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That scammers trying to make a quick buck often target the most vulnerable among us is old news.
And this week San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced a settlement in another consumer fraud case that just about scrapes the bottom of the barrel: A company doled out deceptively packaged “Disney Princess” jewelry kits to young girls, who didn’t get a very happy ending when they tore into the box and discovered it was mostly empty.
In a release announcing the settlement, Goldsmith’s office says it was tipped off by the mother of a young girl who had saved to buy the jewelry kit. The box, adorned with stickers of smiling princesses, fluttery pink clouds and shiny bracelets, only hid the empty compartments inside.
Here are photos provided by the City Attorney’s Office:
Goldsmith acknowledged the cravenness of trying to fool a 6-year-old girl:
“It’s unfortunate that a company would market a product that misleads children,” Goldsmith, who has a history of delving into consumer protection cases, said in the release. “Our office will continue to prosecute unfair businesses that are in violation of state consumer laws.”
But there’s another element that makes this jewelry box a bad deal – one that can only be corrected by the market, not any hard-charging prosecutor.
Even if the package was full, it would still be a pile of pink, plastic trash-to-be.
Don’t get me wrong, I collected garbage bags full of soda cans from my dad’s restaurant as a kid, and diligently fed them into a filthy, cold machine every week in exchange for a few dollars, which I probably spent on plenty of girly baubles.
But I also cherished girl heroes with brains like Harriet the Spy, and preferred April — who had a job and a stylin’ jumpsuit — over the Ninja Turtles. I don’t remember either of them wearing much pink.
If you think all young girls are yearning for princess toys until they grow up and know better, check out this adorable rant from a toddler in a toy store who makes her position pretty clear: Stop trying to force pink down my throat.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also drove this message home in a recent episode of “Sesame Street,” when she delivered some real talk to princess-loving muppet Abby Cadabby: “Pretending to be a princess is fun, but it is definitely not a career.”
Since the holidays are quickly approaching, here are a few suggestions for awesome toys that might help a girl aspire more toward a black robe than a ball gown:
• Goldi Blox: Developed by a female Stanford University engineer, these are construction toys from a female perspective. They develop spatial skills and teach basic engineering principles.
• Roominate: This takes the concept of playing house to another level. The toy house comes with circuits and custom-built parts, so a girl doesn’t just decorate, she wires the cooling fan too.
• Or check out these fun make-at-home toys and projects on the American Chemistry Society’s kids site, like a recipe for magic sand.
I’m glad Goldsmith and Dumanis went after this company. No one should make their money by ripping off a bunch of daydreaming kids. But the whole episode is also a chance to teach girls that the real world means working hard and being discerning with your money, even if it doesn’t always work out.
Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at email@example.com or 619.325.0526.
Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.