By Jenny Hills
New York City, N.Y. (Knight-Rider) — Ever since the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, the greediest among us have sought to profit from this all-too-real tragedy. For the lowest of the low this catastrophe is nothing more than fodder for the newest and most insidious of marketing ploys. Whether by capitalizing on the renewed patriotism of many Americans or the unaccustomed paranoia that grips us all, some individuals and companies are showing that nothing is more important than the almighty dollar, not even the deaths of some 3,000 innocent Americans.
We’ve all heard the stories, from the alleged price gouging of American flags and patriotic memorabilia by one of the nation’s leading discount retailers to Soldier of Fortune-style internet sites and Army surplus stores hawking gas masks, water purifiers, and other survival gear with a fervor not seen since the days of Y2K. But one company is taking profiteering to an all-new low, angering retailers and consumers around the nation. And worse of all, they’re targeting children.
Slated to be released on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Diversified Solutions, Inc. plans to ship the first product in its line of building block toys — the Twin Towers Terror toy set.
According to officials at the company, the play set will allow children to construct their own miniature World Trade Center, including Towers One and Two. The product also comes with two mock jumbo jets covered in flames, complete with a terrorist figurine for each plane. And perhaps, worst of all, the hijackers are smiling.
But scores of parents and retailers aren’t. In fact, they’re calling for a boycott of Diversified Solutions’ entire line.
“This is by far the most insensitive product I have ever seen in my life and the worst example of greed that I have ever come across,” says STD Schwartz spokesperson Lisa Tenenbaum. “The makers of this toy should be tried for treason.”
Of particular concern, Tenenbaum says, is the fact that the Twin Towers set, designed for children five and up, encourages children to not only build the two buildings and the two planes, but to re-enact the incident, “again and again, for hours of fun.”
Tenenbaum believes that many young children are unable to understand the enormity of this tragedy and the playset will only further confuse them. Even worse, she says, they may also learn to identify with the terrorists.
“It sickens me to think this, but what’s to stop a child who plays with this from becoming the next Osama bin Laden?” a noticeably shaken Tenenbaum says. “Think of the hundreds, the thousands, of potential terrorists this toy could create.”
While STD Schwartz has vowed its stores will never carry the toy, as has several of the nation’s leading retailers, there is no way authorities can stop the toys from being shipped. Even worse, many retailers may not even be aware of the product is coming their way.
Despite these complaints, the makers of the toy defend their product, even going as far to proclaim the toy’s merits. “I would do anything for America’s children, and in this case, I’m trying to help them cope. I want to give them back a sense of control. I want them to know they too can pick up the pieces and move on with their lives,” says Diversified Solutions CEO Wyatt Duvall.
When asked about accusations that his company is trying to make money off of a nation’s tragedy, Duvall says, “If we wanted to make some money off of this, we could slap an image of the Twin Towers and the words ‘Never Forget’ on every teddy bear and baby doll we put out, but we’re not. We’re patriots.”
Diversified Solutions also intends to ship a collapsible desktop mockup of the Twin Towers for office workers.
“I see this as a great stress reliever,” Duvall says. “Let’s say you’ve just realized that you’re two weeks behind on some report and it’s due the next day. Well, what do you do? You take your hand and bring it down on top of the two towers. I guarantee you won’t be thinking your life sucks after that. It helps put everything in perspective.”
Duvall adds, “And the best part is, once you lift your hand, the Twin Towers pop right back up. Now that, my friends, is American resolve.