Zhu Zhu Hysteria
From a very limited supply, acquisition of the "hot" toy of the season
Bill Pappou Drew
In 1994 as my five-year-old granddaughter Ariana and I stroll though the mall looking for last-minute ideas for Christmas presents. We observe live hamsters on display in the pet store. “I would really like one of those!… Pappou. Is it too late to add it to my Santa list?” No response.
The idea is floated past my daughter who, along with eight-year-old daughter Christina, is living with my wife and me in the family home. “NO WAY,” is the answer. Then she issues a directive to me, knowing that I am a highly disciplined individual when it comes to decisions for my grandchildren: “Do not buy one for her.” She receives support from other mothers who firmly suggest that I refrain from the impulse.
I DID buy her one, late in the day of Christmas Eve and put it under the tree as being from Santa. I received all sorts of flak for the decision, except from Ariana, and it continues to be one of our favorite Christmas tales.
With this Christmas season, hamsters again have made the scene, and, like before, somehow and someway, Pappou has been drawn by unexplained forces into the web. It is Zhu Zhu Pet time.
Mr Snuggles, a Zhu Zhu Pet surrounded by sleeping blanket material.
There is now no need for a cage, pet food, cleaning out the droppings or prostrate animals needing mouth to mouth recitation, just batteries. There are four, motorized Zhu Zhu Pets
– hamsters - with more designs on the way. They sell in stores for $8.00-10.00 apiece. Accessories such as a surfboard, skateboard, wheel and slide, ball, car, and spiral slide can all be tied together with a fun house. Each can be purchased individually and they are used to keep the hamsters busy. To complete the scene there are additional accessories like clothes, sleeping bags and carrier cases.
The SYSTEM; the complete product line
Because of a very limited supply, it is first come, first serve, one to a family, and to those who can run the fastest to the Zhu Zhu Pet display in the far end of the store, first pick. Most of the time, the word is given, “None today.” I ask myself, why the hysteria?
New friends or competition?; Comradely at the door AND A disheartening view, empty racks.
4:30 am: I am ready for the hunt. I am here in the parking lot of Toy’R’Us in Newington.
4:45 am: I’d better get ready.
I retrieve an empty shopping basket, load it with my folding chair, hot tea, reading material and wait for action. It’s nice and warm here in the van and I hope no one will show up for an hour or so.
A group of six suddenly appear at the entrance door. How did I miss their arrival? I must have dozed off. I exit the nest and pushing the basket walk up to them.
The Toys'R'Us group
Their appearance and age makes it apparent they are not the typical customer.
They describe themselves as employees getting a bit of fresh air and a last smoke before beginning work at 5:00 am.
I decide to settle in near the door and wait it out.
5:00 am: I am alone.
Waiting for steak and eggs.
Marion, apparently a supervisor, comes out from the employee entrance and we chat. I ask her, “Are there any Pets today?” She assures me there are so I add, “I’m in need of a white one.” She smiles. I tilt my head, wink, and smile back hoping to make sure I get on her “good” side. The whole thing is a game and psychology is necessary for success. Also involved in availability, is information from toy department managers, employees, and of course the network of other customers.
5:10 am: Tea time.
5:24 am: I have company.
Two customers, Jessica and Debbie, appear. They have been sleeping in their car waiting for the appointed hour, 6:00. They actually arrived before I did.
5:26 am: Bob from Brentwood makes the scene.
Bob from Brentwood
We begin to question each other as to why we are here at this hour. Bob gives a description of his situation.
His wife received an email ad from Toy’R’Us, and at 1:07am, emailed him who was at work on his office. She went on to say he needed to be there at 5:30 am in order to be sure to get one as it opens at six. He opened her email at 1:30 am then questioned her, “What is this? What products? And why so early?” Per an agreed upon response in such situations, he answers his own questions with, “Yes dear.” He goes on to say, “We are all here for …a dead hamster.” We all laugh.
5:31am: It’s Julie from Rye.
Julie from Rye
She arrives and adds a fresh approach to the discussion. Last evening, she had to convince her husband to delay his hunting trip so she could go on her own hunt. I wonder how that went over? For her it’s a first time experience and I find out later, it is for all the others as well. She comments, “Does that mean we now have the bug? I kinda do. I am going to get one which should be enough …except that I find myself wanting to get a second for my younger boy. Whatever happened to sharing? That aside… I wonder if I’ve been stricken now with an incurable disease? Will I be on a new hunt this time next year … OR …worse …maybe this one isn’t over yet?”
Deanna, father Wayne, and Silvia
As in my case, extended members of the family are drafted to join in the search. Grandparents are often seen at these morning events standing in for busy mothers at home who are minding young children and getting ready for the day’s activities. Shown is Wayne, who I regularly meet at WalMart, with his daughter who I first met at another WalMart.
One such slightly older person is Kitty. She is there to make sure she is able to make the purchase for a loved one. Another one is Frank from Rochester. He is there for his nieces.
