/ Parenting, Shopping

What happens when that must-have Christmas gift sells out?

toy shop at christmas

Every year there seems to be a must-have toy or gadget that sells out almost everywhere and leads to near hysteria when a fresh (often limited) batch miraculously arrives just before Christmas. This year is no exception.

Ever heard of a Hatchimal? Nope, neither had I until last week when it turned up on my children’s Christmas wish lists.

Turns out it’s an interactive toy that hatches from its egg and learns from you as it goes through three life stages.

Made by Canadian toy company Spin Master, this year’s must-have for under-10s are cute, furry and SOLD OUT.

Proving elusive

It seems that I’m late to the party. Launched on 7 October, Hatchimals have been in short supply since mid-November, when more organised Christmas shoppers snapped up the last few on the shelves.

Articles advising Hatchimal hunters where to look for new stock have been appearing with some regularity in the newspapers and there are stock-checker websites you can subscribe to, which will send you alerts when new stock comes in.

You need to be quick, though, when a fresh batch does arrive, it sells out again in seconds.

And now there’s an acknowledged shortage, the secondary market is in full swing,

Hatchimals should retail for around £60, but they are currently changing hands on eBay for over £100.

Now call me a cynic, but I don’t think all those listings are unwanted gifts that are being sold on.

Resale sites

Of course, there’s nothing illegal about people buying up stock to sell it on auction sites; it happens frequently with gig tickets when bots snap them up seconds after they go on sale. Only this time, instead of tickets, the professional on-sellers are getting to these precious toys first.

It’s frustrating, to say the least. What I want to know is why didn’t the manufacturers and stores get their numbers right? Surely outlandish prices on eBay can’t be doing them any favours – they must be missing out, too.

In a report about the shortage in The New York Times, James Martin, Spin Master’s head of global business, said: ‘By all analyses, we thought we had enough [Hatchimals]. It’s been exciting, but it’s also been daunting as we try to catch up and fill that demand.’

Not nearly as daunting as facing a tearful tot on a Hatchimal-free Christmas Day, Mr Martin.

But while I don’t subscribe to the ‘well I was only given a wooden spoon and counted myself lucky’ school of thought, over £100 for a toy is just too much to pay. Santa’s elves might have to create a voucher with a promise of a Hatchimal at a later date instead.

Have you ever tried to buy a gadget or toy that’s been so in demand at Christmas that everywhere seems to have sold out? Or was one on your wish list in a Christmas past? What was the must-have Christmas toy when you were a child?


I remember dragging my mum around Oxford (where our nearest ‘big’ shops were) one Christmas in search of a Chic-A-Boo – a monkey-type cuddly toy with a plastic face. It didn’t do anything particularly cool – unless you count wearing a bib and sucking its thumb – but all my friends had one and it was a must-have in the early 1980s. Needless to say, I played with it a handful of times before it was consigned to the loft. Think I’ve seen it up there since!

When I was wee I was told that “must have” doesn’t get in the same way as “I want” doesn’t get either. What about voting with our feet, guys? Must have? Says who? Kids aren’t daft and if well explained to them they can catch on fairly early on, like I did, that there are plenty of people out there trying to exploit them, that they don’t need those so-called must-haves, and that realising all this and being smarter than exploiters is actually much cooler.

I’m not saying that my parents were perfect and that I wasn’t disappointed from time to time, but all in all I’ve been pleased far more often than not and now as an adult I don’t feel that I must have anything. So yes, I am a bit smug :0). Like Rebecca says, £100 for a toy? Are we really traumatising our children if we say no? Aren’t we equipping them better for life if we say no and explain?

In our case it was two things: Transformers one year and Buzz Lightyear another. Fortunately, and by sheer luck, we’d picked up a Buzz Lightyear in the September, and were able to view – albeit a tad smugly – the hordes of parents clubbing together to charter a flight to WDW in Florida to buy one. In our day we shared a lump of coal – and mucky coal at that.

But no one can foretell what will be the ‘must have’ toy. Exactly the same as it used to be with pop songs – no one knows what will be the next big hit. Tracey Island from Thunderbirds made it one year, but the toy makers who could foresee the future would make a fortune.

Ah I never did get Tracey Island, I got the Stingray base instead. I did attempt to make my own Tracey Island though, via the excellent guidance of Blue Peter… I recall that it required a lot of fairy liquid bottles.

Did you have a train set Lauren? That was always on my wish list but I only got one when my son was 6 (well, it was his really but I showed him how to play with it).

The best toys my boys had were those they could take apart to see how they worked – radio controlled cars in particular. Better than just playing with them and it gave them a practical bent that has stood them well in later life.

Actually, I did share a train set with my brother – I suppose it was his really, but being an older sister I designed the more complex track systems! I also got a scalextric for my fifth birthday (I was a young F1 fanatic), as I got older though I found out that, while I did enjoy playing with it, I think my dad got more use out of it than I did!

