October 16, 2006, 12:00 AM

Wal-Mart Toyland wish-list web site raises ire of consumer group

Wal-Mart’s Toyland microsite for children is drawing fire from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a consumer group.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

Wal-Mart Corp.’s Toyland microsite for children is drawing fire from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a consumer group that charges the retail giant is “ruthlessly coming between parents and children and actively encouraging kids to nag for their holiday gifts.” It has called on its 7,000 members to write Wal-Mart to urge that the site be shut down.

Wal-Mart Corp. says the microsite, walmart.com/toyland, is “no different than the traditional paper wish lists that many retailers include in their annual toy books.”

At the site, animated elves Wally and Marty give a running commentary as a wide array of toys parade past on a conveyer belt. “If you show us what you want on your wish list, we’ll blast it off to your parents,” the elves say. “We’ll help plead your case.”

When a child clicks a Yes button indicating he wants the toy, he hears a round of applause, and the toy is boxed and put into a spaceship. Children are asked to enter their parents’ e-mail addresses so the spaceship carrying the wish list can be sent to their parents.

On its site, the child advocacy group notes that many of the toys are expensive or may be in conflict with parental values. “Yet children do not need a parent’s permission to enter Toyland, there is no age requirement to use the site and kids are encouraged to submit their parents’ e-mail addresses in order to send their wish list,” the group says.

Wal-Mart defends the program as a modern version of the Christmas list. “Making a list for Santa and sharing it with parents is a tradition that goes back as long as Santa,” Wal-Mart says in an e-mail. “Today’s parents certainly remember going through the Christmas catalogs and circling every other item. With the advent of technology, today’s kids are savvy about the online world.”

Wal-Mart adds that parents “have the same control that they’ve always had over what to do with that information.”

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