We frequently cover the popular products in Amazon’s “Toys & Games” category. We think it is important that parents know in advance what their kids are liable to start begging for at any moment. All these months later, some toys that we covered, such as the plushie octopus and the “fidget bubble pop” continue to sell. It is perhaps because we are so in tune with what is typically popular in this category that make the current trends so worrisome. Instead of a fun item made for a child’s amusement, the #1 bestselling product right now is a pack of disposable face masks in pastel colors. A pack of plain black masks is in the #3 spot.
Obviously, our readers don’t come to We Know Products for public health commentary, but it is impossible to view this as anything other than deeply depressing. Here we are in, well into year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, and parents are more likely to buy cheap throwaway masks than anything that could actually be construed as a “toy” or a “game.”
What a sad state of affairs. It is even sadder when you consider the fact that Amazon put Toys “R” Us out of business, so to the extent that people are buying toys, they are buying them on Amazon.
With the new school year starting in the next few weeks, parents seem to be scrambling to comply with the new mask mandates for children, which have come seemingly out of the blue ever since the malicious Delta variant began to rear its ugly head.
Folks, I am begging you, buy your kids some real toys! They don’t even need to be anxiety-relieving toys like the squishies or bubble pop. Just get them something fun to take their minds off this never-ending coronavirus nightmare.
I know that is a difficult task given the fact that their friends faces will always be covered with the aforementioned masks, but it your duty as parents to do anything that you can to give your kids “normal” lives. Get them Legos, get them foam rocket launchers, get them Baby Yoda. Whatever you do, make sure they have more outlets for creativity and enjoyment than simply accessorizing their masks with their school outfits.
Do Not Buy These Loafers
In Amazon Unbound, Brad Stone’s essential reading on the continued rise of the e-commerce behemoth, there is a particular line that stuck out to me. Before Amazon opened the floodgates by allowing Chinese sellers to join the platform en masse, the company did a survey to see what was more important to its consumers: quality or price. The results: “And it turned out that plenty of people will buy dirt cheap sneakers on the internet, even if they suspect the shoes are not going to last that long.”
This was my thinking when I purchased this pair of loafers from a brand called Jousen. I recently moved into the top floor of an apartment building, and I wanted a pair of slip-ons I could quickly don if I needed to go down to collect a package from the mailroom or something. Since I did not plan to be walking in them more than, I don’t know, 100 feet at a time, I did not want anything expensive. Jousen obviously spends a lot of money on Amazon ads, because as I dug through the results it showed up on every page. And at under $40 it was easily the cheapest.
For $40, I was not expecting a lot. I figured with how sparingly I intended to wear them, I could hopefully get a few month’s worth of use. Then when they inevitably fell apart, I’d spend another $40 on a new pair.
That is not what happened. Admittedly, I have owned these loafers for nearly two months and they have yet to fall apart. And I do not suspect they ever will. Because I do not foresee a world in which I put them on my feet ever again. These are by far the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever worn—I can only equate it to wearing a hairshirt on your feet. Every step I took in them felt like punishment for some crime I didn’t even know I’d committed.
While I shouldn’t have been surprised that a cheap product from a no-name Chinese brand was shoddy quality, I will admit that I was. I know there is a culture gap between what the Chinese make for an American audience and what Americans actually use, but here I thought wearing shoes was a universal experience. Silly me.
The Jousen slip-on loafer has over 1,800 customer reviews. Reading through them, I can only assume the vast majority are fake. Anything with the word “comfortable” in it is easy to disregard out of hand. There is at least one review, however, which I have no doubt is genuine:
Nice and lightweight, but the interior cushioning is lacking, feels like walking of a cement floor, barefooted. Poor arch support, and heel is higher than toe area so you feel if you are walking downhill.
I could not have said it better myself. That is exactly what it feels like—walking downhill on a cement floor in bare feet. If you believe that sensation is worth $40, then by all means purchase your very own pair of this modern torture device. If not, just spend the extra $30 and get Rockports.
