Barbie and eBay Part 2: A Fool and His Money...Jan 13, 2003 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in ToysThe Bottom Line Beware of price-gouging for certain "hot" or so-called "controversial" Barbie dolls on eBay.
In mid-November 2002, I wrote some cautionary advice for individuals shopping for Barbie, entitled "Barbie and eBay: Caveat Emptor! (See my list of reviews if you haven't read it yet)." I offered some specific tips for would-be buyers to protect themselves against deception and/or misleading information on the part of unscrupulous sellers. But the point of the topic was that buyers resist bidding on impulse, and instead go into an auction armed with knowledge about the particular doll they would like to acquire.
But during the ensuing holiday season, two Barbie-related events occured that demonstrated the folly that ensues on eBay when buyer ignorance meets seller greed. I think the following examples reinforce what I've already discussed in Part 1 of this review.
Mattel's answer to MGA Entertainment's successful Bratz doll line is Barbie's "My Scene" collection, which was released during late fall of 2002. Those of you who tried to buy one of the trio--particularly Barbie's friends, brunette Chelsea and African American Madison--likely had a hard time getting one during Christmastime. But if you went to eBay, I'm sure you had an easy time finding one available. Problem was, most of the dealers had "jacked up" the prices, often up to double or triple the original retail value! I wanted the "My Scene" girls as badly as anyone else, but I didn't want to give those hucksters the satisfaction. I simply waited until toysrus.com had some back in stock. Go to your nearest Target, Walmart, or Kmart right now (January 2003), and I bet you will find the "My Scene" dolls on the shelves.
Seasonal demand already made the "My Scene" dolls difficult to locate in any case, but what steamed me was that eBay sellers were contributing to their scarcity, just so they could put them on auction at INFLATED PRICES!!!!! (I promise hereafter not to type in all capitals!!) This is a case of deliberately depleting supply to increase demand! Barbie and pals were only temporarily scarce, but any experienced Barbie collector knows that Mattel's not going to stop making "My Scene" until that initial demand is satisfied (or at least until they drive Bratz off the market, but I digress...).
As if that case wasn't ridiculous, the speculative frenzy surrounding Happy Family Midge bowled me over silly! The controversial pregnant "Friend of Barbie" has so far been removed from the shelves of only one chain--Walmart. But how quickly reality gets distorted: many believed Mattel was withdrawing her from sale at all retail outlets. Many eBay sellers declared her "banned" and "recalled," then offered her up for auction for as high as $100.00 (She retails at $20.00)!
Not only was the doll just released in December, but they are in plentiful supply in stores in my vicinity (San Francisco Bay Area). How many bidders have acted on impulse! How many sellers, looking for a quick buck, have snatched the doll from toy shelves, just to hand them over to unwary customers on eBay? Those first sellers may have been able to make a profit, but those who have followed in their wake will likely be forced to accept more "appropriate" bids, if they get any!
I will mention briefly the "Butterfly Art" Barbie debacle of 1998; Mattel didn't recall the risque, permanently tatooed dolls, they simply let the then-existing supply run out. Some were still available well into the following year. Yet I continue to see occasionally postings touting their supposed value because they were "banned." Uh-huh.
Of course, I have just discussed extreme examples of the downside of eBay when it comes to Barbie-hunting. I have to blame both parties--the sellers for preying on desperation and ignorance, the buyers for being desperate and ignorant. I'ts within your right to participate in such speculative selling, on either side of the transaction. But I would advise you to go into the deal informed. Better yet, put your potential transaction into perspective. The world won't end if you can't buy that Pregnant Midge.
Thank you for reading this rant--oops, review. See my other topics for sensible advice on Barbie buying/collecting.
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