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'Furby' may be year's hottest toy

November 16, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

Move over Cabbage Patch Kids, Furby's on its way, and if predictions by area store managers hold up, the fuzzy interactive dolls will take over the Christmas shopping season.

Furbys couldn't be found in area toy and department stores Saturday. Store managers said they go out as soon as they come in.

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"We get a big shipment and they're gone the same day," said Brian Haver, a customer service specialist at the Wal-Mart store in Martinsburg, W.Va.

One of the biggest phenomena surrounding Furbys is that most children have never seen one, even in television ads, yet knowledge of their existence is being spread by word of mouth, store managers said.

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Barham Lashley, 8, of Tomahawk, W.Va., was in the Martinsburg Mall Saturday with his family.

"No, I've never seen a Furby, but all my friends want one," he said. "I don't know what a Furby is, but if I did, I'd want one, too."

Selling for about $30 when it can be found, Furby basically is a stuffed doll resembling the title characters from the movie, "Gremlins." It has its own language, called Furbish, and comes with its own dictionary. It has big eyes, a tuft of blond hair sticking up Mohawk-style, and has a yellow beak.

Put in four AA batteries and it comes to life. When it talks, it rolls its eyes, wiggles its ears and even does a little dance.

Owners teach the dolls English, and Furby teaches them Furbish.

Krista Hepner, 18, a sales clerk at Kay-Bee Toys Inc., at Valley Mall, owns a white Furby she bought three weeks ago. "It hiccups, burps and tells me when it's hungry. I teach it like a baby," Hepner said.

It has already taught her some Furbish, she said. "Kay may y nye. It means, 'I love you,'" Hepner said.

The toy talks when it's fed, which is accomplished by touching its tongue, or when the owner rubs its belly or back or gently shakes it.

Ken Williams, manager of Montgomery Ward at Valley Mall, said the first shipment didn't sell well initially, then suddenly they were gone.

"They're like the Cabbage Patch Kids were 10 years ago," he said. "Manufacturers can't keep up. Nobody can tell what it is, but everybody has to have one. I understand the street value is already up to $100."

Williams said his store plans to limit purchases on new shipments to one per customer.

Brian Grady, manager at Toys R Us in Hagerstown, said his store was giving out rain checks for Furbys but had to stop when the requests reached more than 100. "We realized we couldn't supply the demand," he said.

"It looks like it's the toy to have this year," Grady said.

"Almost everyone who walks into the store asks for one," said Denny Snow, manager at the Kay-Bee Inc. store in the Martinsburg Mall. "People have never seen one, but they want one."

"I've never seen one, but I'd like to have one myself, just to teach it language" said Wal-Mart's Haver.

"I ordered one from a catalog," said Darla Shingler of Hagerstown. "My sister found one at Ames, but they're out."

Shingler said she was buying the toy for her 7-year-old daughter, Brittany.

Brittany said she doesn't know what a Furby is.

But, she said, she knows she wants one.

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