Hatchimals: Hottest toy of 2016 selling for 'highway robbery' prices
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, November 15, 2016 12:12PM EST
Desperate parents are starting to crack over the hottest toy of the holiday season, which has become nearly impossible to find at a reasonable price with six weeks left until Christmas.
The toys, called Hatchimals, are sold out at virtually every physical and online retailer in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., leaving parents to either shell out hundreds of dollars for one of the dolls on eBay or Amazon, or hunt among their local retailers for an elusive shipment. Hatchimals are listed for sale at Wal-Mart for $79.97, but most are going for $250-$500 on internet resale sites. There are also reports that some retailers are selling the dolls for more than twice the suggested price.
"It's making parents crazier," Toronto mom Tanya Zigomanis Koroneos told CTVNews.ca. Zigomanis Koroneos snagged one of the dolls at retail price through a friend of a friend in the toy business, but she's still trying to find another so her two- and four-year-old girls will each have one.
Zigomanis Koroneos says the toys are currently listed at "highway robbery" prices, and she's had to reach out to family and friends for help to track down ones at a reasonable price. She's also spent much of her free time visiting toy retailers and inquiring about when their new toy shipments arrive, in hopes of landing one of the coveted "Owlicorn" Hatchimals.
Each Hatchimal comes in an egg roughly two-thirds the size of a football. Once the egg is held in a person's hands, the doll inside activates and starts to "hatch" its way out. The hatching process can take several minutes, during which time the doll makes heartbeat and vocal sounds, while physically chipping away at the egg shell from inside. The creature's eyes also light up from inside the egg during the hatching process.
The whole experience is like something out of “Jurassic Park,” only cuter. Once hatched, children "raise" the creature through three stages -- baby, toddler and kid -- teaching it to walk, dance, play games and repeat words.
The toys have become so hard to find that many retailers, including the company that produces Hatchimals, have posted messages on their websites to parents.
Visitors to the Hatchimals website on Tuesday encountered a pop-up statement from toymaker Spin Master, in which the company acknowledges most of its first shipments have already sold out. "The consumer response to Hatchimals has been extraordinary, exceeding all expectations," the company says in the statement. Spin Master says more products will hit the shelves in November, but it expects those items to sell out quickly as well. "We have increased production and a whole new batch of Hatchimals will be ready to hatch in early 2017."
The Canadian-based company says it doesn't want anyone to be disappointed, nor does it want to encourage those who resell the toys at an inflated price online. "We are working on creative solutions to help kids and their parents withstand the wait. In the interim, some retailers are developing pre-sale and/or rain-check programs for redemption in January."
That might sound reasonable to an adult, but try telling a child that he or she will have to wait until after Christmas to get the hottest Christmas toy, and see how that turns out.
The Hatchimal is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to the hot toys of Christmas past, including Tickle-Me-Elmo, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids and Furby. However, Hatchimals appears to have taken the toy game to a new level beyond toy and commercial marketing, with a powerful presence on YouTube apparently driving sales. Hatching videos routinely rack up millions of views on YouTube, which has become the new video medium of choice for many of today's young children.
Zigomanis Koroneos says her daughters were among those who fell for the dolls because of their YouTube popularity. "Before it was commercials," she told CTVNews.ca. "Now it's YouTube."
When asked to fill out her Christmas list, Zigomanis Koroneos's four-year-old wrote only one item, in carefully drawn letters: Hatchimals.
Zigomanis Koroneos says there is a lot of pressure to deliver on her child's one-item Christmas list, so she can keep the fantasy of Santa Claus alive. "Kids are going to be sitting on Santa's knee… and asking for Hatchimals," Zigomanis Koroneos said. She added that there's "no point" in taking a rain check on the toy until January, because her children expect Santa to whip up one of the dolls in his workshop. She also doesn't want to pay five times the price of the original doll for something off eBay.
Another frustrated mother has gone viral on Facebook with her rant against Hatchimal resellers. "Have you no soul?" the mom, who calls herself Dottie Llama, says in the video. Dottie suggests those who are buying and reselling the toys are 43-year-old men "living in your mother's basement."
"He's snatched them up so that he can sell them at a bigger price," she says in the video. "How do I justify going out and spending $250 on a 'Burdle'?"
That's the decision many parents are now forced to grapple with, as they weigh the consequences of disappointing a child with the joy of keeping Santa Claus alive for one more year.
For Zigomanis Koroneos, she says her hunt will continue for a second Hatchimal, but her children might have to learn how to share if she's unsuccessful. And until their creature hatches its way out of its egg, she says she'll continue to ask herself: "Is this all it's cracked up to be?"