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[UPDATE on Sunday, 27 April: Adding information about pledging meals to charity]
To prevent food wastage, McDonald's will be allowing its customers to pledge the meals that they don't want after buying Hello Kitty plush toys to charity.
Meals that are donated will be valued at $5 each, and customers who wish to pledge their meals to charity need simply inform the counter service staff when they order, said the fast food outlet in a statement on Friday.
The meals will go toward children of lower-income families supported by the Straits Times school pocket money fund, added McDonald's. These meal vouchers will be distributed to families after the end of the Hello Kitty promotion, they said.
The Hello Kitty Bubbly World Collectors' Set went on sale at 11am on Wednesday. The site received overwhelming web traffic, and users soon reported that they were unable to access the website.
Some also faced difficulties processing their payments. Customers took to commenting on McDonald's Singapore Facebook page about the various problems they faced.
McDonald's posted a Facebook update at 11:11am, advising users, "The site is functioning but due to extremely high traffic, the site is taking longer than usual to load."
A McDonald's spokesperson said that the promotion received "very strong response", but due to the large number of transactions, new orders were temporarily suspended at around 12:30pm to ease the site traffic. Online sales resumed at around 7pm later that evening.
He added that the fast food chain had "significantly increased the number of plush toys available this year".
Customers who were unable to purchase a collector's set were advised to visit the stores starting next Monday, when the individual plush toys will be available. In anticipation of large crowds of customers at the stores, McDonald's said it "will be implementing enhanced queue systems where appropriate".
The toys will go on sale at McDonald’s restaurants islandwide -- with a new design available every Monday -- from 28 April.
The sale of this new collection is to celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary.
Singapore will be the first in the world to get the Hello Kitty Bubbly World collection of plush toys. It features Hello Kitty dressed as six other famous Sanrio characters - Kerokerokeroppi, a frog, My Melody, a rabbit, Osaru No Monkichi, a monkey, PomPomPurin, a golden retriever, Tuxedosam, a penguin dressed in a tuxedo and Bad Badtz-maru, a spiky-haired penguin. The Kerokerokeroppi toy will be released first, followed by the others.
Each plush toy comes in its own box and will cost $4.95 each, with the purchase of any Extra Value Meal. McDonald’s has said that each customer can purchase up to four toys per store visit. A new toy design will be available every Monday at 11am. The toys will be available all McDonald’s outlets excluding the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital outlet, McCafes and dessert kiosks. It will also not be available via McDelivery.
As part of the launch, McDonald’s will also be bringing in six 2-feet plush figurines of the Hello Kitty Bubbly World series. These six figurines will be on display at six secret McDonald’s restaurants island-wide from 28 April 2014.
McDonald’s Singapore marketing director Yvonne Low said, "We are delighted that customers here in Singapore will be the first in the world to get access to this commemorative series, a treat that is sure to excite collectors."
She added, "This year we are excited to give our customers even more convenient options to get their hands on their favourite collectibles."
Even before the toys make their world debut in the restaurants, fans can already purchase them online.
For the first time, McDonald’s will sell online the the entire collection of plush toys in an exclusive Collectors’ Set. The set will include all six individually-boxed plush toys, a 40th Anniversary certificate and six Extra Value Meal vouchers. The Collectors’ Set is priced at $80 and will go on sale from 11am on 23 April. However, there is a limit of three sets per transaction.
Already, many are looking to cash in on the obsession for Hello Kitty plush toys.
Black market offers have popped up online and been taken up. An eBay seller offering the Collectors’ Set for $125 has already sold one set. Another eBay seller is offering the set for $188.
On popular Chinese auction site Taobao, the Collectors’ set is being sold for $92, with one seller even pricing the set at $178. Individual plush toys are also available on Taobao, priced at $20.
In a response to a Facebook comment about the black market sale of the plush toys, McDonald’s Singapore stated, “We do not support resale activities as our intention is for the Hello Kitty plush toys to be enjoyed by as many customers and Hello Kitty fans as possible. We have put in place various measures this year to ensure more customers and fans can purchase the toys they like.“
Singaporeans have proven to be great fans of the Hello Kitty plush toys, often queuing long hours just to get a hold of a plush toy of the famous cat with no mouth.
The frenzy for the feline toys sparked off in 2000 when McDonald’s Singapore launched a collection of the Hello Kitty toys dressed in wedding outfits. The plush toys last appeared here in 2013, when McDonald’s launched a Hello Kitty Fairy Tales collection. The first toy released in the promotion was sold out islandwide in a matter of days, leaving many customers frustrated and angry.