Exploring an Abandoned Toys “R” Us

If someone asked me to make a list of things I didn’t expect to ever hear again, the question “Do you want to go to a Toys “R” Us?” would be pretty near the top spot. After all of their stores (at least in the United States) closed at the end of June 2018, the House of Geoffrey seemed destined to join Radio Shack as being little more than a memory for those past a certain age. A relic from the days when people had to leave their house to purchase goods.

But much to my surprise, a friend of mine recently invited me to join him on a trip to the now defunct toy store. His wife’s company purchased one of the buildings for its ideal location near a main highway, and before the scrappers came through to clean everything out, he thought I might like a chance to see what was left. Apparently his wife reported there was still “Computers and stuff” still in the building, and as I’m the member of our friend group who gets called in when tangles of wires and sufficiently blinking LEDs are involved, he thought I’d want to check it out. He wasn’t wrong.

Readers may recall that Toys “R” Us, like Radio Shack before it, had a massive liquidation sale in the final months of operations. After the inventory was taken care of, there was an auction where the store’s furnishings and equipment were up for grabs. I was told that this location was no different, and yet a good deal of material remained. In some cases there were no bidders, and in others, the people who won the auction never came back to pick the stuff up.

So on a rainy Sunday evening in September, armed with flashlight, camera, and curiosity, I entered a Toys “R” Us for last time in my life. I found not only a stark example of what the changing times have done to retail in general, but a very surprising look at what get’s left behind when the money runs out and the employees simply give up.

Front End

Upon first entering the store, I was struck with how much of a wreck the place looked. At this point it had only been closed for around two months, but the lack of regular maintenance combined with the remnants of the store’s chaotic final days were enough to give it a post-apocalyptic look. We were greeted with puddles of water and a collection of half assembled toys which someone abandoned a few feet from the front door.

Once we were able to get the main power back on and light up the store, the first surprise was that the point-of-sale systems appeared to all be intact. On closer inspection, we found that the computers themselves had been removed, but that the displays, scanners, receipt printers, pinpads, and even cash drawers were left in place. As this is the same kind of hardware that I’ve seen at nearly every big box retailer I’ve ever been to, I was surprised that nobody purchased any of it during the auction.

Past the registers was a kiosk with a large touch screen computer and printer, after a bit of research, it seems these were installed in 2011 so customers could print a paper copy of a child’s “Wish List” from the Toys “R” Us website. There’s perhaps a statement to be made here about the people who were still shopping at the store towards the end of it’s run: the customers who would want a printed copy of something that most of us would simply look up on our phones are probably the sort of customer who avoided online shopping as well. Installation of these kiosks were likely seen as playing to the needs of their rapidly shrinking customer base.

The security office was placed, as you might expect, off to the side of the registers. This room was stripped bare and full of assorted trash, which makes sense as the security staff were likely let go before the floor associates. Unlikely anyone was too concerned about stopping shoplifters during a liquidation sale.

Interestingly enough, the security DVR and monitor were still in place, and when powered back up started cycling through a handful of cameras, nearly all of which seemed to be either broken or knocked ajar during the clean-out. It was certainly a very creepy and unsettling way to preface our journey deeper into the store.

Electronics Department

The electronics section looked like it was hit hardest by those looking for hidden treasures in the store’s final days. Some locks were broken to get into drawers, and displays were ripped out of their mounts. Here we found some of the first potentially useful hardware: a number of screens that would play videos about the products they were advertising when you pressed the buttons on them. Apparently there weren’t many hackers present for the final fire sale.

Vault Room

Don’t get too excited, there was no Goonies-style treasure hidden in the vault, that’s one thing you can be sure nobody forgot to collect on closing day. We did find an incredible number of keys and lock cores laid out, most likely from employees desperately trying to find some key that nobody realized was misplaced until the store was about to get shuttered. Here we also found a full box of documents dealing with the comings and goings of cash from the armored car service. In hindsight, the fact that this was left behind should have been a hint for what was yet to be revealed.

