Trouble in Toyland: Tips to navigate soaring toy costs this holiday season

CHARLOTTE — You can add holiday toys to the list of items affected by the supply chain crunch -- some of the most popular ones are already marked up nearly 200%, especially when dealing with third-party sellers on major retail websites.

Now more than ever, you have to shop smart, and we have a few suggestions to help you.

“So, some have been purchasing and hoarding, OK, and taking advantage of it,” said Professor Anna Nagurney, an economist specializing in supply chain disruptions and management at UMASS Amherst.

Nagurney said the backlog at U.S. ports plus the workforce crunch has led to an unprecedented crisis.

“We’ve never had it so bad,” she said. “We’ve had all these supply shocks and we also have demand shocks because consumers want to buy. And it’s gotten even more intense because of the holiday season.”

Nagurney said it’s led to holiday toy price gouging.

Want a Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse this holiday season? Target had it listed for $55.99, but it was sold out as of Nov. 10. It could be found on Amazon for $174.99, through a third-party seller, on the same date.

How about a Magic Mixies - Magical Misting Cauldron? In mid-October, it was priced at Walmart.com for $54. But, it was sold out. On, Nov. 11, it was on Walmart’s website for $159.99. Walmart said that price is also from a third-party seller.

Prices can really vary. A PJ Masks deluxe Battle Headquarters could be found for $41.99 at Walmart on Nov. 10. The same one is $62.99 at Macy’s when searched for on the same day.

Another example is a Kindi Kids Hospital Corner - Unicorn Ambulance that was selling on Amazon for $79.98 on Nov. 10. An online search revealed it was once less than $10.

“Please don’t pay those crazy prices, whatever you do, you’re just going to encourage more sellers to try to pile on and do the same thing,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.

Dworsky said price gouging protections don’t extend to toys. So, more than ever, shoppers will need to be flexible and shop early.

TIP 1: BE FLEXIBLE, SHOP EARLY

“You have to be flexible, because the item you really want may not be in stock or may not come in in time. So, you need a second and third choice,” Dworsky said. “And you got to shop early because some shelves are already bare.”

Next, Dworsky said to research the real value of the product.

TIP 2: KNOW THE VALUE OF PRODUCT

“There’s a site called camelcamelcamel.com which shows you the price history of any item on Amazon,” Dworsky said. “So that way you can take a look over the past year and see how the price has changed.”

TIP 3: MONITOR THE PRICE OF YOUR ITEM

Dworksy’s third tip is to monitor the price of your item, it could go down.

“Keep checking the ads, see if the price has gone down, see if the item is on sale. Some stores still have price guarantees where if the item is cheaper after you buy it, you can get back the difference,” Dworsky said.

TIP 4: BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU SHOP

Dworsky said be careful about where you shop. He said if you’ve never heard of an online shop, can’t find any real reviews, to stay away.

When asked about the high prices, often offered through third-party sellers on their site, an Amazon spokesperson said: “Customers come to Amazon to find low prices, vast selection and fast shipping, and we put our energy into meeting these key customer expectations. Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing their products competitively. We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”

(WATCH BELOW: Economists warn global supply chain problems will worsen)