The Christmas Haul, Part I : The Gravy Train

ThomasWe’ve recently been introduced to the cult wonderful world of Thomas the Tank Engine. For those of you who don’t know, Thomas is the lead character on a very cheaply produced television show. Maybe I am being racist machinist something-ist, but, to me, these all look like the same train, just different colors.

Well, my daughter has always shown an interest in these train sets at the doctors office, the toy stores, other people’s homes. All I knew was the she wanted Santa to bring her a train set, and I wanted it to be a wooden train set.

Now, don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of nice, wooden train sets out there. IKEA even has one dirt cheap. But, well, Toys-r-Us was having a sale.

So, we trek over to Toys-r-Us to buy a couple gifts, as well as check out these trains. Holy crap are these things expensive! I mean, each train is, like, $10-15.  We bought a figure-8 track set – okay, not horrible at $40. We did need a basic set, at least.

Plus there was the sale. Right, the sale. Apparently, there is a set of terms that you need to be part of the cult to understand. The sale was: Buy one, get one 50% off on all Thomas destinations, trains, and a bunch of other terms which are nowhere to be found on the box (Perhaps they are in this Thomas “catalog” I hear so much about – the one which tells you and your kids just how many hundreds of dollars  Thomas items you are short of obtaining them all).

So, being the silly, naive parents we are, we assume everything on the shelves with the tags is part of the sale. Now we’ve got the figure 8 set, we gotta get something 50%. Okay, the mine shaft (more on this later) addition sounds pretty cool (and for just $30!)

After checking out, Ms. Kaz asks if we got the 50% off. I check the receipt. We didn’t. Great, off to customer service. I have to not that at this point, I was ready to just pay full price for the track and not get the mine shaft.

See if I get the shaft after the jump…

So, the customer service guy (who, I should point out, was pretty nice throughout all of this, despite creating more difficulty for me) calls someone over to go with Ms. Kaz to take a look. She comes back, says that it looks like everything on the shelf is part of the sale. Fine. Customer service guy calls someone over to “refund” everything I have, and ring it up the new way.

Refund girl has difficulty, calls customer service guy over when he’s done with his customer. Customer service guy says, “I wanna see this for myself,” so I go over there with him. He says he wants to call the manager.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kaz and my daughter, who is already late for lunch and her nap, keep waiting.

The manager comes over and explains that the figure 8 track thingy is not part of the offer. Okay, I was still fine with getting just that at full price and not getting the shaft. He starts ringing me up, and I say, “you know, I just want to point out that you should remove this set from the shelf… it is very confusing.” This, of course, gets no acknowledgement from the manager.

Okay, I came to Toys-r-Us because of this sale. I could pay the same price at our locally-owned, independent toy store, and support a business I would much rather support. Since I was already there, I was prepared to buy the one piece full-price. But now the manager has ticked me off a little.

The manager then points to the two Thomas pieces and says, “so you want both of these?”

“No,” I tell him. Now I want neither of them. I will just go to [locally-owned toy store] and buy them instead.

Manager calls another guy over. “Refund all of these,” he tells other guy, “and ring them up again… but ring these two at 50% off.”

This was somewhat unexpected. “Since you were waiting so long, I am going to give you both at 50% off,” he tells me. Sweet!

While I am happy with the result, I will still buy future train products (I understand most of these wooden train sets are compatible with the Thomas stuff..?) from our local toy store.

Oh, yeah, the mine shaft. It is just a few pieces of wood painted like a mine shaft with a little plastic door that swings when the train goes through it. No way is this thing worth the price. Perhaps even at 50% off.

But my daughter likes the train set a lot, and it is something I enjoy playing with along with her.


3 Responses to The Christmas Haul, Part I : The Gravy Train

  1. Terry says:

    If you have an AC Moore Store (craft/hobby store), they sell the wooden TtTE and weekly have a coupon for 40% off, which makes the Thomas toys about $6 depending on who you buy.

    Also, the Brio tracks and the wooden tracks at Target all work with the Thomas tracks, this way you can pay for the Premium Characters, but you can get Miles and Miles of tracks…

  2. L.A. Daddy says:

    LA Toddler likes Thomas but she never went crazy over it. Of course, I do get a kick out of watching the episodes on TV sometimes. There are a few shows where George Carlin is the narrator. And that’s just subversive enough to make me smile…

    We’ve had luck with a Thomas book that made sounds of most of the other engines when you push the button. It was enough of a fix for her without having to buy all the trains separately.

    [Kaz: George Carlin? Ringo Starr? I’m not sure if this is to appeal to parents/grandparents, or is saying something about needed to be on drugs to narrate this show…]

  3. raine says:

    they are compatible with just about any of the wooden train sets. And they’ll last you for YEARS. We got my son a few of the cheap ikea sets, with a thomas train (no tracks, thus cheap) tossed in here and there, and then got him a table with it’s own tracks.. they all go together fine.

    and it is amazing to see what he will build:

    [Kaz: Hi, raine. Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for the tip.. I’ll have to make a run to IKEA soon…]

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