Toys R Us Advertises Zhu Zhu Pet Sale, Forgets To Stock Zhu Zhu Pets

Arnold was excited to receive an e-mail from Toys R Us advertising a special early-bird sale of Zhu Zhu Pets. The inexpensive little robot hamsters are in short supply, and the chain promised critters to the first fifty households who showed up at their local store on Sunday morning. Only Arnold reports that not only did his local store never have any of the battery-operated rodents in stock, it wasn’t open at the advertised hour at all.

I know this isn’t an earth-shattering issue, but it annoys me. Stupid Toys R Us sent me this email about a special sale on Zhu Zhu pets.



*In-store Sun., 11/8/09 only. Limit one Zhu Zhu Pet per household. Quantities limited; no rain checks. Selection may vary by store.

Seeing how my daughter is all about the Zhu Zhu pets this year, I thought this was a great thing.

So, I get up early (which was a chore, my wife has been in the hospital and just came home yesterday, so we are all exhausted from running back and forth.) I drove 20 miles to get there extra early so I can be one of the 1st 50 people there only to discover not only was my Toys R Us not opening early, they didn’t even have them in stock. Talk about a waste of time. Why bother sending something out if it isn’t true?

On the drive home I thought to myself, “maybe it was only at certain stores.” So I came home and read the email again to make sure. On the bottom it said what stores wouldn’t have them. I don’t live in NJ, and this was a full size Toys R Us, not an Express or Babies R Us. In fact, I even clicked on the store locator on the email, and my store in Riverhead, NY popped up. Talk about a waste of time.

Was there some kind of miscommunication, or was this an e-mail blast gone horribly wrong? Did Arnold misunderstand? The entire message and relevant part of the disclaimer are reproduced above. It seems pretty straightforward.

Forget about disappointed little children—we hope that no more frazzled parents get their hopes up only to discover that the toys they seek aren’t available as promised.

Did you try to obtain Zhu Zhu Pets on Sunday morning like Arnold? How did you fare?

PREVIOUSLY:
Experts Predict Widespread Robotic Hamster Shortages

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    If I happen to run across one in a store, I will be tempted to buy one for my feline children.

    …And maybe for myself too, a little.

  2. MostlyHarmless says:

    “I do my own meetups at home”: Skype meetup today at 7PM CST.

    Yes, this is off topic, and apologies for that, but had to tell people somehow :P

    We did a Sykpe meetup last time to coincide with the Consumerist meetup in NYC. It was relatively sparsely attended, but it was fun.

    We are having another one Today at 7PM CST again on Skype. If interested, please add mostly.harmless.42 to your Skype contacts, and mention that you are from Consumerist.

    Oh, and unlike last time, this time we have a topic for the meet up as well. So that should help with the silences ;)

  3. pb5000 says:

    I recently had very good service with TRU. We took advantage of a buy two get one free sale and then noticed that the most expensive of our three items was $10 cheaper the following week. Thinking it was a long shot that they would honor the difference, we went in to ask. No problems at all, got store credit because we had paid with a gift card, had we paid cash we would have been refunded cash.

    We were happy with the outcome.

  4. WaStateJustin says:

    I lucked out and got one last week. They store said they would have them in stock on Tuesday. I checked the website and it said they opened at 930am. When I got to the store at 9:15 I found that the store actually opens at 9:00. If they can’t even coordinate their website to the actual store hours I’m not surprised they didn’t have any in stock for you.

  5. PLATTWORX says:

    Look forward to Toys R Us’s response to this post. Looks like they created a train wreck and not the thing you want to do when Wal-Mart is selling more toys than they are these days.

    • Saberpilot says:

      @PLATTWORX: This entire thing with these hamsters has been crazy. My friend’s daughter/son both want them, and my boyfriend’s little sisters did too. In September when they first started advertising them (and the kids started seeing the commercials, oh dear), I was told by several employees in the week or so prior that they could put 2 on hold for me when they came in to the store (for the record, this happened during the G20 conference, and I work in Downtown Pittsburgh, so this was already the WORST possible time).