Phone Room

This area would be a paradise for phone phreaks. Personally I’ve never been terribly interested in telephony gear, but even I was shocked at how much stuff was still here. The Comdial manufactured DXP blade server which apparently ran the store’s phone system on a Motorola 68000 CPU was still up and running, as was a “Messaging and Telephony Server” built by Indyme.

Also in this room was the hardware for the internal paging system, volume controls for the various speakers in the ceilings, as well as the Verizon I-211M-L Optical Network Terminal (ONT) that connected the building’s internal systems to the FiOS network.

Server Room

Now this was more my style. While the servers themselves were gone, there was still plenty of infrastructure left, including some Cisco routers and gigabit switches. There was also a rack where four of their in-house smartphone type devices were charging and ready to go.

Taped to the rack was a memo left from Toys “R” Us explaining that the servers must remain on and connected to the Internet until the store’s official “Vacate Day”. It seems that they were wiped remotely, presumably so corporate could account for the destruction of credit card numbers or other personally identifying customer information that was housed on them. They were then either removed physically or perhaps sold during the auction. The memo also indicates a similar fate befell the point-of-sale systems.

As an interesting note, the yellow box labeled “ST600” turns out to be a device that can determine not only how many people have entered the store but also how large they are. The idea being this would give Toys “R” Us insight on how many adults entered the store with children in tow.

Records Room

We don’t know what this room actually was, but we decided pretty quickly what we’d refer to it as. While the tech we found throughout the store was interesting, what we found here was actually quite disturbing. This room contained several boxes full of personal information about employees at this particular Toys “R” Us location, down to their medical history and tax forms. As soon as we entered the room, we found a photocopy of one woman’s drivers license and Social Security card laying on the table.

The amount of personal information left behind for anyone to find was really staggering, especially since these were the company’s own employees. We saw the great lengths the company went to protect customer information, so to see how little regard they had for their own people was honestly infuriating.

At the time of this writing, there’s still a question of what to do with all of this documentation. My suggestion was to just start a bonfire behind the store and burn it there before even more people run their eyes over it, but reader suggestions are welcome.

Workshop

We’ll leave the horrifying discoveries of the Records Room behind and conclude our tour with something I thought was perhaps the most surprising find of the whole trip: the Workshop. This area was setup to do maintenance and repairs on products, presumably with a focus on bikes and the like. Considering how many large companies would simply chuck something in the compactor the moment it’s deemed defective, it was sort of endearing to find they at least attempted to provide a repair service.

What Gets Left Behind

I’ll admit this was the first time I ever got a close look at the aftermath of a major retailer going belly-up. Perhaps I’m just naive in being shocked that personal information and valuable infrastructure would be left behind when the doors were locked for the very last time. Perhaps it’s standard operating procedure in these cases. But it doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

I wonder how the situation will play out for each of the nearly 800 Toys “R” Us locations which have been shuttered. Was this particular location a fluke? What would have happened if somebody less scrupulous had purchased this building and got a hold of the documentation within? It’s a question that I fear we’ll soon know the answer to as more of these locations hit the open market.

109 thoughts on “Exploring an Abandoned Toys “R” Us

    1. Destroyed most likely. Businesses really do revolve around “bean-counting”. Just the cost of paying someone to taking the POS apart might give someone palpitations. Granted putting out a notice to the geek community and most would do that for free. Also I bet a lot of that equipment in the business/industrial market is close to average, those use to the consumer market.

      1. I’m thinking about these in particular…

        ” Here we found some of the first potentially useful hardware: a number of screens that would play videos about the products they were advertising when you pressed the buttons on them”

        …send them to me man!
        B^)

    2. As you can imagine, more than a little bit of it came back with me. Don’t be surprised if you see a deep-dive into some of the more interesting bits here on the site in the near future.

      There’s an active effort to place some of the other gear with interested parties, so hopefully as little as possible gets carted away to the dump. But there is time/storage to contend with, so it’s a challenge.

