A plastic goat that gobbles garbage, a mask kit that must be built with flammable glue and a vinyl creature called Suckerman were singled out yesterday by a consumer group as some of the most distasteful or unsafe toys of the holiday season.
The consumer affairs committee of Americans for Democratic Action, which has been conducting toy surveys for eight years, also reported a variation of as much as 151 percent in prices through the Washington area for the same toy.
The committee's advice to parents buying for Yule stockings: "Be careful and shop around."
At a press conference at a Georgetown nursery school, the women who conducted the survey dropped 14 "bad buys" into a "Trash Box." They also recommended eight toys as exceptionally good buys.
"Gobbles The Crazy Eating Goat" was judged the "biggest rip-off of the year" by the committee, mainly because of the "concept of paying for garbage." At different area stores the price for the toy ranged from $6 to $10; a package of extra plastic garbage costs an additional $1.
Ann Brown, one of the committee chairmen, said that Gobbles performs as advertised -- pump his tail up and down to move the garbage from the goat's mouth to a side pouch where it can be removed. "It is hardly an accurate portrayal of the way to treat farm animals," she said.
The committee also had harsh words for a slime-filled "Ork Egg," which can stick to clothes, furniture and floors if spilled; a doll that is supposed to grow when fed a bottle, and a plastic dog with fleas that jump off the dog's back when its tail is twisted.
The Space Creature Full Head Mask Kit, which children put together themselves, includes everything but the glue. But regular glue won't work, the kit label warns. Instead, younsters must "use only cement for vinyl plastic," usually labeled plastic mender.
When committee members went shopping for the cement, they found a warning on the label describing the mender as a flammable misture which should be kept out of the reach of children.
With the glue, the mask kit "becomes a dangerous toy," the committee said.
The mask kit's manufacturer, Megathor/Pressman, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Suckerman, a creature covered with 26 suction cups, was criticized for its lack of play value. The object is to throw him and make him stick to "most surfaces smooth and slick," the committee said.
The committee found that the only kind of surface on which the toy worked well was on bathroom tile. "We don't think children should be confined to the bathroom to make a toy work," Brown said.
An official at Mattel, which manufactures Suckerman, said the toy was intended for outside play. "We certainly have never recommended anyone to play in the bathroom." he said.
Copies of the consumer committee report are available for $2 each from Americans for Democratic Action, Room 850, 1411 K St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20005.
Manufacturers called by The Washington Post deffended their products generally as "fun" and said the consumer committee's survey was unfair.
A spokesman for the Kenner Co., a Cincinnati-based company that produced Gobbles the goat said it has stopped making the toy because of poor sales. Nevertheless, many leftover Gobbles toys are still on sale in area stores.
The consumer committee checked 1,500 toys, most of them new this year and many of them heavily advertised on television.
Only eight were rated high enough by the committee to win its seal of approval.
Skedoodle, a game made by Hasbro which enables children to make intricate geometric designs.
Kitchen set of plastic dishes and a stove made by Fisher-Price. The green-check tablecloth that comes with set converts into a storage sack for the utensils.
"Baby Little Love" by Animal Fair, a soft doll that comes in both black and White versions. The doll, which doubles as puppet, can be washed.
Other toys on the approved list were Atomic Arcade, a small table-top pinball game; Electronic Baseball 2, game; Speak and Spell, a portable electronic game; Woodseys, a family of three small fuzzy finger puppets; and Giant Pre-School Loc Blocs, a 100-piece set of blocks.
In separating good toys from bad ones, members of the committee said they considered safety, play value, packaging and advertising, sturdiness and durability.
Working on the toy survey with Brown were Debbie Wager, Charlye Malloy, Irene Rosenbloom and Pat Roth.
The committee checked the prices of 67 toys at 2i areas stores in mid-November and found dramatic differences for identical products. "Skedoodle" sold for $5.97 at K-Mart, the committee said, but it was $15 at Woodies -- a difference of 151 per cent.
The Merlin electronic game by Parker ranged from a low of $21.06 at Evans to a high of $40 at Hecht's, the women said. And the Fisher-Price "Kitchen Set" was $9.78 at Memco, compared to $17.59 at Toy and Hobby World.
Toy prices generally are lowest at the two Washington-area catalog stores, Best Products Co. and Evans, and at suburban discount toy and department stores, the committee said.
Highest prices generally were at the downtown department stores and at the specialty toy stores, the committee said.
The committee also noted that prices may have changed since the survey last month.
Toys rated as "bad buys" by the committee ranged in price from $2 or less for the "Ork Edd" up $55 for the Zodiac, an electronic toy that charts horoscopes and expensive and "doesn't seem to be of interest to many children."
Defending the 'Ork Egg," Jack Fox, director of marketing for Mattel, said he was shocked that the committee had described the item inside the egg container as fetus. "The creature inside is a monster and advertised as such," he said.
As for the slime surrounding the "monster," Fox said, "Kids love slime. Kids also play with mud and have for several thousand years."
He said Mattel toys "meet or exceed every regulation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and our own standards, which are quite high."
The committee expressed concern that dart board games are for sale in toy stores. "Darts are not toys," Brown said, adding that they should be sold in sporting goods stores.