Move over, McDonalds and Hello Kitty marathon runs – it’s Hello Kitty’s friends who have taken the “kawaii” invasion to Singapore’s trains and buses and are driving fans into a frenzy.
Since EZ-Link launched five limited edition cards on 29 January featuring different characters from Japan’s Sanrio, many Singaporeans have been going from station to station on the MRT line in frenzied search of them.
The reason? EZ-Link sells certain designs only at certain stations, and Yahoo Singapore understands that this information is not public – meaning that fans have had to go to different stations and check a decal at the Control Station to see if there is stock available.
For example, the cards come in Little Twin Stars, Bad Badtz Maru, Keroppi, Pom Pom Purin and My Melody designs, but currently, certain stations only stock certain designs – some don’t stock any at all.
This has prompted significant backlash from frustrated fans sick of hunting down the different cards at different stations, with many taking to Facebook to vent.
“Designs (availability) are subjected to different locations, don’t get cheated by them!” posted Facebook user Kelvin Tan on EZ-Link’s Facebook Page, after he headed to Jurong East, Bukit Batok and Lakeside MRT stations only to find that they all had not stocked the My Melody Design.
His post later got a response from EZ-Link, which said that they needed time for the cards to be distributed across all the stations.
“Our intention is to make the design available across all TransitLink ticket offices. However, this might take time as Transitlink, our sales channel, needs time to disseminate the cards across Singapore,” read the post on 13 January.
Another post by EZ-Link on 29 January announced that availability would now be “dependent on location and on a while stocks last basis", leaving customers angered by their change of position.
Facebook user Katrina Kong called EZ-Link “cruel” for making fans travel from station to station to hunt down their cards.
“It would be useful to provide the information on where it will be sold instead even if it's progressively being pushed out. If you're really afraid that posting the ticket offices that these cards will be made available would create long queues and disrupt your daily operations, you could learn from McDonald's and sell these Sanrio designs as a set for all Sanrio fans to collect,” she posted.
Facebook user Clarence Speed said that he travelled from Outram to Chinatown, Fareer Park, Serangoon, Hougang and finally Sengkang in search of the My Melody card.
“People waste money tapping out so many times,” he posted, saying that EZ-Link should give correct information about where the cards were available.
The “limited” stock and confusion over availability has led to a thriving black market of resellers who sell full sets of the five cards for $88, or $20 more than what they would cost at retail.
Sale postings on online marketplace portal and app Carousell advertise “preorders” for the full sets, while more popular single designs went for $18, or $6 above the retail value of the card.
Bank executive Georgia Quek, 34, paid $90 for a full set of five cards from a Carousell seller.
“I tried to buy them myself but seriously, how to track down all the cards at all the stations? I have to work, you know,” she told Yahoo Singapore.
“My daughter really likes the designs so I just bought them from a reseller to save the trouble.”