At Mobbed Toy Stores, 'Tis The Season For Frustration

Barbie Dolls, Sega Genesis Video Games, Erector Sets And Dinosaurs: Enter

Every Child's Ddream...

December 22, 1991|By Jodi Bizar | Jodi Bizar,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The scene at K & K Toys in Harford Mall was pandemonium.

Screaming at the top of her lungs, one shopper demanded her money back while another shopper insisted on knowing why there were no Nerf bow-and-arrow sets left in stock.

So went a typical day for toy-store employees, trying to handle the crush of Christmas shoppers seeking the latest hot toys from Barbie dolls to expensive computer games.

"Some shoppers are very impatient," said K & K Toys employee Chastity H. Arturi, of Bel Air.

"There are so many of them, I just have to bite my tongue, and whateverthey want I just give it to them. Then I go home and take it out on my parents."

Like most Harford toy stores this Christmas season, the number of shoppers at K & K Toys has increased dramatically duringthe holiday season.

The number of shoppers flooding the stores shot up right after Halloween, say store managers.

Michael S. Wright, assistant manager at K & K Toys, said additional part-time employees are hired to help meet the added volume.

But, he said, even though there are employees stationed at toy displays and behind cash registers, some shoppers still seem to loose their aplomb for a variety of reasons that during the rest of the year don't seem to fluster anyone.

The event which seems to cause the most emotion is a sold-out hot-selling toy, like the Nerf bow-and-arrow set. The item was selling for $19.99.

"They say, 'What do you mean you don't have it? It was here Saturday,' " said Wright.

He said some of the more popularsellers this year are the Sega Genesis computer games, which range in price from $50 to $70. So many people have purchased it already that Wright expects to be sold out long before Christmas eve.

"I'll just tell people we don't have any and hope they don't throw a fit," Wright said.

Some toy manufacturers deliberately issue a limited number of some toys every year and only permit stores to carry a set supply.

For example, every year Mattel puts out a limited supply of a new Christmas Barbie. Wright said K & K Toys' supply of this year'sChristmas Barbie, which was selling for $45, was sold out by the first week in December.

When shoppers learn of sold-out items, watch out, say toy-store employees. Emotions can run high.

During the busy holiday season, toy-store clerks are faced with another pressing problem: children who play with toys in stock that mom and dad have not bought.

Wright said little girls love to open up the Barbie dollboxes and play with the dolls. They don't understand when employees have to take the doll away before it breaks.

Other youngsters grabtoys they want and refuse to relinquish them so that the sales staffcan ring it up.

"They choose a toy and they won't let go of it toanyone," Wright said. "They won't even let you put it in the bag."

However, children also can provide a lot of laughs, such as the kids who bring in notes to Santa, requesting Christmas gifts that toy stores don't carry -- such as a new baby sister.

Wright, who has worked at K & K Toys for three years, said overall sales have increased by about 50 percent this year at K & K from last year, despite the recession.

He said KayBee Toys of Massachusetts has purchased the store and provided a larger and better stock.

Across the street at the Bel Air Town Center, One Step Ahead store owner Tim G. Schlegel said sales have fluctuated, depending on what good or bad economic newshas been reported in the media.

The store has only been open about a year, making it hard to compare 1990 sales with this year's, Schlegel said.

Schlegel has set up a train set and other toys in various sections of the store so that the children can play, allowing parents to shop in peace.

One Step Ahead specializes in educational and creative toys. Hot sellers are the computer game GeoSafari, which sells for $97.95 and Erector building sets which include plastic nuts,bolts and motors for building items which can move. Sets range in price from $25 to $3,000, said Schlegel.

Chemistry sets and environmental games are also popular, he said. And anything having to do withdinosaurs is popular whether it's a figurine or a puzzle.

And kids seem well-educated about what toys they want, including how to correctly pronounce their names.

Schlegel said one child, who was lessthan 2 years old, pointed to a display of dinosaurs and pronounced their names -- triceratops and tyrannosaur.

"It was hysterical," hesaid.

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