Police are punishing Chinese traders selling rare dolls of the Olympics mascot – a panda in a clear plastic costume called Bing Dwen Dwen – up to 10 times the retail price.
Shoppers lined up overnight to clear store shelves after the start of the Winter Games in Beijing on February 4, as factory workers were called back from their Lunar New Year holidays to make more mascots, according to informations.
Three people in Beijing have been sentenced to unspecified “administrative penalties” for reselling souvenirs at prices deemed too high, police said.
Sanctions can include detention, fines and confiscation of property.
Bing Dwen Dwen soft toys sold for 192 yuan (£22) at the Gongmei Emporium in central Beijing.
The Wangfujing Shopping District Shop and other authorized outlets also sell Olympics-themed pens, badges, and other memorabilia.
Customers queuing included traders buying for customers or reselling at higher prices.
“It started being sold a long time ago but didn’t generate any buzz,” said a Gongmei customer who would only give her last name, Zhu.
“Now the media are promoting it.”
Gongmei and other stores displayed signs stating that they only have 300 Bing Dwen Dwen dolls per day, and buyers are allowed one each.
Buyers reported selling in less than 30 minutes.
“The second-hand market is hot,” Beijing News said.
“Bing Dwen Dwen jumped to 10 times the original price.”
One afternoon, employees walked past a line of customers asking them not to stay overnight, when temperatures drop below zero.
Reporters saw a shopkeeper taken away by police in Wangfujing after a teenager complained he was reselling an Olympic keyring for 20 yuan (£2.30) above retail price.
Online merchants offer unauthorized Olympics-themed keychains, cellphone cases and other Bing Dwen Dwen items.
Authorities have tried to calm the shopping frenzy by promising there will be adequate supplies and Olympic memorabilia will be on sale until June.
Some customers said they paid deposits to buy souvenirs, but shopkeepers disappeared with their money, according to dispatches.
“Please consume rationally and do not buy at high prices from dealers,” Beijing police said on their social media account.
One of the three companies identified by the press as being authorized to make Bing Dwen Dwen dolls, Beijing Yuanlong Yatu Culture Communication, asked the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee questions.
Phone calls to the other two producers went unanswered.
The organizing committee did not respond to questions about how many dolls it plans to sell and whether any will be exported.