable. Little Bit could pose the doll, but the leg would fall off as soon as she started to play with it.

My daughter started to cry, and i immediately said that while I was sorry she had broken her doll, maybe she needed to take better care of her toys and not play so rough. This was hardly the first doll that had lost a limb in our house.

My daughter was still upset, and went down to be comforted by her aunt. Ten minutes later she came up and started talking about exchanging the doll.

“Honey, that’s not fair. You were too rough with the doll. You broke it. You were dropping it onto the concrete and throwing it around. And you’ve already lost parts. You can’t exchange the doll. You’re just going to have to live with it.

“But it was all of my money!”

“Yes,” I said, giving her a hug. “Everyone wastes money sometimes. It was just your turn to learn a lesson.”

She was mad. She stormed off, but I knew buyer’s remorse was a tough lesson. The only way she was going to learn to spend her money wisely was if she felt the pain of knowing her $16 went down the drain when she didn’t take care of her stuff.

Buyer's Remorse and Broken Toys (big)Mommies Make Mistakes Too

By the time we packed up to go home, my daughter had lost the pizza slice. She was still upset when I put her to bed, and I comforted her as best I could.

The next morning, we talked again about why we couldn’t return the doll to Target. “You broke it and you’ve lost pieces of the set,” weren’t answers that Little Bit wanted to hear.

I still thought that 6 hours wasn’t a lot of play time for a new doll. I decided to review the product on Amazon, saying that it might be a bit on the fragile side for kids who are rough on their toys. We had a bit of buyer’s remorse, but other parents might want to know that the toy seemed better suited for collectors than kids.

Low and behold, all but one of the reviews essentially said “The leg broke off. Quickly.” Not just on the mini doll my daughter bought, but on all of the minis from the same franchise.

Even adult collectors whose dolls hadn’t lost limbs noted that the toys seemed fragile.

It wasn’t my daughter’s fault. It was a badly designed toy. And it would have been reasonable to exchange it, like my daughter wanted to, if those pieces hadn’t gone missing.

We bought on impulse, and we didn’t check the reviews. 

I had to eat crow. I had to apologize. I had to say “I’m sorry” 6 times in a row. I had made an incorrect judgement about who was to blame for the broken toy and for not suggesting we check the toy out online first.

Not doing the due diligence on an impulse purchase can often lead to buyer’s remorse. I know this, and I thought I was good about doing research.

When I make a major purchase, I generally read up on at least 10 products. I don’t buy toys online for Little Bit without reading the reviews. I don’t even let her download free video games without reading the reviews. 

$16 is a major purchase for my daughter, and we didn’t do due diligence. It was at a brick and mortar store, so we just bought the toy and later found out it was a poor buy.

This buyer is remorseful.

The Lesson Learned

My guiltiest guilt came when Little Bit mentioned that she had seen a similar doll on one of her toy videos and that that toy had also lost its leg.

What? We had a warning?

“Why didn’t you say so?”

“I did, Mommy. You just weren’t listening to me.”

My daughter, the toy expert in our house, told me something important about a toy and I didn’t listen and I didn’t react. That piece of information, that toy video experts had broken the same toy, should have triggered all sorts of warning bells in my head that maybe this toy was not the best choice for us.

It should have triggered a Google Search.

It should have triggered a conversation about good and bad buys.

In this case, buyer’s remorse should have been avoided entirely, if only I’d been a good parent and listened. Instead, I’d disregarded what I thought of at the time as childish chattering but was later revealed to have been an important piece of information. And my daughter has paid a price. 

My daughter learned a lesson. She’s learned that maybe we should research toys and read reviews before we buy. She’s learned that she needs to not lose parts of toys.

And I’ve learned that I need to listen to my almost 6 year old a bit more if I don’t want to make unnecessary Mommy mistakes.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Lively Chicken*

14 thoughts on “Buyer’s Remorse and Broken Toys

  1. Lots of small and very important lessons here for us all.

    We will make mistakes now and again as parents and as people, and one thing I take away from this is that it’s probably also important for Little Bit to learn that when we make mistakes, we can try to make them right but sometimes we just can’t and we need to bounce back a little wiser than before. Today it’s a $16 mistake that was all her money. Perhaps it sticks with her and she doesn’t make a much more expensive mistake later when the stakes are higher. I hope! We’ll be learning the same things with our LB soon enough. These days ours are mostly lessons on how not to get your hand caught in dangerous places.
    Revanche recently posted…Just a little (link) love: Good-bye, Prince, editionMy Profile

    • It’s hard, but part of the training and the purpose of the allowance is to make mistakes, to blow the money, to figure out what’s next. And I can’t make mistakes for her. At least for now she still thinks I’m the smartest wisest coolest mom ever, even if everybody makes mistakes. Somehow I’m guessing in 4-5 years, my parenting mistakes won’t be as easily forgiven.

