Real scams related to the furby:
Internet ScamBusters #27
(Most of the principles below apply to any very popular, out of stock gifts.)
Furbies are the hottest toy of the season, and it's almost impossible to buy them in the stores. Police have been called in to calm things down when shoppers from coast to coast try to outmaneuver each other for a very limited supply of Furbies. The list price of a Furby is about $30, but finding them at this price is almost hopeless. Furbies are listed in newspaper classifieds and on the Internet at prices up to $800, and with bids and offers at the auction sites ranging from $65 to over $500.
Our interest in Furby scams started when Audri got taken buying a Furby on November 28, 1998, at an online eBay auction. Since we were launching a new site called FreeFurby, we needed some Furbies to give away for our daily "Free Furby" contest.
So, when Audri saw a post for a "rare First Edition Tuxedo Furby," this sounded like the perfect Grand Prize for the contest. She bid $191 and won. Afterwards, we learned that this Furby is neither rare nor a "First Edition," and she had paid a lot more than it was worth. This led us to do research about Furby scams and myths, and we were frankly amazed to discover the magnitude of the problem.
Conservatively, we estimate that consumers have lost over $5,000,000 so far, and the real number is probably two to four times that amount. Whatever this number is, it will double by Christmas.
The two biggest Furby scams are related to price and rarity. Furby "For Sale" headlines read: "Rare First Edition Furby - $350," "Rare Tuxedo Furby - $195," "Family of Four Furbies - $500," and "Bride and Groom Furbies - $195."
We called Lana Simon, a spokesperson for Tiger Electronics (the makers of Furbies) and asked her to comment on the value of these "rare" Furbies. "The fact is," she stated, "there are NO RARE FURBIES and NO COLLECTIBLE FURBIES. We are creating roughly an equal number of Furbies of each fur color, eye color and voice pitch." She told us that Hasbro and Tiger Electronics have no intention of creating rare Furbies, first editions, or even retiring certain colors and combinations of Furbies. She said there will have been 2,000,000 Furbies sold by Christmas.
Other Furby Internet scams include:
- Not delivering Furbies that have been paid for. To reduce the chance of this happening to you, go to one of the reputable auction sites, ignore the claims that any Furby is rare, and check out the feedback of the seller from other users who have bought items from this seller. That way, you'll be able to check out if the user has received prior complaints or praises.
- Selling non-existent Furbies, such as rare Blue Furbies (which are white Furbies dyed blue, if they exist at all), Elvis Furbies, and so on. None of these exist.
- Collectible Furby boxes with a typo on the box. We asked Ms. Simon about a typo on the original boxes, where the word "Sing" was misspelled as "SNG." She commented that there were hundreds of thousands of Furby boxes that were produced before the typo was corrected, so she felt that these would have no additional value as a collectible. "The important thing is the quality of the product, not the box," said Ms. Simon.
In summary, unethical promoters, scam artists, and hucksters have rushed into this hot market and "invented claims" of rare Furbies in order to take advantage of unwary consumers. We advise you don't fall into the trap.
First, decide if you want to pay more than $30 for a Furby. We recommend most people choose not to. However, if you want to get a Furby for Christmas, don't spend more than $70 to $105 (right now) or you're overpaying. You can get up-to-the-minute prices of what people are buying Furbies for at ebay.com by searching on "Furby" and then clicking on the "Search Completed Items" link. This will give you a sense of the current going price for Furbies.
Nonetheless, we believe it might be better to wait and not spend $100 now on a Furby. Instead, give your child a card with a picture of a Furby that tells your child that their Furby couldn't make it in time for Christmas. Wait and buy one after Christmas for about $30, and use the $50 to $70 (or more) you saved to buy your child something extra for the holidays.
We've been doing a lot of interviews lately on Furby scams and have been amazed at the amount of misinformation out there. On a humorous note, one radio interviewer commented: "It's gotten so bad that people are almost taking dead rats and blow-drying them to fluff them up so they can sell them as Furbies." (No, this hasn't really happened, at least as far as we know.) 😉