x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Go Go Hamsters are a no-no in the UAE

Any child in the UAE expecting to find one of the cuddly creatures in their stocking on Christmas Day will probably be sorely disappointed.

Stores across the UAE have no stocks of the Go Go Hamster, a robotic pet that can zoom around in a car or on a surfboard or skateboard.
Stores across the UAE have no stocks of the Go Go Hamster, a robotic pet that can zoom around in a car or on a surfboard or skateboard.

DUBAI // They are furry and cute, cost little to buy and run - and they have been flying off the shelves as the must-have toy for Christmas. The Go Go Hamster is battery-powered and needs neither feeding nor cage cleaning, making it an ideal alternative for parents who are being pestered for a pet by their children. While some people are frantically bidding as much as five times the retail price for a Go Go Hamster on internet auction sites around the world, any child in the UAE expecting to find one of the cuddly creatures in their stocking on Christmas Day will probably be sorely disappointed.

Worldwide, most shops have run out of the toy distributed in the UK for £9.95 (Dh60) after demand wildly overtook supplies but the hamsters have yet to reach the UAE branches of Hamleys and Toys "R" Us and it could be 2010 before they do. Which leaves parents here facing the prospect of some tearful children on Christmas Day. Mr Squiggles, Chunk, Num Nums and Pipsqueak, also known as Zhu Zhu Pets, are billed as offering the fun of a real hamster without the mess. They have more than 40 different sound effects, including toilet-flushing and teeth-brushing, and they yawn when they enter their bedroom.

Each has its own "personality" and "artificial intelligence", which enables it to coo when stroked, dart around the house, play in hamster tubes and run on wheels. Accessories include a car, surfboard and skateboard. Posts are appearing on community websites such as expatwoman.com asking for advice on how to track down the prized creatures. "Has anyone seen Go Go Hamsters in Dubai?" asked one poster, nspree. "I know they're like gold dust in the UK, too, so probably out of the question to find them here, but you never know.

"Think having one of these will give me another year without having to buy a real one - I hope!" Other expatriates have been fielding requests from friends and family around the world desperate to track down one of the cute toys. Poster Kells Bells wrote: "Been getting texts from family asking to look for them here as they are struggling to get their hands on them. This is in the UK and South Africa. Have looked but not seen them."

Assisi asked: "Where do I get Go Go Petz[sic] here in Dubai? Apparently they are sold out everywhere in the UK, and I've got people e-mailing me asking me to take some back with me when I go next week." The marketing manager for Hamleys in Dubai Mall, Emma Fitchett, said the store was hoping to receive stocks of the toy in the next few weeks, "or in early January". "The supplier has run out; worldwide, nobody can get them," she said. "Everybody is trying to get their hands on them. I'm sure because of the amount of publicity they have received it will sell well when it does arrive here."

Recent claims made by a US consumer group that the product contained dangerous amounts of a cancer-causing agent called antimony have been denied by Character Options, the UK distributor, which said the toy, made in St Louis, Missouri by Cepia, complied with health standards in Europe and the US. At shops across Dubai retail assistants merely shook their heads and smiled when asked about Go Go Hamsters. At Toys "R" Us in Dubai Festival City, a shop assistant confirmed she had been fielding requests from dozens of parents.

"We don't have it yet," she said. "A lot of people have been asking about it. If you look on the websites you will see we sell it in the UK and US but it is out of stock and it has not yet reached here." She said she did not think alternative hamster toys would satisfy children whose hearts were set on a Zhu Zhu pet. "If a child is coming looking for a Go Go Hamster then that is all they are looking for. They won't take an alternative."

The customer service team at Hamleys have also been staving off requests. One retail assistant at The Toy Store in Mall of the Emirates said the outlet had been lucky enough to acquire one box of stock early on from a local distributor but had sold out quickly and was now awaiting more. The clerk estimated it would take at least a couple of weeks for them to arrive. In the absence of Go Go Hamsters, both The Toy Store and Hamleys Dubai Mall named the Ben 10 range as among their best-sellers this holiday season.

Ben 10 is a Cartoon Network animated series about a teenage boy who acquires a watch-like device that gives him the ability to transform into a variety of alien life-forms, each with its own unique powers. The Moxie Girlz range of dolls is also selling well. Toys "R" Us lists its top three sellers this year as its Ferrari Ride On toy, FurReal Friends' My Cuddlin' Kitty and Baby Alive Doll. loatway@thenational.ae