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Dec. 26 at Toy Stores Brings Many Unhappy Returns of the Day

December 27, 1986|DEBORRAH WILKINSON and CLAUDIA PUIG | Times Staff Writers

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the store, parents were returning toys by the score.

Toys too large, or too small, or ones that would not walk, or talk, or roll, or were just not right for some other reason.

Toy stores across the San Fernando Valley were filled Friday with parents exchanging presents and children spending their Christmas gift money, salespeople said.

Before Christmas, Elke Giardina of Northridge stood in a long line at Toys "R" Us in Woodland Hills to purchase "Baby Talk," a $70 "talking" doll for her 10-year-old daughter. She did not plan to stand in yet another line after Christmas to return it.

'Only 2 Sentences'

"The doll is supposed to keep up a continuous conversation with you, roll her eyes and move her mouth. However, the eyes and mouth do not move, and only two sentences are repeated," Giardina said.

Giardina's statements were echoed by Richard Fugere of Chatsworth, who wanted to exchange a supposedly "talking" bear because of its silence.

"My 4-year-old daughter Aimee really wanted this," he said. "Can you imagine her disappointment on Christmas day when Teddy Ruxpin did not talk? It's the only thing my daughter really wants."

But an employee warned that this season's most popular "talking" toys--Baby Talk, Teddy Ruxpin, Grubby the dog and Big Bird--were sold out, and there were none available to exchange for faulty models. "We had at least 12 Teddy Ruxpins and 10 Big Birds returned by 11 a.m.," she said.

A Grubby was returned to Buddy Brown Toys in Studio City. A saleswoman attempted to make an even exchange, but the store's remaining two Grubbys wouldn't talk either, she said.

Despite the number of customers who wanted exchanges, "We actually had more sales than returns," said Kim Siklik, a saleswoman at the Toy Barn in Canyon Country, which had about 100 customers during the day. "It seemed like a lot of grandparents coming in with kids and kids spending their Christmas money."

Many shoppers were buying accessories for already-purchased Christmas gifts. Once children have a GI Joe figure, they want all the equipment made for it, Siklik said.

Parents who did not buy the right version of the popular GI Joe and Transformers figures came back to Ricky's Toys in Panorama City, accompanied by children pointing out just what they wanted.

"People are returning stuff left and right," said store manager Tom Bell.

Spirits Evaporate

Bell said he did not expect Friday's onslaught, nor the rapid evaporation of Christmas spirit.

"I thought Christmas was going to be the hard part, but people are coming back really angry because they don't know our refund and exchange policy," he said.

"They put on a bad attitude, and they think they'll get their money back," Bell said, explaining that refunds are only granted to customers with sales receipts, and only because an item was defective.

"If they don't have their sales slip, they might have gotten the toy at Broadway and hope to get more money back from us if our prices were higher," Bell said.

Bell said many shoppers complain about defects that are not the toy store's fault.

"They complain about the remote control cars not working, but their kids drive them off the table, and they're bound to get broken," Bell said.

Punishing Play

"They take a car home, and their kid plays with it for 3 1/2 hours and breaks a wheel off."

One customer came in furious when a toy didn't work properly--only to be shown that he had inserted the batteries backward, Bell said.

At Creative Play Resources in Northridge, an elderly woman came in perplexed and frustrated, unable to assemble a scooter she had bought for her 4-year-old grandchild.

"She was not good at putting things together and spent hours on Christmas trying to assemble this scooter," Collins said. "We finished it for her in five minutes today."

At Kay-Bee Toys and Hobbies in Northridge, a brown-haired woman in jeans sat, legs crossed, on the store's carpeted floor while the two children with her scampered through the store.

"Being a mother is exhausting," she sighed.

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