Grabbing Toys to Give to the Kids

Roy Kaylor of Pleasanton, Calif., is an expert at winning toys from the arcade games in which players manipulate a metal claw to try and grab stuffed toys. Kaylor has won so many toys that he's giving them away to kids for free this holiday season.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

If you've ever been to a fair or an arcade or even a restaurant lobby, you may have come across `the claw,' that game where you insert some coins and try to manipulate a mechanical claw to lock on to a stuffed animal or toy and lift it into a prize-winning chute. Well, count yourself lucky if you've managed to lock and lift some loot. The claw is a maddeningly difficult game that seems like it should have the word `sucker' written all over it. But in Pleasanton, California, a retired driver with a steel tube manufacturing company has mastered the fine art of `clawing' for trinkets. His name is Roy Kaylor.

I'm glad to have you with us.

Mr. ROY KAYLOR: Yeah, glad to be here.

NORRIS: So what's the secret to this game?

Mr. KAYLOR: Well, the real secret is you want to get there right after the machine has been filled. You put your money in--some of the machines, they start automatically; some, you have to start them. You try to manipulate the claw to the ones that are the highest in there, and you get the claw over the top of it, you push the red button on the joystick and it drops it down, and hopefully it gets a good clamp on and it drags the animal over to the chute and then automatically drops it into the collection bin. Sometimes you can get two; if they're really close together, one will drag another one right down into the bin.

NORRIS: You're talking about getting two. Most of us are happy if we even get one. Now you're saying that you have to try to get the toys that are near the top, right near the top.

Mr. KAYLOR: Yeah, the ones that are closer to the--I got 11 this morning.

NORRIS: Eleven?

Mr. KAYLOR: Eleven, and that was at a Wal-Mart.

NORRIS: You do this every day?

Mr. KAYLOR: No, just on Mondays when the guy fills it.

NORRIS: I was wondering how you knew what the maintenance schedule was. How did you find that out?

Mr. KAYLOR: Kind of by accident. I went down there, and it was on a Monday, and he was filling it up. And when he got it filled up, I think one day I got 18 out of his machine. And I'm going out the door, and he looked at me and he says, `How do you expect me to make any money?' I says, `Well, I just got a knack for getting these.' In Safeway one day, I got three Safeway bags full.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Now help me understand the science, that you want to go for those toys that are closest to the top of the box.

Mr. KAYLOR: Yeah.

NORRIS: Is that because the crane loses some of its traction or, I guess, its torque as it's lowered on that string?

Mr. KAYLOR: Well, after a while, when they get too far down, it's kind of hard to get anything. Now once in a while--and that's in a great while--I will get one at the very--when the machine's pretty near empty. I'll get one that's right on the bottom, and the claw will drop over it and pick it up. Now the tips on those claws are fairly sensitive, and you want to make sure you get completely over the animal to get your prize.

NORRIS: What are you doing with all these animals and toys that you've been collecting?

Mr. KAYLOR: Well, I've gotten so many--I've gotten a little over 325, 330. So I went down to Wal-Mart Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and I put on my big, red Santa Claus hat and got a shopping cart and filled all the animals in the shopping cart. And as the kids are coming out of the store with their parents, I say, `Here, kid, this is for you,' and I got rid of about 260. I've got about 39 left, plus the 10 I got today. So I will load those up in the car Saturday, Christmas Eve day, and I'll be back down to the Wal-Mart here in Pleasanton passing them out.

NORRIS: Is that the same Wal-Mart where you collected these toys?

Mr. KAYLOR: Yes, it is.

NORRIS: Ha-ha! You could have just as well put on a Robin Hood suit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KAYLOR: Yeah. And I asked the manager of the store first, you know, a couple of weeks beforehand, and I showed him the animals. I said, `This is what I plan to do. Do I have your permission?' He said, `Yeah.'

NORRIS: Roy Kaylor was speaking to us about his expert use of the arcade game known as the mechanical claw.

Mr. Kaylor, happy holidays and happy hunting to you.

Mr. KAYLOR: OK. Well, thank you very much.

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