“My life is hell,” exclaims an out-of-breath Mike Prince. “Wait a second, hold on, can I call you back?” The Broad Beach businessman is busier than White House spin doctors these days, for Prince is the King of Furbies. Furbies — the interactive balls of fur that have become this season’s must-have, hot toy. Prince has seen the Tickle-Me-Elmos and the Ninja Turtles and the Giga Pets come and go, but Furby is a phenomenon. “I’ve been in the toy business for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “It’s just crazy.”
Furby fever was in full swing the day after Thanksgiving when Christmas shoppers mobbed the malls in hopes of bagging one of the fuzzy critters. What makes Furby so fashionable? Well, for one thing, it is unlike any other toy. They have their own name and speak their own language — Furbish. They come with an English-Furbish dictionary, so kids will know what Furby is saying. Once the electronic toy is activated, Furby will eventually learn English and have a 300-word vocabulary. They can also recognize other Furbies, and just like toddlers, if one Furby has a cold, his Furby friend will catch it.
“You have to spend time with Furby, you have to teach Furby,” says Prince. “It’s a very nurturing toy.” It can also be a very expensive one — at least on the black market. The toy retails for $29.99, but due to overwhelming demand, few Furbies can be found. Ads have been placed in local papers with asking prices of up to $1,000. The best bet for frantic parents might be the Internet. At www.shopnow.com, Furbies can be purchased for a mere $99.
Prince, meantime, is sending out Furbies as fast as he can. “We’re shipping them out to everyone, but it’s never enough. Furbies go off the shelves in minutes, not days.” Prince says he has a 12-page computer printout of anxious customers and gets calls daily from long lost friends. His own kids, of course, are the proud owners of Furbies, but many others are bound to be disappointed come Christmas day. So, what’s a parent to do when there are no virtual pets to be found? Some may turn to actual ones. As any animal person will tell you, there are lots of fine fuzzy, friends-for-life that would love to be nurtured — they’re usually free to good homes and readily available at the local pound.