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[00:00:00]

In 1978, Linda Kaplan Thaler was a struggling theater kid when she took a job at a big advertising agency, and I realized as much as I like performing, I actually liked eating a bit more.

[00:00:12]

Because of her musical background, Linda was always trying to write jingles for the company's accounts, but that wasn't exactly what the clients wanted.

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Everybody would go, you know, we're not going to sing songs about you, dishwashing detergent. We're not going to say whatever it was. They said we're not singing songs about it.

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And then the agency landed an account. Linda could sing songs about Toys R US.

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And I said, great, now I'm going to write a jingle for it, because if the kids sing the jingle, the parents will be hearing our advertising constantly.

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If I put a lot of copy points into the jingle, Linda got a starting point from her boss, Jim Patterson, a.k.a. James Patterson, a.k.a. the best selling author with like 300 million books to his name. Before he was writing thrillers and mysteries, he worked in advertising and he had written this line for their new clients. I don't want to grow up.

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I'm a Toys R US kid, and it was Linda's job to riff on that. But you couldn't write a kid's song on adult instruments, so she found a toy piano, got on the ground and plunked down some notes.

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I guess it was my acting experience like be the child, feel the child, get into the child.

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Extremely method. Christian Bale would be proud and it totally worked.

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So there I was with my toy piano going I don't want to grow up to.

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And I wrote the song, which was nothing more than 16 bars of copy points. I don't want to grow up on Toys R US, kid. They got from bikes to trains, the lowest price.

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Nice kid. Thank you, Andy. So I guess we're kind of worried about what could be could be one case for why the hijacking, naturally the clients loved it.

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No one could stop singing Linda's song, and that's exactly what they wanted. Almost as soon as the jingle started airing around the country, Linda knew they had a hit on their hands.

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I mean, as much of a hit as a corporate jingle can be, I hear this little boy running going, I don't want to grow up at Toys R US, kid. And his mother starts yelling at him and she says, If you don't stop singing that damn song, you are never going to get to school.

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Get on the bus already. I want to go. If you are around in the 80s, 90s, there's a strong chance you heard the Toys R US jingle. It was the very definition of an earworm.

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And no, I won't sing it for you, but I will tell you that the song remains one of the world's catchiest, most recognizable jingles. There have been more than 100 versions of the song, which was originally arranged by Linda's now husband, Fred Thaler.

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There's one featuring adult singing instead of kids and one sung by the company's undulate mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe.

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You just said the magic words to look what you did. And the jingle has been sung in a bazillion languages, including Japanese.

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All of this is to say this jingle had some legs, Linda went on to create the Aflac duck campaign and the Herbal Essences commercials featuring women having climactic experiences while washing their hair.

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But it was the Toys R US jingle that has stuck around the longest, even if the company didn't. In twenty seventeen, the largest toy store in the world filed for bankruptcy during bankruptcy court proceedings. The company's lawyers played Linda's song as proof of the brand's durability. But not even a sticky jingle or a beloved giraffe could save Toys R US from the private equity firms that owned it. I'm Lauren and from American Public Media and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

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This is a spectacular failures. The show where we have failure over for a game night, even though it always gets super competitive and totally ruins the vibe.

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Charles Lazarus was nearing the end of his military service after World War Two when he noticed something. Everybody I met in service said they were going to go home and get married and have children.

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That's Lazarus from a 2016 documentary his family commissioned. Lazarus figured if all these service members were returning home to sweethearts and waiting wives, there was going to be some serious baby making happening and serious baby making meant opportunity for the entrepreneurial sort. Basically, Lazar's predicted the baby boom. No big deal.

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I didn't anticipate to some extent, I had no idea where it would go to. I thought there would be a baby boom. I had no idea of the size of what the toy business can be.

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After a tour in the Army, Lazarus returned home to Washington, D.C., to figure out next steps. His parents ran a bicycle shop and the family lived upstairs. One day, the enterprising Lazarus asked his father if he could take over a corner of the bike shop to sell baby furniture, and he came up with a catchy name for it Children's Bargain Town.

