I just spent 20 bucks on the world’s crappiest stuffed animal. It’s gross. A gross stuffed bear made of gross material and stuffed with (highly flammable?) gross stuffing. I shouldn’t even know what the inside stuffing looks like because, well, it’s supposed to be on the INSIDE. But it’s not. It’s coming out thru the shoddy stitching around the neck. We’ve only had the thing for 30 minutes and its practically disintegrating in my daughter’s hands. And, ugh, she’s all jazzed up to sleep next to the nasty thing. She keeps kissing it! (Don’t put it near your mouth!) I’m just biding my time over here, waiting for her to turn her head so I can huck the offending stuffed animal into the trash. Oh, and I’m pretty sure this thing was made in a sweat shop. So now my $20 has gone to support a back alley sweat shop in the dredges of some third world country where women have no rights. I’m not down with that. So how did we end up with a highly flammable, piece of crap, stuffed bear in our possession? Two words:
That’s right. We were away with the kids, and in the hotel there was an arcade. You can pretty much walk into any family-friendly hotel in the entire world and there will be a dreaded, money-sucking arcade somewhere in the building. And, of course, in any respectable money-sucking arcade there will always be at least one claw machine sitting there just waiting to torture some poor sucker. I hate claw machines. My kids love them. I seriously think they should be against the law since they are basically just a big racket. My kids think they are the best invention since the dawn of time. I may be a dreamer about a lot of things. But when it comes to the claw machine I am a realist. A very mean realist.
Me: You’re not going to win anything.
Them: Yes I am. I want to win that stuffed animal right there (pointing to the gross stuffed animal jammed under 3 layers of other gross stuffed animals.)
Me: I know you WANT to win it…but you’re not GOING to win it. There’s no way for the claw to get that far down. And even if it does get that far down, it won’t be able to pick up that toy. You’re not going to win anything. You’re just not.
Them: Yes, I am. Can I have a dollar?
Me: I hate to be a dream-crusher, but it’s rigged. I’ll give you a dollar, you can put it into the machine, move the claw around, and then drop it when you think it is over the toy you want. But you won’t win. As long as you know that going in, I’m fine with it.
Them: Okay, can I have a dollar?
Me: No crying and complaining after.
Them: Can I have a dollar?
Me: You’re not going to get that toy.
Them: Yup, can I have a dollar?
I handed over one of the two dollars she was allotted. She put it in the machine, strategically moved the claw, and pushed the red button. She was surprisingly shocked that the claw didn’t pick up and deliver the prize she wanted. She was also surprisingly confident that with her next (and “last”) dollar the bear would be hers. I handed it over (you’re not going to win) and she fed it into the machine. This time when the claw went down it actually grabbed the bear by the head and managed to lift it up an inch or two before dropping it. Huh, interesting. She wanted another dollar. I should have said no. But, I mean, she ALMOST had it the last time. One more dollar. That’s it. I mean it this time. I handed over the George Washington and we all gathered around. This time the claw picked up the bear and carried it almost all the way to the drop area. Almost ALL the way! I drank the Kool-aid. One more dollar. Another pick up, another drop…even closer to the drop area. This damn thing is rigged! (Can anyone break a $20?) Time to call in the big guns: her 11 year old brother, Harry. Another dollar. Another drop. Another dollar. ANOTHER drop. So close. I’m all in now. Fully invested. I don’t even care what the cost is…we are getting that bear. That bear is ours. Maybe this time…nope. Maybe this time…nope. And then, just when I thought I’d be breaking another $20. The claw picked up that freaking bear and managed to hold onto it all the way to the drop area! No one was more surprised than me! WE WON! We won the bear! We won the bear! We won the… wait, ewwww, we won the bear. And I paid HOW much money to win it? 20 bucks? I paid 20 bucks for that piece of crap?
So even though we won, we lost. We are now stuck with an extremely expensive, totally gross, stuffed bear that I am going to have to sneak into the trash under the cover of darkness some night. Claw machines are like War Games (starring the great Matthew Broderick). The only way to win is not to play.