      1. “Don’t be surprised if you see a deep-dive into some of the more interesting bits here on the site in the near future.”

        Yes, you are the “find cheap (low price) tech, tear it down, and write a blog about it guy” around here!
        I salute you!

      2. Reach out to Dell’s recycling program. It helps communities get people back on their feet, gets people back into the workforce, and has integration with many recycle outfits that reuse the materials. These programs are making huge impacts in many areas.

      1. The new owner of that mess would probably be interested in proper disposal of personal information to reduce their liability. They could have just tossed it in the trash, but now the world knows it’s there.

          1. Improper handling of personal information is a hot topic right now. Even if they have no legal responsibility for the information, successfully defending a lawsuit costs more than having a shredder truck come out.

  1. The personal information found should be turned over to a relevant authority so that the people who’s information was left lying around can be properly notified. Who knows which of their unscrupulous colleagues may have taken a look at that data if it was left available like that.

    1. If somebody was there to look at it, they probably took it with them. The people whose files are still in the cabinet don’t need to worry. The people whose files aren’t in the cabinets should worry, but you don’t know who they are.

      1. That’s a good point, no telling what has already been taken or looked at. Some of these documents were already opened up on the desk when we got there, so somebody had already flipped through at least some of it.

        1. Yeah… reminds me of hotel creepy situations that can get mafia torture scary with information used for identity theft say like during Hurricane Katrina. I did have identity theft happen down there in ’05, though spoke with someone who was just paroled who did some insanely dangerous stuff around the Casino’s when I was in Texas a few years later. I just watched the movie “The Killing of America” though a few days back and yesterday “The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire (Documentary)” so am having CAPA investigation root cause memory associations issues. Looks well documented here as a notice… I’d burn the material… though wouldn’t hurt to notify those in the file. Not sure, I prefer info seeing how pathetic investigators can be and really just want us to be their thief or whatever minion & scapegoat.

  2. “The amount of personal information left behind for anyone to find was really staggering, especially since these were the company’s own employees. We saw the great lengths the company went to protect customer information, so to see how little regard they had for their own people was honestly infuriating.”

    Shouldn’t be. Most employees already know how corporations feel about them. There are firms that do document destruction, and can document the process, not that I see any kind of future retribution from this moment of apathy.

    1. I was employed with TRU. the closings happened so fast at our store it was unbelievable. There are so many of 9us out of work and they say the employment rated are good. How can that be. They didn’t. care about the people they employed so why would the care about peoples personal information.

      1. All employee files were supposed to be boxed up and sent back to NJ about a week before we finally closed. Whatever store this is their management sure failed on that BIG TIME! I made sure my store’s files were all taken care of and sent back properly.

        1. Sent to NJ to be sold as a set to the highest bidder. Any smart employee would have gotten ahold of their records for personal destruction. Though, that’s not to say copies weren’t already sent god knows where.

          1. The employee would not have been able to. Those records belong to the company or bankruptcy trustee. And for good reason. Those persons did work for the company and matters of that relationship could come up. Note that the employer still exists.

  3. You’ve done more than enough; an admirable, yeoman’s job.
    My take on this situation is that ‘TOYS…” is NOT off the hook simply because they were stupid. Forget the “business-stupid”; blatant disregard for individuals’ privacy, no matter the circumstances, is un-forgiveable.
    Perhaps simply sending a copy of your efforts to the proper governmental–and other–bodies concerned with individuals’ privacy would be in order.

    My first stop, and perhaps the only one needed to get some REAL action started, would be to send a copy of your outstanding effort to the EFF–the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    Then, just maybe, you’ll see some real, concrete results of your work.

    Just sayin’.

    1. What are the ex-employees going to do, join the back of the queue to sue for whatever’s left of the company’s assets? Big companies don’t care. There’s probably some principle about distributed avoidance of responsibility that would be really interesting for an economist or psychologist to dig out. Maybe an economic psychologist, or a psychological economist.

