Hello Kitty crush goes online

SINGAPORE - They put the cat in an online showroom. It proved so popular that the website had trouble holding it.

Fast-food chain McDonald's move to make things convenient for Hello Kitty fans ended up raising their hackles instead.

For the first time, the sale of the newly launched Hello Kitty Bubbly World Series collector's set was made available on its website, so that fans could have the "convenience of a one-stop option to complete their sets", said McDonald's in a press statement last week.

The set, which was sold at $80 each, also comes with six Extra Value Meal food vouchers valued at $5 each.

But shortly after sales opened at 11am yesterday, strong traffic caused sales to be suspended.

Customers also encountered payment problems after logging onto the website.

By afternoon, members of the public were complaining to McDonald's on its Facebook page about the hiccups in the payment system and technical glitches.

Said netizen Amelia Tan: "My payment went through but the confirmation page didn't load for me. So did it (go) through? My credit card company has informed me that my payment has been processed."

A McDonald's spokesman said yesterday: "We received a very strong response to this offer and due to the large number of transactions concurrently in process, we temporarily suspended new orders at around 12.30pm to ease traffic."

McDonald's subsequently announced on its Facebook Page that sales would resume at around 6.30pm.

It said the online sales would go on "while stocks last". After that, those who want to get their hands on the toys will have to go to its stores, although a spokesman said the promotion would not be offered at drive-throughs or via delivery to ensure "smoother flow of traffic and fewer service disruptions".

McDonald's said it has "significantly" increased the number of toys this year. It has also limited the number of plush toys to "four per store visit for each customer, while stocks last, to prevent profiteering".

Some netizens, however, have already begun selling their collector's set on sites such as eBay. As of 7pm yesterday, one set was sold for US$201.50 (S$253).

The demand for Hello Kitty plush toys invariably appears to exceed their supply and some cash in. Last year, the limited-edition Singing Bone Hello Kitty toy was offered for as much as $1,000 online. There were also reports of people arguing over queue-jumping and police officers being called in.

Property officer Shermaine Lim, 21, who was unsuccessful in securing the set online the first time around managed to get it the second time. "I'm glad they reopened the sale... If not, I'd have to queue up for six weeks to get all the toys."

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