Toys R Us recently announced that they are closing 180 stores including the one that I used to go to as a kid.
If you were a kid between 1960 and today, chances are you went to Toys R Us at least once. And if you didn’t, you at least heard of it. Maybe you heard the catchy jingle that kids at school changed the words to and made it dirty. Regardless, Toys R Us is definitely a staple of United States culture.
Toys R Us was the store if you wanted to get video games. Of course there were other stores that sold video games if you were a kid of the 80s and 90s, but Toys R Us didn’t have them behind the counter or under glass like the other stores did.
Toys R Us had these little sheets of paper with the game name and price. You took that piece of paper to the cashier and then they would tell you to take it to the cashier running the cage and they would give you your game.
Nothing felt better than being handed a game directly from the store. It was something that I looked forward to as a kid. The toy store was a kid’s store. There wasn’t any clothes that mom needed to try on while you waited. The chances of her running into one of her friends and chatting up a storm were next to nothing. She waited on you to get your shopping done.
Well she bought it for you, but after that, it was yours.
The time I got to buy all the games I wanted
One of the best memories of Toys R Us came out of a real hardship for my family. We lived in a house in an area that had an ordinance that all the houses’ roofs needed to be the same height. All the houses at the time were made in the 50s so they were one story with a crawlspace. My parents built a house that had a basement and to meet the subdivision’s requirements, it sat lower than all the rest of the houses.
It was a pretty crafty loophole until karma finally caught up with us. The city’s watermain had broken in front of our house and since that water needs to go somewhere, it went into our basement which happened to be the location of my parent’s computer and my video games. We lost everything in addition to two cars. The worst part of it all is that insurance decided that since we didn’t have flood insurance, they weren’t going to pay for it. And since we didn’t live on a flood plain, there was no option to actually buy said insurance. So we were fucked.
Until we sued the City. This was after all options had been exhausted. My mother was a crafty devil and had the local newspaper ready to run a front page story about how the city refused to fix a mess caused by their negligence. When the city was reached for comment, suddenly we had a settlement.
My parents were able to restore all of their items and had something left over for 8 year old me. While typically a child with my parent’s income got 2 games a year (1 for xmas and 1 for my birthday) I was able to go to Toys R Us and pick out 30 Nintendo games. As a kid that was unreal. I felt like one of those kids on Nickelodeon’s Super Toy Run
I really wish that I could go back in time during that time and tell childhood me to get games that were going to be worth something today. This was 1990 after all – the next year Nintendo would come out with the Super Nintendo and all the Nintendo Entertainment System games would still be sold, but weren’t going to be as popular.
I still have a handful of games that I got during that Toys R Us run. The Adventure of Link, Tecmo Bowl, Super Mario 2 and 3. I really wish that I kept the boxes, but sadly another watermain would break in 2000 and would take out those boxes along with some computers. But luckily my video games were upstairs at the time. This time the insurance would handle things and we were paid for a handful of lost items (at significantly depreciated amounts) we were able to rebuild the basement and I moved downstairs. There would be no gaming shopping spree this time.
Why did Toys R Us finally kick the bucket?
It truly is a sad state that Toys R Us must leave us like this. A lot of people blame Amazon but really Toys R Us was on its way out way before that. You could get most of the toys and video games at Target. Toys R Us didn’t expand the same way either. I remember you had to drive fairly far to the next town to find one whereas Target or Wal-Mart were good enough. Best Buy would come along as well and really drive home the point that Toys R Us was a specialty store that had no more specialty.
I will never grow up and I will always be a Toys R Us Kid.