How to Get Those Hard to Find Toys

Tired of Driving From Store to Store Without Any Luck?

MIAMI - SEPTEMBER 28: Melissa Brunschwig shops for toys at the Toys'R'Us store on September 28, 2010 in Miami, Florida. ©Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Do you ever have a hard time struggling to locate those hard to find toys on toy story shelves?

Sometimes our kids send us on toy scavenger hunts, especially during the holiday season.  You might be looking for that 1 item your child has requested, and every store you go to the shelves are wiped clean?

Have you ever gone to the toy store to buy that toy you promised as a reward, thinking you will run in and out like you are buying milk.

You then stop dead in your tracks when you find the shelf and it is completely empty with a sign stating, "Only 1 Doc McStuffins toy or Frozen toy per person." Seriously? Now you have a child in tears, too.

Like me, you are frustrated and annoyed because in this day and age, why would there be a shortage? So you do what any good parent would do, use your common sense and plan your mission.

You google map the directions for the 3 closest retail stores. At the next location you might find that apparently this retail store does not even have a location set aside for those toys you are looking for.

Maybe you overlooked them, because all you need are just a few little figures to display on a cake? So you eventually find a human to help you, most likely in another department and you do not find anything.

While this often predictably happens during the crazy holiday months and was pretty popular years ago while people waited in lines for Cabbage Patch Dolls and Zhu Zhu Pets, it has honestly happened to me several times looking for Shopkins and Paw Patrol toys. 

 

Along the way in my toy store shopping adventures, I've learned a few helpful hints I wanted to share, in case this is your unfortunate reality.

Here are 10+ ways to get those hard to find toys.

Plan ahead, Get on the Internet and Use a Search Engine like Google

After you google the name of the toy or the brand, click on the shopping tab for a list of vendors selling various items.

This will help narrow your online search to specific stores or give you price listings so it may be easier to just buy them right away.

Search web content and YouTube videos to learn about availability. Media representatives and bloggers get previews of items several months before they available on store shelves, so you do not head to the store looking for something that will not be on the shelves for another few months.

You may also learn that some licenses like for example, Handy Manny, while he and those tools are certainly still very much alive and well on Netflix and the Disney Junior app, they haven't designed any new toys for Handy Manny in several years.

Check Store Availability On-Line First

While the impulsive trip to the toy aisles may be successful, there are some toys and brands that are exclusive to certain retailers. For example, Paw Patrol toys launched for the first month only at Toys "R" Us, before they hit additional retailers a month later. Some toy companies manufacture certain toys, accessories and characters for specific retailers. So while you may be able to buy Lincoln Logs construction toys at almost any retailer, there may be different selections at Target than you may find at Walmart, Toys "R" Us or even Amazon.com.

Most websites can give you an indicator whether the item is available in a particular store, or if it can be shipped to the store for you to pick up. If you can find enough availability online it may be best to purchase what you see and have it shipped to you or the store. Paying the shipping fee if it's minimal, though it's not ideal, will save you time, money and frustration driving from store to store.

Ask the In-Store Customer Service Department to Search Inventory

Spend a few minutes at the customer service departments at places like  Toys "R" Us, Target and Walmart, where they were able to give you an idea of the inventory of various toys at other neighboring locations before you drive there. They may tell you when they can expect shipments of new toys in their store. Sometimes they even keep most wanted toys near the front of the store at Customer Service if people have put toys on hold and not come in to pick them up.

Call Ahead

By calling ahead to different locations en-route, customer service representatives are able to tell you about their current inventory and when they generally receive shipments of products so you can call back and get more information the next day or later that week.

Amazon.com

While Amazon.com has its own fulfillment department, many people and businesses purchase these hard to find items in stores, then sell them through their own personal business Amazon store accounts. While you may be able to find the item you want, it will be listed as a fixed price plus shipping, but if it is popular, do not expect it to be cheap or close to traditional retail price.

Ebay.com, Online Auction Website

If the toy is really popular, it may be available on a website like Ebay.com for auction. This means a buyer arranges a minimum price and consumers bid on the item. You can also find items on e-bay and buy them outright for a specific price, though again, like Amazon.com, it may or may not be a reasonable price.

Ebay is certainly a great place to look for those older toys and licenses that might be your child's favorite at the moment, where there aren't any new toys in planned production. 

Etsy.com

Sometimes you can find vintage toys for sale at Etsy. While you may not be able to find the actual retail toy, people are so creative and imaginative that it is possible to find unique and special items featuring their favorite characters like stuffed animals, hair clips, t-shirts, and birthday party decorations in a personal Etsy store.

Craigslist.com

Craigslist is a listing of local people with items for sale in a specific demographic area. People list pictures and descriptions of new or used items for sale, then buyers and sellers agree upon a price and meet in person to trade the item. While this can be effective there are lots of scams on Craiglist, so do not give out a lot of personal information, be aware of where you meet people and buy and sell used toys smartly and safely.  Be skeptical if you receive emails with a lot of mis-spellings and vague information.

Scams on Craigslist will often include people offering more money than the item is worth.

Online Yard Sale Groups on Facebook

With the popularity of private groups on Facebook, join neighborhood groups and yard sale groups in your local area. People will post items for sale and buyers will purchase then by leaving a comment or a direct message to the poster. They then meet the seller locally for pick-up. You still run the risk of the buyer or seller being a no-show, but if can be helpful. I have also noticed in several Facebook groups there have been entire threads where people are sharing experiences and pictures, letting other buyers know that the local retail store got a new shipment of toys that morning.