Snoopy Fever Bowls Over Hong Kong
HONG KONG (AP) _ Children around the world have dragged their parents for years to McDonald’s restaurants for burgers, fries _ and free toys.
But a wildly successful sale of Snoopy toys dressed in the costumes of different countries has created more than just a steady flow of children into Hong Kong’s 147 McDonald’s restaurants.
The promotion has led to long lines, fights _ and even a black market.
McDonald’s began the 28-day campaign two weeks ago with television and print advertisements telling people they could buy a different Snoopy toy each day for 75 cents with the purchase of a combination meal. If you wanted all 28, you had to come back every day.
Snoopy fever swept Hong Kong.
Black-market collectors are fetching as much as $26 each for the toys. Some entrepreneurs traveled to China _ where five Snoopys can be bought at a time from some stores _ and returned to Hong Kong to sell them.
Why all the fuss?
``I reckon he’s very cute,″ said 28-year old Leonie Tran.
``Hong Kong is such a small place if something happens, word spreads quicker, and people go crazy,″ said Ernest Hoasjoe, an account director for Saatchi & Saatchi in Hong Kong.
The former British colony has long been hooked on collectible crazes.
Dozens of gift shops are devoted exclusively to selling merchandise featuring cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty. Earlier this year, a credit card company launched a signature Hello Kitty credit card that boosted its client base.
News reports about the Snoopy craze _ and what toys can earn on the black market _ fueled the frenzy.
``Now it’s on TV and some old ladies want to get three or four pieces and make some money,″ said 29-year-old Stephen Ho, as he waited to get a Philippines Snoopy.
McDonald’s couldn’t say how many Snoopys had been sold or how much the campaign has boosted sales, but sales usually increased by 5 percent to 10 percent in similar promotions.
McDonald’s spokeswoman Sandra Chan admitted that the lines, fights, and profiteering were affecting the ``safety and comfort of customers in the restaurant.″ The store began offering Snoopy order forms to ensure that people could get their favorite ones after the promotion ends on Oct. 8.
The promise failed to thin crowds.
The lines even doubled in length Thursday, a public holiday for China’s National Day, when a China Snoopy was being offered under the Golden Arches.