  2. You could always write to the company that made it and explain that the leg broke off in 6 hours. And that according to other reviews, it wasn’t uncommon. If the company chooses to do something about it, swell (and Little Bit will know to play more carefully… maybe). If not, she learned a lesson.

    Also, while I know you feel guilty about not doing your research, ask yourself whether she really would’ve listened in the throes of “I want it and I can afford it!”
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…The book is out!My Profile

    • In retrospect, she was going to buy something on Saturday. If we had looked at the reviews, i probably could have convinced her to buy something else…she does pay attention to reviews and knows what it means if there are a lot of 2 and 3 star reviews (Not Good).

      I can try to contact the company. I admit I haven’t done anything because of the lost parts.

  3. It’s so important for kids to make money mistakes at a young age. When I was 5, I bought a toy called Mr. Buckets and it was so lame. After that I stopped wasting money on toys and wasted it on other things instead, but eventually I learned how to figure our what’s worth paying for.

  4. I think you’re being too hard on yourself! She was the one who watched the review, and yes, maybe you could have provided more guidance if you had known, but some of the lessons that stick best are some of the hardest learned. I had a similar experience of playing rough with my toys as a kid… I was heartbroken but was a lot more careful from then on out.
    FF @ Femme Frugality recently posted…Why I’m Not Buying My Wedding Dress From ChinaMy Profile

    • Thinking back, i remember at least one toy (a drum) that didn’t make it even an hour into Christmas morning. I am still a little rough on stuff myself, much to Jon’s chagrin (He’s tough on clothes, but almost dainty with most other stuff. I managed to kill a pair of loppers just last month.). I hope eventually Little Bit will take after her dad, but she’s probably more like Mom in this area.

  5. I think it’s good that Little Bit went through that lesson. MUCH better to learn it at the age of almost six than as a teen or a young adult – or not-so-young adult. I don’t think it’s good that you took on so much guilt though. Of course you blank out on occasion when your daughter talks. No one can keep pace with the incessant chatter of little ones – no matter how much we love them. You just happened to blank out at that particular time. Hopefully, Little BIt won’t learn the power of playing Mom’s guilt. Let her take ownership of this lesson. I think you said 6 sorries too many.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…My Stubborn Money-Management Flaw (With a Silver Lining)My Profile

    • Ok, I will feel better, because keeping up with her conversations all of the time is exhausting… (I’ve been working really hard at it this week, and I’m not sure I can do it.) She hasn’t brought up the toy in the last few days (both good in that she hasn’t harped on it being my fault, and bad that it may have drifted out of memory too soon.)

      She’s still playing rough with other things (like her parents), and this week we’re working on “Do it once, it’s a mistake. Do it twice, it’s being careless because you know better. Do it more than that, and we don’t believe you’re sorry because you didn’t change your behavior.”

    • I guess Little Bit thought the leg was a one off on the video. What I saw as a warning bell, she saw as an interesting thing that happened on a video. I think we’ve cleared up that if you see something break on a video, you need to do more investigation before buying.

  6. I work in retail and I was thinking that some adults treat their things just as roughly and want to return them without all the parts too. At the same time, some products are just not made well – it’s not mutually exclusive. I think it is really valuable that your daughter got to see and discuss multiple problems.

    I don’t think the lesson will ever be fully realized, however, until she can equate the money with hours worked or effort spent. It’s not the money I regret when I accidentally waste it, it’s the time at work I spent earning it.

    • I worked in retail long enough to recognize that there are people who game the system of returns, and it makes me mad. that’s one of the reasons the buyer’s remorse lesson is valuable. Sometimes you waste money.

      In some ways allowance works similarly. No, my daughter doesn’t earn it, but wasting money is wasted opportunity for her. Since she bought the toy that broke, there are several other things she wants that she can’t have, at least not for several weeks until her allowance builds up again.

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