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08 July 2011


I have a friend whose boyfriend works for Sherwin Williams, and they are my go to people for paint questions. Here's what the boyfriend said,

"You can gently wash water-based house paint with water. BUT, if you’re washing a toy made of wood with water, and the water soaks through the paint to the wood surface, the paint will “pop right off” the toy."

They were surprised that a wood toy would be painted because of this issue.

I'm not surprised anymore when companies want to give the consumer a replacement rather than cash. If I go to the trouble of trying to get my money back, I don't want a replacement.

Here's another story about customer service:


Enjoy your weekend!

Fascinating! Thanks for going to actual paint people for this info. It makes sense, and I did give it some thought, but I honestly didn't think running the rings briefly under cold water and then drying them would be sufficient to get through the point or saturate the wood. I wondered that myself about the painting on the wood--I've looked at their toys this spring, ironically, as a gift for someone else, and chose not to buy them, thinking "there's something I don't like about that paint on the wood."

My mom was surprised they were prepared to give two toys, but I wasn't. I'm guessing each toy costs maybe 50 cents, if that?, to fabricate. I wonder what the per unit cost is.

Thanks for the other link! I love a good customer service story. (If you couldn't tell.)

The weird thing is that you're supposed to wash children's toys regularly, aren't you? In a mild detergent or diluted bleach solution? Seems to me like the toys would get really grubby really fast. Blech.

I wonder, too, if you were even speaking to customer service rep in North America, or if you'd been rerouted to a call centre. Did you see that article in Mother Jones? Fascinating account of the training that tries to build that fake empathy: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/05/indian-call-center-americanization

I'm guessing my kids have played with 638 or so Melissa & Doug toys (that's just a rough estimate, of course) and I've never even thought about the paint coming off. I guess I've always done the damp cloth thing (or sprayed them with that safe-for-kids cleaner stuff which is probably adding to their chemical intake quite nicely) but it does make sense that water-based paint would come off with, well, water. Hmmm. What were they thinking in the first place?

I'm not surprised that they offered replacements as opposed to refunds, although I'm interested in what the store where your friend made the purchase would have done. I've brought back toys, clothes, and more in various states of use and said something to the extend of, "Gimme back my money" and had them agree. I'm thinking that I'm not nearly as nice of a customer as you are though, CR. I do give customer service the benefit of the doubt... but only to an extent.

Anyway, if you're ever looking to return to nice wood toys (although I'm all for plastic sometimes as well), HABA (http://habausa.com) makes great stuff. The quality is there and all of the bright colors are from solvent-free, water-based stains so CRjr could take as many licks as he would like. (Bonus: they're local. The president of HABA USA lives maybe 20 minutes from you.)

I agree it's a little weird to make toys with paint that will come off in water - because, um, yeah, kids put EVERYTHING in their very wet mouths, whether or not they are supposed to be teething toys.

What annoys me the most about Melissa and Doug is that these toys, sold as "handcrafted", are yep, made in China. Which of course, pretty much everything is these days, but every time I look at the 3 M&D puzzles my sons have (all bought at garage sales or gifts, I won't pay 17 bucks for a damn puzzle), I get really ticked seeing the lovely words "Handcrafted" on them. My ass. People are pretty gullible (well, they see what they want to see, I suppose, all you have to do is turn it over to find the Made in China label...)

Well, I don't actually know what I'm accomplishing when I wash new or garage sale toys, but I do it anyway. Like I said, it's more of a mental "well, I tried" boost than a real scientific precept.

I wondered if you'd ever tested M&D! (Everyone: Xenia has a great product review site at http://www.thanksmailcarrier.com/) I too wonder if a person could get money back from the store for an item like this, but like I said, I'd dealt with other companies before and gotten simple refund checks so I didn't think it would be a problem. I'm also not quite sure how M&D "doesn't sell to the public"--what are they doing on their website then?
And thanks for the HABA tip, too.

"Handcrafted," ha, that is a good one. I suppose the FDA definition of "handcrafted" is "goods that have been touched momentarily by human hands on their way to the shipping container." (You know, like food can have up to 1% rat hair, etc., those types of rules.)
You're absolutely right. Handcrafted my ass.

What a hassle. I wouldn't buy a gift from M&D. Thanks for the head's up.

Ho, ho, ho! Santa Claus once brought a Fisher-Price medical kit to our house. It was plastic, no doubt contained endocrine disrupting chemicals, and the only kit SC could find. Our kids played endlessly with it, and it was a nice enough toy except for one problem: you had to be a master at space constraints to get all the pieces back into the carrying case. If I wanted it put away, I had to sit down with it on my lap and recall the pattern to get every piece in.

I wrote FP, with no expectations of a refund or replacement. I'm not sure what I expected. I just made the suggestion that they make the case bigger in the future, and the customer service dept. wrote that they were very sorry but their designers had worked very hard on the design of the toy. The end. Yes, the designers had worked very hard to use the absolute smallest amount of plastic they could, and although they may have had children or known something about children (that they might put something away if it is easy enough), FP had their own objectives.

Here's a way to use even less plastic and save more money: buy the doctor's kit at a garage sale and find your own shoebox.

Then, if you are a parent, aunt, grandma, friend, boy who likes to shop, or Santa Claus, think less is more.

Here's all kids MIGHT need (most preferably from SC): a sandbox, some wooden blocks (does anyone local sell such a thing at craft fairs?), some balls, trike or bike (the helmet doesn't have to match), a sled, ONE stuffed animal, ONE doll, maybe a small tea set, maybe a doctor's kit, maybe a matchbox car or three, something small to pound (maybe dad could supervise using a real hammer and nail), a board game or two, some cardboard puzzles, some watercolors, checkers or chess (the only Chinese thing would be Chinese checkers), some rocks and sticks, a small usable shovel, and a deck of cards. And oh, yeah, access to water and books and music and a mom who isn't constantly sorting toys.