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They had everything crib's highchairs, bathing things, strollers, dressing tables, well, almost everything.

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Somebody came in one day and said, How about a toy for my baby? I looked out of the. What do you mean a toy? Well, you know, to play with in the highchair or in the playpen or in the stroller. So the first toys we sold were baby toys, all baby toys.

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This was a huge aha moment for Lazarus. Toys were repeat purchase category. Kids can never have enough toys. Right. Plus, toys have a way of getting destroyed or lost. So the demand is seemingly infinite. After just a few years selling baby furniture and toys out of the family bike shop, Lazar's leveled up. He opened the first children's supermarket and realized almost from the beginning that he could turn that seasonality of the business that other people were operating in to his advantage that Sidney Leyden's and Stern, she's the author of Toyland The High Stakes Game of the Toy Industry and what she means by seasonality is this.

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Before Lazarus came along, places that sold toys primarily special to mom and pops and department stores, focused their sales on the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Charles Lazarus figured out that he could carry a wider selection year-round. And if he did that and he was buying both off season and in larger quantities, he could get better prices from the manufacturers. So then he could charge lower prices to his customers and pull them away from the department stores.

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Lazarus's idea to sell toys all year round was a total game changer, but so was his idea to give toys their very own supermarket. Now, this was a novel concept. Back when the first one opened, there was no such thing as a big box store in the 1950s. Lazaro's basically invented the concept that either makes him a hero or a harbinger of doom, depending on how you feel about big box stores. Eventually, Lazarus grew his business to four stores.

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And what were those stores called? Toys R US, obviously. But fun fact. The store was originally called Toys R US a r e, but apparently the name wouldn't fit on the sign.

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So a r e was abbreviated to the letter R and Lazarus famously insisted that the R be written backwards as if a kid wrote it, because we all know kids can't spell good and people would call and write them to tell them that it was backwards and didn't they want to know that so they could fix it?

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Thanks, Richard. That's super helpful. Laser's his first toy stores didn't quite look like the big box stores of today was snaking aisles and distinct departments. It was more of a jumble sale of products tossed into a cavernous space. The early stores didn't even have shelves, but it worked. Lanson Stern says it wasn't just the warehouse concept that was clever. It was where they were located.

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He did not put them into malls. Now malls are developing around this time. He put them near malls and near major highways so he could negotiate. And he was a tough negotiator. Better real estate costs for the stores so he could have big stores that were freestanding that had their own parking lots so that customers wouldn't be discouraged from buying unwieldy packages and trying to get them out into their cars.

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Not only was Lazarus pretty savvy with real estate, but he also had a knack for merchandising or how and where the products were displayed in the stores. Along with all the toys in his toy supermarket, Lazarus also sold discount diapers and put them away at the back of the stores. So mom shopping for low priced diapers and you know, it was only moms at the time would have to pass by racks and racks of toys and the little squirt toddling along beside her would want every single thing he saw along the way.

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Shopping is manipulative, Yol and Lazarus was a master manipulator. If you come to us to buy toys, nobody makes you buy a toy of all. Over the years I have tried to teach children to say I need it rather than I want it.

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But it wasn't just merchandising that influenced kids to need, need, need. I need it so bad I'm going to die if I don't have it. We can thank the rise of television advertising for that.

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Before that, parents and adults determined what toys were going to be bought. If there was advertising at all, it tended to be print or maybe a tiny bit on local television.

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But then once Mattel decided to advertise on TV on the Mickey Mouse Club, it changed the whole landscape.

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And for the first time, the toy manufacturers were going over the heads of the parents directly to the children. So the children generated demand.

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So now little Susie and little Timmy were driving the toy market, not mom and dad and mom and dad, liberated from the Depression era cheapness of their parents, bought and bought a lot with TV advertising came the emergence of must have hot toys.

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And often those toys did something they beeped or boobed or otherwise played well on TV, like the chatty family of dolls and charming little.

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Character, she can be ridiculous when you pick out cream or talk scary, OK. Oh my God.

