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Wal-Mart covering up 'I hate you' baby toy?

Posted By Diana Lynne On 11/16/2003 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Wal-Mart has yanked a baby-crib accessory from its shelves after parents all across the country complained it disseminates a subliminal message of hate, but you wouldn’t know it unless you called the major retailer.

“We felt it was an item that wasn’t up to our quality of standards,”
Wal-Mart spokesperson Karen Burk told WorldNetDaily in explanation of why
the toys were removed from stores’ shelves nationwide earlier this year.

The toy has not been recalled, however, and no mention of its removal
from shelves or concerns raised about it have been posted on the href="http://www.walmart.com/">company’s website.

“It seems like they are trying to avoid something,” parent Emily Smathers
Ratliff of Oxford, Miss., told WorldNetDaily.

“It was downplayed,” echoed Shannon Leslie in the New Orleans area. “I wish it had some more publicity.”

WorldNetDaily
reported
a Vancouver, Wash., family discovered the toy they unsuspectingly attached to their 6-month-old son’s crib utters the words “I hate you” amid the rhythmic ocean sounds designed to lull the baby asleep.

“The voice has a softness to it. It sounds hypnotizing. … I think it’s creepy,” Blanche Skelton told WorldNetDaily. “My husband thought I was crazy until he heard it.” Skelton’s in-laws and everyone who has visited the house since have heard it.


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Wal-Mart’s Kid Connection crib toy (Photo: WDSU-TV, New Orleans)

The unnamed toy is tugboat-shaped with four small cartoon-like figures on the front – a fish, starfish, crab and an octopus. It is blue and white with a red anchor on the side where you push a button to make it play either music or the ocean sounds.

The toy appears to be a Wal-Mart version of href="http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id=1937544&cat
=86351&type=5&dept=5427&path=0%3A5427%3A86324%3A86351">a
similar “Ocean Wonders Aquarium” toy made by Fisher-Price and sold by
Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s website ranked the Fisher-Price toy as its third
best-selling product among toys for infants age 0 to 6 months.

The toy’s box bears the Wal-Mart brand label Kid Connection, with a tiny
set of footprints and “Step Ahead” logo. The box also indicates the toy was
made in China.

“You know China is not friends with us,” Skelton said, speculating about
the explanation for what she fears is a subliminal message hidden in the toy.
“They’re trying to get back at us. What’s the best way? Teach kids when
they’re young to hate. It’s scary.”

Skelton’s story sparked endless discussion and mocking on several online
discussion forums.

Since WorldNetDaily’s initial report, a half-dozen other parents across the
country – from Washington state and California to Louisiana, Mississippi,
Oklahoma, West Virginia and Maryland – have come forward to say they have the Wal-Mart toy and are horrified to find it spewing hate at their babies.

“I consider this an assault on my infant. He’s been listening to this
message his whole life,” Sean Bento of Murrieta, Calif., told WorldNetDaily.
“This is something someone did on purpose. Their intent is pernicious.
There’s nothing funny about an infant being exposed to something like that.”

“I think it is some sick person that wants to put thoughts into our children’s
minds. Kind of like a pedophile preys on children? This is no different. I work in a
prison and I deal with these type of sick people everyday and who knows
exactly why they do what they do?” said parent Hollie Konek from Princess
Anne, Md.

An equally upset Lynne Glaze from Washington state estimates that
before she discovered what the message was, her 5-month-old had listened to it over
hundreds of hours.

“I used to play it every night as he went to sleep. He even had learned how
to turn it on himself,” Glaze said.

“I would love to get to the bottom of it,” she continued, adding that she
“would like to make sure the manufacturer does not get away with this hateful ‘crime’ against babies.”

Wal-Mart’s Burk said the matter was investigated and officials working
with the supplier concluded there were faint “beeps” in the background of the
ambient ocean sounds.

“We weren’t able to determine what the beeps were,” she said, “but
because of customer concern, we removed the product off of our shelves.”

After this author explained she heard the toy first-hand and concurs with
parents that the sound appears to be a voice speaking the words, “I hate you,”
Burk dismissed it as the “power of suggestion.”

“A lot of times the power of suggestion is there,” she told WND. “If
someone says they hear the toy say, ‘I love you’ then that’s what you think you
hear. Or if someone thinks it says ‘I hate you,’ that’s what you’re going to
hear.”

Burk could not say what investigators learned from the supplier about how
the “beeps” got on the toy and why. She also would not divulge any information
as to who the Chinese supplier is and whether it is continuing to make the
toys.

“We don’t discuss supplier information,” she said.

Burk stressed that any customer who is unsatisfied with the toy can return
it for a full refund. She said even though there is no recall, all Wal-Mart stores
have been advised to give refunds for the toy.

“Our policy is customer satisfaction,” Burk said. “All stores are aware the toy was pulled from the shelves.”

Parents told WND they had a difficult time getting refunds and found local stores unaware of the situation.

“We just kept hitting brick walls so we gave up,” Glaze said.

Burk urges parents who have problems to call Wal-Mart’s customer service hotline at 1-800-Wal-Mart.

“A refund, I feel, is not good enough. More parents need to be made aware
of this,” argues parent Ellen Rogers of Martinsburg, W.V.

Bento agrees and is considering suing the retailer. He filed a formal complaint, but says he has not heard back from anyone.

“I want to make myself heard,” he said. “They’re responsible for the safety of products they sell. It’s not physical harm, it’s psychological harm.”

WND checked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and learned officials there don’t deal with these kind of issues.

“As far as subliminal messages are concerned, that wouldn’t be the
jurisdiction of the commission,” explained CPSC spokesperson Kim Dulic, “unless it was thought that the message could somehow cause physical injury or harm to the child.”

Dulic could not recommend any other agency that would handle the matter.

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Baby toy: ‘I hate
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