2011 Most Popular Holiday Toy (and the Hardest One to Buy)

What is it about certain holiday toysthat drive us to madness? In 1984, people trampled over each other for the last Cabbage Patch Kid. More recently, grown men and women have gone to battle over a red felt doll calledTickle Me Elmo.
LeapPad
Check out more crazy holiday toy fads from years past

It may start out innocently enough, with a good product and a little buzz, but once the “sold out” signs start showing up, the gloves come off. And this year, the battle lines are drawn over the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet .

With 14 percent of Americans planning on gifting one of these touch-screen toys this holiday season, the LeapPad has become this year’s golden goose. Nobody can stock it in stores fast enough, and online vendors that have it are jacking up the price. The original sticker price for the tablet is around $99, but vendors on eBay and buy.com are putting supply and demand to the test, charging upwards of $190 for the plastic gadget.

One Ohio mom paid $300 from an online vendor after every store in a drivable distance had sold out of the tablet. Other parents are logging onto stores’ web forums in hopes of finding insider access to merchandise.

Note the pleas of a desperate mom on the Best Buy forum:
“I’ve been looking everywhere for this item. I need it for my 5 yr old son. Every day I go to best buy to see when you guys get it. Can you please let me know, because its not even up on your site anymore. Please.”

Then came the news from a store employee: All sold out since Black Friday. And the salt in the wounds: “Regrettably, I don’t have any information that I can provide regarding any future availability.”

Specific dolls (yes you, Elmo) have a special irreplaceable quality under the Christmas tree, but can a kid really tell the difference between the various toy tablets on the market? Definitely, according to Consumer Reports. They had a focus group of kids test the top ones out and an overwhelming majority favored the LeapPad. Essentially an iPad for kids between the ages of 4 through 9, the durable touch-screen gadget comes with a built-in video camera, voice recorder, and a slew of games and apps specific to the brand. For kid purposes, it’s almost as good as a Steve Jobs invention, only much harder to get.

While major chain stores like Best Buy and Target are currently sold out of the item, Toys R Us has taken the extreme measure of announcing a restock. “We’ve had a lot of customers coming in to look for it,” Toys R Us representative Bob Friedland told Shine. Come Saturday morning at 6 a.m., 30,000 Leap Pads will return to stores across the country. Parents on a mission may be considering an overnight campout. “It will definitely sell quickly,” says Friedland.

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