      Toys R Us held them for me when I called the day they said they’d been on hold, but a manager told me that they’d changed the policy “that morning” when they saw the crowds outside and that it was a “pain in the ass to do this.” However, since I had been told before I could place them on hold, the manager said “I guess we’ll have to put up with having them on hold for you.” There were other comments made, but the long story short is that I got those toy hamsters, after more rudeness at the actual store- but lost a LOT of faith in how Toys R Us deals with customers.

      I contacted their customer service team and was basically given an auto-response of “we’re sorry” and “we’ll do better with this.”

      Reading this article of this instance has reinforced, to me, that they really didn’t do anything to get better, nor really paid attention to my email or the feelings of their customers. I for one personally hope someone at Toys R Us reads this and gets the wake-up call they desperately need.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Sounds like Toys R Us should go ahead and do rainchecks if it was their failure.

  7. Raekwon says:

    Hmm maybe I should pick some up as my local Toys R Us had a bunch a few days ago. I was too busy will the Jedi force levitation toy (it reads brainwaves!!) and the raptor toy that bites at you if you get too close.

  8. Colonel Jack O'Neill says:

    Buy them at $10 each.

    Sell them on ebay for $50 each.

    Have a nice little profit of $40.

    After all fees and everything, maybe you come out with a $35 profit.

    • GitEmSteveDave_IsSlacking says:

      @Colonel Jack O’Neill: How much can you get for them on PX3-942?

    • smiling1809 says:

      @Colonel Jack O’Neill: Yes, let’s take advantage of people so we can make a buck. People who do this are essentially taking toys out of the hands of children who would otherwise be getting them at Christmas, but can’t b/c their parents can no longer afford the marked up prices. If people who wanted to make money off of them would stop the greedy grab, there might not be a shortage and all of the kids who wanted them could get them.

  9. PsiCop says:

    Who needs to buy Zhu Zhu pets in a store? I make my own at home.

    ;)

    • cash_da_pibble says:

      @PsiCop:
      I bet that’s how this whole robotic hamster thing started- someone told little Susie she had two female Zhu Zhus, and Little Suzie learned about robotic hamster lovin’s real quick-like.

  10. fredmertz says:

    BUT, as I tried to tell consumerist a week ago, there have been plenty in stock at 2x retail on etoys.com. Which just happens to be wholly owned by — TOYS R US!!!!

    • louiedog says:

      @fredmertz: Call me crazy, but shady business practices by a major retailer seems much more interesting than a story about a store screwing up an advertised special.

  11. FrugalFreak says:

    join Fatwallet.com and win one here;
    [www.fatwallet.com]

  12. H3ion says:

    For all the world, this looks like the Cabbage Patch doll of 2009. People would get into fist fights in the aisles of toy stores to get one of those things. Time to call out the National Guard to maintain order.

  13. mavkato says:

    i see little text at the bottom of the image saying it excludes Paramus NJ stores. is there something about that city that retailers hate? i have seen other ads that specifically exclude Paramus (maybe Michaels? i think)

  14. chiieddy says:

    All stores in Paramus, NJ are closed on Sunday. That’s why they’re excluded.

  15. Kogenta says:

    Not that I don’t think TRU is in the wrong here, the notice does technically say the first 50 people will have the “opportunity” to purchase, not that they will get them. You could reword it as they’ll have the “chance*” to buy (*Quantities limited; no rain checks. Selection may vary by store.** [**By limited we mean some stores may not actually have any stock or selection])

    While it does seem a bit underhanded, it might not be the store’s fault. They could have been shipped what the warehouse thinks was said items, but really the warehouse messed up and shipped a case of hello kitty puppets.

    Also, I don’t see anywhere where it says the store(s) is/are going to open early. It only says to get there early, which if they had had stock would be a given if it’s limited to the first 50 households, you wouldn’t expect to go near closing time and expect to get anything.

  16. SaraFimm says:

    Aren’t the toys like those little radio controlled cars, but with a rodent-like body instead of the car frame? Hold on, you can’t even tell them where to go so they’re not even RC. They’re just like those little trains and cars that go along a track! How boring! Why buy these?!? Buy them an MP3 player instead.

  17. morganlh85 says:

    Get them a real hamster instead.