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OK. German jadi was a straight up freak, but I appreciate how totally weird that toy was. Joiner's was bullied by the emergence of TV advertising in the early 60s, but then the retailer hit a rocky patch. Lazarus sold his four stores to accompany the later went bankrupt, but Lazarus eventually regained control of the whole operation and steered Toys R US right into the capitalist dream of the 80s.

[00:11:06]

Bigger than ever, the 80s were gangbuster years for Toys R US, and the company had Star Wars in part to thank for that from Star with shipping large sized Darth Vader with his like shit and chanting and rebeccah defender Luke Skywalker.

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You know, you're making toys based off movies and some that have been done before. But Star is such a huge hit that basically sort of changed the industry.

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That's Matt Townsend. He's a reporter for Bloomberg News and has been covering retail for years.

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I mean, there is an abundance of toys based off an abundance of movies and television shows made for kids. And it just keeps growing and growing and growing every year, really their infinite moneymaking possibilities.

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When TV and movies combined, forces with the toy industry and Toys R US reap the benefits of all those licensing deals. By 1983, the company was doing more than a billion dollars in sales and Lazarus to become one of the highest paid CEOs in the country. By the middle of that decade, Toys R US has expanded into the international market and branched out domestically with a spinoff franchise called Kids R US, which sold discount children's clothes and short Toys R US was an absolute beast.

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I mean, it's basically considered the first what they call category killer, which sounds totally ominous.

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But that was the shift we saw in retail, where they're basically making big, big, big stores with huge selection.

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And that forced a lot of small shops and even some bigger retailers out of the toy business.

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You know, department stores used to sell a lot of toys. They stopped selling them and just sort of gave up on the business because they couldn't compete with companies like Toys R US.

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So think of outfits like Best Buy, Barnes Noble and Bed Bath Beyond and maybe some other big box stores to begin with. The letter B shoppers love them because of the low prices and vast selection they offer, but they put small specialty retailers out of business in a heartbeat and sometimes larger chain stores to remember Kitty City and Child's World. Yeah, probably not. You know why? Because Toys R US was a stone cold category killer. Charles Lazarus love being the top dog.

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He was once quoted as saying he wanted to control at least 50 percent of the toy market and he did everything he could to protect the brand and own the industry. He would fight to the death. Any company that tried to use the letter R in its name, Lambe Sora's Films R US, my production company podcast R US. Just kidding. Lasers would often sell hot toys at a discount for little or no profit to get customers in the door and keep them coming back.

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But if there's one thing we like better than a bargain, it's getting something for free, which is exactly what happened during the ridiculousness that was the toy run.

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These are empty shopping carts. Nickelodeon, Toys R US and Captain Crunch are giving someone five minutes to fill them with toys and keep it all. And it could be you announcing the 1986 Toys R US Nickelodeon super toy run.

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The hype around the toy run was insane. Every 80s kid knew about it and they all wanted to get picked for it.

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And it's to grab every toy you want and keep every toy you grab.

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Plus you've got to pay five hundred dollars with a toy by nineteen ninety Toys R US, it captured the largest share of the 13 billion dollar U.S. toy market. It had laid waste to most of its real competitors and fundamentally changed how people shop for toys and nabbed some pretty powerful allies. In 1992, the first President Bush traveled to Japan to help usher in the company's arrival in the Asian market. The company was ascendant, but then the biggest category killer of all came on the scene, Wal-Mart.

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And then Al Gore invented the Internet. And then things took a big turn for Jeffrey the giraffe. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, how Mitt Romney ruined Christmas for millions of kids and how I narrowly escape a panic attack while toy shopping with my friend's ankle biters.

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I mean. It's been a while since I've spent any amount of time in a toy store, I don't have kids and I have absolutely no idea what today's little whippersnappers are into except slime. They're all into slime. Now, you can't do a story about the world's biggest toy store going bust without at least popping into some establishment that sells toys. So I borrowed some children, my pals, Liam and Ruby Castillo, who are nine and six and hit the mall.

