Target Smitty and the Last Crusade


Dr. Mrs. Ghostal was out of town over the weekend, so Saturday I hung out with Poesters PrfktTear and Ed Lee. We watched Green Lantern: First Flight (I thought it was fairly good, but not as good as Wonder Woman, and also, we’d just seen this story in an episode of Brave and the Bold) and played Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled, which I’m forced to admit has neither the play nor nostalgia value of the original game or even the XBLA release of the first TMNT arcade game.

In the evening, PrfktTear had to head out (though he had an encounter of his own later–perhaps he’ll post about it below) so Ed and I hit a couple of the local stores to see if there was anything interesting.

We hit Target first. I find big box stores like Target and Wal-mart less uncomfortable to peruse than Toy ‘R Us. As a 30-year-old guy with no kids in tow (as of yet, anyway), you have no excuse for being at TRU other than looking for toys; when cornered, your only real option is to say you’re looking for something for your nephew or whatever. (I usually go with “nephew” rather than “son,” for two reasons: I’m in the boys’ toys aisle, and people are much less likely to wonder why your nephew isn’t with you than your own kid.)

At Target, though, there’s so much other stuff for sale, you could have come in for anything–say, a power drill, or an HDTV–and ended up wandering through the toy aisle out of some mild nostalgia for your boyhood (a boyhood you’ve forgotten, no doubt, due to the numerous building projects, sporting events, drunken binges and sex-having you engage in as a “normal” adult male). But this particular day, Ed and I ran into someone who wasn’t interested in keeping up appearances.

He was a very tall, bearded fellow in a ratty black T-shirt and jeans, probably in his early-to-mid thirties. We’ll call him Target Smitty. Now, you’re probably already thinking scalper, but when I noticed the store had the big Revenge of the Fallen Devastator in stock, he turned to me and said I should probably get if I wanted it because it was being sold for a huge mark-up online. He then also pointed out that the Fallen himself was in stock.

So, nice guy, right? Sure, although in this day and age, voluntarily speaking to someone you don’t know in a public setting without being prompted–especially when you’re a bearded, disheveled guy in his thirties and the setting is a toy aisle in a department store–is a great way way to proclaim to the world that you are, unquestionably, a weirdo.

There’s more, though. See, Target Smitty was there with his mom. And they were slowly going through and looking at all the action figures. The mom seemed to be looking a bit more purposefully than the guy, so maybe she was trying to find a gift or something, but it made Target Smitty look for all the world like a ten-year-old just tagging along with his mom at the store while she shops for a birthday present for his cousin.

To be fair, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a mom indulging her son’s interest in his hobby, no matter how old he is–heck, Mumma Ghostal posts here all the time. But she and I haven’t gone toy shopping together in about twenty years.

Anyway, Ed and I left Target and went to, yes, Toys ‘R Us, where our freak flags would have to fly for all to see. There wasn’t much there (I’d picked up all the Ghostbusters Minimates there a week earlier, and now all that was left was a couple of sad, lonely Winstons).

As we were leaving Toys ‘R Us, we saw Target Smitty and his mom looking through the G.I. Joe movie display. What holy grail were you searching for with your mom, Target Smitty? Whatever it is, I hope you found it.


Comments now closed (27)

  • I was quite amused by Target Smitty.

    I've pretty much reconciled my feelings about being a 29 year old guy (yes I will cling on to that last year of my twenties) haunting the toy aisles.

    My logic is as long as I have a relatively normal life, look well presented and don't fit the cliche of the comic book guy, I don't care nor have to justify anything to anyone.

  • Heh. Joke's on me, then. Or on society, as it was actually plausible to me that you might actually have been challenged by a complete stranger for being in toy store…

  • With all respect to Poe, I kinda agree with Dark Angel. In my opinion, the people who actually have the stones to walk up to someone who's minding his own business in a toy store, and start hassling him about how "this is all supposed to be just kids' stuff" are not the sort of people whose opinion should hold much weight.

    A large number of customers in most of the toy stores I frequent are of legal age, if not well beyond it. They aren't looked down on as childish, or expected to be buying stuff for some kids. They're understood to be there to look around, enjoy themselves, and find stuff to add to their collections. Sometimes they even bring along groups of non-collector friends, just to show them around, and share the mutual enjoyment of random cool plastic stuff. And yes, this includes mass-market places like Toys R Us and their local equivalents.

