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Justin

Toys "R" Us Memories

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I worked at my local TRU around the time the Lynx was out, I used to be cashier then went to maintenance and collect shopping carts carts. used buy star wars figures and some atari games at the store too. this was only for xmas season.
heres the funny part, this was basically the only christmas as far as I remember that my mom surprised me because was when I got my Lynx because she got the lynx at store I was working at

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You can't really make it out unfortunately, but the smaller black sign to the right of my bedroom window is another TurboGrafx-16 display. This one was affixed to the top of the shelf-top TurboGrafx-16 kiosk. I tried to get the kiosk from TRU, but they said it had to go back to the rep or to corporate or something. I was able to take the sign off of it though  ^_^

 

The other sign is a familiar Atari Lynx banner  :atari_lynx:

 

 

 

Video_Invaders_TurboGrafx-16_display_C.jpg

 

 

 

Video_Invaders_Atari_Lynx_display.jpg

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Such awesome stories and great pictures. I have limited Toys R Us stories but will share sometime, with no pictures so you'll have to use your imagination ;). Really dig that Lynx banner =)

 

Thanks Clint! Can't wait to hear your stories! I wish I had more pictures. Why didn't I ever take video in the store? I really should have.

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TRU really needs to go back and setup their stores to bring back that wow factor. Seeing all of those systems on display was always awe inspiring. Seeing systems in those display cases made you want to take them all home. Even after all the hype of new systems coming out and finally get released TRU was usually the first place to see the real thing...behind glass of course. Not some poster or cardboard cutout. Good times.

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MAKING OUR FIRST ATARI7800.COM BLOG

 

When I first started working at Toys "R" Us this website was in its infancy. Every day was spent at school, every afternoon and evening and weekend was spent working at Toys "R" Us, and every night was spent chatting away on Atari Age, learning HTML and stitching together what became Atari7800.com. Our web store was a big component of the original site. Some nights I would break down stacks of 2600s and 7800s until my fingers were sore, breaking down parts and screws, separating by condition and placing into parts cabinets. Every component was scrubbed cleaned, and reconditioned. Newly refurbished game systems would be put together "from scratch" using reconditioned parts from my parts bin, tested, and sold with a warranty. I remember Wednesdays and Thursdays would be my teardown days, the weekend would be assembly, Monday nights I would get all the orders together with their games boxed and ready to ship out, and would take everything to the Post Office or my Pak-N-Ship place on Tuesday after school and before work at Toys "R" Us.

 

Somewhere in the middle of all this nonsense I found time for the Blog. There were Atari sites on the web back then, mostly The Atari 2600 Nexus which became Atari Age around that time, Atari Museum, Atari vendors like Video 61, and lots of sites like this: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~awwatkin/ATARI/Atari.html There weren't a lot of sites delving into "Atari Lifestyle" and that's what I set out to create. It became our core mission and still is to this day.

 

 

 

Shipping_Atari_7800_in_the_DeLorean.JPG

 

Taking Atari Orders to the Post Office on Tuesdays

 

Loading up the car with Atari orders to take to the Post Office or Pak-N-Ship

Every Tuesday I would ship out orders from our web store. Sometimes I would have to make 2 trips!

This site used to have it's own mailing address! It was at the Pak-N-Ship down the street from me

Orders like this were taken to the Pak-N-Ship where they would box them up w/ packing peanuts

Our web store ran from 2000-2004. We sold 2600, 7800, and Lynx, plus some Jag, 3DO & TG items

 

 

 

