Christmas seems to bring out the worst of consumers' herd mentality. Buyers let marketers lead them, like sheep, to the "hottest" gifts. Then the media find limitless fodder for tales of desperate moms and dads seeking the exact toy to verify their status as Perfect Parents.
This year it's "Tickle-Me Elmo," the red, furry, giggly Sesame Street character that's sending parents into a buying frenzy that borders on hysteria. Some locals are trying to cash in on the hype, offering their own Elmo dolls for sale at monstrously inflated prices - asking as much as $500 for a toy that's already overpriced at $29.95.
We don't fault the sellers for trying to cash in; that's the free market at work. But the buyer who'd fork over hundreds of bucks for a toy whose recipient is probably too young to ask for it, much less be disappointed by its absence on Christmas morning, has a serious problem with priorities.
To paraphrase comedian Jeff Fox-worthy, if you pay substantially more than retail price for a stuffed toy, you just might be a sucker.