  18. millertime1211 says:

    You got up early….drove 20miles and were expecting to wait in line for an $8 toy rodent? I think there are bigger issues than not getting the toy here!

  19. gerbilsoutofexile...is cheap and easy says:

    Last week, Sports Authority advertised the Razor Powerwing for $20 off the normal $100 price; my son is salivating for one of these for Christmas and the grandparents won the lottery for that gift. Not only did SA not have any in stock, they didn’t even know what they were. My Dad finally located one store that had one is stock, so he was able to get it, but had to drive quite a ways.

    This past week, TRU had four in stock, and at the same sales price as Sports Authority. They also gave my son a refund on a MP3 player he had bought Saturday night and went on sale $20 cheaper the next day. I don’t shop there often, but lately I’ve found some deals that even Wal-Mart can’t beat.

  20. sb01 says:

    I’ve been to the Riverhead, NY store, several times. It is the most grueling experience to have as a consumer, period. The people there are absolutely ridiculous and get really nasty with you even if you just ask a simple question. It’s your job to know where a certain toy is, and if you don’t want to help me, don’t work here. A friend of mine worked there for a time and he says the management is just as bad as you would guess, they’re incredibly abusive to their employees, and management lies on a regular basis.

    Bunch of idiots.

  21. corinthos says:

    I read this yesterday and went to walmart and they had them in stock here. I guess no one cares about them in my area or they just put some on the shelf. I bought one so I can have another toy at work. It looks pretty stupid but I haven’t opened it yet.

  22. presto117 says:

    i was stocking the toy section of my target a couple weeks ago and we got two boxes of these things in and they filled about 8 or so pegs and all i could think was “why are these pegs empty? i doubt these are gonna sell much…”

    guess i was wrong lol.

  23. Lollerface says:

    I have a question for the Consumerist community. How do toys like these become the “it” thing for the holiday season before anyone’s even heard of them? I have yet to see a single ad on TV or in print for these things, everyone (and I really mean every adult) I’ve asked has never heard of them yet they are suddenly impossible to find. How do these things reach the peak of desire before the public is aware of their existence?

    • DeathByCuriosity says:

      @Diminuendo: Unless you watch children’s programming on any non-PBS channel, you won’t see ads for them. I think the only ad I’ve seen for these was in a post here on Consumerist. That’s the only ad I’ve ever seen for them. Obviously, they won’t run commercials for it during, say, grown-up shows like The Daily Show or Law & Order, but they probably run non-stop on the Disney channel.

      They’re sometimes featured on morning TV shows as “the hot toy for this year” in early fall, but if you don’t religiously watch morning shows, you’ll miss that too.

      If you don’t have kids of your own or nieces/nephews/cousins/etc. to buy for, it’s pretty easy to never hear about these until they’re part of a news story about a soccer mom fistfight at Target.

      But yeah, they gain popularity by simply being a neat toy advertised in a really eye-catching commercial ad nauseum on a children’s programming channel. Then someone’s friend gets one well before Christmas for his/her birthday and everyone gets a small hands-on demo. It snowballs from there and kids start begging for the toy for Christmas.

      That’s my guess, at least.

  24. JoePL says:

    I found some Zhu Zhu pets in stock at [www.instocksearch.com]
    They show if the item is in stock and the prices for all the stores that sell them.

  25. gadgetgeek says:

    Its incredible the craziness that is going on around this zhu zhu pets, is difficult to find one at retail price.

    i am using a tool recommended by a friend, http://www.FrontLineGrabber.com to track Amazon.com stock so when the zhu zhu pet becomes available again in-stock at $8 dollars Retail price i will be the first one to know about it and grab mine.

    i hope to get mine for my kids, resell prices are too high

  26. Eschen Caulfied says:

    I have some little ones who are enamored with the zhu zhu pet, so I did some checking. I found a site that checks the Amazon stock to see if they are in inventory. If not, it will immediately notify you when they do arrive at Amazon. You can get the zhu zhu for retail, and don’t have to pay these silly prices.

    http://a-zgrabber.com

    Hope it helps anyone trying to track down one of these for Christmas.

