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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Online mayhem over Hello Kitty

Pre-orders for McDonald's set suspended 80 minutes into sale after site overload
The Straits Times - April 24, 2014
By: Lee Jian Xuan
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Online mayhem over Hello Kitty The Hello Kitty Bubbly World Collector's set along with a 40th Anniversary certificate and six Extra Value Meal $5 vouchers are available for pre-order online on April 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: MCDONALD'S SINGAPORE

FAST-FOOD chain McDonald's, overwhelmed by orders on its website, had to stop selling its Hello Kitty dolls within just 80 minutes yesterday.

Kitty mania was unleashed when orders for the Hello Kitty Bubbly World Collector's Set started at 11am, and the site was suspended at about 12.20pm.

"To ease traffic, we are temporarily suspending new orders.

"We will resume sales as soon as possible," a message on the website said, much to the frustration of collectors.

The set, which costs $80, consists of six plush dolls featuring Hello Kitty dressed up as other Sanrio characters, $30 worth of meal vouchers and a certificate to commemorate the iconic feline's 40th birthday.

Yesterday's pre-order also marked the first time these dolls debuted worldwide. Each buyer was allowed to order up to three sets.

The toys will also be sold separately starting Monday at outlets islandwide.

Many unhappy early-bird customers who had trouble paying or did not receive payment confirmations vented their frustrations on the company's Facebook page. At press time, one of its Facebook posts had more than 450 comments. Most were from patrons demanding a response from McDonald's.

Customer service officers replied to some users, asking them to send in their details by e-mail to verify if their orders had been processed.

One user, Mr Victor Tan, described the experience as "disappointing". "Surely McDonald's would have predicted heavy traffic on its first day and prepared for this?" he wrote.

Marketing manager Wilson Ng, 25, who managed to order a set of dolls after half an hour of trying, told The Straits Times he had to call his bank to verify that the payment had been made.

Confusion also mounted over what time the sale would resume or if it had ended, with some users questioning how much stock McDonald's had left.

The order website eventually re-opened at about 7pm, half an hour later than the timing stated on McDonald's Facebook page.

It said that all successful transactions had been confirmed, but cautioned it might halt new orders due to the large number of customers logged in.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, McDonald's said it had significantly increased the number of toys available this year, although it did not reveal by how much.

It had also limited the number of toys to four per store visit for each customer, and will not offer the promotion at drive-throughs or delivery services to ensure smoother traffic flow and fewer service disruptions.

Meanwhile, some are already trying to make a quick profit.

A check on auction site eBay yesterday found that bids for the set had risen to as high as $180. Some auctions even opened before pre-orders started yesterday.

The mouthless Japanese cat has often caused a commotion here.

When McDonald's first sold Hello Kitty toys in 2000, there were massive queues, traffic jams and crowd control problems. The police were even called in as those in the queue got rowdy.

And last June, the claws came out again over McDonald's black Singing Bone Hello Kitty soft toy, with long queues and even scuffles breaking out at some outlets islandwide.

Elsewhere, online sellers took advantage of the high demand to sell the dolls at exorbitant prices.

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