So all of this is floating around in my head, marinating in my mind while I'm simultaneously starting my new job at Toys "R" Us. I loved Toys "R" Us but hadn't spent much time there since Atari Lynx and TurboGrafx-16 left the store shelves. My high school years were a big void for Toys "R" Us, save the occasional video game purchase, or insanely huge Super Soaker cannon for high school or college hijinks. My first week at Toys "R" Us I was walking around the store trying to see the ghosts of the past, peering through time just a few years back to see the Atari items that were once on the shelf right in front of my face, and thinking of those that had come before me whose job it was to stock and sell 8-bit dreams. I finally stood on the other side of the cage and it was full of Game Boy Color, N64, Pokémon and PlayStation. Super Nintendo "Jr." systems were there along with a handful of SNES "Players Choice" Best Sellers. We had a pile of Sega Genesis 3 systems in the blue packaging. If I squint my eyes, on a good day I could see Atari Lynx, 7800, 2600, NES, Master System, TurboGrafx, Duo, and all the games on the cage shelves. The security cage was always messier than I had expected it would be. Every time I entered the cage I always crossed my fingers and held my breath in hopes of finding just one Lynx game or TurboGrafx TurboChip stashed away. A clearance item that had fallen behind a shelf, lost in a time capsule of messiness and a lack of interest by anybody but me.

 

The sudden popularity of Pokémon, which, don't forget, had essentially raised the aging Game Boy from the dead, had kickstarted the next generation of portable gaming. Majesco brought back the Sega Game Gear (it was $30!) after being absent from the shelves for several years and re-released about two dozen of the best Game Gear Games. It was my job to put these games in security clamshells and make room for them out on the floor. Game Gear wasn't Lynx, but it was in the ball park, and I chose some prime retail real estate out on the floor to stack these things nicely on the shelf. (If you go back and look at the picture of The Gooch, I placed the Game Gear setup right behind him where the radios were.) I even went so far as to print up some Toys "R" Us signage to place around "R"-Zone promoting the Game Gear's return. For under $50 you could buy a brand new in the box Sega Game Gear and get Columns and Lion King. This actually sold pretty well at the time thanks to my promotion, lots of parents with little pre-K aged children loved it.

 

The result of all this floating around my mind while launching the earliest incarnation of this website resulted in my "Atari Lifestyle" approach which still guides me today. I don't remember if the world was calling them "blogs" back then, most people called them a "Geocities page" or whatever was on Angelfire. But I got this idea in my head that the first article should feel like a National Geographic Explorer article. You know, the ones that would take you on archeological expeditions through the ruins of ancient Mayan civilizations, or on Safari, deep into the wilderness of Africa, capturing wildlife and evoking the feelings that come with it. That's what I wanted our site's blog to be (I still do) and my first idea was an "Atari Safari" through the wilderness of Toys "R" Us, hunting down whatever legacy could be found of what was left behind by Atari and the era it defined.

 

I started writing an article titled "The Toys "R" Us Affair: The Influence of Atari Today" and it became the first article on the site. (If you go back to the beginning of this thread and look at the first picture I posted, that was the graphic I had created for the blog entry, almost 20 years ago.) My co-workers in "R"-Zone had quickly become friends. Jared, Jeremy and Trevan were the first guys I worked with and were all avid gamers with an appreciation for  classic video games, to one degree or another. I probably couldn't shut up about Atari and classic gaming back then. I would live, eat, breathe classic gaming and I saw my new job at TRU as an extension of this. I think I got them pretty excited too. When I got my first digital camera that same week, it hit me how fun it would be to take it with me on an "Atari Safari" through the store, with Jared, Jeremy and Trevan as "guides" on our expedition to uncover the remnants of Atari's legacy. I asked if they'd like to be part of the article and they were all excited to help out.

 

After all, a decade or so before, Atari was the fastest growing company in American history and was a tremendous part of Toys "R" Us sales. You'd think that if something made an impression that big on the toy industry, you'd still be able to see remnants of it somewhere. I wish I still had the article. Unfortunately I can't find it and it appears to be long gone. The gist of it is captured in the pictures I've been sharing with you in this thread though. Hasbro owned Atari that year and there were a lot of releases like "Centipede for PC" that year. We collected a lot of the Hasbro/Atari PC games and put them into a pile, you can see Jeremy standing by them in that first image I posted on page 1 of this thread.

