We interrupt this Christmas due to technical difficulties
A trio of tech toys fizzled out for some kids on the big day.
***Updated with responses from Spin Master & PullString***
It was one of the hottest—and hardest to find—toys for Christmas this year—the Hatchimal, a robotic egg that hatches into a fluffy, interactive creature to play with your child.
But a number of parents report the Hatchimal didn’t hatch, leaving some kids in tears on Christmas Day. It joined the Furby Connect as one of the holiday tech disappointments this year.
“Very disappointed in the hatchimal… the dead hatchimal on Christmas morning,” wrote a parent on Facebook. “After all the effort put in to purchase one of these and see the excitement on my daughter’s face then tears when nothing will happen…. not so merry.”
Parents posted about non-hatching Hatchimals on the Hatchimals Facebook page.
The non-hatching Hatchimal and the Furby Connect that would not connect were not the only tech toys that brought trouble for parents on December 25.
The Barbie Hello Dreamhouse—a voice-activated dollhouse with its own app—also earned a share of holiday complaints.
“We are another household with a 5 yr old who is upset about constant ‘error code 18’ issue,” wrote one family on Twitter. “Is there a resolution on the horizon?”
“Need help. Have 2 sad girls unable to play with their Hello Dream House,” tweeted another mom. “It’s unfortunate. And the ones who are affected are our kids. It’s just not ok :(.”
Hatchimal toy. Image via Pixabay.
Looking for answers
The wave of complaints comes at a time when many companies reduce staff for the holidays.
Some parents received no answer to their cries on social media on December 25, though others got answers right away—with varying success.
“Contacted CS [customer service] and unfortunately they can’t assist,” tweeted @kookie_toro to Mattel. “Asked me to wait 2 wks and call again. Disappointed.”
“Hi! If you are still receiving errors please try turning the house on & off. DM [direct message] us for further help if needed!” Mattel replied.
“Unfortunately, it still does not work,” @kookie_toro said.
“We will be happy to help you further. Just send us a Direct Message,” Mattel responded.
Parents reported error messages with their Barbie Hello Dreamhouses on Twitter.
What went wrong?
The companies behind the three toys have not shed much light into why their interactive playthings went silent, jammed up or struggled to stay connected at Christmas.
Mattel has not yet responded to Archer News’ inquiry, but ToyTalk, also known as PullString—which provides some of the technology in the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse—sent this statement to customers on the holiday, reported Mashable.
“Today, a small number of users are experiencing service issues due to the extremely high volume of demand we’ve seen with the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse,” the statement said.
“Our engineers have identified and resolved many of these issues, however intermittent problems may still exist as we continue to increase capacity,” the statement continued. “If you’re still experiencing issues, we recommend that you power cycle the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse by turning the Dreamhouse off for 15 seconds and then powering it back on.”
Mattel shows this ad on for the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse on its Barbie site.
Update: PullString sent a statement to Archer News:
“On Christmas morning, a small number of users experienced service issues due to extremely high volume of demand we’ve seen with the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse. Our engineers have identified and resolved these issues. We are committed to ensuring the consumer experience with Hello Dreamhouse and that all our products meet consumer expectations. We apologize for the inconvenience and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Families found a message from Spin Master, the company that makes Hatchimals, on the Spin Master website.
The message said the company has increased the number of customer service representatives and extended hours during the holidays.
It also included a video about troubleshooting your toy, and these tips for rescuing a failing Hatchimal:
—Changing the batteries which may have worn out during the Hatching process
—Turning the plastic ‘locks’ located underneath the egg 90 degrees and pulling them out from underneath the egg will activate the hatching process
—If your Hatchimal is falling asleep while you are holding it, simply put it down for a minute or two before picking it back up to wake it
—Spin Master’s vision is to make life more fun. It is our priority to ensure our consumers are happy with our products and we are determined to work through and resolve any challenges you may be experiencing. Your patience is greatly appreciated at this busy time.
—Spin Master’s Customer Care team can be reached at email@example.com.
Some customers complained on Facebook about trouble getting through to customer service during the holidays.
Update: Spin Master sent a statement to Archer News:
“Spin Master is committed to making life more fun for children around the world with all of our products. While the vast majority of children have had a magical experience with Hatchimals, we have also heard from consumers who have encountered challenges. We are 100% committed to bringing the magic of Hatchimals to all of our consumers. To ensure all queries receive a timely response, we have increased the number of Consumer Care representatives, extended our hours, and increased the capacity for callers in the queue to help prevent calls dropped due to the holiday volume. We have also created troubleshooting tips on Hatchimals.com and a video with the Top 5 Things To Know About Hatchimals: https://youtu.be/didliyZclcQ.”
“We are committed to doing everything possible to resolve any consumer issues. We sincerely apologize and thank everyone who is experiencing an issue for their patience,” the statement continued. “Spin Master’s Consumer Care team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
More than 10,000 people searched the Internet for answers on why the fuzzy robotic buddy Furby Connect would not connect or stay connected on December 25, 26 and 27, landing on an Archer News story about the Furby connection issue.
Hasbro sent a statement about the Furby Connect to Archer News.
“We are committed to delivering fun and engaging play experiences to all consumers who received Hasbro toys for the holidays, including Furby Connect,” Hasbro said in an e-mail. “There may be a number of factors affecting connectivity, such as the specific device being used, and consumers are advised to contact the Hasbro Consumer Care team to help troubleshoot any challenges: http://www.hasbro.com/en-ca/worldwide.”
The company also sent this link for customers in the U.S.
Furby Connect. Image: Business Wire.
Hit or miss?
Social media posts show plenty of families did enjoy their Hatchimals, Furby Connects and Barbie Hello Dreamhouses on Christmas.
But for some parents, high-tech toys did not deliver on the big day.
“I think we’ve got to be realistic about tech, like everything else, has some potential problems and doesn’t always work,“ said Doug Jacobson, director of the Iowa State University Information Assurance Center.
For now, families may not know what caused their toy troubles—glitches, manufacturer mistakes, or perhaps parent or child errors.
Even if families are at fault, Jacobson said manufacturers should do a better job of preventing errors on the customers’ part.
“Software vendors use that cop-out all the time, that the users just don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “If the users can walk themselves into a mistake, then you didn’t design your software right.”
Some parents tweeted about trouble getting help with their tech toy issues.
Still, Jacobson said parents may need to adjust their approach to these kinds of high-priced, high tech toys.
“Maybe it’s setting down the expectations with the kid,” he said.
“That’s hard to do,” he added. “They expect this stuff to work. They’re used to technology working, for the most part. But a lot of that tech they’re used to working has been long-standing, proven technology.”
“I have a very upset daughter this morning!” a parent wrote on Facebook. “The one thing she has asked for since October and it doesn’t work. Trying to explain that it’s broken and we will try to find a new one is a nightmare. She feels like Santa let her down.”
Setting lower expectations may be hard to do, but could also avoid tears on Christmas Day.
“There’s all sorts of things that can go wrong with technology,” Jacobson said.
Featured image: Hatchimal via Pixabay