The hunt for those cute, fun and furry Hatchimals is turning ugly.
The must-have toy this Christmas has already sold out at most stores across North America. So third-party dealers who managed to scoop up multiple Hatchimals are now demanding sky-high prices, banking that desperate parents will pay up.
That has upset many parents who feel that greedy dealers are trying to take advantage of them — at Christmas time.
- Hatchimals have parents scrambling weeks before Christmas
"The price point is absolutely ridiculous," says Heather Bzdega from Cochrane, Alta.
"There's just no way I'm going to pay those people out there that are trying to scam all of us poor parents that are just trying to make our kids happy."
Hatchimals for almost 10X the price
A Hatichimal — an interactive bird-like creature that hatches from an egg — typically retails for about $80 in Canada. But good luck getting it for that price now.
CBC News found dealers on Amazon's Canadian site charging from around $180 to as high as $500 per toy.
On Kijiji, we found Hatchimals priced as high as $750 each — close to 10 times the retail rate. The steep prices prompted one Toronto parent to blast dealers on Kijiji, posting on the site, "I don't know how these people go to sleep at night."
In early October, Bzdega started her search for a Hatchimal to give to her son, Liam, for Christmas.
The eight-year-old fell in love with the toy after watching reviews about it on YouTube. "It's really cool because it even cracks by itself," says Liam.
But the closest his mother ever came to finding the item in a store was discovering an empty display case at Walmart where they had already sold out.
So Bzdega started searching websites like Amazon and eBay. She was willing to pay up to $50 on top of the ticket price. But all the offers were well above her limit, with dealers often asking for three times the retail rate.
"It was pretty shocking," says Bzdega adding that she understands people have the right to sell Hatchimals for whatever amount they want. But trying to profit from desperate parents at Christmas just seems "opportunistic and mean," she says.
Bzdega said she's also disappointed that the company behind the toy can't supply them.
'You evil little elf'
Hatchimals are a Canadian innovation, developed by Toronto-based company Spin Master. The company told CBC News last week that it's scrambling to get more stock into stores.
Market analyst Michelle Liem says Spin Master can't be blamed for the shortage.
"It's very hard to predict how big a new toy item will be. I mean nobody has a crystal ball," says Liem with NPD Group in Toronto.
"I know they would much prefer to have the stock and not miss out on those lost sales."
Liem acknowledges that that's cold comfort for parents who feel they're at the mercy of opportunistic resellers.
New Jersey mom Dottie Russo became so incensed over the situation, she posted a rant on YouTube.
"Have you no soul?" she asked people who resell Hatchimals at exorbitant prices. "You're gonna ruin Christmas, you little Christmas snatcher? You proud of yourself you evil little elf?"
Russo ended with a plea for dealers to start selling their hoard of Hatchimals to parents at cost. "You've just got to do the right thing and give it up."
Dealers feel justified
Soon after, Alex Brancheau posted his own YouTube rant justifying the profits he made from reselling 14 Hatchimals.
Brancheau, who lives just outside Seattle, explained everyone had the opportunity to buy the toy in stores before it sold out, so people who missed their chance should stop complaining.
"My kids are going to have a good Christmas because I'm making a crap-tonne of money off these stupid eggs," he added.
Brancheau told CBC News that some of the profits actually went to a charity that gives Christmas gifts to disadvantaged children.
Bestselling author Sara Gruen says she donated all her Hatichmal profits to charity. But she still came under fire after publicizing her quest to resell 156 of them she bought on eBay.
Gruen, who wrote Water for Elephants, was born and raised in Canada and now lives in North Carolina.
She made it clear all proceeds from the sale of her Hatchimals stash would go towards legal fees for a man she believes was wrongfully convicted. Gruen later revealed that the man is Chuck Murdoch, who's serving a life sentence in the U.S. for murder.
However, her mission hasn't stop parents from taking potshots at her on social media with comments like: "Price gouging a highly wanted Christmas toy definitely wasn't the best way to raise money for your cause."
This week, Gruen told NBC's Today Show that the vitriol caught her by surprise.
"I had no idea that emotions would run so high," she said. She also offered sympathy for angry moms and dads. "I understand wanting to get your kid that special Christmas present is everything when you are a parent."
As for Bzdega, she's decided that Hatchimals aren't special enough to warrant the inflated price tag this Christmas.
She says she and fellow resigned parents are breaking the news gently to their children by explaining that Santa ran out of Hatchimal supplies.