  4. All this talk of online shopping, but when I was a kid fifty years ago, with a tiny allowance, going to the toy store was as important as whatever I did bring home.

    I wanted to see if there was anything new for GI Joe or Major Matt Mason. I wanted to see the Captain Action stuff, even if I never bought any of it. I probably checked the Hot Wheels to see if there were any esoteric cars that interested me. A few years earlier I’d have looked over the Lego stuff. I would have looked at chemistry sets and microscope kits, even though I couldn’t afford them.

    My first trips alone were probably to the neighborhood bom or toy store, not sure which came first.

    Even catalogs weren’t the same as visiting the store, often not as much detail.

    You had to have the money for mail order, likely difficult when buying small pieces.

    Yes, waiting for mail was fun, nothing like getting a package when you’re ten, but it was rare. I did order a kit from Edmund Scientific when I was ten, it seemed to take forever, mysteriously appearing late on a Friday night. I never did collect snowflake images with that kit, it was probably spring when it arrived.

    So I suspect it wasn’t jyst grandparents who bought at the chain. Kids still need that experience, even though it’s not the same as visiting the nearby toy, hobby or stationary store (which often had toys on display).

    Michael

    1. I don’t have kids of my own but I love toys and toy shopping for nieces and nephews. I also don’t take requests, so the kids get whatever I think is cool, will be fun to play with more than a few days and teaches them something. So I really enjoyed the store, I’d go in and see it all. Look at everything, I’m not going to click ten thousand links on Amazon.

      What bothers me is this year is gonna be hard without Toys R Us. Walmart and Target have a poor selection. I’m also troubled that Walmart is going to be an even bigger decision maker of what your kids play with than they were before. At least for a lot of kids who live in rural areas.

    2. I remember going to Toys R us as a kid and seeing all the displays they’d set out for Christmas for new toy lines and game consoles.
      Probably the closest thing in reality to going to Sanat’s workshop for a kid.
      It’s a shame future generations will not be able to experience that unless a new chain moves in the fill the void as Walmart and Target’s toy selection and displays were mediocre in comparison.

    3. Huge out of town warehouses like TRU killed off local toy shops and department stores. Replaced with vast aircraft hangars, each one identical from the ugly visible girders to the mass-manufactured promotions and display stands.

      TRU appeared en masse around the 1980s and 90s, and now they’re dead. They had everything Amazon has, soulless mass consumption, standardised toilet procedures, and crap jobs, except you had to drive miles to get there. We’ve lost nothing.

      Exploring abandoned buildings is always interesting though.

      1. Yes, and it was through the present owner that the writer gained access, apparently the owner has no plans for the stuff (in this case) and was offering the writer’s
        “and as I’m the member of our friend group who gets called in when tangles of wires and sufficiently blinking LEDs are involved,”
        Maybe he/his group weren’t “offered” the stuff, maybe it was just a “look at what WILL be wasted” tour.

    1. I mean, you’re probably not going to get reported for it but I suspect for the property and its contents there’s a default owner. In the UK if a person with property dies and has no living relatives their property passes to the Crown. Something similar may happen here with the property returning to say a bank with an investment in it or the local government.

      1. If it’s a company, it’s owned by the shareholders, or when it goes into liquidation, the liquidators.
        The stupid thing with liquidators is that they charge £400/hour, so it costs far more in fees than stuff can be sold for. Had a client go into liquidation last year, and the liquidator’s fees estimate was an order of magnitude higher than the estimated assists remaining in the company. Which of course would be outdated and worthless by the time the liquidator actually does anything.

  5. The personal information left behind is infuriating. I’m mad and I had no connection to the store. If there are medical records too, I wonder if that isn’t a HIPAA violation?

    Did you play with the phone system at least? It’d be interesting if you can call different parts of the store or make funny announcements over the PA. Too bad all of the computers were removed. It’d be neat to get an up-close view of the POS systems. I’d love to see some 360 photos of something like this if you have access to one of those cameras.