 

 

 

UltraRacer64.jpg

 

N64 Paddle Controller

 

This is the "UltraRacer 64" driving controller from Performance

Performance was another TRU house brand, like High Frequency and Pavilion

Trevan & I were walking around looking for Atari stuff and I saw this controller.

"Wow. That's just a Paddle controller with more buttons!" I said.

It's more of a driving controller, but the similarities are obvious.

If you take that early Atari aesthetic and extrapolate it forward, this is the result

 

 

 

Trevan_2.jpg

 

Trevan Showing Off Pac-Man & Galaga

 

Trevan is standing in our "PC Games & Strategy Guides" area showing off Pac-Man & Galaga

I've always said these early games are like board games for the TV screen

These games are like Checkers & Chess, they will always be around in some form

This picture was taken before the store was remodeled to the new floor plan

In the background is our co-worker Dong-Je putting back customer returns

Jenny, one of my best friends, worked at the front desk and was in love with him.

Dong was a jerk to her though, sadly. You'll get to see Jenny coming up.

 

 

 

More to come

:crystal_castles:

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Man, some things never change... Getting "Atari mail" always reminds me of the early days of having the web store. Packing and shipping Atari items and sending them off to their new homes. Stopped at the mail box today and received my first new "Atari mail" in some time. A nice package of Atari 2600 games from No Swear Gamer! Picked up Kangaroo, Pole Position, and Battlezone MIB, plus he was kind enough to throw in a bonus game for us to give away as a contest prize when Wednesday Night Atari Chat heats up again! THANKS NSG!

 

Remember the box cutters I said I brought home from "R"-Zone years ago? I did the honors of cutting open No Swear Gamer's package with one of them  ;)

 

 

 

atari_mail_from_nosweargamer_1.jpg

 

 

 

atari_mail_from_nosweargamer_2.jpg

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An interesting article here, which finds a link between declining birth rates and declining sales at Toys R Us:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/03/15/toys-r-uss-baby-problem-is-everybodys-baby-problem/?utm_term=.51e33ce635f8

Fascinating.  Because if it's true, it means it's just a pre-cursor for other stores that have an older demographic. 

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SELLING AN ATARI LYNX TO LANCE

 

As late summer gave way to fall, Toys "R" Us began hiring seasonal people to get ready for Christmas. I had come on as a regular employee and had just settled into my new job. I had gotten used to quiet Tuesday afternoons and high energy Saturdays in the video game department with Jared, Jeremy, Trevan and The Gooch. With the holidays looming, our staff literally tripled in one week. We had a lot of seriously shady people join the crew (more on that to come in another post...) and suddenly us established "R"-Zone guys felt kind of lost in the crowd, to an extent. In the shakeup we were joined by some new faces that we came to really like. These were two new seasonal guys helping out in "R"-Zone and other areas in the store: Jason, who was Jeremy's younger brother, joined us in "R"-Zone for the rest of the year. Along with Jason came his best friend Lance, who worked on a seasonal basis and ended up staying on full-time after the holidays had passed.

 

 

 

PigPen_(Peanuts).png

 

 

 

Jason and Lance were a year or two younger than I was, high schoolers filled with silly humor and an "A.V. Club" sensibility. I admit to being super skeptical of them at first, given the absolute shadiness of the new holiday hires who now made up 2/3 of our staff and had a penchant for popping pills and masturbating up in the gondolas behind the loading dock. Jason and Lance turned out to be pretty great guys.

 

Jason was kind of short, with a voice like Dale Gribble and an appearance like Pig-Pen. (I saw a customer insult Jason once by asking if he washed his hair with Crisco and corn chips. Mean, but that was surgically accurate.) Although Jason had a tendency to be distracted wandering around looking at Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, playing with Beyblades and not get any work done, he was a good person, friendly, and always interesting to work with. When January came I was sad to see the guy go.

