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From Cards to Cups: The viral products that took the World by Storm!

Matt O’Connor

Every once in a while, a new product is unleashed onto the masses. With the release comes a colossal wave of customers whose ultimate goal is to get their hands on whatever is the newest viral craze. Whether it be the biggest toy of the holiday season, decks of trading cards, or multicolored steel cups, sometimes the feeling of owning something that’s in high demand but with limited quantities is too enticing to pass up. These are some of the biggest products which caused significant uproars and brawls due to their sheer popularity. 

Battle For The Stanleys

Picture this, you walk into a college class with dozens upon dozens of other students in attendance. As you sit down and unpack your things, you notice that a large number of your peers are all carrying a bright, hefty water bottle. That’s how things have been since the breakout of the Stanley craze in early 2024. This isn’t even the first time that a specific water bottle brand has made the rounds, as we saw something similar occur a few years back with the spread of Hydro Flasks, which share a similar design and function with the modern Stanley cups. The brand was initially founded all the way back in 1913 by a man named William Stanley, whose steel bottles became increasingly popular and were used by pilots during the Second World War. After his passing, the company didn’t receive any notoriety until 2023 when the 40-US-Fluid Ounce Quencher bottle (which was first introduced in 2016) began to gain a significant following. This was noteworthy because earlier in the year, the Stanley brand received a marketing shakeup with most of its products now being marketed towards women. This leads us to 2024, where the Stanley cups are now the biggest bottle brand in the business, so much so that violent fights have erupted between customers who desperately wanted to get their hands on one of the elusive cups for either themselves or for one of their kids. There have been dozens of incidents involving Stanley cups, but one stands out above all the others. As part of the newly released “Galentine’s Collection”, Stanley put out a limited edition Quencher themed around the holiday. But when it was released in early January, all the madness broke loose. Numerous videos circulated online of people being pushed, trampled, and swarmed by hoards of customers who had their eyes on the prize. Crazily enough, one TikTok video posted by Victoria_robino_26 showed Target customers snatching up every single limited edition Stanley on the shelves, causing them to “sell out in less than four minutes”. Despite the attempted damage control, the popularity of Stanleys has seemingly only increased as Stanley continues to release products in limited quantities in partnerships with big companies such as Starbucks, and even sports teams like the Utah Jazz. If this Galentine’s Day release has taught us anything, it’s that Bulls aren’t the only species to go crazy for something bright red.

Gotta Buy ‘Em All

The Pokémon franchise is a pop culture mammoth that currently stands as the highest-grossing media franchise of all time with nearly $90 Billion dollars in lifetime sales. The series was initially created by Satoshi Tijiri, a young Japanese man who had a fascination with bug catching. This interest would later be developed into Pokémon’s biggest feature of capturing and battling with various creatures of all shapes and sizes. Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green were first released in Japan for Nintendo’s Game Boy, with the games releasing overseas in the United States two years later with Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue in 1998. Across the world, the series would soar to new heights of popularity with what was dubbed as “Pokémania”. Games, toys, television, food items, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing something Pokémon related at the time. But this was only the beginning. In October of 1996, the Pokémon Trading Card Game was first released in Japan, with the rest of the world joining in over the course of the coming years. Out of all the Pokémon merchandise, the history of the card game is amongst the most significant. Funnily enough, most Pokémon fans had little to no interest in the actual game itself, but all eyes were on the cards themselves depicting the colorful cast of monsters. Kids would trade cards with each other on the playground, and adults would sell valuable cards on the second hand market for unreasonable prices. In schools across the country, students would show off the cards that they had pulled from packs to others, but sometimes jealousy would be brewing. It was not uncommon for arguments and full blown fights to break out over what was basically a shiny piece of paper. This streak of behaviors died down for years, but made a resurgence during the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020. With the majority of the population unable to go outside or attend social gatherings, people were forced to find new ways to entertain themselves while stuck indoors. Thus, interest in the Pokémon Trading Card game became reinvigorated, but at quite the cost. Incidents were being reported all over the United States of Pokémon fans getting into physical altercations with others in retail stores like Walmart or Target. But these weren’t kids throwing the punches, grown adults were getting into heated fights over what many perceive to be a franchise directed towards young children. In the Spring of 2021, a brawl broke out between five men in a Wisconsin Target causing damage to both the store itself and Target’s image. To circumvent the ongoing issue, many Target stores across the country began to pull not just Pokémon cards, but almost all major trading card brands from their store shelves or locking them up so that a customer could only purchase them with assistance from an employee. As of now, the craze isn’t anywhere near as prominent as it once was, but it’s entirely possible that another wave of Pokémania could materialize at some point down the road.

