Mom panicked after her son,4 , bought SpongeBob popsicles worth R36K
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Noah Ruiz had sat patiently through remote learning on his mom's computer, and now the 4-year-old wanted his favourite treat: a SpongeBob Popsicle with gumball eyes. His mother was onboard until she saw the price on Amazon - one case of 18 ice pops for $51 (about R700).
"Noah, you know, I don't feel like paying 50 dollars for this," Jennifer Bryant told her son. A Brooklyn mother of three juggling a prison counseling job with graduate studies in social work, she couldn't afford to splurge.
Then the boxes arrived - three of them, each about 70 pounds (about 30kg) and loaded with what the family determined to be 918 cartoon desserts worth $2 618.85.
"Oh hell no," Bryant said, rushing to check her bank account on her phone. Somehow, Noah had sent 51 cases of the treats to his aunt's house, and he was eager to pick them up - though he didn't seem to comprehend just how many were waiting.
"Do we need to order more?" Bryant, 37, said her son asked innocently when she confronted him last month.
Thus began Bryant's quest to recoup her losses - comical, frustrating and ultimately heartwarming as GoFundMe donors raised more than enough to cover Noah's SpongeBob popsicle spree. With more than $11 600 collected as of Friday, Bryant sees a chance to save up for her son's education.
She said she has always worried that, as a kid with autism spectrum disorder, Noah will be misunderstood in classroom - "Do they know how to deal with him? Do they know that they can just sit on the floor and say, 'Noah, just use your words'?" Now, Bryant dreams of sending him to a New York school designed for children like him.
And Noah is all over the Internet - standing atop his Amazon boxes in a Mickey Mouse shirt, Mickey Mouse jeans and glasses matching the yellow of his popsicle, the ill-fated purchase that brought so much good their way.
"Never would have ever imagined this," Bryant said. "Never."
Most of the Popsicles - the hundreds not eaten by Noah - ended up melting, she said. They couldn't even fit in the freezer for later.
When the Amazon boxes arrived last month, Bryant was in a panic. She tagged SpongeBob and Nickelodeon on Twitter, adding emoji in various states of distress. She tried to get the purchase refunded without luck, she said, and attempts to sell the popsicles to dessert companies did not go any better. Finally, Bryant vented to her classmates on a Facebook group for NYU's Silver School of Social Work. "If my tuition is late this month, this is why," she wrote.
"You laugh about it, but, you know, my bank account is crying right now!" she said later.
Enter Katie Schloss, an NYU classmate who had worked with Bryant on a project. Texting Bryant to see how she could help, Schloss got permission to start a GoFundMe called "Noah Bought $2 619 Worth of SpongeBob Popsicles."
Donors identified themselves as fellow SpongeBob fans, sympathetic parents and simply amused readers. Amazon also got in touch with the family after the GoFundMe went viral, Bryant said, offering to make a donation of their family's choice when it became clear the popsicle costs are well-covered.
Amazon confirmed that staff were in touch with the Bryants about giving to a local charity in the amount of Noah's popsicle order.
Bryant said her intensely curious youngest child has gotten some stern words and will not be able to order more snacks any time soon. Earlier, she tried reporting the Popsicle purchase as fraudulent; now the Amazon account has all of them locked out.