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Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Snoopy craze grips China
McDonald's restaurant in Hong Kong
Snoopy provoked a similar craze in Hong Kong in 1998
By Duncan Hewitt in Shanghai

In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou a promotional activity by the McDonald's hamburger chain involving models of the cartoon dog Snoopy has provoked a storm of controversy.

State media reported that thousands of people crowded branches of the chain, with several people fainting and two people taken to hospital.

China's official news agency said that what it called "this loveable small" dog had provoked scenes of "crazed buying" in Guangzhou.

McDonald's sign in China
Thousands of people crowded several McDonald's branches
It said police had been sent in to maintain order outside several branches of the hamburger chain, after it began offering a set of six Snoopy models, each available on a different day of the month.

Local media reported queues of up to 700 people outside McDonald's branches by opening time early in the morning.

In one case, two old men were treated in hospital for cuts after a glass door smashed as crowds surged into a restaurant.

Black market

Local teachers were quoted as saying many pupils had played truant to queue for the models.

Others were said to have asked their parents or grandparents to take time off work to queue up for them.

Fights are reported to have broken out as some people tried to push into the queues.

And many customers complained that the chain had not made enough Snoopys available.

Some branches sold out within an hour of opening as people bought seven or eight set meals in order to acquire a similar number of the toys.

According to the Guangzhou Daily newspaper, the toys - which originally cost 10 Chinese yuan (US$1.20) on top of the price of a set meal - are now being sold for up to 200 yuan (US$24) on roadside stalls and outside school gates.

Parents were quoted as complaining that the promotion had been badly handled.

Social values

However, officials said the incident should raise questions not only about business practices, but also about the values of modern society.

Earlier this year, China's Consumer Association issued a warning about the use of toys in promotional activities. It said care must be taken to ensure that these did not affect the healthy development of children.

One mother was quoted as saying many children spent large amounts of money buying snacks they did not eat, because they wanted to collect picture cards given away free with every purchase.

McDonald's staff in Guangzhou told the BBC no-one was available to comment on this week's events.

A Snoopy promotion by the chain across the border in Hong Kong provoked similar public excitement three years ago.

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See also:

08 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
McDonalds sacks Chinese toy maker
13 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Peanuts creator dies
13 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Peanuts consigned to history
06 Oct 98 | Asia-Pacific
Shelling out for Peanuts
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