Toy Hacking

Perhaps I have higher-than-average expectations, but when something I purchase is poorly designed or turns out to be of poor quality, I get a bit indignant. There should be no excuse for the things I purchase to be anything less than what I expect of them. Something in my nature will not allow me to shrug my shoulders and toss a brand new item because it doesn't work right.

In fact, I have found that it is usually worth the time to contact the manufacturer and see if there is anything that can be done. For example, I had an issue with how our Build-A-Bear stuffed animals were wearing and contacted them. I got a quick response and even a few little discounts for my troubles. Also, my problem was solved in a way I found acceptable. (Bravo, Build-A-Bear) I have also had some less-than-pleasant customer care experiences as well. (an InStep jogging stroller being one of them)

So down to the point. I bought two sets of Melissa & Doug lacing sets for the girls. (more on the whole story there, later. It involves nap-dropping and I am FA-REAKING out) At once the girls kind of refused to play with them. They told me the lacing sets "didn't work right" and so I investigated. The kids were correct, the holes in the wood made for the lace was awfully jagged and was ripping and tugging on the lacing cords.

This is the kind of wear on the strings after only one use: 

The toy just wasn't fun to play with, and the horrible scratching noise it made being pulled up through the holes was murder. So I decided to sand down each individual hole, and even bought three bottles of clear nail polish to help the lace to glide easier.

Here is a before example of the holes in the wood, as it came straight out of the box: 

And after a lot of sanding tiny holes smaller than the circumference of a pencil, I found that while they did look a good deal better than before, they did not function any better with the string.

The clear polish was also unhelpful. So I threw my hands up and sent off a polite but firm email to Melissa & Doug. I received a very prompt response, but only asking me to call an 800 number for more information. Which? Eh. I am kind of busy, and 2 of the 3 kids are sick. So maybe I will call some time in the future and see what kind of result I get.

In the meantime I happened to stumble upon a solution! Plastic lacing cords I found at the craft store! (I couldn't find the exact thing online, this is the idea) I measured them out to be the same size as the old, shredded up laces and popped them in the box. This solution works heaps better.

I highly recommend using your noggin to hack your way around design flaws. While not everything ends up a success, the thrill of a challenge is invigorating.

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