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Author accused of 'Christmas greed' after spending $23,000 to snap up and resell Hatchimals, the hot holiday toy

Sara Gruen, author of the bestselling novel "Water for Elephants," is scrambling to sell more than 100 "Hatchimals" toys that she bought on EBay the day after Black Friday.  She’s also ducking the ire of parents who are desperate to get the hot holiday toy for their kids.

The writer purchased 156 of the in-demand toys at an average price of $151— spending more than $23,000 — with the goal of reselling them at a further marked-up price. She intends to use the proceeds to help fund the defense of a man she says is serving a life sentence for a crime he didn't commit.

Her plan backfired, though, when EBay wouldn't let her resell the toys, she wrote in a Facebook post that drew some harsh criticism from readers. One called her move “Christmas greed,” while another wrote, “Exploiting families whose children want these toys for Christmas is awful.”

She did have supporters, however, such as the woman who wrote, “Don't let the haters stop you from doing what you believe is right! (((HUGS)))”

Hatchimals, perhaps this year's most sought-after toys, are battery-operated interactive furry creatures that arrive inside spotted eggs. Kids are meant to tap and rub the egg until the toys eventually emerge.

The suggested retail price is $59.99, but high demand and low supply has made them popular on auction sites, where they routinely sell for $100 or more.

"I have a fortune invested, only one venue to offload them, and in only three weeks they will magically transform into useless pumpkins that will take up space in my office FOREVER, and have caused my financial ruin," Gruen wrote. "Oh, and I’ll still owe the lawyers."

Gruen told the Philly Voice that she paid $23,595.31 to buy 156 of the toys before realizing she wouldn't be allowed to resell them on EBay. The site only lets users post three Hatchimals auctions per week.

After the media attention, Gruen was told by EBay that she has been “white listed to sell as many Hatchimals as I want for as long as I want,” according to a follow-up report in the Philly Voice.

In a Wednesday Facebook post, Gruen wrote that she had managed to sell 40% of the toys via her Shopify site The Gruen Zoo, and had given four away to"needy kids."

"Thank you to my supporters, whom I know outweigh the haters," she wrote.

Gruen told the Philly Voice that in addition to the negative comments, she'd received death threats because of her Facebook post.

“They don’t hate me – I don’t think, that doesn’t make any sense – but they hate whatever it is they think I represent,” she said. “And the death threats? I’m going to put my alarm on for a few nights, but I think it's all online bluster. They're blowing off the wrongfully convicted man with the argument that their children ‘need’ these toys.”

Gruen has declined to offer any details about the man she says she's trying to help by selling the toys. She told the Philly Voice she's working on documentary series about the case, and that his identity will be revealed soon.

On her Shopify site, Gruen wrote that the mission of her store is "to get justice for a wrongfully convicted man who was sentenced to LWOP(Life Without Parole) 23 years ago, and who has been incarcerated since."

She's selling the toys, which come with an autographed copy of one of her five books, for $189 each. Batteries — for the Hatchimal — are included.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
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