I grew up shopping at Toys R Us, and I continued to shop there up until its bankruptcy. Susan Berfield’s article, “Tears R Us: The World’s Biggest Toy Store Didn’t Have to Die,” does an excellent job explaining everything I never knew was going on behind the scenes, and how the company was slowly crumbling under my feet.
Berfield structures the article chronologically, thus making the timeline of the company’s lifespan easy to follow and easy to spot the moment where they screwed up.
In his book Elements of Style, E. B. White suggests that summaries should be written in one tense. Berfield accomplishes this by using the past tense in each paragraph to summarize each subsequent event in Toys R Us’s downfall. She also splits her paragraphs evenly so it becomes easier to focus on one specific point in time while getting ready to read about the next year or next CEO in the subsequent paragraph.
Berfield’s use of numbers throughout the text makes the piece much easier to read. The mobile layout of this web article distracts me from the reading experience, so I rely on the numbers plotted all over the article to help me understand the main points. Berfield uses numbers to describe the year (i.e. 2000, 2004, 2015), to describe how many CEO’s took over the company since Lazarus (i.e. Gerald Storch, Boss No. 5), and to describe how much money Toys R Us was in debt at any time (i.e. $725 million in 2009).
The piece does have a very clear attitude. It’s a very sad piece. Normally, an article explaining how a company became bankrupt should not come across as sad, but for Bloomberg’s audience (from people my age to those who grew up with Toys R Us while it was flourishing), this article, accompanied by very creative photos, leaves its reader feeling upset after they realize the company would never recover once Lazarus left in 1994.
This is an effective online article not because of its design or its photos, but because Berfield explains the company’s financial woes so clearly that even those who know nothing about financial mismanagement can follow along and understand each step of the inevitable bankruptcy of Toys R Us.