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Zhu Zhu hamsters in short supply

Hot toy can be found online -- for a big price.

By Karen Datko Dec 1, 2009 3:32PM

This post comes from Lisa Wade McCormick at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Relief is apparently on the way for frantic parents scurrying to find the hottest toy of the 2009 holiday season -- the Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters. But many buyers are finding themselves at the mercy of online vendors who are selling the toys at exorbitant prices.

St. Louis-based Cepia LLC, maker of the popular toys, has increased production of its "smart pets," and is now turning out some 200,000 Zhu Zhu hamsters daily.

 

"We have ramped up production of Zhu Zhu Pets in China," said Natalie Hornsby, the company's director of marketing and brand development. "We originally worked with one major factory. We are now working with four factories."

 

Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters do not make a mess, never die, and have no odor. But the toys move like real hamsters and can make more than 40 different sound effects, depending on their environment. Those sounds include toilet flushing, teeth brushing, and even alarm clock noises.

 

ConsumerAffairs.com on Monday checked on the availability of the five different Zhu Zhu Pets online at Toys R Us, Target, and Wal-Mart. None of the stores' Web sites had any of the toy hamsters in stock.

 

The toys normally retail for $9.99, but ConsumerAffairs.com discovered that some online vendors are gouging consumers by charging up to six times that amount.

 

On Amazon.com, for example, some vendors were selling the Zhu Zhu pet named Mr. Squiggles, "the hamster who loves to explore," for as much as $99.99. The lowest-priced Zhu Zhu pet found was the "laid-back surfer hamster" named Chuck, who was listed at $40.95 plus $4.49 shipping.

 

Outraged

Hornsby said the company was upset that some vendors are exploiting the current shortage of Zhu Zhu Pets. "We do not condone the price gouging that is occurring on eBay and Amazon," Hornsby said.

 

But what options are there for parents trying to make their child's Christmas wish for a Zhu Zhu pet come true?

"We are advising consumers to call retailers and check for shipment dates," Hornsby said. "Typically you have the best chance to get a Zhu Zhu pet if you arrive just before store opening."

 

Toys R Us said it will continue to receive Zhu Zhu Pets throughout December. Company spokeswoman Jennifer Albano also said customers can sign up for e-mail alerts to notify them when Zhu Zhu Pets are available in stores.

 

"On Saturday, we did send out an e-mail to alert customers to the availability of the pets at stores nationwide on Sunday," Albano said.

 

But customers who received that e-mail learned they had to be one of the first 50 shoppers at their local Toys R Us store on Sunday in order to "have the opportunity" to buy a Zhu Zhu pet.

 

"On Black Friday, we also had 100 Zhu Zhu Pets at each store at midnight," Albano said. "And we did get additional pets throughout the day. We are getting more shipments."

 

‘My daughters wanted them’

But that news comes a few days late for a Missouri mom who paid considerably more than the retail price to get the pets.

 

Christy M., of Kansas City, didn't want to risk disappointing her two young daughters on Christmas morning. "I paid $30 apiece and bought two of them," she said.

 

Christy also paid $40 for a Zhu Zhu Pets house. "It's OK, though. My daughters wanted them," she said.

 

Cepia introduced Zhu Zhu Pets to the country in August. The company initially held special promotions during Major League Baseball games and asked celebrities to deliver the toys to various children's hospitals. Since then, Zhu Zhu Pets have become a craze among kids nationwide.

 

"We are humbled by our success," Hornsby said, "and thank consumers for their incredible support."

 

Related reading at ConsumerAffairs.com:

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