By Carmine Santa Maria
Nowadays, when you become a Grandpa you don’t really have to concern yourself with what your Grandchildren want from Santa, your children, their parents, will spell it out for you in an E-mail. This is the internet age and you’ll not only find out what your grandchildren want, but in most cases will get the website from your children where to find it… and then all you gotta do is follow through and order the toys on line. So whereas, before the age of internet, Sharon and I would search desperately driving through the tri-state area for the toys that were indoctrinated into our children’s heads by those TV commercials. And those commercials never stopped. Your kids wanted, what they were programmed to want, and you had to get it for Santa to deliver on Christmas. No if ands or buts! The problem is that you could never find these toys, that were being constantly advertised, because they were no where to be found. They advertised them before they even released the toys to the stores. So they created the demand before they were even delivered. So when one parent tells another. that she looked high and low for “the” toy, the shopping frenzy starts. The trials and tribulations of finding those toys became intense and totally nerve wracking. For example, remember the Cabbage Patch Dolls and the frenzy they created to get one? Your daughter had to have what everybody’s daughter was getting otherwise you were a failure as a parent! So through the years I’ve written in this column the quest to find the toys our children wanted for Christmas, whether they were Barbie Dolls, Star Wars figures or Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I thought after my kids left the roost to start families of their own; those Christmas pressures would be gone. Wrong! Let me explain. My granddaughter Cassandra personally told Santa Claus that she wanted a Polly Pocket Race to the Mall under the tree for Christmas. Now this situation is totally unique, because I’m the Santa Claus Cassandra told on December 5 at PS 153, the school where her father is the Principal. I knew she would get it because her mother always sends me an e-mail of what Christmas toys my grandkids wanted. About a week later, my daughter-in-law called me up from Toys R Us where she saw the Polly Pocket toy and asked me if I had ordered it yet? I had found it on the Target website, courtesy of my daughter-in-law and ordered it while she was on the phone with me. She had Cassandra with her and couldn’t be seen buying it in front of her, so she wanted to make sure I got it. It was going to be close, because there were some notations on it that the order would take two weeks to process. Now we’ve used this system before to buy toys on line and never had a problem before. Often there are several sites where to get the toy and you can compare the price of the toy as well as the shipping charges. Last Saturday my daughter-in-law asked me to track the purchase on line to make sure it was sent. Horrors, when I went online, there was a notation that the toy should be delivered between Jan. 17 and February 7, 2008. WHAT! What kind of bullsh-t was this, that’s after Christmas! Oh Oh, we were in trouble, Santa promised Cassandra and 4 year old Cassandra never forgets. So now the quest was to find Polly Pocket Race to the Mall as soon as possible. Wouldn’t you know it; the Toy was nowhere to be found on the websites of Toys R Us, Target and Wal-Mart’s. My son and I were calling the stores that supposedly had them. First of all, those stores that were listed as having them available didn’t have them. Most of the stores noted them as “Not in Stock” and those that supposedly had them in stock were impossible to reach by phone. Their phone numbers were memorized by me and my son and our calls were made repeatedly for hours; often ended in hang-ups after we reached the customer service departments. Whether they were done intentionally…or just that they were inundated with customer requests this weekend before Christmas. Coming home from Massapequa, during the hour ride home, while my wife Sharon drove; I used two cell phones to keep calling the stores that supposedly had some in stock, we called the Greenacres Toys R Us who supposedly had them, but they didn’t have any at all. I asked the Customer Service Rep to find out if the Bay Parkway store had them in stock. According to their inventory on the Net, they had 6. We rushed to Shore Parkway Toys R Us around 10.30 pm and Sharon ran in. The sales person took Sharon in the back to the computer to show her that the store was listed as having six, but they were sold out. The next morning, I got on the computer to track down the elusive toy. I called New Jersey, I called Long Island, I called FAO Schwartz on Fifth Avenue, but they didn’t carry the Polly Pocket line at all. Went on the Website to call Mattel the manufacturer of Polly Pocket, but they weren’t open on Sundays. My son Carl suggested that I start calling up Toys R Us stores in Suffolk County and finally lo and behold at the Douglaston Toys R Us, spoke to a Customer rep named Eugene, who after he checked said, they had quite a few of them. I asked if I could pay for one over the phone and would have my son pick it up. No, he said, but I’ll leave one at the Customer Service desk under your name and if there’s any trouble, have them page me. I immediately called my son Carl and told him that I finally located a Target Store in Douglaston that had one. I e-mailed him the address with the directions and within an hour, he secured the elusive Polly Pocket. And to think before December 5, I had never heard of Polly Pocket. Who could believe that at 72, I would be ever re-living the yesteryear tensions and stresses of getting “the” toy for Christmas. Boy, this Santa Claus certainly earned his milk and cookies this year and next year will hit the Internet earlier for those toys that will be brainwashed into my grandchildren’s heads. The Polly Pocket Toy cost me forty dollars, plus two full days of trying to locate it and twenty three thousand phone calls with twenty three thousand hang ups. There were 4 adults totally involved in this quest: my son and daughter-in-law, my wife and me, and don’t forget the 134 customer service reps. Mind you this involved only my Granddaughter Cassandra’s toy; I’m so lucky that my five other grandchildren’s toys weren’t so difficult to find. And this time we had modern technology to locate the toy, I only wish that these stores that advertise would hire more customer reps like Target’s Eugene to handle the yearly Christmas searches for” the” hot elusive toy they advertise. . Screech at you next week!