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The toy store we went to was called Go Calenders, which doesn't exactly evoke fun in wonder. But what do I know inside? I felt like I was in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language. Every toy seemed like it was connected to Game of Thrones or fortnight or other movies and video games that I know nothing about, or it was all about poops and fart baths. Wait, do you think it's crazy how many like poop and fart toys there are?

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Yeah. Yeah. Really. Yeah. Kooky like it's so many a cookie that's a cookie but like a real cool stress poo. Stop farting fake dog poop. What else we have Mr. 230. Make your own sturdy mold whoopee cushion molded make it shape it created. Oh no thank you. However, I was pleased to see that Barbie was alive and well and now has slightly more humanlike proportions of rhythmic gymnast Spartacus made to the ultimate possible Barbie styling head Barbie has really changed a lot.

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Fashionista Barbie. Oh, newborn pups Barbie. I mean, now they have flat feet. Dog breeder Barbie.

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OK, dog breeder Barbie is a bridge too far for me. Adopt don't shop kids. But this little trip illuminated a few things for me. One is that mall toy stores are just about enough toy store for this big kid. I can't imagine how overwhelmed I'd be in a Toys R US stack to the rafters with numnah arms and hatch models and L'Oréal surprise.

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Our visit also showed me just how hard the toy business is. Kids are fickle consumers. For example, my little buddy Ruby was super into my little ponies just a few months ago during our visit to the toy store. She was totally over them hard pass. Who could predict that kids would love card games featuring feline Melen hybrids or that barf themed anything would be a hot item trying to crystal ball what kids might be into next season or the season after that seems nearly impossible.

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Marc Carson knows that better than most. He's the founder and CEO of Fat Brain Toys in Omaha. They make about 150 different toy lines like squiggles, LoDo bobbers and Dimple Wabble, and they're very intentional about what they put out into the marketplace.

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We don't do any licensed products or, you know, really kind of character driven products. It's all, you know, very opened in, you know, really fundamental, pure, pure toys.

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The toy industry is ruled by few juggernauts like Hasbro and Mattel. That means indie companies like Phat Brand have to work overtime to get a piece of the action. There was a time when getting your products on the shelves at Toys R US was the dream. But Carson says the reality wasn't always a magical experience.

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You know, I think a lot of outsiders, they would kind of look at Toys R US being, you know, sort of the pinnacle that if you get a product in there, you know, you sort of made it. We had a little bit of that.

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But I also had, you know, a lot of skepticism in that as well.

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Garçon remembers the Toys R US buyers being a little too aggressive for his taste, very heavy handed.

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And we were, you know, a small company. We'd heard a lot of, you know, sort of horror stories about being burned by these large companies who, you know, load you up with with big promises and then, you know, sort of underperform.

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Carson's experience checks out. Charles Lazarus is the founder of Toys R US, was infamous for doing things his own way. Stores were generally set their selling prices based on what they paid in wholesale. But Lazarus did the opposite. He decided what he thought a toy should retail for, and then he'd tell the manufacturer how much he'd be willing to pay. And this worked for a long time while Toys R US was the biggest game in town. But then in the mid 90s, the ground underneath the toy behemoth started to shift.

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Lazarus stepped down as CEO and then deep discount megastores like Target and Wal-Mart hit the scene.

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The balance of power switched when Wal-Mart came around and Wal-Mart got to the front of the line. And that was part of, you know, kind of the beginning of the end for Toys R US.

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Such a ridiculous. She's a retail analyst for Forrester. She also briefly worked for Toys R US in the early 2000s in the company's management rotation program. But she says it wasn't just the emergence of these general big box retailers that disrupted Toys R US dominance.

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What you also had was the Internet coming around. And then what started to happen was that people realized, you know, look, there's a heck of a lot more supply of merchandise and there are a lot more cool things for us to buy than just, you know, these fifteen items are the hot toy, the. Everybody is telling us we need to buy there is all this interesting merchandise and the Internet exposed that it made it super easy to buy a lot of that merchandise.

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So what you started to see was just fragmentation in, you know, kind of the desires of what people wanted.

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Now, we've all heard about how the Internet smashed traditional brick and mortar American retail to smithereens.

