Toy hamsters -- otherwise known as Zhu Zhu Pets -- are so hot this Christmas they caused a scuffle among Black Friday shoppers in Indianapolis. Parents are so eager to lay their hands on them that Walmart.com and Toysrus.com have sold out of them. Some retailers are still selling them, but at four, five, even eight times their suggested retail price.
So should you buy a $10 Zhu Zhu Pet for $50 or more online -- or wait for a local retailer to get in a new supply?
It depends on how badly your child wants a Zhu Zhu, toy experts say.
"If you absolutely gotta have this and nothing else, buy it on eBay. It's the capitalist way," writes Sean McGowan, a senior analyst at Needham & Co. in New York. "If you want to be more rational, then get something else, and buy Zhu Zhu at a reasonable price in February or whenever it becomes available."
There's no chance that supply will catch up with demand before Christmas, he adds. So unless you manage to be in the right store at the right time, the chase may not be worth it.
"The toy is an incredible value at $8-$10," Mr. McGowan writes. But if parents "pay $40 or $50 for it, the odds are it won't live up to parents' expectations. If they jump through hoops, going from store to store, calling all their friends, and still wind up paying up on eBay, they are going to be much more upset if they see the toy lying on the floor when the kid loses interest in it than they would be if they had just gone to Toys R Us and bought it for $8.99."
The inflated prices online have angered some consumers. "I just cannot believe the nerve of these people trying to sell one of the hamsters for $65 when they are only $8 in the stores, if you can find them!" wrote S. Miller in a customer review at Amazon.com.
If you really want one, it's best not to wait. says Adrienne Appell, spokewsoman for the Toy Industry Association in New York. "If you think that there may be a shortage, you should get out as early possible."
She also warns parents not to get caught up in the hype. "There are hot toys out there, but it doesn't mean it's the hot toy for their child," she adds.
To give parents some guidance on good toys available this year, the association has created a Toy of the Year Awards website, where industry experts have nominated the top products in each of 12 categories.
Of course, you could always buy a real hamster instead.
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