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There's A Whole Buy, Sell, Swap Community Growing Around These Miniature Grocery Toys

A tiny replica of a chocolate milk? That'll be $20, thanks.

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Australians are currently losing their minds over a set of collectable toy replicas of supermarket products. The chaos has resulted in $100 eBay listings, dozens of hugely popular Facebook groups, and an insatiable desire to collect them all.

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Last month, supermarket giant Coles released a range of miniature versions of popular products it sells, including Vegemite, Finish dishwashing tablets, and Nutella.

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The promotion works like this: Shop at Coles, and for every $30 you spend you also receive a random, pre-wrapped miniature "Little Shop" figurine. You don't know which of the 30 possible figurines you've been given until you open the pack.

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It all might seem pretty normal and standard — supermarkets have, after all, had promotional giveaways before. But the mania surrounding Coles Little Shop is perhaps a bit much. Listings on eBay have been found for hundreds of dollars. Some individual figurines go for $5 alone, while others (like the miniature OAK milk, which is apparently hard to come by) can go for $20.

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eBay is absolutely littered with them.

On Facebook, there are dozens of groups (some with over 10,000 members) where people buy, swap, and sell the miniatures.

Samantha Head, from the NSW Central Coast, is an admin of one of the groups and told BuzzFeed News that the (mostly adult) members were buying the toys for themselves."The Australian culture can be obsessed, like Tazos or the footy cards in chip [packets]. This is just the same."Maddie Caple, who also helps run Head's Facebook community, said some people in the group were doing multiple collections for their children. "They're even asking for trolleys, baskets, and shop fronts," she told BuzzFeed News."A lot of the time the people who offer to buy are from rural areas, or don't shop at Coles a lot."
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Samantha Head, from the NSW Central Coast, is an admin of one of the groups and told BuzzFeed News that the (mostly adult) members were buying the toys for themselves.

"The Australian culture can be obsessed, like Tazos or the footy cards in chip [packets]. This is just the same."

Maddie Caple, who also helps run Head's Facebook community, said some people in the group were doing multiple collections for their children. "They're even asking for trolleys, baskets, and shop fronts," she told BuzzFeed News.

"A lot of the time the people who offer to buy are from rural areas, or don't shop at Coles a lot."

But there's also a divide between whether or not it's ethical to sell the miniatures. Some groups will only allow people to trade them.

Kate Rickerby manages a Coles Little Shop Facebook group with over 3,500 members. She doesn't allow people to buy or sell the figurines, telling BuzzFeed News that things only get complicated when money is involved. "I'm not Coles and I'm not a shop," she said."No selling is allowed to be posted in this group. Obviously I can't control what they do outside of the group. ... I've had people post that they are collecting for charity and then I've been contacted by other members that they have seen that person on a selling group."
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Kate Rickerby manages a Coles Little Shop Facebook group with over 3,500 members. She doesn't allow people to buy or sell the figurines, telling BuzzFeed News that things only get complicated when money is involved. "I'm not Coles and I'm not a shop," she said.

"No selling is allowed to be posted in this group. Obviously I can't control what they do outside of the group. ... I've had people post that they are collecting for charity and then I've been contacted by other members that they have seen that person on a selling group."

And there's even more drama, because some people are upset with Coles after the supermarket chain recently announced it was going to stop using plastic bags (for the environment), which kind of goes against the whole idea of using small little clumps of plastic shaped like groceries in the Little Shop giveaway.

Coles banning plastic bags, yet happily giving away ‘little shop’ miniature plastic toys. Yep, makes complete sense 🤦‍♀️

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People weren't impressed.

Is anyone collecting these Coles little shop thing? It’s it just more unnecessary plastic items that we don’t need? Or have I turned into my Nan.. #PlasticFreeJuly #WarOnWasteAU https://t.co/IXzJmvgt5T

After @coles finish their Little shop promotion they should follow it with mini animals wrapped in the plastic bags that killed them. #BanTheBag #BoycottColes #StopMakingUselessPlasticShitte https://t.co/7Dv1dnmU6e

Dear Coles I do not dig your 'little shop' giveaway - collect all our tiny weeny but totally plastic and likely unethically made products - here are some more worthwhile things you could give away. bandaids, condoms, holy cards, keep cups, zines ...

And and and and! A Coles internal document was leaked that reportedly showed higher-ups telling staff they would be reneging on their plastic bag ban — instead giving away reusable plastic bags — because they wanted to get customers through the checkout quicker during the Little Shop giveaway.

Coles has apparently been busier than usual due to the Little Shop chaos. "This means you can focus 100 per cent on serving customers quickly through the registers," said the memo.

And all of this over a bunch of tiny, not-so-usable grocery toys. What a mess.

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Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

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