    Even the stores themselves are aware of this. Most parent-and-kid teams will enter stores, look around, and decide to buy or not to buy, largely unassisted. It's the older collectors that toy store employees are now being trained to look after; these are the customers who will enter the store and immediately walk over to the toy owner, or the nearest clerk and go "hey, anything new?," or "have the new transformers come in?" If handled well, such conversations often end in increased customer satisfaction and store loyalty. Which leads to more adult customers deciding to make big reservations and purchases in such stores ("Hiya, could you reserve me a full case of the new GI Joe movie figs once they come out?" or "Oh, you're getting the Michael Jackson Thriller figure? Thanks for the heads up, would you mind putting my name down for one?"

    Soooo… Uh, my point? We have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of…. except for maybe paying 10 to 20 % too much for a newly-released Optimus Prime. (Sure, it was a Japanese version. It still hurts.)

    Target Smitty and mother: Good luck, whoever you are. Happy hunting.

  • That last post took WAY too long to finish. I'm only reading Poe's actual responses now. And THIS is what I gotta say:

    Uh, whoops.

    I was under the impression that someone actually DID try to pull it on you, and you were just adding the sarcastic humor after the fact. Sorry 'bout that.

    To explain myself, and my long, LONG post, what Poe described ACTUALLY happened to me once. A friend of my mom actually walked, kid in tow, and asked me that exact question. This happened, however, just as a 30something in a business suit walked in and asked the store owner about a new Hot Toys shipment. I just smiled at her, and started talking to her kid about the newest transformers.

  • I have the luxury of being an "atypical" action figure collector. I'm known more for my love of style, sports, partying, and women, so most people are surprised when I tell them I collect action figures. I won't say it never embarrasses me a little, but I'm too deep into the hobby to let it REALLY get to me. It would be nice to have some friends that shared the hobby, though.

    On a related note, I think the adult collector market is widely underestimated. I rarely see kids in the action figure aisle at TRU. More often I see adult males.

  • I take offense to being called Target Smitty! I told you my name was Newton!

    Just kidding. I once ran into a guy similar to this (Although not with his mom) at every store I hit. My GF just happened to be along for the ride and I couldn't help but feel like the guy was angry at me.

  • I enjoyed playing Turtles in Time: Re-Shelled but as Poe said, it doesn’t really hold the nostalgia of the original game. I have the original for SNES, and that was always fun to play. Not to say this wasn’t, but it seemed to turn into a button mashing fest. There were times I couldn’t even tell where my guy was. Fortunately they had a button which put a little bubble over my turtle’s head to let me know where I was. I enjoyed playing it again after all these years, but if I ever have the desire to play it again in the future, I’ll most likely just drag out my SNES instead of downloading it for the Wii (whenever it comes out for VC.)

    I had other obligations that night, so I ended up heading out, but on the way home I decided to swing by a TRU in search of the Ray/Marshmallow Man Minimate 2-pack. While I’m not looking to get into MM, I’m tempted by this set, but I was also looking for a fellow collector who hasn’t been able to find it either.

    While I’m in the aisle with Transformers/Star Wars/Star Trek figures, I notice this older woman on the phone obnoxiously having a conversation on the cell phone. I pretty much ignored her and moved on to the DC/Marvel aisle. As usual I returned to the TF aisle for one more swoop, and notice the same woman holding a Matchbox U.S.S. Enterprise. She sort of had a deer in the headlights look on her face, that was when she asked me for some help. She said her grandson was into Star Wars, and she was shopping for a birthday present. Of course, holding the ENTERPRISE, and I knew she really didn’t know what was what. So I tried to explain to her in the most lay terms the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. Hoping she hasn’t been living under a rock for the last forty or so years, I explained that Star Trek was Captain Kirk and “Beam Me Up Scotty” and Star Wars was Darth Vader and “Luke, I am your father”. I still don’t think she fully understood. She said she was going to buy a gift card anyways, but just wanted to get something for him to open. Of course, without knowing what the kid is into, its kind of tough to guess. She was also holding an Enterprise key-chain, so I pointed to the Star Wars key chains, so if she just wanted to get him something like that at least it’d be the right line.

    I kind of have to agree, as a 27-year-old with no kids, sometimes it can be a little awkward going into a TRU to look at toys. I don’t necessarily worry about being thought of being weird for being an adult looking at toys. I’m more concerned about someone thinking I’m some sort of pervert in there scoping out the little kids. I get kind of uncomfortable when I’m in an aisle and there are kids. Usually I’ll just skip to the next aisle and go back. On the off chance that I ever have an encounter with anyone, I have the nephew excuse all ready to go. I actually do have two nephews that I’ll occasionally shop for, Cameron is 3, and Logan is 7. I guess I do think looking at toys in Target and Wal-mart is less “uncomfortable” because you could be there for any number of reasons. At this point I really don’t care what people “think” but every so often you do get an akward glance.