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It's a tale as old as time at this point. News, but Toys R US Internet story is just a little bit different. In 1998, the company set up an online retail site, very forward thinking of them. But a couple of years later, an upstart Internet bookseller named Amazon came along and was like, Hey, Toys R US, how about we handle all your online sales? And in exchange, you can be our exclusive toy retailer. So Toys R US handed over the online key is just like that.

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They decided, well, screw that. You know, we're just going to give it to Amazon because they can do a better job with it. And it's still such a small part of our business that it doesn't matter. And of course, then, you know, Amazon took, you know, all of that information over the years and then it ended up being a short sighted mistake.

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Toys R US held up its end of the bargain not to pursue its own online retail operation. For years, there was no Toysrus.com, but Amazon definitely did not honor its side of the deal. Eventually, it started to let other companies sell toys on the site to that not so great deal ended in a lawsuit. Toys R US won and was out of the partnership by 2006, but it had fallen so far behind the tech curve there was no way it could recover, not only with Toys R US behind the Times in the online space, but its stores were starting to take a tumble to Kodaly, who worked for the company in 2003 2004, says its inventory was all over the map.

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We didn't have some basics like I remember when I was working in the store, there was a woman who came up to me and asked, Where are your finger paints? And I was like, Oh, we don't carry finger paints. And she started yelling at me because we didn't carry finger paints. She was like, How you should be ashamed of yourselves. You carry all this. Four letter expletive, but you don't carry something as basic as finger paints, and that wasn't it.

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I mean, we couldn't find yo yos in the store.

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I never found jump ropes, Goodale says. Well, Toys R US often didn't have the basics. They did have tons of garbage that no one ever bought. Something like 60 percent of the Toys R US inventory sat on the shelf, never to be taken home and loved by little Jaiden or little Sophie. Oh, sad. In later years, the whole vibe of the stores had changed. They were no longer joyful, wonderlands piled to the sky with every imaginable toy.

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They just looked like every other soulless box store. Author Sidney Ludden's and Stern remembers her last visit.

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The Toys R US was the saddest story I've ever been, and it was awful and dingy and deserted and had almost nothing in it. It was truly like going seeing a ghost.

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Clearly, Toys R US was going through some things in the early 2000s. But what if I told you the Toys R US biggest troubles weren't the result of fickle kids and big bad Wal-Mart and its partner in crime, the Internet? What if I told you it was all Mitt Romney's fault?

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Very, very troubling. Very alarming. OK, not all Mitt Romney's fault, but stay with me, because now is the time we get to talk about private equity or leveraged buyouts. If your nasty daughter has looked real tasty to entities that wanted to take it over. See all those challenges I mentioned before, the incursion by Target and Walmart, the lack of online retail, the inventory issues, etc. They made the company vulnerable, but it was still a relatively stable, profitable business, despite the fact that it had lost much of its shine and it had a manageable enough debt load under two billion dollars.

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And that made it chum in water filled with corporate sharks known as private equity. Now, if your ears clamp shut at the very mention of private equity Fearnot, our pal Josh Cosmin is going to help us out. He's the author of Buyout of America How Private Equity is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy. And we're going to start with a basic definition.

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Private equity is basically when you're buying a company by having the company you're acquiring, borrow the money to finance the acquisition.

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But private equity firm, when they buy company, put maybe 25 percent down and the company borrows 75 percent of the money and then the company has to pay it back.

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OK, so let me get this straight. My company, Lauryn's Discount Podcast's, borrows a ton of money to get another company to buy it.

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And then the private equity firm typically tries to contain costs.

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So that private equity firm is going to load up my company with tons of new debt and then come in and contain costs by what? Laying people off, closing subsidiaries, ditching underperforming properties?

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Cool. And by doing so, make a fair amount of money if the company's value remains the same or goes higher.

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The party line on private equity is that it exists to help struggling companies. Private equity swoops in and takes over cuts overhead, trim staff sells off unprofitable parts of the business and in the end leaves a leaner, meaner business in its wake. Assuming the Lauryn's Discount podcast is a stable business with decent revenue and a manageable debt load that has simply fallen behind. For whatever reason, a private equity buyout could possibly make the company more efficient and thus more profitable.

