Thursday, December 11, 2008

KB Toys is Going Out of Business

I just found out that KB Toys has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time this decade. This time, it looks like the end, and they've announced "going-out-of-business sales at [their] hundreds of stores."

In one sense, I'm not at all surprised. KB has routinely had much higher prices on their toys than what I could find at pretty much any other national chain (I'm thinking Toys R Us, in addition to places like Target and Wal-Mart), and when they have a 25% sale, it's even then not usually enough to get me to pick up an item, because that 25% often only brings the price back down to the same level it was at in those other chains (before the toy was known to be a shelfwarmer!).

But, even so, the news saddens me a bit. I used to work for a KB Toys in Anderson, SC about 12 years ago, during what was otherwise one of the most difficult times of my life. This was the period of time when the chain was changing their name from "Kay Bee" (which is how I knew it as a child) and we still had both names visible in various parts of the store. Although I had to drive about 45 minutes each way to get to my job, which paid a measly $5 an hour (if that, but I think that's right), I found that working in that small toy store, even though it was in the midst of the crazy holiday season, was one of the few highlights of my time living in South Carolina for those few months. Just out of college, I was already one of the oldest people there (with the exception of the managers), but I was able to relate fairly well to the other co-workers, and was even asked to stay on after the holiday season ended, which if I wasn't already planning to move back up to Kentucky, I probably would have done.

The job was a nice mix of social interaction and "time alone" for me (a decidedly strong introvert). When in the back room putting price tags on items, I remember seeing the G2 Dreadwing (already a couple of years old at the time) waiting for the right opportunity to be taken out to the floor again. This was also the time when Beast Wars toys were just coming out, and I enjoyed seeing new Transformers on the shelves again (although at this time I was still a little skeptical about this new direction). "Tickle Me Elmo" was the craze of the season, and we had to turn a lot of disappointed customers away asking if we had the toy, which we could never keep on shelves for long. But most of all, I think I enjoyed working the cash register, something I had never done during my tenures (yes, plural) working at Toys R Us in previous years. Often, when I had to give a customer just one penny of change, I'd tell them, "Don't spend it all in one place!" At least a few of them humored me by appearing to think I was funny!

Anyway, I find I'm actually sorry to see the chain go, although I definitely didn't do much (after working there) to keep them afloat. They simply couldn't compete with the lower prices other chains were able to offer. But I'll always remember them fondly.

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