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HEARD ON THE BEAT / IN ORANGE COUNTY

Buyers Scouring Stores, Web Sites for Elusive Furby

November 30, 1998|P.J. HUFFSTUTTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The hot toy of this holiday season is Furby, Tiger Electronics Inc.'s animatronic toy that reacts to touch and speaks its own language. But like last year's scramble for Tamagotchis and the buzz over Tickle Me Elmo in 1996, the laws of holiday supply and demand are putting the crimp on Furby-hungry consumers.

Earlier this fall, Tiger admitted it wouldn't produce enough dolls to "ensure the holiday demand," said company President Roger Shiffman. "We don't want to be too overconfident and flood the market."

Tiger Electronics, a division of Hasbro, began showing the talking, shaking Furby earlier this year at the American International Toy Fair in New York. The company started distributing the dolls nationwide in September and the media frenzy followed soon after.

Frazzled parents are already striking out at most retail outlets. Toys R Us locations throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties are scrambling to appease customers. "We're getting a ton of calls for that stupid thing," said one Toys R Us employee in Huntington Beach who asked for anonymity. "We're getting some in on Friday, but they'll be gone right away."

Many shoppers, hoping to take advantage of the crowd-free malls on the World Wide Web, are scouring the Net and newsgroups like alt.toys.furby for sightings of the chatty toy. But even there, consumers are striking out--unless they're willing to pay.

CyberShop's eGift site, which placed large Furby orders to Tiger Electronics earlier this year, is profiting from its foresight. Furby's price tag--a whopping $92.96.

And over at online auction sites eBay and Yahoo! Auctions, Furby owners watch as bidders blast past the toy's $29.99 retail price, and offer $75 or more. One doll, a rare all-black Furby in a sealed box, was sold for $1,001.10 last week.

*

P.J. Huffstutter covers high technology for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com.

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