back to the Black Table

It’s amazing what a Christmas frenzy can do to a holiday spirit. Whilst many shoppers are blissfully checking various items off their lists for last minute shopping, it,s important to remember that this shopping season did not start off so peacefully. At the onset of Black Friday, many cities reported incidents of violence tied into Black Friday shopping mobs at various superstores. Eager patrons trampled over each other to take advantage of early morning sales. In fact, police in Beaumont, Texas were forced to use pepper spray on the bargain-barging mob at Wal-Mart.

In addition to the iPods, laptops, and other electronics, the most sought-after gift this season was the Xbox 360. Many stores couldn’t keep up supplies with the ongoing demands for the latest, “greatest” video game console to hit the market until, oh, probably February when the PS3 comes out.

Where does this fever come from? Why does Christmas season drive us to such savagery over purchasing something that is, presumably, to give to somebody as a gift? All is fair in love and retail during the holiday season, apparently. As the last X-Box 360s are scooped off the shelves, it’s important to remember that many years have seen their shares of Christmas lunacy. And these toys are the ones to blame.



1998 was the Christmas of Furby Fever. Furbies were cute. Furbies Furbies talked jibberish. Furbies fluttered. If Gizmo and a spotted owl had drunken unprotected sex one weekend, this would be their offspring. And Furbies were in short supply that year. However, to people who weren’t 8 years-old or suffering from autism, Furbies were annoying little hair mutants that were caused more headaches for parents that Christmas. Once again parents were faced with violent crowds at superstores clamoring to grab the last yammering little freak—and willing to shove and punch their way to the front of the line to get them. Thanks to the overwhelming demand, Furbies were also one of the first toys to enter the virtual black market that is eBay. Many godless souls attempted to dupe desperate parents with non-existent furbies—like the “blue Furbie”, a white one colored with blue dye by the salesperson—which went for as high as $800 on some auctions. Hmm. Too bad considering most furbies cost no more than $30 at the time.


Beanie Babies

Ah, the power of marketing. Stuff a mitten full of corn kernels, sew a little bear face on it and call it a “collectible” and suddenly you have a hot item. That’s precisely what happened in the Christmas of 1997 when Ty unleashed its Beanie Babies on an unsuspecting nation. These “bear shaped” creatures became obsessions not only of children, but of parents and cracked-out homebodies who were more than willing to jack up the prices on these stuffed animals in an effort to have every damn one of them displayed in their living rooms.
In order to curb demand, some retailers would claim they were “out of stock” of Beanie Babies preying on desperate mothers who just had to have one before the holiday season only to have her pay up to ten times the price for what was essentially a $10 item.


Tickle Me Elmo

We can all blame Rosie O'Donnell. Back before she was a lesbian who played a retard on a terrible (yet mesmerizing) made-for-TV movie, she had a talk show watched by moms across America. And in 1996, Rosie had Tickle Me Elmo as a guest on her show. He laughed, Rosie laughed, the audience laughed, and then everyone went completely bonkers for this little red thing with an annoying whine. Poor Tyco Toys was completely unprepared for the Rosie-inspired onslaught. Tyco had made 1.2 million TMEs that year, but when demand spiked after Rosie's November show, it was too late for another production run in time for Christmas. Materialist parents everywhere forgot the lessons they learned on Sesame Street and paid hundreds of dollars for Tickle Me Elmo. It was like Christmas in East Germany, and Tickle Me Elmo was soap.


Cabbage Patch Kids

Though Xavier Roberts signed the first ass of a Cabbage Patch Kid doll in 1977, it took until 1983 for people to go absolutely batshit for them. All for the steep, steep retail price of $17.99, scalped for the even more appalling $50. That's how times have changed. It's not the Internet -- it's inflation. The Associated Press reported in November 1983 that several episodes of violence occurred in toy stores around the country that season. A store in the Roxbury section of Boston sold 100 of the moon-faced dolls in 20 minutes. Five thousand West Virginians lined up early on a Sunday morning to fight over 120 dolls. An employee at a Wilkes-Barre, Pa., store used a baseball bat to fend off the Cabbage Patch Cult, but one customer still suffered a broken leg. So if your parents got you one of these ugly things, they loved you very, very much. And where is it now, you thoughtless brat? Huh?