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But at what cost? To Lauryn's discount podcast's? What about all that debt my company takes on in order to pay for its own sale?

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The tax code then, as it is now, encourages debt so that the more money you borrow or paying interest, you can take those interest payments right off of your taxes so you can increase a company's profits. And if the company stays unchanged, arguably you can make a lot of money through that tax loophole.

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But more often than not, Cosmin explains in his book, Private Equity is like a legal shell game where the private equity firm ends up with the money and the business withers. And none of this is new. Private equity is just a gussied up term for leveraged buyout.

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And if you ever saw the 1987 homage to hair mousse and greed, Wall Street starring Michael Douglas as the inimitable Gordon Gekko, you know what a leveraged buyout is.

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Back then, it sounded a little like this looks as good as on paper.

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We're in the kill zone, pal. We will lock and load lunch. You got to be kidding. Lunch is for wimps.

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OK, give them talk yet you call me a wimp, but I love lunch. Leveraged buyouts as a financial scheme started to take shape in the mid 1960s, but by the early 1980s they began to come into their own.

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With the emergence of junk bonds. Companies looking to finance their buyouts would sell these high yield bonds to raise money for the sale. Buyout kings, like the fictional Gordon Gekko, made piles of money on these deals, but they also wrecked a lot of large American companies. Point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.

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Between 1985 and 1989, half of the companies acquired in the 25 biggest buyouts went bankrupt, including department store chains, Federated, R.H., Macie and Allied Stores. In the wake of those bankruptcies, all those junk bond holders lost heaps of cash, including a bunch of state pensions. But then leveraged buyouts pretty much disappeared from the scene.

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Or did they?

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In the early 90s, when we went through a recession and the movie Wall Street came out, I think people saw leveraged buyout firms as greedy and parasites and then they changed their name to private equity.

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If you want to learn more about private equity, read Josh Scotsman's book about it. It'll make you say, wait, what, like a thousand times?

[00:28:34]

So leveraged buyouts became private equity, and in 2005, it found its way to Toys R US, a trio of companies, including the one Mitt Romney founded, Bain Capital, organized the leveraged buyout of the toy seller to the tune of six point six billion dollars. By that time, Romney had left the firm and was governor of Massachusetts. The three firms pitched in one point three billion dollars of their investors money on the sale. But that meant the Toys R US was left to shoulder the remaining five plus billion dollars.

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Now imagine how heavy five billion dollars might be. What if they were stacked on top of you? You wouldn't be able to swim through all those bills, Scrooge McDuck style. You would literally suffocate under the weight. And that's exactly what happened to Toys R US. After the restructuring, most of its revenue went to pay off interest, which makes it nearly impossible to fix up stores or hire more staff. Cosmesis says the company could possibly have handled the debt and the crushing interest payments that came with it were it not for the radical shifts happening in retail.

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They didn't predict when they bought Toys R US that online would have the impact it did. Now, as much as Toys R US and other retailers point to big band Amazon, Amazon, based on a Goldman Sachs internal study that I've seen, online sales for toys only represent 16 percent of sales. It's not a giant number, but when you have a company with a lot of debt, all it takes is a hiccup and you're in trouble.

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By 2017, Toys R US was drowning and the company filed for bankruptcy. This wasn't the first time Bain Capital pushed a toy company past the brink. In 2000, Bain bought out KB Toys. The firm made a cool eighty five million off the deal. Eight years later, the toy retailer filed for bankruptcy. Thousands lost their jobs when the company's more than 400 stores liquidated and closed.

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I think Bain would see KB Toys as a great success. We made a lot of money, even though the company liquidated, leading to thousands of layoffs.

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Ten years later, Toys R US was staring down the same fate. After a surprisingly dismal twenty seventeen holiday season, the company announced that it was liquidating its assets and closing all of its 735 U.S. stores. That meant toy manufacturers like Mark Carson were out millions, but they weren't the only ones crying their eyeballs out that their love of toys.

