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Dear Tim, Hey! What’s the Substitute for Trying Out New Toys? tBR Columnist Tim Kilpin Answers

Q: What’s the Substitute for Trying Out New Toys?

A: There Isn’t One…

We met in an icy parking lot behind a local commercial building, my supervisor and I – to hand off a set of physical toy samples recently received from our vendor partner in China. In our Covid world, it has come to this: behind our masks and into a wind chill approaching -10, we inspected the samples – gloveless, mind you – to assess the quality, look and most importantly FEEL of these particular products. It wasn’t exactly a clandestine dead drop (and to be sure, I wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes as a spy in Russia), but it certainly seemed like a strange way to conduct that most mundane and necessary of our regular tasks.

When you aren’t going into the office regularly, how do you know – really know – that the product is turning out the way you all discussed while on those last 23 Zoom calls?

Hence this parking lot meeting. And sure enough, there was simply no other way to have this discussion or make this decision without a true hands-on, face-to-face moment.

While my boss and I played at international intrigue in the shadow of the Mobil station, our designers were variously – and carefully – venturing into the office to print up 3D parts, test mechanisms, and participate in socially-distanced gameplay sessions. Temperature checks are a constant, and we cautiously calibrate schedules to ensure no more than a few folks are even in the building at the same time. Vigilance is our watchword, teammembers’ safety is paramount. Of course, as it should be.

And what gets lost in the meantime is that sudden spark of satisfaction when people put something together for the first time, or that cold creeping of doubt when the parts or the play experiences don’t quite turn out as planned.

Zoom or no Zoom, we’re professionals and we do what’s necessary to make it right, to fix the issues and stay on schedule. Our goal is clear and unchanged: deliver great, quality play experiences for our consumers.

But the path to get there has never been more indirect, or by turns frustrating. So I can only suggest you do what we do: stay safe, proceed with caution, wear your mask, get the vaccine when you can. We are living through unprecedented times, and so are the kids who rely on our creativity and inspiration to make their days fun and more enjoyable.

And this is still a way better gig than being a spy.


In additional to penning his thoughts here, Tim Kilpin is enjoying his role as President of PlayMonster. To read more about Tim's career in the toy industry, check out this interview with Tim last year! Tim Kilpin - I’m a very proud elf. Every Christmas morning...


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