Hello Kitty fans bare claws over long wait and shortage of toys

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2005, 12:00am

The opening of an art exhibition of Japan's most famous cartoon character degenerated into farce at the Arts Centre yesterday as more than 1,000 outraged fans complained about unfair arrangements preventing them from getting a limited edition Hello Kitty toy.

After hours of heated discussion, manufacturers Sanrio Hong Kong vowed to produce another set of the toys to calm the crowd.

Exhibition organisers AllRightsReserved and Sanrio hoped to bring Hong Kong fans an artistically inspiring and nostalgic experience to celebrate Hello Kitty's 30th birthday. But fans who had queued since 11pm on Wednesday night had just one goal - to buy one of 300 'detective-style' Hello Kittys made especially for the exhibition.

The exhibition opened at 10.30am and the 300 toys, plus other limited edition items such as umbrellas, went on sale when the doors opened. Only 70 fans were allowed into the hall at a time.

By noon, however, more than 1,000 were queuing outside.

Fans - some of whom took the day off from work - complained to the organisers for letting too few people in. Each visitor was allowed to buy only one of the sought-after toys, but some people walked out carrying more than two.

The queue moved only three metres each hour. At least they should tell us how long we have to wait. Do we have to queue up all night to get in?' said gift shop owner Eric Lee Tai-cheong, who had been there with his wife since 10am.

As organisers struggled to provide fans with answers, tickets - which cost $50 each - were still being sold. By 1.30pm, fans were told the 300 Hello Kittys were sold out.

Inside the exhibition hall, fans roared with outrage as they discovered that less than 20 of the toys were still for sale.

Desperate fans, who even tried to steal reporters' press passes, gathered in the hall's lobby.

Hiro Nishino, deputy general manager of Sanrio (HK), told angry fans the company would produce more toys for those who attended.

'We are sorry that we made you unhappy,' said Mr Nishino. 'Immediately we will make a second version. The price will not exceed that of the detective Kitty [$600].'

'This is better than nothing,' said student Stephen Chow Chun-ho, who was there for seven hours.

The exhibition continues until August 31.