Cotton Totes Are Out
Ladies, it is time to dispose of your beloved cotton tote bags. So says the New York Times in a scathing indictment of the environmental impact of these status symbols, which New Yorker types have used for years to signal to the world that they care about that sort of thing. In an article titled “The Cotton Tote Crisis,” the paper of record informs us that you need to use a cotton tote bag a whopping 20,000 times in order to offset the harm it does the environment. Helpfully, they do the math to let us know that amounts to using it every single day for 54 years!
So, think twice before you donate to yet another telethon with the aim of adding to your tote collection. You can still benefit from the peace of mind that comes with carrying your things a reusable bag, but you absolutely do not want one made out of cotton. It is time to switch to a clear vinyl bag:
Clear American Flag Tote Bag — $14.99
All right, so you’ll have to switch out the NPR logo for an American flag, but all things considered it is a trade worth making. Made of vinyl and nylon, you do not have to worry about the global harm done by the cotton industry. Ironically, you will technically be returning to the plastic bag you shunned for the organic material in the first place, but because these bags are reusable you are no longer contributing to the rapidly accumulating waste on our shared planet.
These tote bags are the latest product offerings by Expersion, which sells the clear U.S. flag backpacks as well. With modern security measures, more and more situations are requiring clear bags in order to enter—no longer just schools, but also sporting events, concerts, museums, and other public events. Buying one now can save you hassle down the line. Furthermore, as long as our society continues to be ravaged by COVID-19, it helps that these totes are incredibly easy to clean and sanitize.
Since cotton is out, it is time to make a change. Let Expersion help.
The $18 Funky Monkey Shoes Did Not Live Up To The Hype
At the beginning of summer, I was in dire need of a new pair of sandals and as usual, I was not looking to spend a fortune. All I knew was that I wanted something similar to the lightweight, waterproof Birkenstock EVA sandals, but cheaper. So my search for the best Birkenstock dupes began, and it wasn’t long before I was buying a pair of Funky Monkey sandals off Amazon. Lots of people on TikTok swore by these sandals—some had even said they were better than their Birkenstocks! That, in addition, of course, to the 4-star rating and 42,000+ customer reviews on Amazon, gave me ample reason to buy a pair. Although these shoes come in 45 different colors, I decided to keep it simple and went with black.
I was so excited for my sandals to come in, which of course, took way longer than expected (smh, Amazon Prime). By the time they finally arrived, my expectations were so high that there was no doubt in my mind that these were going to be my new favorite summer sandals. The second I pulled the shoes out of the box, I was struck with utter disappointment: They looked way too big and had an unpleasant stench to them. The product description claims they are true to size, as do the majority of the reviews, so obviously I didn’t think twice about ordering my normal shoe size (which, by the way, is a women’s 6). Unfortunately, these fit more like a size 7. This wasn’t the end of the world, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for either.
(Note: prior to purchasing these shoes, I knew that the EVA material fit differently, but I had tried on a pair of Birkenstock’s EVA sandals in my size before, which fit well, so I assumed these would be very similar.)
At the end of the day, I reluctantly decided to keep them because I knew I could make them work. The smell eventually faded and while I don’t wear them as much as I had originally planned, I figured they were better than nothing. That is, until they gave me blisters on both of my feet. This was frustrating to say the least, after I was already disappointed by them. Consequently, I now have a pair of clown shoes that give me blisters. Fortunately, they were only $18, so it’s not the biggest loss ever, but I most likely won’t be wearing these without socks anymore, and I certainly will not be purchasing a pair of these shoes again.
All things considered, I’d give these shoes a disappointing 2-star rating. I won’t tell you not to buy them because my opinion and experience with these sandals are quite unpopular, but prepare yourself for disappointment. Honestly, if Birkenstock dupes are what you’re looking for, you might be better off spending the extra $27 on the real deal.
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