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The holidays are almost here…

In the midst of this year’s first snow storm and preparing for finals, many of you are probably also getting ready for holidays. For many of us, this includes scrambling around the mall in search of something, anything that we can buy for the people on our holiday lists. With the economic recession yet to be lifted, reports of holiday spending are down and more consumers are purchasing with cash or debit cards rather than using credit and going into debt to give presents. This year’s holiday toy craze, the Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster, fits nicely into spenders’ shopping budgets, that is, if you can find one. Heard of it? This furry stuffed rodent sells for only $9.99 at retail outlets, but like toy crazes of the past, consumer demand has increasingly exceeded the available supply. For those of you who are old enough to remember Cabbage Patch Kids, they were the hot children’s items for the 1983 Christmas season. Retailers could not keep up them in stock, and reports of screaming fits and tug-of-war matches over these dolls made national news. And this is not the only such example. Mob-like behaviors have resulted more recently over other toys when corporations have not met the holiday demand, including Tickle-Me-Elmo and Furbies. While it would not be in the best financial interest of toy manufacturers to overproduce, the strategy of under-producing a product which is speculated to be in high demand serves to drive prices up in time for the holidays. And it’s certainly working! Many parents will need to turn to the Internet if they want to locate these hamsters for their children in time for the holidays.  Online auction sites are serving to fuel the commercial craziness of the holiday season. More than 29,000 Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters and their associate accessories can be found on Ebay, many selling for upwards of $60. Parents who are looking for the matching Hamster City or Funhouse need to be prepared to spend up to $180! So much for an affordable toy for shoppers who are trying to balance financial constraints in a downtrodden economy with lengthy Christmas lists and potentially disappointed kids. For those us who are interested in Media Studies, various business-related fields, or who are just concerned citizens, we could debate the ethics of these corporate strategies at length. Is it ethical for corporations to feed to the commericalization of the holiday season during times of economic difficulty in order to turn a profit? Where does social responsibility fit into this equation? Any thoughts?
Let the holiday count down begin!
Andrea Bergstrom, Department of Mass Communication
Pierce Arrow Blogger

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