As the Burgermeister knew, toys ARE dangerous: if the toxic paint doesn't kill them, being spoiled will, as will the trade deficit they will inherit.

If you wish to welcome a child into the world, consider giving anything homemade (cookies or an entree come to mind) or if you must, send the refund check directly to the parents for a savings account. Hopefully the bankers or the brokers won't steal it before higher education does.

You're welcome. Plenty of gifts in the sea; there's no need to buy M & D if you don't want to.

A hex,
Right on. I was actually thinking I'll be just as happy if CRjr adapts some adult items into his own playthings. Pretty much one of the few "play" times I remember, very clearly, from my own youth, is the time I spent a happy morning setting up encyclopedias, spines up, in rows on the living room couch, making it (to my mind) an airplane. Then I set my stuffed animals in their own seats and took off. This did require more than one stuffed animal, but you get the idea. This incident also provides one of my funnier mom memories: she walked through the living room and didn't bat an eye at me flying the plane by sitting on the couch arm. She simply said "I hope you put all those books back where you got them when you're done" and kept moving, letting me get on with it. Now THAT's parenting.

And right on on the entree suggestion! I know everyone wants to buy the baby stuff but man, anything that gives the mom a break in those first few weeks and months is the real gift. That'll help the kid too--if mom gets a bit more rest those nighttime feedings are a lot more fun and a little less unpleasantly surreal.

Heh! I submitted a one-star review of a dreadful M&D product we were given -- a $35 set of dollar-store craft supplies with "washable" paint that permanently trashed an easel, table, a bit of the floor, and so much clothing I have difficulty thinking about it, before I realised "washable" was not "washable."

The review was never posted. I got an e-mail from "Lisa" thanking me for my "e-mail" with an invitation to call her during [rather restricted times].

I wrote back to say I appreciated the response, but was extremely pressed for time and was not going to have time to make a phone call anytime soon; could she please address this in e-mail?

Of course I didn't hear back, and of course my review simply didn't make it on the site. melissaanddoug.com is littered with enthusiastic four and five star reviews; I haven't been able to find any poor ratings or reviews. Apparently they are all simply trashed as mine was, perhaps with a half-hearted attempt at contact from "Lisa."

At least the paint disaster was bad enough for me to be rude enough to finally ask the person who had been buying us all the M&D stuff to please stop...

Ha. Your story is perfect. So sorry to hear about your easel, floor, clothes, etc...And ridiculous to hear that your comment just wasn't posted. That's effective, isn't it?

Glad to know Lisa's still working hard to keep consumers from being satisfied. Wonder if it's the same woman or if they name all the drones answering their phones Lisa. I shared your comment in a more recent post--my vendetta against this shit company continues!

And hey, p.s., GOOD FOR YOU on asking the gifters to stop. They'll save some money too--we all know this stuff isn't cheap.

The unit cost is about 25% of the retail cost... probably in the range of $2.00-2.50 per stacker. Yes, they are made in China, but why does that matter? FYI to Rebecca - HABA, Melissa & Doug, Alex, you name it, ALL MANUFACTURE IN CHINA. Furthermore, they test the living hell out of their products. They have to! In order to import kid's toys into the US and EU you have to "meet or exceed" all testing standards. M&D goes way beyond, I can assure you.

The paint disaster I believe but you should know all wooden toys use water based paints - again, HABA, Alex, and every other big toy company. Reasons? Safety. Do you want your kid to have a picasso painted wooden stacker that never chips but also uses toxic paint? Didn't think so. And, whoever said the paint isn't washable, you're lying. I bought some the other day and it washes out perfectly. They've changed the formula since the product first came out because people like you complained and they acted.

Shit happens, I get it. But you'd be an idiot to think a product is crap just because it came from China. Look around - everything is from China. Oh, and Melissa & Doug live near me as well, in Connecticut. Does that make their (Chinese-made) products local???? Lollllllz

Hi, just got some M&D toys and have to say the quality is very poor. The wood breaks very easily and considering they are puzzles (so would be handled a lot) was surprised at how cheap and breakable they are. M&D have a good reputation but I would not recommend or buy them again.


Well, I'm sorry that you've had that experience too. I avoid all M&D like the plague now, particularly when I see it in stores, twice as expensive as anything else, still resting on their good reputation. Let me know if you find any wooden or puzzle toys that you like better!

I cannot say I have ever had this problem with Melissa and doug, but if you have any complaint it is usually best to just say the product arrived defective. If you say you did anything to the product they can use it to say you broke it so you cannot get a refund.

Yes, thank you, I think you're right. "Product arrived defective": lesson learned!

Chinese manufacturing has gotten way better than the US now. I don't think it was very prudent of you to call them for something that were clearly at fault at. I don't care if it's M&D or any other manufacturer. If a water-based toy is rinsed, washed, chewed or eaten, it is expected that the color would come off. In fact, I would want it to come off just to be sure that it's non-toxic. Who in their right mind asks to send a refund for $7.99, that too to a friend? M&D spend more than that just dealing with a disgruntled customer.

Geez, I've always loved all of the Melissa and Doug products that my 3 kids have played with over the years. They haven't broken or chipped or peeled except perhaps slightly after a LOT of use. I guess my expectations are too low, because I do kind of expect that after a while! And isn't everything in some way made in China? Come on people, be realistic. If you want 100% made in the US, buy from the Amish.

I recently bought the same ring stacker toy and had the same exact problem. I light rinse and when I dried it the paint came off on the paper towel. I little more (light) rubbing & it started to chip off in chunks. I was not impressed & brought it right back to the store. No more M&D for me!

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