Fid­get spin­ners, the hit toy that spun out of nowhere

Cape Breton Post - - Lifestyles - BY JOSEPH PISANI

Stores can’t keep them in stock. Par­ents are scram­bling to find them. And some schools have banned them.

The ma­nia for fid­get spin­ners — the 3—inch twirling gad­gets tak­ing over class­rooms and cu­bi­cles — is un­like many other toy crazes. They’re not made by a ma­jor com­pany, timed for the hol­i­day sea­son, or pro­moted in TV com­mer­cials. They’re more eas­ily found at gas sta­tions or 7—Eleven than at big toy chains.

“It just took off,” says Richard Got­tlieb, a con­sul­tant at Global Toy Ex­perts in New York.

Fid­get spin­ners have been around for years, mostly used by kids with autism or at­ten­tion dis­or­ders to help them con­cen­trate. But they ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity this spring.

Shan­nan Row­ell, a sixth— grade spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher, says that af­ter a week­long break in late April more than half of her 25 stu­dents sud­denly had one.

“They seem to be tak­ing over class­rooms,” says Row­ell, who lives in North Grafton, Mas­sachusetts.

Got­tlieb thinks it’s likely a kid brought one to a play­ground and the craze spread from there. Re­cent YouTube videos of peo­ple spin­ning them on their noses, fore­heads and shoes also helped.

He­len Holden heard about fid­get spin­ners last month when her seven—year—old twins de­manded she stop at a 7—Eleven to buy them. “I thought it was a drink,” says the bank vice—pres­i­dent and blog­ger from Los An­ge­les.

That store was sold out, and so were sev­eral other 7—Eleven lo­ca­tions that she called. The chain says spin­ners have “been fly­ing off the shelves” since they went on sale in March.

Holden’s kids said they needed them be­fore school on Mon­day so they could prac­tice spin­ning them. So she signed up for Ama­zon Prime, paid $5.99 for one—day ship­ping and had two $15 fid­get spin­ners de­liv­ered on a Sun­day.

“I to­tally got suck­ered by my kids,” she says.

At Funky Mon­key Toys, owner Tom Jones says he got a phone call about the fid­get spin­ners in April. About 30 min­utes later, another per­son called. “I said, ‘What­ever they are, I need to get them.”’

Now, the phone has been ring­ing 20 to 30 times a day with peo­ple check­ing if they’re in stock. His shop in Ox­ford, Michi­gan, can sell up to 150 in a day.

“We run out of them fre­quently,” says Jones, who re­cently got a ship­ment of 2,000.

On Ama­zon.com, 18 of the top 20 best­selling toys and games were fid­get spin­ners, rang­ing from ones that cost just a few dol­lars to $12 ver­sions tout­ing stain­less steel bear­ings.

Five Be­low, which sells items for $5 or less, says on its web­site that cus­tomers can only buy two fid­get spin­ners at time.

Toys R Us flew fid­get spin­ners in this month from

China, rather than wait for ship trans­port. It says Ru­bik’s Cubes, yo—yos and other toys to oc­cupy rest­less hands have been hot sell­ers since the be­gin­ning of the year. It also started sell­ing $12.99 fid­get cubes — the items that made up the rest of the Ama­zon best­sellers — which fit in the palm of a hand and have click­ers, wheels and switches on the sides.

Un­like hot toys at the hol­i­day sea­son, which are often made by one com­pany, man­u­fac­tur­ers — mostly in China — are making the fid­get spin­ners as fast as they can. Jim Sil­ver, the CEO and editor— in—chief of toy re­view web­site TTPM, ex­pects the fad to last into the sum­mer and then fade as more of them flood into the mar­ket.

“De­mand starts to wa­ver,” he says.

En­gi­neer Cather­ine Het­tinger says she came up with a toy that was sim­i­lar but not ex­actly the same in the early 1990s, but a patent ex­pired more than a decade ago af­ter

she stopped pay­ing the main­te­nance fees. Het­tinger, who lives in the Or­lando sub­urb of Win­ter Park, Flor­ida, says she is not making any money from the craze.

“No one has con­tacted me. No­body has sent me a check,” she says. “But once a patent ex­pires, it’s pub­lic, so I wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing at this point.”

De­spite be­ing mar­keted as a con­cen­tra­tion aid, some teach­ers say fid­get spin­ners have be­come a dis­trac­tion.

Row­ell, the sixth—grade teacher, says stu­dents twirled them too fast, banged them against desks or tried to whirl them on top of each other. She lets stu­dents bring them into the class­room, but only if they spin them un­der their desks and fol­low the rules she hung on the wall: “YOU MUST BE LOOK­ING AT THE TEACHER,” ”YOU MUST BE LOOK­ING AT YOUR WORK“and ”YOU MUST BE DISCREET.“

Some schools have banned them. A mid­dle school in Wil­liamstown, New Jer­sey, wrote that spin­ners needed to stay in back­packs be­cause they were a dis­trac­tion in class­rooms, hall­ways and dur­ing lunch pe­ri­ods. An ele­men­tary school in New York told par­ents to keep the gad­gets at home be­cause they were twirling into chil­dren’s faces.

It’s not just kids spin­ning them. Got­tlieb thinks adults are reach­ing for spin­ners be­cause they are more stressed out. “Peo­ple don’t smoke as much, so they have to fig­ure out a way to work out their stress,” he says.

Kim Juszczak, a lawyer from New York, whirls her red— and—black spin­ner on the sub­way or while she’s think­ing up le­gal ar­gu­ments for a case.

“I’m nat­u­rally kind of fid­gety,” says Juszczak, who used to bend pa­per­clips in her hand.

She first saw a spin­ner on Instagram, and got hers for about $6 on Ama­zon. Then she bought six more for friends and rel­a­tives.

AP PHOTO/CARLOS OSORIO

Funky Mon­key Toys store owner Tom Jones plays with a fid­get spin­ner in Ox­ford, Mich.

AP PHOTO/CARLOS OSORIO

Pene­lope Daversa, 4, plays with a fid­get spin­ner at the Funky Mon­key Toys store, in Ox­ford, Mich.

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