Dan arrives and answers that his mission is to obtain one as a house warming gift for the young family who have just moved in next door. It’s obvious his gift is not just the eight dollar toy, but the action necessary to purchase a suitable and worthwhile present.
So is there a hidden web at work? What draws us into the action? The children overhear the adults talking and the word is spread to further reaches of society. It becomes the common situation of family life; “I want one.” In our family we have pegged a name to the youngest child; “Me Too.”
Some potential customers have even resorted to being cagey with their sought after knowledge as to when and where Pets would be available so as to limit the competition for them. Rumors abound
Mark arrives and offers his explanation as to why we are here; “Anything for the future of America.” As with Bob above, his wife clued him in to buy one. He doesn’t have the vaguest idea of what it is or what he is purchasing but his heart is in the right place as he knows who is going to receive this gift of love. His children are in college so it must be someone very special.
He recalls the funny sketches in the movie, Jingle All the Way
, with Arnold Schwarzenegger where he runs around at the last minute trying to obtain the hot toy of the season, Turbo Man.
6:10 am Purchase time
I’m the first one in the door with a numbered ticket in my hand. I scurry about looking for the items. From some reason, they are now located in “Electronics.” I am reminded of my races in childhood trying to get ahead of younger sister, Nancy Drew.
Marion shows me a white one and I take it. It worked.
Round one is complete. One Pet tamed, and for me it’s on to round two. Marion wishes me good luck.
At WalMart about five miles away, I run into Paula from Newburyport, who has been on station with us at Toy’R’Us. There are no Pets here for sale but she does pick up a couple of accessories.
Another shopper takes the queue and decides to purchase some for himself.
Maybe I'll pick up a few.
Often heard are stories of unknowing people, being in the middle of the hubbub, getting caught up in the web then making purchases, not even knowing what they are, do, or what they will do with the item.
One way or another as the politicians say, “It’s for the children.” Be they young or old, everyone is involved, even family pets become some of the recipients.
As to WHY we are up this early? Julie comments; “Somehow, (buying a toy for $9.99) could quiet the demons in my head laughing at how they forced ME, a gal who rarely, if ever, gives up sleep with that the fact I did not have to buy it elsewhere and pay $ 69.99.
The Answer? It sounds to me like the love of a good deal coupled with a good deal of love.
Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS
WHAT IS BEHIND THIS LACK OF SUPPLY?
Maybe there are some issues here.
The origins of the Zhu Zhu craze
are outlined in an article in the New York Times. It describes an example of vision, research, investment, and success. As my father used to say, “Success breeds success.” For another example see my article on the Great Island Cookbook
But, WHY all this unavailability? Has it been planned, either in the form of merchandising strategy by the big three chains, or the manufacturers themselves? Yet, how do they profit from it?
Others who also have vision, see opportunity, invest , snap up the available goods, then capitalize on them with sales through other distribution methods such as eBay and on-line stores. In these markets, most if not all of the items offered for sale are presently going for two to five times the store price, and in the case of the Pets themselves, many times more. I see big distribution company names. Maybe they have all the inventory and are making the pets a luxury item. "What is luxury retailing
about? Stephen Sadove, chairman and chief executive of Saks Fifth Avenue comments, “It is about a scarcity of supply."
Others have a different sort of vision. They realize, using their creativity with a limited amount of capital outlay, an in-home income producing activity can be formed. Sleeping bags, costumes, and other accessories for the hamsters are created and placed on sale.
For these adults, they too have entered the web. The cellar and or garage become warehouses, the dining room a sewing factory, and with the many new trips to the post office, FedEX and UPS, new friends are made. The reward is seeing the balance in the PayPal account climb for a few sought after Christmas presents. The result is earned, a good lesson in life. “You get out …what you put in.”
Here are some representative examples of Zhu Zhu galleries
on eBay. Most items are priced under $ 10.00, and many in the "Buy it Now" category.
A Zhu Zhu Pet Christmas sleeping bag set
Courtsey of eBay seller - dave156422
A complete Zhu Zhu Princess set including carriage, bed, crowns, and accessories.
Complete Princess Set including carriage.
Courtesy of ebay seller: monkadoodlekids
When the party is over ….. Handmade SLEEPING BAGS complete with pillow
One IMDB user comment
made about the Turbo Man movie is as follows: “It (The whole situation) does (seem to) represent the bad of the holiday season with all the merchandising and the over-emphasis on that one particular toy that kids must get for Christmas.” Read varied opinions at the same link
Each to his own.
NEWS FLASH: Tuesday, December 9, 2009
Mr Squiggles is EXONERATED
Zhu Zhu Pets ARE SAFE per SPSC Investigation.
For more detail information click here.
December 5, 2009: Consumer group claim Zhu Zhu Pets contain excessive levels of toxina.
The above statement has been proven to be, NOT TRUE
Copyright © Rye Reflections 2009. All rights reserved.