Tickle Me What Now?

Some of the biggest holiday items of the year are often toys from popular brands. In this case, Tickle Me Elmo is widely remembered as the catalyst for one of the most outrageous and unbelievable toy crazes in recent history. Customers going nuts over the latest child toy obsession is nothing new, as something similar happened with Furby back in the late 90’s. Tickle Me Elmo was initially invented by Tyco Preschool designers Rob Dubren and Greg Hyman, who were able to create not just a toy for children, but an experience that would bring smiles to the faces of children and frowns to the faces of their parents. When the product first released during the holiday season of 1996, absolute pandemonium was unleashed, made worse by the fact that Tickle Me Elmo’s stock was limited and unable to keep up with the high demand for the Christmas rush. In a similar fashion to the previously mentioned products, customers went above and beyond (for all the wrong reasons) to get their hands on the character who’s all about being nice to others. Parents fought each other in stores, delivery trucks were tracked down and chased by mobs of dedicated shoppers, and local radio stations would hold giveaways and auctions for the toy while increasing the price to sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. For some, this was seen as nothing more than a phase that parents would soon get over. But for others, it would spell doom for their own safety. And unfortunately for one Walmart employee in Canada named Robert Waller, Elmo’s newest product would leave unintentional scars. During a midnight madness event in December, Waller was spotted by a hoard of more than 300 ravenous customers moving a pile of Tickle Me Elmo toys. The customers then proceeded to form a stampede and barrel through the poor employee. In an interview he said “I was kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious”.When Waller came to, he was left with numerous injuries including fractures to his jaw, knees, and back, a pulled hamstring, a broken rib and a concussion. With Elmo being a symbol of positivity for youth, it’s ironic that the adults were the ones tickled. Tickled by savage greed with a hint of brutality. 

Game For Gaming

It’s no surprise the video game consoles usually take the top spot as the most anticipated item released during any even year. We’ve seen customers lose their minds over consoles of the past like the Nintendo 64, the Wii, and the Xbox 360. But perhaps the most riveting case of console compulsion came in the form of the great Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X purge in 2020. Both consoles released at the tail end of the year to praise from both critics and consumers alike. But there was one major problem. Both systems had an insanely limited stock available because of a chip shortage that affected nearly 170 companies including both Microsoft and Sony. Due to this shortage, the amount of new consoles that could be made at the time was greatly reduced. While both companies were frantically trying to fix things behind the scenes, the customers who desperately wanted to get gaming’s next generation of consoles were forced to resort to methods that weren’t exactly legal. Since this took place during the pandemic, many customers resorted to ordering the elusive consoles online once they became available. But what was often reported at a concerningly high level was that their consoles that they had paid hundreds of dollars for were presumably stolen by the delivery drivers who were tasked with getting their packages to them. Playstation and Xbox saw their forums flooded with posts from users reporting that their consoles had gone missing. While not as violent as some of the previous instances of product crazes, dozens of customers won’t forget the time that they were robbed of something that was considered limited for so long. 

The Cabbage Patch Riots

Even though the brand isn’t as big as it used to be, Cabbage Patch Kids were once all the rage, literally in this case. The Cabbage Patch Kids are a line of cloth dolls that were first designed to be personal collectibles by sculptor Marth Nelson. But as interest in her product grew, she eventually decided to release them onto store shelves. The dolls soon became an instant hit, topping the Christmas charts in 1983 and sending parents into a frenzy trying to get their hands on one of the dolls for their kids. But in the same manner as Tickle Me Elmo more than a decade later, the amount of dolls were quickly depleting. But no one could’ve expected the wrathful outcry from an army of parents demanding a restock of the innocent cloth dolls. In December of that year, police were dispatched to break up a massive fight that had broken out in a Zayre store in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Customers had stormed the building with the intent of grabbing any of the dolls that they could. This mob of 1,000 people makes the Tickle Me Elmo hoard look miniscule in comparison. But this wasn’t uncommon. A department store in Virginia was mobbed by almost 5,000 people who all had a case of Cabbage Patch fever. These riots led to injuries of all kinds. Punching, kicking, shoving, no one was safe. Some customers even swung around baseball bats in order to eliminate the competition. By the end of 1985, the Cabbage Patch Kids brand had sold over 20 Million Dolls and was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame last year. But for the employees and parents who experienced those riots, the smile plastered on every one of those dolls’ faces will only remind them of the scars that run so deep.