An eBay seller is asking $2,500 in exchange for a Furby and a little help. With Christmas just days away, it's not surprising that the sticker price for this holiday's hottest toy is skyrocketing. Still, $2,500...for a Furby?
This year's hottest holiday toy
The priciest individual listing for the doll on eBay costs $2,450 more than the original retail price. What makes this particular cross-eyed robot so special: the seller.
Beneath Cheri Cisneros' headline—"FURBY BLACK INTERACTIVE ELECTRONIC TOY 2012 NEW GREAT FOR CHRISTMAS!!!"—there is an explanation for the staggering four digits.
"I am in the end stage of lung disease, and waiting for the call saying they have a donor transplant ready for me," reads the description. "As I wait I cannot work and am in bed as my function is 12% at this point. Insurance has the surgery covered but in the meantime I am drowning in debt. If you are blessed and can help me out, please make an offer on my Furby."
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In 2004, Cisneros was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a sometimes fatal form of Emphysema, which destroys the lungs over time. Three years ago, her breathing became so labored she was forced to quit her job, and is now bedridden, relying on supplemental oxygen to breathe.
"I smoked about 30 years, two and a half packs a day," Cisneros told Yahoo! Shine. "I quit a few years ago, but now even walking to the bathroom is really hard."
She is currently on a waiting list for a lung transplant, but in the meantime, the disease has left the mother of four with mountains debt.
"I had perfect credit and then all of a sudden, the bills just started to add up," said Cisneros, who was forced to quit her job as a daycare manager when she could no longer breathe on her own. "After paying for utilities, food and water there wasn't anything left."
eBay's holiday fashion collective, explained
While Medicare covers her healthcare, traveling almost 200 miles from her home in Abilene, Texas to the Dallas hospital for transplant preparation and treatment has widened the hole in her budget.
That's when she remembered the ball of fur still sitting in a box in her closet.
"I had gotten it when the new ones first came out…. I just think they're adorable," said Cisneros, in a faint voice that bares the strain of eighty years, rather than fifty-two. "I was going to give the doll to my little granddaughter but she's young and I don't know if she'd like the black color."Cheri Cisneros, who suffers from chronic COPD, is waiting for a lung transplant.
So Cisneros decided to list the doll on eBay, where she's sold many a Beanie Baby in the past. "Then I saw an ad on eBay where a seller was talking about needing help for their house on their listing," she explained, "and that gave me an idea."
Alongside a photo of her untarnished Furby, Cisneros posted photos of her most recent emergency hospital stay. In one photo she's intubated through the throat. In another, she's smiling in a wheelchair, with tubes running through her nose.
"I was a little nervous to include the photos, but I figured it would help people understand why I was doing this," she said, "and would show I wasn't making this up."
Stumbling on Cisneros' eBay listing in a mad scramble to find a sold-out toy is sobering. The strategy for independent online retailers, perched on a fiscal cliff, is radically different from that of superstores. There is no pop Christmas soundtrack to lull shoppers into two for one deals, just a catchy headline and maybe a personal story.
Cisneros' Furby listing is in competition with dozens of other sellers relying more on goodwill than their own products. One seller has listed a "fresh unopened box of Twinkies" for $250,000, with the plea "Help me buy my family a home for Christmas." Another seller is offering his own skin in exchange for a little help this holiday. "Help a soldier out for Christmas I will tattoo your company logo on my body," reads the listing with a $3,000 price tag. "I have been deployed 6 times and I would love to give my daughter a great Christmas. I can provide proof I am who I say I am."
This holiday's financial strains are driving some sellers to rely on goodwill, rather than the value of their product to make a profit. With the growth of independent fundraising sites like Kickstarter, the concept of donating to an individual rather than an organization has become more palatable. The culture of social networking through online sales has also mushroomed. For Cisneros, eBay is a fertile social network where sellers and buyers connect through the shared love of a product, almost like hobbyists or even co-workers.
Cisneros started buying and selling dolls and football cards on the site in 2004, as a way to make extra cash when she was first diagnosed with lung disease. As her conditioned worsened and her connection with the outside world dwindled, the site became a psychological lifeline. "I've met so many friends through eBay," she said, rattling off their names along with the items they initially bonded over. "There's Vicki, she sells wood-designed wall art…Kim was making textbook covers."
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On Thursday, Cisneros had three days left on her auction, and one bid of $5. She plans to list the toy one more time if she doesn't get a higher bid. If nothing else, she hopes the toy will connect her with more friends outside her four walls. So far, she's gotten a few well-wishes from strangers who have stumbled on her listing. That has helped. "It's just amazing to know there are people out there who really do care," she said.
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