Webkinz mania


    Easter was the tipping point for Webkinz mania in Bel Air. The plush toys from Ganz weren’t terribly difficult to find around town until they landed in kids’ Easter baskets. Then, retailers say, the kids came back to spend their Easter gift money on more of the $13 toys bearing tags on their paws that unlock their virtual lives in an online social networking world. My 8-year-old was sucked in a few weeks before Easter when there were enough Webkinz filling the little cart and window shelves at Christopher’s in the Harford Mall that we didn’t feel compelled to buy them every time we saw them. He stopped playing Club Penguin and Nintendo in favor of the clever trivia, probability and typing skills games offered on the Webkinz site. Ganz was clever enough to boost the price of the toys by $3 around Easter. But they weren’t clever enough to anticipate and meet the demand that’s been exploding over the past year. The folks both at Christopher’s and Christopher Matthews in the Festival Shopping Center told me they are still waiting for Ganz to fill Webkinz orders they placed in January. Now the fuzzy guys trickle in by the small box load. And if you want to snag one, it’s best to be in-the-know. (Check the Webkinz site for a list of stores that carry them.) Christopher Matthews will e-mail shoppers who ask when they get a new shipment in. However, by the time they get the e-mails out, the supply is on its way to being depleted. My daughter and I arrived at 10:30 a.m. on a day they were expecting a shipment and saw that the ‘kinz had yet to come off the UPS truck parked outside. We left to run some errands. But I questioned my decision to leave when I saw a couple pull up to the store, spy the UPS truck and then break into a run. We ended up snagging a cow and a white terrier that morning. I thought perhaps I should buy more, but the stores have been putting limits on the quantities they’ll sell to each person for more than a month now. Some Webkinz are fetching three times their price on Ebay. I’ve heard retailers do things like snip the tags off their paws and only turn over the ‘kinz online codes when they’re purchased. A store we visited in Milwaukee told us someone stole the tags off 30 of its Webkinz on display. They now keep them in the back and call Webkinz seekers to let them know when their pet has come in. The grade school underground information network is probably the best way to hear whether Webkinz are available. My son’s friend told him Christopher’s had polar bears. I agreed to take him today — mostly because I wanted to blog about it. By the time we got there, there were two polar bears left and about two dozen Lil’ Kinz golden retrievers. The store clerks spend all day on the phone with kids calling to find out what ‘kinz are in. As they rung up our purchase another call came in. The clerk said, “We just have Lil’ Kinz golden retrievers left.” “Oh, you have one polar bear left,” I offered. “I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said after hanging up the phone. “That one will be gone before they make it in.”