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Are Toys Too Pricey for a Recession?

Tuesday, 2 Dec 2008 | 10:11 AM ET

The retailer Syms has long said, "An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer", but in these times where shoppers are looking to stretch their budgets, it looks as those most people are becoming price savvy.

As the holiday shopping season kicks off, there's been lots of talk about shoppers researching prices online before clicking their way to the checkout page or heading out to the store.

Pricegrabber.com, one price-comparison shopping Web site, has seen increased traffic compared with last year.

Ron LaPierre, president of the site, also has noticed the price for several popular items such as digital cameras and Blu-Ray disc players has fallenin recent days as shoppers either gravitate to cheaper vendors or retailers slash prices to win business.

But in these days of bargain-hungry shoppers, some consumers have complained in online forums about the lack of really good deals or the wide swings in prices for some items such as toys.

One shopper called attention to the Fisher-Price Loving Family Grand Dollhouse, which sells at Wal-Mart.com for $64.88. The eight-room dollhouse comes with a four-person family, a dining room set and a bonus pack with an outdoor patio set that is exclusive to Wal-Mart .

At Fisher-Price's own Web site, the toy sells for $65, and ships with Mom, Dad and baby twins. Instead of Wal-Mart's patio set, buyers receive a dining room table, two chairs and two booster seats.

But if you surf over to Amazon, what appears to be the same combination is priced at $119.

However, at BizRate's shopping site, there are links to other parts of Amazon selling apparently the same toy at different prices. Part of the reason for this is that Amazon allows third-parties to sell items through its site, but it is a reminder of why it pays for shoppers to do their homework.

An Amazon spokesperson wasn't immediately available for comment.

What do you think about toy prices this year? Write to us:

Considering that most toys are made in China with cheap labor, they are priced way too high. Then there's the question of lead-tainted toys...how do we know that these high-priced toys are even safe?

-Vicki, Portland, Ore.

Yes, this is very true. Especially LeapFrog toys are really expensive. Nowadays, I look for toys with some education + information value. And any toy of this criteria are really expensive.

-Revati, Norwood, Mass.

The truly disgusting thing is that U.S. toymakers abandoned American workers for shoddy Chinese factories. It's impossible to find a doll made in the U.S., so I bought a doll made in Spain. As a grandmother of four, I am working hard not to buy any toys made in China. The kids can do just fine without Disney, Mattel, or Hasbro.

-Virginia, Chicago

Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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