A "giant flying creature" that doesn't fly, a rubber bat that has fake blood running up and down its chest, and a stuffed teddy bear with a nose that pulls off easily, exposing a small rusty metal disc that "could be lethal if swallowed" -- those were among the toys singled out yesterday as unsafe or unsuitable by a local consumer group.
In releasing the results of its ninth annual toy survey, the Consumer Affairs Committee of Americans for Democratic Action urged shoppers to consider safety first when they buy toys for children. The committee also recommended that shoppers compare prices, because of variations of up to 200 percent for the same toy at different stores.
". . . And be sure to ask yourself if the toy is fun," said Ann Brown, the committee chairman.
After screening about 50 items that committee members described as "hot, relatively new" toys being heavily advertised on television, the group selected 18 "bad buys" and 12 "good buys." Debbie Wager, the chairman of the toy survey, said the toys were tested on 15 occasions by groups of children ranging from a toddler to a teenager.
To qualify as a good buy, the toy had to be safe, have good play value and realistic packaging and advertising. Toys that qualified included Hot Wheels Service Center by Mattel, Smaller Home & Garden by Tomy, Rubik's Cube by Ideal, Pocket Simon by Milton Bradley, Marching Band by Fisher-Price, Speak & Math by Texas Instruments, Little Van Goes, also called Great Greetings, by Tomy, Little Brown Pony by Playskool, Dial-A-Design by Hasbro, Space Invader by Entex, Boxing by Bambino and Run Yourself Ragged by Tomy.
Toys classified as unsuitable were those considered dangerous, poorly constructed, lackng in play value or failing to live up to their advertising claims.
Manufacturers of the toys singled out as bad buys generally defended their products and downplayed the importance of the consumer survey. "Eighteen [bad buys] out of 18,000 toys on the shelves of some toy stores doesn't sound too bad," said Douglas Thomson, president of the Toy Manufacturers of America, a trade association whose members represent about 90 percent of the industry.
At a press conference at a children's home in Georgetown, Wager and Brown described the stuffed teddy bear imported from Korea as the most dangerous toy they found. The teddy bear was made by Sunkyung Ltd. of Seoul, Korea, and sells for $2.97. But the women said that there are other inexpensive teddy bears that are safe for children.
Brown also criticized the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying that its regulation concerning small parts and sharp points in stuffed animals is being inadequately enforced.
The commission recently announced the recall of more than 5 million pot-belly bears sold in the United States since 1978 because of safety problems. Some of the bears had been stuffed with ground walnut shells. The commission doesn't know how many of the bears actually have been retrieved from consumers and from stores so far, according to John Bell, a spokesman.
Other toys cited by the Brown-Wager consumer group included:
Worst doll of the year -- Baby Cry & Dry, made by Remco and selling for $15 to $20. The group said the doll has an odor, its battery cover won't stay in place and the doll cry is "more like a mechanical squeak" than a baby. Remco did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Worst value -- Rodan, made by Mattel and selling for $14 to $25. The box reads "giant flying creature," but right below that it says "does not fly," Brown and Wager said. They said that Rodan is "ugly and gross, time-consuming to assemble and its play value is nil." Michael Lyden, Mattel vice president of marketing, said that the toy is based on the flying movie character named Rodan.
Most misleading package -- Zany Zappers, made by Lakeside Games and selling for $4 to $6.50. In the television commercial, these play sunglasses seem to radiate light, the committe said, but "in actuality, there are only two tiny red bulbs in the center that light up." James E. Baum, president of Lakeside Games, said the television ad meets the requirements of the National Association of Broadcasters.
Stupidest toy -- My Puppy Puddles, made by Hasbro Industries Inc. and selling for $10 to $17. "Here is a toy whose whole purpose is to make a dog go to the bathroom," the committee said. Don Robbins, Hasbro vice president, said the toy is not stupid at all. "It is a creative toy . . . that a child can pull along on wheels. Yes, it puddles also, but dolls have been doing that for years."
The other toys cited as unsuitable by the committee included Gre-Gory, the rubber bat with fake blood, by Mattel; Baby Cries for You by Mattel; Slime Worms by Mattel; Chew Suzy Chew by Ideal; Strawberry Shortcake by Kennerf Electronic Paramedic by Playskool; F-15 Eagle by Tootsie Toy; Clyde's Car Crusher by Remco; Yo Ball by Knots; bloop Gun by enco; Spiderman Webmaker by Chemtoy; Crazy Eyes by James Industries and Giant Colored Balloons by Imperial Toy Corp.