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Archive for Saturday, March 13, 1999

CHILDREN, ADULTS STILL HAVE FURBY FEVER

March 13, 1999

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Furbys are still in fashion, and demand is high at local stores and on the Internet.

Months after the Christmas toy rush, many consumers still are suffering from a fever that no amount of medicine will cure.

It's the Furby fever, and it's still catching.

Members of the Vincent and Deb Vannicola family are among the latest victims, with three of the furry toys snoring and talking "Furbish" in the Vannicola house. The three Furbys, Toh-Loo Koko, Mimi and Toh-Loo Ka, joined the family in the past two weeks.

"They're cute, but they can be annoying," Deb Vannicola said of the toys' ability to mimic sounds and carry on conversations in the nonsensical Furbish language.

Vannicola, however, is a proud owner of one of the creatures, along with her 10-year-old daughter, Lindsay, and 8-year-old son, Joseph. Her 15-year-old son declined the opportunity to have one of the toys.

Furbys created a furor over the Christmas holiday, joining the ranks of Tickle Me Elmo and the Cabbage Patch Doll of years past. Some Furbys purchased as Christmas gifts have undoubtedly found their way to the back of the closet, under the bed or deep in a toy chest, despite the trouble parents went through to find and buy the toys.

Not so at the Vannicola household, where Furbys' chatter is still a novelty.

"It's pretty cool," said Lindsay, who feeds Mimi every day after school by sticking her finger in Mimi's mouth. "They can talk to each other, and they play games and sing to each other."

Narisar Anothinh, a 10-year-old in fourth grade at Hillcrest School, received her Furby before Christmas, but it's been a few weeks since she's played with it.

"Sometimes it just talks a lot," she said. "It's still interesting and fun, but they sometimes scare me because the way it talks."

Narisar and Shelton Heilman, 9, also a fourth-grader, aren't allowed to bring their Furbys -- or any toys, for that matter -- to Hillcrest because of school policies.

"I couldn't really understand anything it was saying at first," said Heilman, who got the Furby from his grandmother in mid-January.

Parents hoping to snag a Furby in the near future will have to be quick on their feet, because they don't stay on the shelves long.

"We have no control over the shipments, it's just what the company gives us," said Dean Lashley, an assistant manager at Wal-Mart. "I don't know that the demand is driven by kids as much as it is by the parents."

SuperTarget also receives sporadic shipments.

"They're very hard to keep in stock. They're gone the same day we get them, and I probably get three or four calls a day," said Greg Zink, who works in the SuperTarget toy department.

Deb Vannicola was able to get one Furby from SuperTarget, but the others came from an Internet auction service, ebay. Hundreds are available in different colors, but the ebay price is higher: Although the retail price is $29.97, Vannicola paid $52 and $53 (including shipping and handling) for two of her Furbys.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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