 

Lance was lanky and tall, very intelligent, and always had a smile on his face. He and I got along extremely well. He knew a lot about video games and could appreciate different genres of gaming on their own terms. We had great conversations about classic video games, movies, pop culture, science, you name it. Lance would've made an excellent Atari I/O Member. He was around back when the site was brand new, I wish I could get ahold of him today and invite him into the Forums. Lance was a great hire for Toys "R" Us. His friendly, gentle giant disposition made him great with customers and especially little kids. He was knowledgable about games and toys and always happy to help.

 

When things were slow in "R"-Zone we were occasionally expected to help out in other worlds of the store. One Sunday in March, Lance and I were setting up pool toys and Easter stuff in the seasonal department. Out of the blue, Lance goes "Hey I checked out your website. You know, I always really wanted an Atari Lynx but I could never afford one and I could never find one. It had some really cool games. Have you ever played Blue Lightning? I always wanted that game as a kid." Well, I had Blue Lightning out in my car. I always kept a Lynx in the car with batteries, a cigarette lighter adapter, and a little stash of the best games. (I still do, there's one down in the car right now.)

 

Lance and I ended up talking about Lynx for the rest of the day. Lance had seen Lynx in the Sears Catalog and at Toys "R" Us as a kid and really wanted to get one. By the time he got anywhere close to affording one they were off the shelves. That day we went to lunch at the Wendy's in the parking lot of the shopping center where our Toys "R" Us was. We sat in there for our entire break dining on chicken nuggets and Frostees while I let Lance play as much Lynx as he could handle. Remember, even though the Atari Lynx was 10 years old at this point, it was still way ahead of most everything else and Game Boy Advance was still a year or so away.

 

 

 

Lance.jpg

 

Lance bought an Atari Lynx

 

Lance worked with us in "R"-Zone

He was also pretty obsessed with Blue Lightning

Notice the big "R"-Zone sign on the wall behind Lance

It's above the old cage door that survived the remodel

Also notice the security stanchion to the right

It has a good example of the TRU signs that we used to print

 

 

 

A few days would go by before I saw Lance again. When I did, he shot across the store, came up to me and started talking about Lynx again. I didn't say a word to him about the site having a web store. He was a friend and I didn't want to twist his arm. But he asked if he could buy one. "I don't really have much money but I really want to buy a Lynx from you, with the battery pack and a few games. Then I can buy more games later on." We ended up working out a "layaway"deal where he'd give me $30 from his paycheck every two weeks until he had caught up on his Lynx. I put together a really nice package for him: a brand new in the box Atari Lynx II with A/C adapter, Lynx Pouch, California Games, and batteries, plus Comlynx Cable, Sun Visor, Battery Pack, RoadBlasters, and of course Blue Lightning, and I gave him Power Factor for free. Everything was brand new and minty fresh.

 

Lance was absolutely thrilled with it. He too kept it in his car and brought it with him to the break room to play during lunch breaks. I can't tell you what a great feeling it was to quietly walk into the break room and see a few people standing around Lance watching him play Blue Lightning and pelting him with questions like "What is it, Game Boy?", or "Do we got that in the store?" and "That's an Atari?" It was fun having a friend to Comlynx up with and surf a few rounds on California Games. Lance ended up coming back for some more games later down the road. I remember him getting Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop and asking him "Are you sure?" haha.

 

 

 

blog_blue_lightning.jpg

 

 

 

Jeremy, our department head, eventually left "R"-Zone and Toys "R" Us altogether. He took a higher paying job as manager of the arcade in the mall across the street. This was a really nice mall, brand new and somewhat upscale. Even then, mall arcades were nearly extinct, but somehow we hadn't one and I really treasured the fact that we did. With Jeremy running the show there, it made for a great summer hangout during our off-hours. Jeremy hired his brother Jason to work with him at the arcade, and Lance and I would go hang out there for a little while during the day. Sometimes we were joined by Jared and The Gooch. But Lance was always there. Lance and I would play Skee-Ball for hours. I used to and give massages in the party room to a girl I liked. We all had a lot of fun times together. The arcade was located in the food court across from a Burger King. BK was running a promotion that summer where you buy a large "Wild, Wild West" cup with Will Smith on it and get unlimited refills. Jeremy let me keep the cup in the employee room in the arcade, I kept rinsing it out and going back to Burger King for Dr. Pepper refills all summer.

