5 toys that had people fighting in the aisles


The holiday season is associated with joy, family cheer and scrumptious meals, but nowadays it seems as if the season cannot begin without fist-flying brawls or human stampedes at toy shops or retail conglomerates.

Perhaps the message of loving one another during the holidays has started to fade, but children (and adults, in many cases) harvest must-have attitudes when it comes to the newest items on the shelves each year. Instead of sleeping in on Black Friday, these folks lined parking lots with tents and coupons, checking their watches until the doors opened.

Santa Claus must be busy with next year’s biggest product, because if he doesn’t hurry, he will have to answer to swarms of angry parents.

The following items, though harmless as inanimate objects, have been surrounded by chaos by desperate customers throughout the past decade, and the pattern is sure to continue in pure, “Jingle All the Way” fashion going forward.

No. 5: Air Jordans

In 1985, sports fanatics had the chance to literally stand in Michael Jordan’s shoes, and fans flocked to footwear shops to become more like Mike.

OK, so shoes aren’t toys, but if ever a shoe came close to being a toy it was Air Jordans. The in-demand Nike kicks had young basketball fans dreaming of almost literally flying across basketball courts. How can a toy compare to that?

Newer versions have been introduced to the public ever since its inception in the 1980s, and though the shoes were a hot commodity at first, they didn’t instill pandemonium until the re-release of the retro shoes (Air Jordan XI’s) in 2009.

On Dec. 23, 2009, in Sacramento, Calif., 2,000 people waited outside a local mall for the midnight release of the shoes. Fights broke out and the mall eventually closed its doors, canceling the promotion.

Jordan devotees have witnessed these shoes in basketball video games, and when gaming consoles debut, fans pump up the insanity even more to call one their own …

No. 4: Xbox 360/PS3 consoles

When the newest video game console arrives, even the most talented controller clickers can’t always get their thumbs on the prize. Disagreements over entertainment systems have occasionally resulted in serious injury or even death.

When the Xbox 360 console arrived in Secaucus, N.J., in 2009, a Wal-Mart customer stabbed another shopper with a kitchen knife to secure herself the last console, and a security guard was beaten to death in Wisconsin due to insanity fueled by the same item.

The PlayStation 3 caused similar incidents in 2006, including one incident where robbers approached 20 shoppers waiting outside a Connecticut Wal-Mart and demanded their money. One man stood up to the robbers and was rewarded by being shot in the chest and the shoulder.

Then in Wisconsin in November 2008, a man was propelled head-first into a flagpole after surviving a stampede of 50 eager PS3 shoppers seeking 10 of the then-rare consoles.

Yet, unlike these items used on a daily basis, other desirable products have turned into investment pieces rather than toys …

No. 3: Beanie Babies

Quakers, Garcia and Baaabsy may sound like names of beloved pets, yet they are the names of plush, pebble-stuffed Beanie Baby toys that became more sought after than domestic animals during their prime.

Ty, Inc., first produced the toys in 1993, but their popularity peaked around 1997. Though their price tags were typically inexpensive, when models retired, a black market arose charging hefty prices for the collectible items.

The demand for Beanie Babies increased even more when McDonald’s offered Teenie Beanies as Happy Meal toys, with different animals available each week until supplies ran out. In 1999, a man and woman in St. Louis even served one and half years in prison and paid a $150,000 fine for transporting Beanie Babies from overseas for sale in the U.S.

The next holiday item had an underground market of its own too, though it was more talented than an average plaything …

No. 2: Furbies

Parents were not quite sure what they were purchasing in 1998 when reaching for a Furby. After all, it looked like an owl or a Gremlin, with an infrared port between the eyes.

Despite the confusion, the public knew they had to have the robotic toy by Tiger Electronics, which had the ability to fall asleep in the dark and spoke English and Furbish.

On Black Friday in 1998 in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., more than 500 holiday shoppers physically fought one another through the doors of a local Wal-Mart, instantly wiping the shelves clean of any Furby in sight.

A year later, the National Security Agency considered the fuzzy creature a security threat, considering it repeats what it hears, and subsequently banned them from Fort Meade in Maryland.

Though the Furby had the power to make a child feel maternal, another doll’s giggling persona managed to inspire notorious parental riots …

No. 1: Tickle Me Elmo

One would think the reproduction of fuzzy, smiling Sesame Street character Elmo would be a harmless product debut from toy company Tyco in 1996. However, devoted parents proved them wrong, doing whatever it took to get their hands on one of the Tickle Me Elmo dolls.

When squeezed, Elmo would shout, “That tickles!” followed by fervent shakes and laughter. The toy was promoted by various talk show hosts, and during the shopping season that year, more than a million dolls were sold instead of the estimated 400,000.

The $29.99 item fostered madness, and retail horror stories were reported all over the country. The backlash against the greedy frenzy reached its peak when a Maryland radio station raised $800 for charity by letting one family flatten one of the toys with a 10-ton steamroller.

Later, in September 2006, a man seeking the new Tickle Me Elmo Extreme doll was threatened by a loaded gun to give up the toy in his grasp.

That’s not exactly what people have in mind when they talk about peace on Earth and good will toward men.

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