  27. Micho says:

    Don’t know about you, but I am not going to go elbow people at Walmart for a battery hamsters. I am going to do what I did last year. Wait patiently for Amazon to get inventory (real inventory not the overpriced reseller stuff) and click real fast! No really there is a method to the madness…ever notice how the ebay resellers never run out of inventory…well I do basically what they do.

    It’s all explained here: http://hardtogetonline.com.

    Anyway, good luck…It’s what I will be using.

  28. andyvicki says:

    I am not sure if this will help anyone but where I live in Indiana Zhu Zhu pets are sold at CVS pharmacy for $9.99. I went to Toys R Us, Walmart, Target and I was just giving up it was irritating that a store would advertise these Zhu Zhu pets then not even have enough in stock. I just happen to go to CVS one day and stumbled across them I was so excited because that’s what my girls have been asking for X-mas. I was NOT going to stoop to the level and buy the stupid things off e-bay or Amazon.com for $50 buck that is just greed on the sellers part and shame on them. I hope this has been helpful for someone but check your local CVS!!!

  29. EdnaLegume says:

    @H3ion: just to clarify, I checked that out.. the ones from Amazon are from a 3rd party vendor, NOT amazon. Amazon typically has excellent prices.

    as an aside… amazon also provided reviews that steered me away from this particular toy. didn’t sound like a good buy to me.

  30. Charmander says:

    @H3ion: It happened at my store, too. It’s a problem with the supplier not being able to meet the demand for this product. We’ve sold everything we had…and are still waiting for more to show up. We also advertised them for $7.99 – but unfortunately didn’t have any to sell when the sale happened.

    You do realize that those flyers and ads are printed in advance, don’t you? They don’t just print them the week before, more like MONTHS before. So, sounds like it’s not just Toys R Us trying to be sleazy – the shortage of Zhu Zhu pets is pretty much across the board for all discount retail store.

  31. cash_da_pibble says:

    @GitEmSteveDave_IsSlacking:
    Teh bunnyfone is the greatest part!

  32. robocop is bleeding says:

    @mamalicious: You do realize that those flyers and ads are printed in advance, don’t you?

    Except the OP was responding to an emailed ad, which could have simply not been sent out when it looked like the inventory would not be there, or if it was sent out, a follow-up email could have explained the situation.

  33. gretcheepoo says:

    @mamalicious: You are right, flyers & ads are printed in advance. And you clearly had stock too… yet you state that the store you work for opted to sell them all even though corporate had a sales event planned.

    I work in retail too, and a couple of things I know:
    (a) We get to see flyers for the upcoming month & are instructed NOT to tell customers of upcoming sales.
    (b) When we get a shipment in of something that is hot and going on sale within the next 2 months, we hold stock for that event. Even if it is one or two just to say we have stock.

    Considering that there was a very specific limit (50) stores could have been instructed to make sure they kept 50 of these pulled for the event. And if there is some kind of Zhu Zhu shortage, and TRU decided to not plan ahead, why even e-mail blast the event at all? Or at least be willing to give the first 50 customers rain-checks.

    P.S. The fact the store wasn’t even open early as the ad clearly states tells me this was an epic fail on TRU. Kudos to you for supporting the company you work for, but even you must realize that is horrible customer service and/or terrible planning on TRU’s part. Try not to take it personally… I don’t when people have harsh criticism of the store I work for. I just give the best customer service possible while trying to apply any sucky decisions management makes, while being sympathetic. As a co-worker of mine recently said, “I’m wearing a hat & apron… you think decision makers have to wear hats & aprons? I’m right there with you man.”

  34. The Porkchop Express says:

    @mamalicious: it is a failure in this case. You don’t advertise something you don’t have. They should have made sure those shipments were received prior to sending the email. I understand that the suppliers are not sending them/creating demand, but you shouldn’t arrange a sale around something you don’t have yet.

  35. Charmander says:

    @robocop is bleeding: You are right. I reread the article and realized it was an email promotion. I agree a quick email would have explained the issue.

    (In my store, however, they did actually send out a print ad advertising the hamsters on sale, and that ad was coordinated/printed several months ago.)