 

 

 

More to come

:crystal_castles:

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MORE SIGNS

 

Here are some more signs. These aren't very clear, they're screenshots from home movies from 25 years ago. One is a better shot of the TurboGrafx-16 kiosk sign that I had on my wall, and the other is a blurry image of an Atari Lynx retail shelf strip.

 

 

turbografx_kiosk_sign.jpg

 

TurboGrafx-16 Kiosk Sign

 

This was the plastic sign affixed to the top of the TG-16 kiosk at TRU

I tried to keep the kiosk but they would only give me the sign

This was years before I worked at Toys "R" Us

 

 

 

atari_lynx_shelf_strip.jpg

 

Atari Lynx Retail Shelf Strip

 

This is the plastic strip that goes along the edge of a retail shelf where products are displayed

This was a high quality white plastic strip with the Lynx logo spaced out every few inches

These were very common at Toys "R" Us and other stores

These strips also ran along the rows of yellow tickets that you'd pull to buy your game

 

 

 

toys_r_us_video_games.jpg

 

Example of Retail Shelf Strips

 

This isn't my picture, but it's a good example

You can see Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 shelf strips

They ran across the rows of game tickets in Toys "R" Us

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I have a soft spot for TRU.

I decided to hang this Lynx game box on the wall, simply for the TRU price sticker:

(I think I got this in a trade with RickR)

post-303-0-28766600-1522088787_thumb.jpg

 

Also, I'm happy you posted about the display cards. I built a nice collection of them, although I only plan on keep a few in the long run.

 

I would really like to find one of those strips they hung on, but for now, I McGyvered some plastic paper report binders with yarn to start hanging them on my wall.

post-303-0-32658800-1522088815_thumb.jpg

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You know, I completely forgot until now but I used to have a stack of display cards. They were for PlayStation and N64. I think they're long gone but I'll keep an eye out. Excellent post nosweargamer! Every time I'd print off one of those price labels I'd always wonder what they would have been for Lynx, what the SKN would've been on these, etc. etc. (On your Crystal Mines II cartridge it's 87-2210. Every product in the store has that magic number and was how we could look things up).

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TOYS "R" US AFTER HOURS

 

This photo was taken just after work in the Toys "R" Us parking lot. I'm with Jennifer, a girl I was seeing at the time. No store fixtures or video games in this picture, but it's a great slice of life from what a normal day was like working at Toys "R" Us. This is a perfect example of the blue/khaki work clothes that could easily transform into casual clothes after hours. On a day like this I probably would have worked from 8AM - 5PM, gotten off work and taken Jennifer to dinner somewhere near by. Our Toys "R" Us was located in the vicinity of a pretty nice mall, and there were lots of other stores and good restaurants in the area.

 

Life was much easier when we had the blue/khaki uniforms. These were our own clothes and we were comfortable in them. You could buy your clothes anywhere, they could be cheap, expensive, whatever, as long as you wore a light blue button up shirt and khaki pants. I really appreciated this because 1.) I'm pretty tall and it's challenging for me to find nice fitting clothes, store uniforms never really fit me very well, and 2.) blue/khaki can pass for regular clothes when we're off work, so it was super easy to wear a grey undershirt, unbutton the blue overshirt when we got off work and go about the day. We didn't have to keep work uniforms in our locker, it was easy to keep up with laundry, and it made days like these possible. When 5PM came it was easy enough to clean up "R"-Zone, punch out, and go on a date or do anything else. It helped make the job feel more like school than work. This all changed after the store concept change and the red/black uniforms came in.

