Recently we had one of our regular, slightly odd customers come in Ė Son of Mr Railwayman I call him (Mr Railwayman is still alive, but hasnít enough money to feed his hobby now).
Son of Mr Railwayman isn’t old enough to remember the days of steam, but unfortunately for whichever member of staff he sees first, old enough to remember the diesel engine era.
I was checking some stock when I could sense a presence; he stood quietly waiting for me to look up and after a few seconds I turned, said good morning, and he took his cue. Son of Mr Railwayman was almost frothing at the mouth pointing out a mistake that had been made in the catalogue and that a particular train number didn’t run on that line, along with several other things about the train’s history. 20 minutes he went on about it. All this time, I knew all the staff would be watching the CCTV to laugh at me getting caught.
He had his rant and calmed down, but then he rustled his bag and out came his pride and joy of the moment; a Steiff teddy and train twin pack (I don’t know what you would normally expect with a Steiff teddy, but a train isn’t top of my list). Another ten minutes passed as he explained about the set, and I managed to get a word in before he gave me the history of Steiff. He needed some rolling stock big enough to put the bear into and be pulled by the train itself. I did point out that the item would keep its value better left in the box, but I knew he wasn’t interested in that or sitting on the side, he just wanted to enjoy his train. After taking out of the box nearly every piece of rolling stock, he chose the first one and left a happy man.
His wife came in with him once – a lovely lady who made it quite clear she encourages his hobby as he gets so much enjoyment from it. Probably not the only reason but…
He would spend hours converting that bit of rolling stock into a suitable seating platform for Ted, and I knew that when it was all finished, he would come in with his plastic bag and I would have to look and admire his handiwork.
But as any of us who care about this industry know, and as I explained to the staff who thought it was funny that nearly 45 minutes of my precious time was spent with this guy, these are the customers who make you think it is all worthwhile. People who have as much passion for a toy as you do. When he walks back in with the finished article I will happily look at it and hear of all the problems he had making it.
The passion some of us have for toys isn’t always shared by some people in this industry, on both sides on the fence. The toy industry would be a far worse place without bricks and mortar stores, run by people with a true passion for bringing pleasure to customers young and old.