I well remember the Hornby clockwork train set I had as a young child. We set it up in the sitting room and my friends who had smaller electric trains, came to play with it. I enjoyed playing with Meccano, but the Christmas present I remember best was a steam engine. My mother was not impressed at the thing running round the kitchen floor but no-one was burned and I did not set the house alight.

I always wanted a train set. A cousin had a large setup in a loft with countryside and towns and I always wanted to build my own little railway world. I got to make cardboard buildings for my brother’s train set but it wasn’t the same.

We got to share a Scalextric but as Lauren says it was probably our dads who really wanted them.

Meccano was probably my favourite toy.

I once got Bayko

courtesy of garrulousgwendoline

I remember Bayko. The house bricks slotted onto upright steel rods. I wonder how many adults were injured by standing on a Bayko plastic base with steel rods sticking out of it.

Maybe Bayko inspired someone to invent uPVC plastic windows. 🙂

My elder sister had Minibrix – a forerunner of Lego. Rubber bricks that popped together with two studs on the bottom of a brick into the holes in the top. White rubber lintels and foundation strips, plastic windows and doors and green rubber roofs (rooves?). Lots of fun.

Bayko was potentially lethal, it’s true 🙂 But it was the ‘must have’ item one year in the mid-late ’50s, and I remember my best friend and I both got the same set. No.2, ISTR. His elder brother had a No. 10 Meccano set and built all sorts of things with it. But then he was a genius. Went on to become a world leader in Numerical Computation, doing his first PhD on the Cray. He already had ordinary degrees in Chemistry and Physics.


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A pause is worth a thousand words but I didn’t mean to put a full stop (.) to the Convo. I posted something that was a horrendously long link and could only delete it by replacing it with a “.”. 🙂

Point taken. 🙂

This Convo is getting a little dotty.
Back to the Convo. I am totally stuck to know what to get mrs r this year who “doesn’t want anything”. She has sufficient clothes, ornaments, pictures , household gadgets and so on. Has anyone got good quirky ideas as to what Father Christmas could get?

Hand-made chocolates are my suggestion.

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They sound nice duncan, but I also like chocolates!

If you give chocolates you might be offered one or two. 😇

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Malcolm, does your wife suffer any aches and pains?

A couple of things I have given that get used regularly are a Revitive Circulation Booster that is good for aching legs that is ridiculously priced at the moment as I got the IX for £120, and an electronic back massager that has a long handle and what can only be described as a couple of udders that move/vibrate, looks a bit like http://www.argos.co.uk/product/5328952

Malcolm, Mrs r has you! What more could she possibly want for Christmas? Sorry I just couldn’t resist that

Seriously, for a lady who seemingly has everything, how about a beautiful bouquet of fresh red Christmas roses delivered to your door. If you browse the Interflora website there are some beautiful arrangements ranging from about £35 up to £630 (if you are feeling really generous)! I have used them a lot and found them good with very reliable and prompt deliveries.

If you are looking for something really quirky, how about a hot water bottle with a fun cover. There are some very quirky ones to be purchased online including a Mr Grumpy, which Mrs r might find useful when you are having one of your “off” days 🙂

Maybe the wives and husbands of Convo regulars could make guest appearances over the Christmas holiday period. There isn’t a Mrs wavechange, so I can’t set the ball rolling.

If Mr Beryl was still around Wavechange you may well be treated to a Walter Mitty Christmas updated version of ‘Fairy Tales by the brothers Grimm!’

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No prizes then Duncan for guessing which belongs to whom?

Sorry folks. Maybe we should get back to gift suggestions.

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We have a mat bearing a Dante quotation: “Lasciate ogni speranza”. Have to hide it round the back, though 🙂

That’s a good example of something that is funny the first time. The first time I saw ‘Duck or Grouse’ on a low beam in a restaurant it was amusing, but there must be hundreds of signs in pubs and restaurants now.

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Invert it Ian (the mat) until after Santas’s been, or you might miss out on Christmas Day.

When someone treads on it, Ian, does it play the theme tune from The Apprentice?

See – it’s wit like this that makes life worth living 🙂

Malcolm – It might have crossed your mind but, for heaven’s sake, please don’t give your wife a vacuum cleaner, a toaster, or an iron as suggested in the picture that accompanied the latest Weekly Scoop from Which? I don’t know what they must have been thinking when they rounded up those products and put them under the Christmas tree.

Maybe these are must have items but hardly must have gifts.

I had missed those suggestions John. I did buy mrs r a cast iron fire basket for one Christmas, but our vacuum cleaner although 15 years old is still in good nick, so I’ll have to save that idea for the future.

I have now, after a darkened-room think, chosen and ordered the pressie through Amazon. Regrettably I did this without working through Which? so they won’t benefit from my purchase.

We still do Christmas stockings – full of useful Christmas things and sweeties. I think they are the most fun.

Thanks all for the ideas. I hope mrs. r didn’t read Ian’s list (well below), otherwise she might have become excited by the mention of diamonds and gold but an iPad for a birthday a few years ago has been one of her most-used presents ever.

