25 Investigates: Tips to navigate soaring cost of toys this holiday season

BOSTON — The nation’s supply chain crunch is driving up the cost of just about everything. Now, you can add toys to the list.

25 Investigates found some popular holiday toys already marked up 50%, 100%, even nearly 200%, especially when dealing with third-party sellers on major retail websites.

Anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh spoke with experts about what’s happening and how you can still get the most bang for your hard-earned holiday buck.

“So, some have been purchasing and hoarding, okay, and taking advantage of it,” said Professor Anna Nagurney, an economist specializing in supply chain disruptions and management at UMASS Amherst.

Nagurney says the backlog at U.S. ports plus the workforce crunch has led to an unprecedented crisis.

“We’ve never had it so bad,” she told Kavanaugh. “We’ve had all these supply shocks and we also have demand shocks because consumers want to buy. And it’s gotten even more intense because of the holiday season.”

And, Nagurney says it’s led to holiday toy price gouging.

Want a Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse this holiday season? Target had it listed for $55.99, but it was sold out as of November 10th. We found it on Amazon for $174.99, through a third-party seller, on the same date.

How about a Magic Mixies - Magical Misting Cauldron? In mid-October, it was priced at Walmart.com for $54. But, it was sold out. On, November 11, it was on Walmart’s website for $159.99. Walmart told us that price is also from a third-party seller.

Prices can really vary. We found a PJ Masks deluxe Battle Headquarters for $41.99 at Walmart on November 10.

The same one is $62.99 at Macy’s when we searched on the same day.

Kavanaugh asked Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren if she thought the pricing was reasonable.

“Of course not,” Warren said. “It’s just someone who stepped in and taken advantage of a shortage that’s appeared and look, it puts parents in a tough position.”

Warren serves on the Senate subcommittee on economic policy.

“The problems you’re describing, they’re about toys. And as you say, that’s, that’s about disappointment.

But it can also be about things that are critical, like medical supplies, pharmaceutical supplies,” Warren said. “We need to be a more resilient nation. We need more of those jobs here at home.”

Warren says she hopes the supply chain will improve before the holidays, but it will not be fully resolved for months.

Another example is a Kindi Kids Hospital Corner - Unicorn Ambulance that was selling on Amazon for $79.98 on November 10. An online search revealed it was once less than $10.

“Please don’t pay those crazy prices, whatever you do, you’re just going to encourage more sellers to try to pile on and do the same thing,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.

Dworsky says price gouging protections don’t extend to toys. So, more than ever, shoppers will need to be flexible and shop early.

TIP 1: BE FLEXIBLE, SHOP EARLY

“You have to be flexible, because the item you really want may not be in stock or may not come in in time. So, you need a second and third choice,” Dworsky said. “And you got to shop early because some shelves are already bare.”

Next, Dworsky says research the real value of the product.

TIP 2: KNOW THE VALUE OF PRODUCT

“There’s a site called camelcamelcamel.com which shows you the price history of any item on Amazon,” he said. “So that way you can take a look over the past year and see how the price has changed.”

TIP 3: MONITOR THE PRICE OF YOU ITEM

His third tip is to monitor the price of your item, it could go down.

“Keep checking the ads, see if the price has gone down, see if the item is on sale. Some stores still have price guarantees where if the item is cheaper, after you buy it, you can get back the difference,” Dworsky said.

That’s what happened when we shopped for Bluey’s Deluxe Play and Go Set. It was priced at Walmart at $35 on November 11. On October 29, it was more than $60.

And, the DC Super Friends™ Bat-Tech BatBot by Fisher-Price is currently on sale for $85 at Amazon and Macy’s.

We found some minor fluctuations in the price depending on availability. Some hope there, but a lot of work for busy shoppers.

TIP 4: BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU SHOP

And, tip number 4, Dworsky says be careful about where you shop. He says if you’ve never heard of an online shop, can’t find any real reviews, he would stay away.

We asked Amazon and Walmart about the high prices, often offered through third-party sellers on their sites.

An Amazon spokesperson told us “Customers come to Amazon to find low prices, vast selection and fast shipping, and we put our energy into meeting these key customer expectations. Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing their products competitively. We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”

We’ve reached out to Walmart for comment.


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