For seven months, this mechanism created chaos. It tormented the hallways of education and brought into fruition every teacher’s worst nightmare: distraction. Before reaching mass-market stores, the 1500 specialty toy stores in the U.S., had already profited $30 million in sales. This seemingly simplistic creation arose in 2017 and went on to make up over 17% of all toy and game units sold daily. Considering its insurmountable achievements, one may wonder how this overnight commercial monster saw its downfall in a matter of seconds; how a household name, like the Fidget Spinner, became no more.
In 1993, after a visit to Israel, Catherine Hettinger, seemingly, invented the prototype for what we now call the Fidget Spinner. Having heard that Palestinian children were throwing rocks at police officers, she realized that she could create a mechanism that would have the ability to distract kids from negative behaviors. Over the years, Hettinger attempted to sell her product to multiple companies only to come face to face with deniance. These toy companies paid little attention to the potential of a product that would go on to sell millions all around the world. They didn’t see how the looks of an upside-down bowl could be profitable, and they were right, what we know now as the Fidget Spinner is not what Hettinger invented. It serves the same purpose, but it is not the same. The two or three-pronged devices with a ball bearing in a circular pad became an international sensation, not the bowl. Yet she is still regarded as the creator of what went on to be the most confiscated item in schools, in 2017. Regardless of her efforts, Hettinger’s patent for the Fidget Spinner expired in 2005 and terminated her chances of having made any actual profit, from her own “supposed” invention. Her entire involvement in the creation of this device is suspicious. She did not attempt to reinstate the patent of the Fidget Spinner and seemingly forgot of its very existence, for 12 years. Hettinger only made this passionate delivery of the importance of this creation to her and children in need when the toy was profiting thousands of dollars a day. Hettinger tried staking a claim by launching a Kickstarter, which then, in turn, lead to this very question: Is it really for the kids or the money? She had recognition, and the kids of the world had their new “helpful” addiction, so if not money, what was her goal? Catherine Hettinger’s claim resulted in an unprecedented backlash. Inventors and, more importantly, parents around the world saw it as yet another baseless attempt to make money off of people without doing the actual work. Unfortunately for Hettinger and toy manufacturing businesses, as a whole, this wasn’t the only problem they would encounter.
At its dawn, fidget spinners were everywhere. Children all around the world needed them. It was like an epidemic; if one kid had the device, everyone had to have it. But one of these mechanisms was not enough; it was only valuable if you had a collection. So the surge began. Parents emptied their wallets, in stores, all over the world for a set of toys that would only last a few months. But for the time being, it would suffice. It kept bored children, distracted and exhausted parents, rested. Manufacturers were in awe; they were making an unbelievable amount of profits from a device that two 17-year-olds had made famous. Allan Maman and Cooper Weiss were the first to mass-produce this device, selling their creations to their classmates and then to the rest of the world. Their company Fidget360 went on to make $360,000 in the first six months but wound up not profiting from a surge they created. Maman and Weiss had been selling their product for $25.99 when a wave of toy manufacturing companies came in selling them at $4.99. Regardless, the two had already profited what they could from this product and moved on to different ventures. But the Fidget Spinner didn’t die off with its initiators. It was a dream come true for almost everyone, well, until they came face to face with reality.
Growing children are hard to satisfy. Their friends change every day, their appearances change every day, and their opinions change every day. Therefore, it is merely foolish for any company to think that a device like a fidget spinner would outlive the ever more evolving mind of a kid. Toy manufacturers lacked innovative skills. For seven months, they expected children to mindlessly spend their lives twirling these devices on their fingers and eventually faced an absolute truth: children get bored. The Fidget Spinner didn’t live up to their expectations. Sure, they produced different colored, textured, and styled devices, but at the end of the day, it was the same OLD Fidget Spinner. It was boring and lacked creativity; manufacturers were at a loss. What could they create that would attract children from all around the world and their parent’s wallet? A Fidget Cube? Nope, too late for that one. Matthew McLachlan and Mark McLachlan trademarked that one in 2016. Fidget Putty? Nope, 74 years too late. Fidget balls? Nope, that one’s been around since the 1660s. It turns out Fidget Sensory Items had been about much longer than the creation of the Fidget Spinner within itself. This realization hit most manufacturers, May 2017 and resulted in an uphill stagger in profits. People dealing with ADHD, anxiety, and Autism had used sensory items for many years now. It was a well-known fact, at this point, that these kinds of devices helped patients concentrate and eradicate their fears. Which leads to the beginning of the end for Fidget Spinners: what happens when we put this object in the hands of children that don’t need them? A mechanism meant to “distract kids from bad behavior” ends up distracting them all together.
It was a parasite, leeching off of young minds everywhere. This semi-enjoyable device became a weapon of mass distraction. Fidget Spinners psychologically removed children from their only legal responsibility, education. Naturally, this went on to cause lots of trouble with teachers. If a child is concentrating on how long they can keep a fidget spinner spinning instead of focusing on getting their education, a series of events begin to take place. Grades go down, parents get upset, teachers get angry emails, and kids get their fidget spinners confiscated at school. No one was happy. This mechanism was a guiding force of conflict among classmates; if you didn’t have one, you lost any validity as a “cool kid.” Like Silly Bandz, they would be traded among students for “cooler” versions, then sold to other students for higher prices. Schools were becoming more of a black market for Fidget Spinners than a facility of education. School boards, around the nation, were looking to ban this mechanism once and for all. It had done nothing but wreak havoc over the past six months. After several weeks, 32% of schools in the United States prohibited Fidget Spinners.
Kids spend 1,000 out of 6,000 waking hours in school, if the fidget spinners are banned, the ⅚ of the time they have at home is going to be spent on it, hindering them from doing their chores, homework, and spending time with family. Parents did not want that. The banning encouraged a rapid decline in Fidget Spinners sold towards the end of May. By June 26, 2017, it seemed by Google Trends/ Statista standards, that the majority of the world had lost interest in the device. In July of that year, a report came out stating that “unusually High amounts of lead” were found within a few fidget spinner. As if this did not concern parents enough, numerous reports came out on children choking on parts that had popped out of the Fidget Spinner. That was it. The Era Of the Fidget Spinner was dead. This trend was no more, but that is how most work anyways.
In our lifetimes, we will see thousands of trends that will fade away. You can say it was because of a controversy, a lack of innovation, or a prohibition that the Fidget Spinner ended, but it did its job while it was alive. This device was like any other Smencil, Bob cut, Kat Von D, Skechers, and Fortnite. It will continue to live on, but it will fade from what we as people find essential. We, much like children, are continually changing; so must our areas of interest and the products that peak just that. The Fidget Spinner, like any other trend, faded but left behind the very thing that keeps companies moving: knowledge and ideas. It may not have lasted long, but it opened their eyes to the reality, that as innovators, it is essential to evolve as people do.