Keeping Up With the Webkinz

Webkinz are the latest toy craze emptying parental pocketbooks. I suppose every generation of children had to contend with some sort of useless fad destined for the cultural kipple pile. My cross to bear was the New Kids on the Block and their miles and miles of merch. We’re talking t-shirts, dolls, sleeping bags, cassette singles (remember those?), hats, key chains, a veritable grab bag of utterly useless junk no doubt now cluttering numerous attics and basements around the nation.

Today’s children have it much worse than I did. While the kids were annoying as hell, they did not intend to brainwash me in to being a better consumer, which is what Webkinz attempt to do. Retailing at upwards of $40, these seemingly innocuous stuffed toys come with a super secret code that allows you to access (for one year) the world of Webkinz on the internet, a virtual home for your “pet”. Let’s put aside for one minute that this must be signaling the utter decimation of a child’s imagination. In the Webkinz world, parents are encouraged to purchase Kinzcash, online currency used to buy staples for your pet; things such as food, home furnishings, amusement items, etc.

I must proffer a slow clap to the makers of Webkinz, namely the Ganz company, a family owned business which is seemingly a one stop shop for useless junk of every description. They have come up with a scam fit for the record books. Offering a small plush toy for this price, only to goad parents into paying more money for the privilege of visiting a website with various activities for children (equals of which can be found in great number all over the internet for free) is truly brilliant.

Another shrewd ploy on the part of the Ganz company is the way their product is marketed. They create a false demand by supplying only a portion of their product at a given time. This gives some children the opportunity to purchase these wares and subsequently lord the product over their peers, who in turn beg and plead with their parents to do the same. Repeat this process internationally (Ganz has a robust marketing strategy, boasting distribution centers in several countries), and you have the makings of a successful fad.

A good consumer is not something one should aspire to be. There is no prize for owning the most junk; conversely, it is detrimental to impulsively hoard every sparkly item that catches your eye. A child’s consumption should be curbed and they should be taught, as early as possible, to thoughtfully consider every single purchase they make. Why instill the notion of aggressive consumption in a child so early (or at all)? There is the “healthy economy” argument to be made, but I think that is a misnomer, especially when you consider how much of American merchandise is produced overseas. More importantly, consider that most of your useless junk will outlive you and your children.

Not to get too sentimental or cloying, but there is merit in appreciating the less sensational aspects of life. If you are so inclined to improve your child, may I suggest taking your $40 and purchasing a number of good books with sincere messages about life and society. These things are infinitely more valuable than any fleeting fad.

Stacie Adams is an unassuming and introverted young woman with plans to take over the world and make it tolerable. Her heroes are few, but precious: Bill Hicks, Nat Turner, Orson Welles, and Hunter S. Thompson. She detests useless celebrity, bureaucracy, and unfettered stupidity. "I am disgustingly provincial and I’ve never stepped foot outside the US, but it is my dream to travel the world. My favorite beer is Red Stripe, my favorite movie Irreversible. I’ve seen Evil Dead 2 over 100 times. I am an encyclopedia of trivial facts and figures." She can be reached at: Read other articles by Stacie, or visit Stacie's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. jeff said on June 18th, 2007 at 6:59pm #

    I believe some of your info is off. Both of my kids bought webkinz, each for less than 15 bucks. As far as the website trying to get parents to buy kinzcash is also wrong. The kids play games to earn the cash to feed and furnish rooms for their “pets”

  2. Jennifer Hill said on June 18th, 2007 at 7:24pm #

    Webkinz are not $40. I got mine for $12.99 and only saw them for more than that on E-bay.

  3. kiki sutherland said on July 1st, 2007 at 5:51pm #

    i saw a webkinz on amazon for 1,000$!they are so expencev

  4. Demetri said on August 27th, 2007 at 7:43pm #

    Although the fad sale tactic is one that seems to ring true, one of the more appealing (to me) aspects of Webkinz (~ $ 13-18) each AT THE STORE…is the management of assets (Webcash) that the online avatars earn through arcade and other fun games. OK, so its is less than a great thing, but it surpasses TV, allows the child the freedom to individualize their adopted pet, build and furnish a virtual online home. And ultimately gives us(the parent) another “treat” to give the child if they earn “free-time”. We use a point system to do chores around the house. Keep your points for the day and you can spend them on free time. So, this is what our child prefers.
    In summation, yes they are making a mint, but Ganz has also created something fun and creative that most children really enjoy. My two cents.
    And thank you Stacy for your well written comments on this, you do bring up some good food for thought although I feel you highlighted the extreme costs that some “goofs” are willing to pay for a special “must have” stuffed toy.

  5. Jewel said on November 16th, 2007 at 11:10am #

    My child received a Webkinz in the mail for a birthday gift last month. It was a simple stuffed animal dog, (made in China). It looked like any other stuffed toy on the market. Little did I realize this was the latest and largest craze since Pokemon and beanie babies…with a catch. Printed on the toy’s tag is an “access” code that allows the owner access to the Webkinz website. Enter some of your child’s (seemingly innocuous) information and he/she has access to the site for one year. Inside, your child is allowed to “nurture” their virtual pet. But to do so, you need Webkinz money. The Webkinz money is accumulated by playing games on the site. Then the child is rewarded by getting to “buy” stuff for his/her virtual pet. If the child doesn’t visit the site enough to “care for” their virtual pet…the pet doesn’t “die”…it just “gets sad”. Brilliant really. This is genius marketing. The advertizer – Webkinz- doesn’t have to figure out how to get to your kids…because the kids come back to them after their first “hit”. Over and over. And they want more…more…MORE Webkinz.