We have always had a practical view of presents, whether Christmas or birthday, and if something relatively expensive was needed then that was an opportunity to buy it, although tempered with smaller more personal items as gifts. Not terribly romantic perhaps but you soon get cluttered up with things you don’t really need.

A cast iron fire basket sounds like a grate present, Malcolm. Practical too.

But then by the age of 12 I’d turned to photography

…and my train set was Trix Twin

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I remember during the war my mother going round the shops just to buy me a very rarely available Dinky Toy They were loved and well played with no matter what kind of car or van they were

During my flirtation with the ’57 Asian ‘Flu my mother bought me this:

Courtesy Ruby Lane

I remember scouring the shops for an Octonauts Pingu figure for a certain niece a couple of years ago. Never did find one!

“What happens when that must-have Christmas gift sells out?”

You reflect on the nature of human folly and de-construct what must-have really means?

BTW I have always been keen that there are no adverts aimed at children available on TV and radio. Perhaps that way we can stop them becoming incipient impulse consumers.

I do like giving educational toys or construction toys whereby important basics of future knowledge can be attached. I wonder if there is a Fukushima kit available yet?

Jigsaws are great for maps with the huge advantage that anything learned young will be very likely be the same country/continent shape in 20 -50 years time.

For the parent who must buy a computer game there is an excellent Bridge Constructor set based on real physics. Civilisation IV teaches history, technology etc. And of course the various Tycoon games actually by incorporating finance and the role – say running a railway – which would be supremely educational .

Books are of course much neglected these day which is a huge shame. Reading builds vocabulary which allows shades of meaning which leads to advance thinking. One must bear in mind common sense is not dependent on reading [or going to university] though reading does help.

One hour a day reading at a modest 200 words a minute means over 4m words a year. If you listen to someone talking you can process around 100-130 per minute however in reading you can dawdle and refer back easily if you wish – something not possible in newscasts or lectures.

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duncan, thanks. Just to correct any misconception, mrs r does not have “everything”, far from it. It’s just that she has what she needs. I like the idea of the Lakeland choccies – but for me, as mrs r is not keen on fruit centres. The only problem with a beauty treatment is if they think it is a hint.

Beryl, that was such a nice suggestion, but mrs r has me to put up with all year round. At Christmas she deserves something different. Perhaps a toyboy for a day or two – no, that might spoil my Christmas!

I’ll sit it a darkened room for a few hours and see what enters my head. But all suggestions will be gratefully received. What are others buying their wives or partners I wonder?

Beauty within is much more important when reaching a certain age Duncan and it is clearly visible shining from the eyes of those who possess it. You are unlikely to find it at a beauty Spa but you may occasionally be asked the question “how can I get some of what you have” by someone else.

Malcolm when sitting in your darkened room, close your eyes and clear your mind by asking yourself the question “I wonder how long it will be before my next thought”. You will be quietly surprised how long it takes. Do that a few times and the answer to your question will come to you. You won’t have to wait a few hours.

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Duncan, the point being you as a male have the ability to make that happen, and when it does the beauty spa won’t even get a look in as beauty within has the effect of making you look and feel younger than you are………. as long as you refrain from using it as an excuse to play Scrooge by completely shutting Santa out of the house!

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All internet-connected devices ‘report back’; that’s essentially how they function. And I’d take issue that it’s “very Rude”, Duncan. The UK is unique, I suspect, in having an incredibly narrow attitude towards sex and sex education, much of it based on ‘Victorian values’, which were hardly the most enlightened. Whenever any Council suggests that children are educated about sex and sexuality the DFM, among other prurient publications, is up in arms about it, yet countries which educate their children about sex from a very early age have significantly lower incidences of sexual crimes reported.

So an interesting notion: sex toys for Xmas pressies. Why not?

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Malcolm: I can’t tell you what I’ve bought SWMBO this year (for obvious reasons) but in the past the haul has included diamonds, gold and silver for wearing (!), rare books by authors she loves (she has a first edition of a Steinbeck, among others), personalised items, created from the library of photographs of us all over more than 30 years, personalised crystal wine glasses, gloves, slippers, iPads, Laptops, iPods, iPhones, and curated selections of films: last year I managed to get copies of every Streep film and copied them to the media server, where I hid them until Xmas Eve, so when she turned it on they were all there. I have also bought music, but we now have every piece of music we like (it’s quite a lot…) so I’m exploring other avenues including canvas transfers of photos of us all I know she loves.

So I suppose it’s all about picking up on things she says throughout the year and then working flat out on the personalisation items in plenty of time. I love Christmas (I’m sure it doesn’t show…) and I simply want everyone to have the best time imaginable and especially her, since she’s always put the boys and me first throughout our marriage.

Wait until the January sales when it will be half price – or look for secondhand ones where the novelty wore off within days, as happens with most fads.

Is that presents or wives? Just asking…