Snaking queues and overnight waits outside McDonald's outlets for the popular Hello Kitty toy appeared to be a thing of the past. The latest Hello Kitty Bubbly World Collector's Set went on sale at the outlets across Singapore at 11am on Monday, but unlike previous years, there was no chaos and cat fights over the coveted dolls.
When The Straits Times visited four outlets in Ang Mo Kio Park, Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, Clementi Mall and Serangoon Ave 3 on Monday morning, there were only a handful standing in the line at each place. At the Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 outlet, there were about 20 people waiting to buy the first doll, but the queue died down 15 minutes into the sale. At Ang Mo Kio Park, there was still no queue at 10.30am. Over at Clementi and Serangoon, fewer than 10 people were standing in the line at each outlet at 11am.
The new set consists of six plush dolls featuring Hello Kitty dressed up as other Sanrio characters. The Hello Kitty Bubbly Kerokerokeroppi was the first to go on sale at the outlets. Each doll costs $4.95 with every purchase of an Extra Value Meal, and each person can buy up to four dolls.
The disappearance of queues, however, is not a sign that the Hello Kitty craze has died down. It has merely moved online. This year, McDonald's decided to take pre-orders for the plush toys online. Response to online sales, which started last Wednesday, was so overwhelming that the fast food chain had to stop taking orders on its website just 80 minutes after it went live.
Some Hello Kitty fans said they would rather order online because they could buy the entire set at $80 which comes with $30 worth of meal vouchers and a certificate to commemorate the iconic feline's 40th birthday - instead of queueing up for a different doll each week at the outlets.
"I tried to get it online but the website was already suspended by then. My mum wants the doll so I had no choice, I came to get it for her," said Ms Pearlyn Zeng, 21, who was eighth in the queue when The Straits Times visited the Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 outlet on Monday morning.
McDonald's has since resumed taking pre-orders online, limited to three sets per person. A check at 1.30pm on Monday revealed that the dolls are still available online.