    I wish parents would clue into such advertising and their negative effects. Abject mindless consumerism. “Stuff” without meaning or use.

    I googled two words. “Webkinz” and “gross” together. I landed on a chat site devoted to talking about how cool Webkinz are and how many kids can collect…etc..The kids ages appeared to be somewhere between 8 and 12 years old. But the site soon got rude, then nasty, then downright pornagraphic. I opted to throw out the “access code”. I explained to my daughter that she could play with the stuffed dog, but the games and site were merely a very clever advertisment designed to make kids waste their money on more and more of what they all ready have.

    A few days later we went out to visit a favorite cousin. She had a friend over. They were in the basement, each sitting in front of a computer screen…(you guessed it)…playing Webkinz online. Plugged in and tuned out.

    How I shudder.

  6. Hank said on January 22nd, 2008 at 1:21am #

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE! As a divorced father of 4, one of which is an 8 yrs old and defined as a webkin Addict, I will go one step further!

    Abstract as it may seem, the “ex-wife” has used them as a “babysitter!’

    The child is told to “go play with his Webkins” and basically, it’s a way to “amuse the child” and NOT participate in his activities!

    It’s a “counter culture!”

    The child has no social life of interacting with other children. he’s off to this baby sitter or the grandmother. Father – Son visitation is curtailed. The child has lost all interest in things like, “Dad, I don’t want to play little league baseball anymore. I have more fun with my Webkins.” Boy Scouts is something he does not want to do. Camping is a “fear!” He hasn’t learned to ride his bike without the training wheels and he still cannot tie his own shoe laces!

    His Webkin collection has soared to 55. This past Christmas, she “promoted” that all should buy a specific Webkin to assure no duplicates! In gross dollars, the child received over $700 worth of Webkins, less than $40 worth of other toys and less than $50 worth of clothing!

    As the “enstranged father,” I purchased a microscope set, required some adult reading to help him get started, (this was put away because the time and effort was a “bother me issue”) A set of Tempra paints, water color paints and coloring marker pens (all purchased were non toxic and washable) were taken away because they are “too messy.” Books that he found interesting simply lay around without encouragement. Webkin’s World gets the time!

    I also purchased 6 outfits of clothing. My son thinks that all the stuff dad bought was boring and that was encouraged!

    He sits at the computer for hours a day, totally unsupervised.

    My trade: I am in the internet field. I am more than aware of the extensive overuse of the internet for amusement of a child. too often, it is a “babysitter.” The Webkin’s concept encourages it. A child needs to interact with other children and adults. It’s part of growing up and developing good social skills and the ability to get along.

    They have plenty of time to get to the social aspects of the internet, MySpace, AIM and all the rest. Conditioning kids to “check EULA contracts without understanding what it really means is like Soupy Sales telling children to pick funny green papers from their parent’s wallets and mailing them in to him! Remember that one?

    Webkins are a tool that is potentially abusive to children! “Loaded” in the hands of negligent parents, they can be harful to a child’s ability to learn, interact and develop normal behavior with other children by competing with other activities. Children are easily captured.

    There needs to be more studies in this direction to protect children… sometimes from parents who shirk children for “easy distractions” instead of PARENTING!

    Call me “Disgusted!”

  7. oby one said on February 5th, 2008 at 1:04pm #

    I honestly don’t know too much about Webkinz, but it sounds like a great way to train your child to be ready to consume–for real–using the tools on the internet when they are ready to. Consumership lesson #1: let them have fun and familiarize them with the tools, and when they have the ability, let them shop with your plastic. The Sears catalogue never looked so good–and why wait?

  8. Webkins' Mom said on April 4th, 2008 at 9:40am #

    As a Mom of a webkins lover, I need to tell you that you are so so so off base. Is it a fad… ok but I still have my cabbage patch kid… so what? There really are not that many fun, safe activities on the web. I feel safe when my daughter is on this site. There is safe chatting with friends and new people. She has a ball playing games that are age appropiate and some are educational too. She loves “buying” items for her vitual home and pet with the money she earns doing “jobs”, playing games and winning contests. She is able to play checkers, battleship and other fun games with other children her age with no worry that it is a predator trying to get to her. Is the computer her life? hardly! She barely has time to play between all of her activites but she loves the down time online. As stated already… the animals cost the same as any other stuffed animal if not cheaper (have you seen the price of a “Make A Teddy”?) She is too old to “play” with her stuffed webkin but loves to have it on her bed and “play” with the virtual version online. It has hardly emptied my short pockets. It only takes one animal to have a year subscription to the site. Although many of her friends have several animals she is happy right now with her one. I am sure that is she is still interested in the site by next Christmas I will be very happy to pay another $9.95 – $14.95 for another animal and year subscription to this safe, fun website.