  • I truly believe that it'll be akward if one acts or feels akward.

    You'll generally get what you put out, & most people do pick up on this.

  • 35 years old, proudly shop in a TRU for toys for myself, no qualms at all.

    I have kids, both girls, 3 and 5 (one is sat with me right now trying to perfect her Professor Farnsworth impression) so they occasionally tag along with me but get bored by the 'boys' toys so I invariably end up alone anyway.

    I couldn't give a monkeys what anyone thinks about me, staff, customer or otherwise.

    And, for the record, for my 35 birthday my mum bought me pretty much all of wave 6 of DCUC. She had no idea what the hell they were so I took her in the shop and pointed out the figures I wanted then said a breezy, cheery "THANKS MUM!" when the bemused cashier handed over the bags.

    Life's too short to worry about that sort of stuff!

  • …Poe? I say this as a friend: You worry entirely too much about what other people think. This vexes me particularly in light of the fact that I know you more intelligent than the vast majority of people I have seen in any TRU. If someone were to actually walk up to you and demand to know what you were doing in the store, you are not obliged to offer any answer other than that they kindly mind their own business.

  • @DA: Don’t confuse “being concerned about what other people think” with “amusing myself by lying to people.” 😉 John Gardner claimed telling pointless lies is a common habit of writers.

    I’ve never actually had to give this excuse or explain being at TRU to anyone. No one really cares. It’s just what I’ve always planned to say, if asked.

    I was, dare I say it, just trying to be funny. Evidently I failed. Geek stereotype humor is apparently dead and buried…I should keep that in mind for the book I’m working on.

    @Ed: That was the thing–Target Smitty did fit the cliche. I reiterate, though, he seemed like a nice guy.

  • Ditto on Mario & Fengschwing's comments above. I have no shame in perusing for the products I'd love to acquire – we all know its a cool & innocent hobby, doesn't harm anyone – and I personally wouldn't mind sharing my love for toys with the next generation (for those of us who have children, nieces / nephews). Still, if the old "buying form my kid / nephew" line gets old, I always simply tell other curious people, sales associates or some other nosy customers, that I COLLECT action figures & other various toys at certain times. I display most of them more nowadays – I USED to play with them before, but now I enjoy them more for aesthetic reasons. COLLECTING seems to be the more "mature" impetus that "playing" – but in the end it doesn't really matter because it's no one's business how we spend for & enjoy our hobbies……

  • This brought a smile, as I too have had the "buying for my nephew" cover in the back of my mind. I have even used it a couple of times with a chatty cashier. Although, I have more often fessed-up that the toys are, in fact, for me.

    I don't think anyone has ever looked at me as though I'm a predator – but I can be pretty oblivious. I suppose if ever confronted we could just say we were trying to pick-up single moms. Would that be less embarrassing than admitting to collecting toys? 🙂

    I also laughed because I have run into variations of Target Smitty a few times. But just as Dead Man Walking pointed out, I often see other adult males shopping for action figures. And most of them are nowhere near the stereotype (and are also lacking a child). When I do see kids in toy aisles, they are looking at Bakugan or Ben 10 – stuff like that – and only occasionally Star Wars or G.I. Joe. I don't think I have ever seen a kid so much as acknowledge DCUC or Marvel Legends.

  • I think it's really funny how our hobby sometimes invokes the same feelings as being "that guy" going to the room in the back of the video store.

    @Poe, I think Geek stereotype humor is alive and well. I mean you and I already have our little rogues gallery and we poke fun all the time. We have the hello Kitty girl, the magic card kids and now Target Smitty. Although the most nefarious for me is still the Hot Wheels guy. I personally embrace them as colorful aspects of what we do.

    I have always suspected the collecting community has a lot more of people like you and me than it lets on. People who if you didn't really get to know would never suspect had a little army of plastic men.

    The problem is the relatively normal ones get treated like the cliche ones and I think that has prompted some defensive feelings. I suspect just about every single on us has had to justify or take some ribbing about our hobby at some point or another and I'm sure our responses vary to an enormous degree. But at the end of the day if anyone told us to stop collecting things cause its "weird". We tell them to go "$#@!" themselves.

  • I never care what anyone says at the store when I wander through. If they have a problem with it then they can go to hell. It's my life, my money, and my time so I'll do what I want.

