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    Hand grenade looks real but only wants to amuse you

    When I saw the dummy grenade in the glass case, I knew it was someone’s idea of a joke. Instead of recoiling from this faux weapon, I asked the auction-house staffer to take it out so I could take a look.

    It resembled a real grenade, but with the number 1 attached to the pull pin and bright yellow lettering on a plaque on its base: “Complaint Dept. Take a number.”

    It wasn’t boisterously funny, but I was sure some of us at some point in our personal and work lives would love to have one of those around. It’s a stress-deflater for those days when everything goes wrong and you know who to blame.

    toy hand grenade

    Up-close view of the “Complaint Dept.” toy hand grenade.

    As the staffer and I stood there talking, two men approached, also obviously drawn to this symbol of death and destruction. “I had a friend who had one on his desk,” I overheard one man say. “He said one of these days I’m going to take it in to my boss.”

    The men had a good laugh, and I just had to chuckle, too.

    I had not seen one of these gag gifts before, so I obviously Googled to see how common they were. Actually, they are, but more important, they look so real that they can sometimes be mistaken to be so.

    A month ago in Beaver, PA, a toy grenade led to the evacuation of the county courthouse after a supporter sent it as a gag gift to congratulate the new sheriff. The grenade was discovered during an x-ray of mail, and the sheriff ordered the evacuation. It was an honest but foolish mistake by the sender, and he was not charged.

    toy hand grenade

    Full view of the “Complaint Dept.” toy hand grenade.

    In 2012, a worker at Two World Financial Center in New York learned that it was nothing to play with. The man, said to be a maintenance worker, ordered one of the grenades and had it sent to his place of work where it was spotted in an X-ray screening of the mail. The building – which was damaged in 2011 during the World Trade Center bombings – was evacuated until the bomb squad deemed the grenade a toy.

    The grenade is a replica of the MK 2, also known as the pineapple grenade, which was first used in 1918 and continued through the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

    On eBay, I found several toy grenades similar to the one at auction – which could be placed on a desk or hung on a wall – that sold for about $35. You can also buy a mug in the same style, as well as a solid piece of milk chocolate candy.

    hand grenade replica

    The back of the toy hand grenade.

    Several sellers got creative in the ways they marketed the grenades and to whom.

    One company dubbed it the “customer service associate’s secret helper. … Let’s face it. Customer service is hard work, and anyone who does it for a living deserves to have some fun every now and then,” noted the company.

    Another used this description for what it called a “stress relief grenade”:

    “Everyone has their fair share of complaining to do now and then, but frankly, no one wants to hear it. So when you’ve had as much as you can take, pull out the Complaint Department Grenade as John from accounting tells you his sob story about his cheating wife and blah blah blah.

    “Shaped like a real grenade, this handy device tells onlookers to take a number for their turn to whine. It makes an amusing office gag or can be used to alert others of how little you care. Perfect for IT Departments and Call Centers.”

    Now, that’s how to sell this product.


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