 

 

 

IMG_6272.JPG

 

With Jennifer After Hours Outside Toys "R" Us

 

This is what we looked like at the end of a long work day

I'm still wearing my blue/khaki work clothes in this photo

It was easy to unbutton my shirt and go on with my day

The blue/khaki outfits were our own clothes from home

These were replaced by the red/black uniforms given to us by TRU

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It's one of those things....how often does the corporate office contact and ask their most valuable asset (front-line employees) about things instead of making changes arbitrarily?  And honestly, how many customers care or notice about things like uniform changes?  Not to mention the added expense to the company with no real benefit. 

Reminds me of a local store here in Oregon that got bought and then spent a ton of money changing the name of the store from "GI Joe's" to "Joe's".  Dumb, dumb, dumb....the old name had a long history in the area.  Wasted money for no benefit.  They were out of business within a few years.  (PS - GI Joe's is where we got our first Atari VCS.  The original box I still have has a GI Joe's price tag on it). 

Edited by RickR

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It's one of those things....how often does the corporate office contact and ask their most valuable asset (front-line employees) about things instead of making changes arbitrarily?  And honestly, how many customers care or notice about things like uniform changes?  Not to mention the added expense to the company with no real benefit. 

 

Reminds me of a local store here in Oregon that got bought and then spent a ton of money changing the name of the store from "GI Joe's" to "Joe's".  Dumb, dumb, dumb....the old name had a long history in the area.  Wasted money for no benefit.  They were out of business withing a few years. 

 that happened with Dominick's in IL in way after safeway brought us, before that the store had domicks brand items and then after safeway brought it

they replaced the Dominck's brand items with Safeway brand items,and they started to loose business.

thats not the reason they shut down the domincks the fact is that they were already be planned to be brought out by another local chain Jewel

and to avoid the monopoly the closed down Dominicks. but now Jewel is becoming like domicks

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Thanks for sharing your photos & memories Justin. Very cool stuff.

 

NSG, those cards are fantastic! I'd be interested in some when the time comes to purge.

 

I don't have many memories of TRU from when I was young. I didn't live near one. I was fascinated by the commercials & the only one that was in Connecticut was in Orange, which was not close. I know I never saw a road sign for Orange & I would ask my Dad how far it was and the answer was always "too far". When we would visit my cousins in New Jersey, we would drive by some and all I wanted to do was go inside.

 

Eventually one opened near me but I was around 13 or so. No more collecting Star Wars or GI Joe toys & Atari was gone too. Eventually the NES came around but I would find games at local department stores. When I started buying my own games around the time of the Genesis, I ended up doing most of my purchases at Electronics Boutique or Software Etc. at our mall.

 

That's not to say I didn't stop in. When the Power of the Force 2 Star Wars figures line emerged, I would hit Kay Bee at the mall & TRU after (it was just down the road). I camped out in front of the TRU for the midnight release of the Phantom Menace figures & stood in line for the first Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens. It was my go to stop whenever I was on the hunt for new Star Wars figures during the mid to late 2000s.

 

However, my most precious memories of TRU are thanks to my daughter. The main toy line we used to hunt for were My Little Ponies. It was others along the way too (Littlest Pet Shop, Cars die cast, etc.) but I'll always remember driving from TRU to TRU trying to find whichever one she wanted. I'm so glad that I have those memories.

 

I asked her if she was upset about TRU closing (she's almost 17 now) & she's not in the least. That's okay. I'm plenty sad enough for both of us. 

Edited by StormSurge

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StormSurge's story reminded me to think of my kids....I remember taking my son probably aged 4, to buy a Gameboy Color (we got the teal/blue color) and Elmo's ABC's.  The beginning of his gaming journey and love for Nintendo.  I'll have to ask  him if he remembers that day as vividly as I do.  And tons and tons of Lego sets. 

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