PARENTS

Losers, Weepers! In Search Of The Perfect Present For Your Child (Like An Elsa Costume!)

29/09/2014 17:25 | Updated 20 May 2015

Frozen Frenzy: Parents are driven to extreme lengths to get hold of sought after presents

My children were upset this morning when I told them the toddler group we usually attend was cancelled. They would have been even more disappointed if they knew that I had lied to them.

It makes me sound like a terrible mum, but I have a very good reason. The Disney Store online had a shipment of Elsa and Anna dresses going on sale that morning and as my four-year-old daughter is obsessed with the film Frozen, I had to do my best to get hold of them, especially as I had failed to purchase said dresses on several previous occasions.

Since its release in November 2013, Frozen has become the highest-grossing animation of all time, raking in over $1.2billion in worldwide box office revenue. It even won two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for Let It Go, as well as a host of other awards.

It's also won the hearts of children and parents alike, with its strong, female characters who don't need a handsome prince to save them and an incredibly catchy soundtrack, which every small child seems to know off-by-heart.

Unsurprisingly, then, Frozen merchandise is big business.

The dolls and dressing-up costumes are in such demand that they are out of stock in all of the major stores for weeks on end. When they go on sale, they sell out within minutes only to then turn up on eBay for several times the price, as unscrupulous sellers cash in on parents' desperation to get their child the toy of their dreams.

So many of my mum friends have had trouble getting hold of the dresses and dolls that I knew I had to start acting now in time for Christmas and my daughter's birthday.

She doesn't ask for a lot from us. In fact, one year her Christmas list consisted of a Peppa Pig necklace, which she still treasures, and some books for her younger brother – but Anna and Elsa have been on her wish-list for several months now. And what mum wants their child to be disappointed on their special day?

My friend Laura, a mother of two, was upset not to get hold of an Elsa doll for her daughter's third birthday in January. They took her to the cinema as a birthday treat, followed by a trip to The Disney Store afterwards, where they had planned for her to buy a toy of one of the characters from the film.

"We thought there would be plenty of merchandise for her to choose from," says Laura. "We were wrong about that. There were no Elsa dolls or dresses at all. We left with a soft Cinderella doll instead."

When they got home, her husband looked online.

"Nothing," she says. "Soft dolls that should have retailed at £16 were selling for £35 to £40 or more on eBay. My husband kept checking online every few days or so and one of us would pop into the local Disney Store whenever we were passing."

Laura says they refused to pay inflated prices and finally their persistence paid off in May when they got hold of the Elsa doll – four months after their daughter's birthday.

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We still do not have an Anna doll and any dressing up clothes are going on her wish list for this Christmas or her fourth ," says Laura. "That gives us seven months to get them – although we will need to factor in the Christmas rush. It's ridiculous!

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It took my friend Linsey several weeks to get hold of an Elsa dress for her daughter's birthday.

Linsey's mum managed to successfully purchase the dress from The Disney Store online on a day that saw the website crashing with demand and stock selling out in a matter of minutes.

"It annoys me that a company like Disney could get this so wrong," says Linsey. "Unfortunately children do not understand the idea of supply and demand.

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Someone wrote on the Disney Facebook page that their daughter had been saving her pocket money in order to understand the value of money and is devastated that she can't buy a dress she has saved so hard for. I think Disney need to get it sorted.

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Laura is equally disappointed.

"I am annoyed at Disney as I feel they could make higher volumes of merchandise but are deliberately not doing so. If there were genuine shortages there would not be the trickle of stock to stores each week that sells out instantly.

"It seems to be a deliberate marketing ploy, which is morally wrong when it involves children. The eBay sellers are awful but sadly are what I've come to expect from eBay."

Mum-of-two Jo tried for several weeks to get an Elsa costume for her daughter as an Easter present. Her desperation saw her paying three times the retail price.

"I thought it would be easy," she says, "but I was wrong, so a week before I scoured eBay and the best deal I could find was a £12.50 Asda Elsa dress selling for £39. I paid about £42 in total with postage. It seems steep but in my panic-stricken state I felt I was getting a bargain! Other costumes were much higher, especially The Disney Store ones, on sale for hundreds of pounds, which even in my desperate state I would never have paid.

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It did make me feel ripped off and annoyed afterwards as people are obviously taking advantage of desperate parents.

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My friend Donna, a mum of three, had a creative solution to costume shortages, managing to make an Elsa costume for her Frozen obsessed daughter.

"It's much nicer than the ones in the shop and cost a fraction of the price," she says. "It cost about £7 for the dress fabric and sparkly train. It took me a couple of hours to make. I like sewing so I didn't even try to go to shops."

She says the fabric warehouse she got the material from even has a dedicated Frozen section.

Her solution is reminiscent of the infamous 1992 Blue Peter episode that showed viewers how to make their own Tracy Island – the year's must-have toy, following re-runs of Thunderbirds on BBC2.

Other toys that have seen parents literally fighting in the aisles and paying over the odds over the years include Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, Transformers, Power Rangers and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.

I also can't help but think of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Jingle All The Way, which sees Arnie's character, Howard, stop at nothing to get his son the Turbo Man toy he wants for Christmas.

I remember thinking back in 1996 when the film was released how ridiculous it was. Surely you could just tell your child they can't always have what they want? Oh, how little I knew about parenting!

Not wanting to disappoint your children is something Parentdish editor Tamsin Kelly knows only too well. Last Christmas her husband trekked across two counties to fetch the only Wii console they could find for her children.

"Insanity," she says, "but worth it in a twisted way."

My friend Jo agrees that despite the steep price and the effort she had to go to, it was worth it.

"I can honestly say that my daughter was thrilled and it was lovely to see her prancing around singing Let It Go," she says.

Linsey ended up giving her daughter the costume as soon as it arrived, rather than waiting for her birthday, two months later.

"I could not wait," she says. "After all I went through to get it I just couldn't wait to see her face."

My own search for the Elsa doll and dress continues, with family and friends across the country on the look-out for me. I know some people might think this is madness but knowing how thrilled she will be is what keeps me going.

It's just a shame that a company that prides itself on making dreams come true has caused such a nightmare for myself and so many other parents.

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