    1. Phone system still worked when we got power back on, and we were able to call between the registers and that sort of thing. I tried to figure out how to make a page, but there was no obvious way to do it and none of the extensions we tried seemed to do it.

      We didn’t find what the source of the music would have been. Perhaps it was as simple as a CD player plugged in someplace that was taken. Logically it seems it would have been near where the volume controls for speakers were.

        1. That’s what I thought too, but no dish on the roof when we went up there. They could have been streaming it over the Internet. We did find an amplifier that was no doubt part of the PA system, but nothing was plugged into it. Looked like somebody was planning on taking it but never made it out the door for whatever reason.

  6. I’d go one of two ways on what to do with that employee information.

    Either try to make an issue out of it. Make the world a (ever so slightly) better place. Get those people informed that their info may not be safe. Get the managers or executives, whoever should have been responsible for taking care of that stuff in trouble so that they hopefully learn a lesson not to do it again. Make them an example for others. Of course, you don’t have authority to do that. Just turn it over to authorities like Dave Perry said and hope they do so.

    Or… like you said, just burn it. Hell, the authorities probably aren’t even interested. I’d lean towards this one.

    But… what if this one day does come back on you? (or your friend’s business). Can you prove you burnt it? Crap!

    As Peter said. There are companies that will shred it for you, document that they shredded it and vouch for you. Yay for CYA! But.. you have to pay them. Why should you pay your money for someone else’s lazy oversight? I wouldn’t want to do that!

    So.. first, I would have NEVER done what you already did. Document the fact that information was left there on the internet for everyone to see. Instead I would burn it secretly. In fact I wouldn’t do it in the back lot as you suggested. I would do it somewhere that ashes are already expected. Did anyone present have a bonfire spot in their own yards? I’d do it there and make sure to rake the ashes apart so nothing recognizable remains. If not.. then it’s off to a campsite.

    Papers are hard to burn in stacks. The top sheets leave enough ash to smother the ones below. We burnt 60 years of my grandfather’s paperwork when he died. We were raking the fires for days! I’ve heard of machines that roll papers up into tight rolls that then burn slowly, more like logs. You can stack them in a teepee. I’d try that.

    But how do you CYA if you burnt them yourself? Easy! You never had them. That room was EMPTY when you got there. That’s your story and you will stick to it! For anyone who says otherwise it’s their word against yours.

    1. Your analysis is correct, now that the presence of those documents has been made public, the only ways out are either having the documents shredded professionally, or let the authorities take care of it.
      I suspect that the first of the two options will be the most likely outcome, as the authorities will ignore the issue.
      Unfortunately the new owners will have to absorb the cost of that, but assuming that the author of this article, will have cleared out most of the electronic equipment in the store, there will be enough of the clear out budget to shred the paper.

    2. stainless steel drum out of a vertical feed washing machine is the best way to burn papers w/ all the holes are can get to them all. I sit the drum on 3 cinder blocks and light a small fire below the drum. papers gone quick.

    3. Why do you assume, he has the responsibility for proper disposal of this documents or should even PAY for that? I see it as a possible courtesy to the former employees if he burns the stuff.

  7. What’s so hard about this, folks?–

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation–EFF; The American Civil Liberties Union–ACLU; HIPAA; and an absolute TON of other federal agencies ?

    How about plastering this all OVER the internet; this is much infinitely more important than all the on-going shit “news” about Elon Musk (..and infinitely more important, period, than Elon Musk, by the way.)

  8. “There was also a rack where four of their in-house smartphone type devices were charging and ready to go.”
    Those are pdas with a laser barcode scanner on the top. Running some version of win mobile.
    Quite useful and valuables, they’re normally used to check the inventory in the store. Installed and serviced many of those on my previous job, they are little capable machines.
    Worth anywhere from 200 to 800 euro each when new, if don’t need them I can pay for the shipping to Italy :-P

  9. I would expect that the onus for legitimate disposal of documents including personnel files etc would fall on the liquidators. They take over all assets including the right and obligation to dispose of them.
    Liquidators make a fortune out of failed companies. Only after they have raped the assets do the creditors get anything back. Seen it happen!

