Are Webkinz One Year Subscriptions An Unethical Ploy To Sell More Toys?

Reader Christopher bought his daughter a Webkinz stuffed animal — for those of your who are not familiar with these toys — with each animal you receive a code that is good for a one year subscription to a virtual version of the toy. After a year — you need to buy another toy or you lose access to your previous pets. Buying more than one toy per year doesn’t extend your subscription, you have to buy one each year to keep it going. Christopher thinks this is unethical.

Christopher writes:

Recently, my daughter (age 7) and I discovered the strategy employed by the makers of Webkinz to perpetuate their sales, by taking advantage of kids’ desires to maintain their virtual pets by having to purchase more and more Webkinz stuffed animals.

Webkinz, of course, are cute stuffed animals that allow kids to create an online version of their pet, then roam around in a virtual Webkinz world. You buy the stuffed animal in a store, and receive a code to logon to their website and see your pet “come to life” in the virtual Webkinz world.

What is buried in the user’s agreement is that the log on is only good for one year, at which time you have to buy another pet to keep access to your previous pets. Buying 2 pets at the same time only gives you a year, as the time is not additive; it begins when you register your pet.

After my daughter discovered she could not log on, and I looked within the user’s agreement, and found the problem, and their “solution.” Of course, my daughter immediately wanted to go and buy another animal. I emailed the company expressing my dismay at their strategy, and received a standard email back regarding purchasing another toy to log in.

I am hoping that other consumers write you about this unethical strategy.

What do you think? Are Webkinz a form of evil? Or is a year’s subscription fair?

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.