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Oh, poor little guy. There's a surprising number of reaction videos online of little kids being told the jefferey, the giraffe was pulling up stakes. And if that doesn't just break your stoneheart into a thousand jagged shards, I don't know what would you know what else will break your heart? The knowledge that Charles Lazarus, the visionary founder of Toys R US, died a week after the liquidation was announced. He lived long enough to watch Wall Street suck the marrow right out of the company.

[00:31:30]

He started in his parents bike shop. Companies fail every day in America, but they generally don't employ 30000 people like Toys R US did. Very few of those workers who were mostly women and people of color were eligible for severance and the employees weren't having it. They demanded to be made whole.

[00:31:49]

My name is Rosemary Anderson. My name is Mary.

[00:31:52]

And this is from an employee protests at the Toys R US in Union, New Jersey.

[00:31:57]

To my children, each time they told us we would have everything. Bloomberg reporter Matt Townsend.

[00:32:08]

There was a movement with some of the workers where they actually were able to get people from Congress involved. Sort of shame the the private equity companies and some of the I think believe the debt holders and providing more severance.

[00:32:22]

Twenty twenty presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker all called on the toy giant to offer severance to the many people out of work. But Toys R US employees were the only ones impacted by what has been called the retail pocalypse. In the last decade. More than one point three million Americans lost jobs as the result of private equity, including folks who work for places like Claires Sports Authority and Payless Shoe Source. Eventually, two of the three private equity companies involved in the Toys R US buyout ponied up 20 million dollars.

[00:32:53]

But workers claim they were owed at least triple that.

[00:32:56]

It's been more than a year since the draft packed it in. But because America loves nothing more than a second act, Toys R US is staging a comeback.

[00:33:05]

Former executives from the company are launching a revamped concept soon to test locations will open in Texas and New Jersey, with a handful more to come in 2020. The company says the new stores will be more experiential, more kid focused, more fun. Sadly, all those Toys R US kids from the 80s and 90s did grow up, and some of them have their own kids. Now, whether Jeffrey will be around for a whole new generation of Toys R US kids, we don't know.

[00:33:32]

But for the woman behind Toys R US is insanely catchy theme song. The giraffe's disappearance is felt like a death.

[00:33:39]

And like the consummate jingle writer, she is Linda Kaplan Thaler, who wrote the perfect eulogy to the beloved brand Toys R US is no more cause they're closing their store, but will always be Toys R US kid. Spectacular failures as a production of American Public Media and the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, it's hosted and produced by me. Gargantuan snafu.

[00:34:16]

Lauren Ober, Wondrous Marvel. Whitney Jones is the show's producer. Our editor is number one giraffe lover Phyllis Fletcher. Bigged Tracy Mumford produced this episode. Our theme music is by the delightful David Schulman. Other original music in the show comes from the Jeremy Jeremy Castillo and Jeremy Ray. Lauren is the interim director of podcasts EPM. Our other stellar APM Budd's include a list of Dudly and Christina Lopez Big Love to the Marketplace D.C. bureau, especially Betsy Streisand. Special thanks to my pal Emily for letting me borrow her very goofy kids, Liam and Ruby Castillo, for this episode.

[00:34:51]

Hey, you could be here.

[00:34:52]

You could grow a shark. Fossil shark, too. Fossil. I only have a shark. Two kids, the volcano pocket volcano. You know, cause volcanoes. What you want in your pocket, obviously.

[00:35:12]

We'll leave you, as always, with some busways from our supersmart friends at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, Associate Professor Beñat Carajo Mandic teaches health care finance there. And for those of us lucky enough to have health insurance or afford out-of-pocket medical care, she has a helpful reminder. You are a customer paying for a service. We really need to switch to this paradigm of thinking of ourselves as the health care consumer. I think the big advice is to really know that very often we actually have choices, asking questions and asking not just as a cover, but what is it covered?

[00:35:51]

How is it covered for what conditions? We're in this complex system, but we should be informed and active participants.