    1. In the USA, it’s easy to sue someone even if they shouldn’t have any liability. I don’t know where the liquidator fits in, but given the choice of suing a bankrupt company or one with money and assets, the choice is often to sue the one with money.

        1. In fact, someone (the liquidator?) could sue Tim, HaD, and the evil overlords for “exposing the problem”.
          It probably would be dismissed as a “frivolous lawsuit”, depending on the judge that gets assigned the case.

        2. Unless one plans on doing all the lawyering themselves, one still has to find a lawyer willing to take up the cause. That gets into chances of winning. The one “with the money” can also fight back with same, so it’s not quite the easy money people think it is. They can also drag things out in a battle of attrition as well.

  10. Was there promotional signage for product lines still around? My kid loves a toy line called Octonauts and my local Toys R Us had this great sign for it that I kept asking them for. Right up to the last day they kept telling me to come back, then finally said that they couldn’t give it to me because the sign belonged to the manufacturer and they may want TRU to return the sign. I very seriously doubt that the manufacturer ever came looking for that sign.

    1. No, totally wiped of any kind of merchandise or signage. There were a few displays left back in receiving for the play kitchens and that kind of thing, but probably only because they were pretty beat up and nobody wanted them.

  11. Please either notify the police and or the District Attorney’s office regarding the employee’s files.
    The store was issued a project to pack up and send all materials to the Corp headquarters.
    This is the mgrs failure.

    Please respond.

    Kindly

    Russ

  12. I saw a Valcom 2003 in the Phone room. I worked on an redesign of it in the early 90’s, when we upgraded the Motorola microcontroller. I heard from a former coworker that it had to be redesigned again about 10 years ago when the processor was again discontinued.

  13. Why so much stuff gets left behind is often down to the way the liquidation sales or auctions work. Stuff gets bundled and it’s only possible to purchase the bundle. Need 2 POS systems and willing to pay 800 bucks each? Touch nut, you’ll have to take all 15 for 700 dollars each. It’s cheaper per unit, but you’ll have 13 units you don’t want or need. And selling them piece wise will take a long time. (Most stores prefer running new POS systems when updating the store, so second hand systems are mostly used as replacements in places that use the same system.) Alternatively people just buy a crap ton in an auction or sale and load up as much as they can, leaving the least valuable stuff for last. Anything that doesn’t fit gets left behind.

    As to the personnel files left behind, people just stop caring when they know they’ve lost their jobs. The last days are just a slog to get everything done and over with. Nobody is going to enjoy themselves at that point.There’s an insane amount of work to do and liquidators will usually set a ridiculously short amount of time to do it in. Things either slip between the cracks or people just give up and stop caring. I suspect the files SHOULD have been picked up by head office for disposal but somewhere along the line things got screwed up and it never happened.

      1. This site is definitely not national news, the story should be on TV! Hackaday is obscure with a niche following at best. It’s definitely not ranked where you just suggested with a little over 6mil. hits on the site in 6 months. Those numbers don’t represent national awareness.

  14. Awesome report on your visit. Thank you for documenting.

    “Installation of these kiosks were likely seen as playing to the needs of their rapidly shrinking customer base.”

    I’d like to take this moment to highlight that Toys R Us did not close directly because it was lacking customers. The $6.6 billion leveraged buyout by KKR and Bain (vulture) Capital saddled them with so much debt they were spending $400 million per year just servicing the debt. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/toys-r-us-bankruptcy-why-it-went-bust/

    There are a lot of very profitable brick-and-mortar stores with those shopping list kiosks. They enable a child (or engaged couple) to pick out a wish-list online and empower the gift-giver to visit the showroom to examine the items in their own hands before selecting a gift.

