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Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998

S TOY PROMOTION PROVOKES AN OVERWHELMING RESPONSE.

May 29, 1998

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It was hot, and the line was long and slow. Some people had been waiting about four hours Wednesday evening in the restaurant on Sixth Street to purchase their toys.

The tiny, stuffed toys are back in demand.

A Teenie Beanie Baby fervor swept Lawrence this week, leaving some McDonald's restaurants looking like emergency shelters. The frenzy wasn't limited to parents and children; many adults wanted sets for themselves.

McDonald's and Ty Inc. teamed up again to offer a set of 12 Teenie Beanie Babies with Happy Meals.

The toys went on sale at 6 a.m. last Friday; and Marilyn Dobski, who owns and operates all five McDonald's in Lawrence with her husband, expects the toys to be sold out today.

On Wednesday, a second shipment of the popular collectibles arrived on a special truck to avoid mobs of people.

At the McDonald's at 1309 W. Sixth, the plush toys went on sale as soon as assistant manager Ken Parton unloaded them from the truck about 8 p.m.

The restaurant received 600 of each of the last three toys in the collection: No. 10, Zip the Cat; No. 11, Scoop the Penguin; and No. 12, Peanut the Elephant. By 9 p.m., the parking lot was full, and frenzied parents circled the block looking for parking places.

The toys were sold one style at a time. Zip the Cat was sold out by 9:30 p.m.

``OK everybody, we're on the penguins next,'' Parton announced to a cheering crowd. Outside, the drive-thru lane backed up into Sixth Street.

Roger Yarbro, Osawatomie, was leaving disappointed. He drove up to purchase a few Zip the Cats, but arrived too late.

``I needed five more 10s (Zip the Cats) to complete my sets,'' he said. He had already been to Kansas City looking for the elusive cats.

Meanwhile, whispers came from the crowd as to where the cat might be available.

``I heard they'll be selling them at 6 a.m. on 23rd Street,'' someone said.

Lines at every register were more than 20 customers deep. Many chatted about their collections and sipped sodas, purchased just to get that extra toy.

``Sixth Street McDonald's, we're offering the penguin at the moment,'' Parton said into the telephone. The telephones rang nearly incessantly, and all registers were staffed. Six extra workers were brought in for the shift.

Parton guessed the store had at least 500 customers in two hours. The toys were selling fast. Most cases of 300 were gone within 30 minutes.

The rules of sales were tight: One toy with a Happy Meal or one with a food item for an extra $1.99; five per customer per visit. Toys are not sold as sets.

``I have so many hamburgers and fries in my freezer it's unbelievable,'' Debbie Ham said. She had been collecting the toys for herself and her two grandsons. She just needed the last two toys.

``Who wants a cat?'' someone asked the line, bartering for a penguin.

Some hunters went from McDonald's to McDonald's searching for different toys, Dobski said.

``We missed the cats because we got here about 9 (p.m.),'' said Patty Coffey, a Lawrence school teacher. ``I told my kids I'm on a Beanie Baby hunt. Everybody is looking for a Doby for me.''

Last year, Ty Inc. and McDonald's offered a set of 10 toys.

``That was our most successful Happy Meal of all time last year,'' said Lynn Bender, a marketing department head for McDonald's Corp. in Overland Park. ``We knew that this year there could be an even bigger response. Our restaurants should be out by this weekend if not before.''

Last year's set of Teenie Beanie Babies will sell for $175 and up, according to Adam Klemecic of the Collector's Cache in Overland Park.

The mania wasn't just at one McDonald's, Dobski said.

``It's been a run on all the stores,'' she said.

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is fhaynes@ljworld.com.

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