    I'm often at Wal-Mart at 5:30 or 6 am and check the toy aisle. It's a great place to walk at that time of day (no crowds, AC, and I can see what's new) and many of the employees know who I am.

    Geek? Sure, I'm a geek. But I have no problems with it and have a steady job, a wife, and take showers every day.

  • From now on, whenever I go toy hunting, I’m going to wear a full business suit.

    …somehow, that would be even more wrong than disheveled guy…

    I think it’s really funny how our hobby sometimes invokes the same feelings as being “that guy” going to the room in the back of the video store.

    I don't think it is that…it is the fear of being "that guy" the disheveled man with his mom…or "that guy" the Hot Wheels collector who is standing outside Target at 0759 in the morning. Or "that guy" with the poor hygiene buying every Boba Fett in the store…none of us wants to be "that guy"…

    …statistically, however, at least a few of us are "that guy", on some level, whether we realize it or not…

  • @Dark Angel

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I was merely pointing out a funny, if not extreme, comparison.

    To me it was more about that general self conscious "feeling" of you know you're doing something other people are kind of judging you on. Not so much about what you're actually doing.

  • In Smitty's defense, sometimes, when common interests are shared, you can't help it.

    I don't look for as much new stuff as I used to, but since my whole family collects things, we'll often end up at the same toy show or flea market. Even though we're looking for different things, we'll inevitably cross paths.

    In April, I was at a toy show in Delaware, and I was about to buy a boxed Thundercats plush Snarf, just an awesome piece I've wanted for a long time. So as I'm waiting to talk to the dealer and negotiate the price, my mom comes up and I tell her I'm going to buy it. She picks it up, starts fluffing its hair, rubbing its nose, etc. She was doing the things she normally does to inspect old stuff animals, but believe me, this was very embarassing to watch.

    Thankfully, when you're surrounded by toy geeks with a general lack of social skills, it really doesn't matter.

  • A few days ago I was in the toy section at Target and a rather attractive woman walked by and said hi as I was looking for an Ejector on the pegs. I said hi back and didn't think much of it. When she got to the end of the aisle, she turned back and asked me what an 8 year old would like. I am certainly not hip to what the kids are into these days, so I went with my favorite, Star Wars figures. We both went back to looking at the shelves, and then she asked whether I am into toys. I told her that I am, and she asked if I've ever been to a certain comic shop, which it turns out that her husband has bought and re-opened under a new name. They're selling toys too, whatever.

    Anyway, my point is that I've never felt particularly concerned about what other people think of my toy collecting. When she asked about me being interested in toys, it didn't even cross my mind to use an excuse. Granted, this isn't something I'd bring up as a topic of conversation on a first date or something like that, but I enjoy the hobby.

  • Toy stores and gentlemen's clubs, both great places to pick up single moms! 😉

  • It seem as the way Poe wrote it, was taken out of my personal life. He just described his story as i was there. Toy Collectors like myself are awkward, we do weird things, but i feel like being a creep at a Toy Store staring at toys is better than doing drugs, being a drunk, or a lawyer or something.

    (just kidding about the lawyer)

    By the way I had the nephew story since i was 11.(my niece was born when i was 10)

    But I take little Ethan along since he was old enough to appreciate toys.

  • I remember my brother taking me to see movies like Indian in the Cubboard. I wonder if he wanted to see the movie and I was just a cover for him! He took me to Child World after one such occasion and I picked out a TMNT Mutagen Man! =)

    I haven't taken my nephew to the toy store yet, I'm kind of afraid that he'd pick out something that costs like $100 and then when I explain that I didn't have the money he'd cause a scene! I hate to say it he is a bit of a spoiled kid, not to say he's rotten, but, I'm sure as with most kids, at his age he's getting stuff that I didn't get until I was a teenager or older!

  • The only truly unusual experience I've ever had in a toy store was around Christmas trying to help a couple who randomly turned to me and asked me in a combination of Spanish and broken English to help them pick out "bad guys" in wrestling figures for their kids (I used to collect Jakks figures so I occassionally still check to see what they've put out).

    Why was it awkward? Because every time I handed them a heel character, the mom kept insisting he was too handsome to be a bad guy.

    After about three or four minutes I handed them The Great Khali and told them he ate children. They seemed satisfied with that.

  • Every other country I've been to, people are usually friendly if you talk to them point-blank, they don't look at you like a weirdo. Maybe it's because people in less-developed are just looking for something to do because they can't buy 70-inch TVs to entertain themselves, I don't know- oh he was with his mom!? Weirdo!

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