          1. That’s more or less what Wall Street, the original film, was about. Except, again, Gordon Gekko actually needed the capital up front to tank a company then asset-strip it. Yeah it should be illegal, but as long as it’s extremely profitable it never will be in the USA at least. Because “lobbying” is allowed, and because attaining office costs a ludicrous amount of money. So the very rich will always be able to make the law serve themselves.

            It’s only when there’s enough of a scandal that politicians start worrying about their other need to stay in office, votes. But then lying and advertising also exist. And shame apparently doesn’t any more. You can bullshit the electorate with advertising. Which, of course, costs lots of money.

            I don’t agree with the old twat’s principles, but regardless this isn’t what Adam Smith had in mind.

  15. Put all the confidential information in boxes and give them to the nearest television news station. Video the entire process and you’ll probably have enough “proof” that you no longer possess any of it. The news crew can then make all the appropriate hay out of it.

    1. Especially companies not being monitored by the regulatory agencies to have the budget escrow’ed/appropriated for the mine reclamation plan. I guess at the very least a plan for a another company that can go bankrupt to proceed with targeted operations resource extraction and then the reclamation plan.

  16. A few years back, the car dealership I work for bought a car yard that the previous owners abandoned when the business went bust.

    The day we got the keys, we had a look around. We were astounded when we walked into the admin area and found a pile of customers personal and finance details, including valid credit card details. We also found a large box of unissued license plates.

    If we weren’t living in the age of digital license plate tracking, I could have flogged those license plates for a fortune.

  17. I was a Comdial tech in the late 90s – surprised to see a system was still around that long – and a DXP at that. Someone was either a really good sales person or Toys R Us didn’t care how much money they spent on what was a much larger system than they needed. To put it in perspective, the DXP supported up to 560 or so ports while their little key system units (DSU/DSU II) supported up to 32 stations and 16 lines – way more than I think a retail store would need and at a fraction of the price.

    1. Probably down to standardisation. ALL stores big and small used the same systems. I could imagine for the larger stores 32 stations wouldn’t be enough for instance. If head-office says every store will use a certain system for convenience than that is what will happen.

      1. Ah, true. I guess it depends on the company and regional management; several of our other chain customers almost always had something completely different (both in vendor and model) in each store which made it difficult to keep parts stocked for but interesting enough to keep the technicians occupied.

        The days of pre-VoIP telecom were some of my most fond!

  18. Hello, if I was you guys I personally wouldn’t notify the police just because they are not going to care, but even though I loved toys r’ us someone should be held accountable for their mistake so I would probably contact the local news to get that info. Out there to the former staff members, so they can keep track of their credit and then i would either burn the documents like you stated so you know everything was completely eliminated or get a private company to shred everything and it might be a possible tax write-off for the new company going in, but it doesn’t sound like you guys are in it for the money such as a write-off, just what is best for the former employees and to you guys I applaud you for your concern for other’s. But i can say one thing is that i bet who ever was in charge of those docs. Took their own files and the people they were close to.. so sad…

  19. It’s not “smart phone like things”. These are professional hand scanners from SYMBOL, most likely used to communicate with warehouse servers to order things based on shelf codes. Some of them run apps to handle data from scanner in special ways. Pretty expensive little things.

  20. I happened upon this article after reading about Toys R Us in the news. I worked there for a couple of years in the early 1990’s. Interesting how little has changed in terms of the store set-up.

    I worked in the stockroom… most of my time was spent unloading trucks and sorting everything onto inventory shelves, re-stocking store shelves and “facing” merchandise, re-loading trucks with broken/returned products and, of course, tying gigantic outdoor toy boxes and bike boxes onto customers’ often too-small cars.

    Some thoughts about the stores:

    The “workshop” was used primarily for two things – putting bikes together for customers who wanted them assembled, and re-packaging returned items that could be put back out on the sales floor. The most “secure” part of the store, aside from the safe, was the electronics & video game storage room.

