Were Zhu Zhu Pets worth the hype?
It's not every year that the holiday season includes a toy craze, but every decade or so, one occurs. Twenty-five years ago, the Cabbage Patch doll was the must-have holiday present. In 1996, Tickle Me Elmo was such a hot gift that parents got into fist fights in stores and some paid over $1,000 for the bright red Muppet that retailed for a mere $28.99.
This year, parents lined up in the wee hours of the morning outside of toy stores, hoping to get their hands on a Zhu Zhu Pet. Also called "Go Go Hamsters" in the United Kingdom, Zhu Zhu Pets are $10 robotic hamsters that are supposed to provide kids with the opportunity to have a "real" pet without the fuss or the muss of a live animal.
In early December, the demand for these fake hamsters far outweighed the demand, and Zhu Zhu Pets sold on eBay for $40 or more. By the third week of December, however, they were much easier to find.
Cepia LLC, the same company that invented Power Puff Girls Action figures, created The Zhu Zhu Pet. In Chinese, "Zhu Zhu" means "little pig."
There are nine different Zhu Zhus to choose from: Patches, Chunk, PipSqueak, Mr. Squiggles, Num Nums, Scoodles, Jilly, Nugget and Winkie. Various habitats are sold separately. The hamsters have three different modes that allow them to scurry around like real hamsters, make noises and sleep.
A week after Christmas, OnMilwaukee.com checked in with a few parents who bought a Zhu Zhu Pet. Anne Dawidziak purchased one for $10 from a friend for her 4-year-old daughter.
"My daughter really likes it. She says it's her own pet," says Dawidziak. "We have a dog that is the family pet, but this is her very own pet. It scurries about and she likes to chase it around."
Dawidziak says she likes it, too.
"I could do without some of the noises it makes, but it's way better than a real hamster," she says. "It doesn't need food, it doesn't need to be cleaned up after and it doesn't have that funky smell. It could be the perfect pet."
Melissa Hansen bought a Zhu Zhu Pet for her 5-year-old daughter, but she got hers from Toys 'R' Us in late November when the Zhu Zhu hype was at its peak.
"It was hard to find then. I called the store and found out what day they would have some and got there when the store opened. I was quite surprised by the line of grandmas waiting to buy them," says Hansen. "Also there was a lot of complaining about only being able to purchase one per customer, per day."
Hansen says although she bought it for her 5-year-old daughter, her 2-year-old daughter plays with it more.
"She chases it around and thinks it's funny when it runs into her feet," says Hansen.
Like Dawidziak, Hansen's only complaint is the annoying sounds it makes.
"Mr. Squiggles makes weird barnyard sounds," says Hansen. "I think they're worth the $10 they retail for. I would never had paid the $30 to $60 they were selling for on eBay, no matter how badly my child wanted it."
Erin LaGunn bought "PipSqueak" for her 3-year-old son. She says he liked it for about an hour on Christmas morning, but hasn't paid any attention to it since then.
"I already considered donating it to Goodwill, but I decided to hang onto it," says LaGunn. "It's one of those weird fad toys that I kind of appreciate. Like the Chia Pet or the Pet Rock."
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Great article Molly. I remember the Cabbage Patch craze!
Since I have never ever heard of a Zhu Zhu, I don't think it is worth any hype!
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