    The stockroom in general was a vast, mostly dark place. It could often be fun, especially if an opened nerf product happened to turn up (a stray nerf dart or football would occasionally land on the sales floor during store hours – no comment on who was responsible).

    The holiday season was brutal, though – we’d have to unload 4 or 5 trucks a day, all while bringing a crazy amount of large boxes out to tie to cars and dealing with parents who were often on edge, if not completely out of their minds, trying to get all their holiday shopping done. The store would run a restock crew 24 hours a day just to keep up with the crowds. The store manager would sometimes camp out in her office rather than go home at night, only leaving occasionally for lunch or dinner. Getting yelled at by parents was pretty much a daily occurrence in the run-up to Christmas. I remember that a manager was slapped and spit upon by a woman he informed wasn’t going to receive a bike she ordered by Christmas Eve (online ordering wouldn’t begin to be popular for another few years). I heard that a year after I left, another stockroom manager had some type of nervous breakdown during the holidays and sent a bunch of trucks back to the distribution facility still fully-loaded. He was fired.

    I contrast the above with the time I went to a Toys R Us a few years ago during the holidays to pick something up – it was shocking to see how much the internet had changed things…. there were hardly any shoppers at all and it was about 2 weeks before Christmas. Twenty years prior, the store would have been jammed during that time period.

    Also, with it being the pre-internet days, another thing that sometimes happened was that customers would try to bribe us to put aside a new toy for them. The requests came mainly from parents who were looking for a couple of different types of dolls (Cabbage Patch and one other brand I forget) or men in their 20’s and 30’s trying to get their hands on new action figures to add to their collections. One of the other stockroom guys knew which of those would be rare or highly sought-after so he’d just buy them all up himself and made a killing selling them outside the store.

    Every once in a while, Geoffrey, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or any other number of characters would be making in-store appearances, meaning we’d have to put on the costumes. The costumes were boiling hot inside and smelled like nine kinds of death from everyone else who’d previously worn and sweated into them. You couldn’t see anything below you when you wore them, so you never knew when a little kid was going to run up to hug you – you just suddenly felt somebody wrapping your lower torso or legs. A couple of us were actually knocked over by little kids we didn’t see coming.

    Anyway, interesting article – hope my comment adds some interesting background.  If I had it to do all over again there’s no way in hell that I’d have worked at Toys R Us.

  21. I was a supervisor at TRU. This wasn’t a fluke. This is how most, if not all, the stores were left. Corporate actually shut down weeks before the stores did, leaving all stores and those employees to close/clean/deal with liquidation and customers our selves. There wasnt even a contact person for us to deal with. The liquidators didnt deal with any of that stuff, and people who bought stufd had till 7pm june 30th to pick it up. Everything that wasnt picked up, even stuff we offered to buy as we locked the doors for the last time, was pushed back and “left to rot”. Most of our staff, including managers, left. So most stores didnt have HR managers and not corporate office to call to find out what to do with paperwork. So it got left. There was absolutely no care given to the employees. And since they cancelled the severance they initally promised us, most couldn’t be bothered to care to clean up after corporate. Hell, my store still has all the lights and systems on. Dunno who’s paying that bill. They whole way they went down was very shady and unorganized.

  22. this looks like it is Langhorne store… I drive by it every day and many times i wondered what is going to happen with the building and what was left inside. Anyway it is cool to see that there is another Hackaday fan in my neighborhood……

  23. I don’t know what the exact nature of the store purchase agreement was, but all of the employee information may have been sold with the building. This may be illegal and the information might be useful in criminal proceeding against. . . well I don’t know whom at this point.

    1. Personal, and personnel, information is covered by a load of laws in most countries. I doubt it’s actually possible to sell much of it. The correct word is probably “abandoned”, which is also probably illegal, but who are you going to pin in on?

      Maybe the building will go up in flames. That way, there’d be no more problems with annoying paperwork, and a nice return on the investment through the insurance money. Assuming those corrugated-tin behemoths contain anything flammable.

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