The little girl excitedly ripped open the packet, thrust her hand inside and pulled out her prize before her smile disappeared. "I've already got this one!" she wailed, before dissolving into tears.
Her mother tried to console her but it was useless. As our eyes locked, I tried to give her a reassuring look. One that conveyed "I know what you're going through", but she looked defeated. "Bloody collectibles," she muttered as she passed by.
With just days to go before Coles Little Shop collectibles disappear from stores next week, frazzled parents and upset kids are now going to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on the full set.
The premise behind the collectibles is simple enough. Every time you spend $30 on groceries you receive a little pack containing one mini collectable of what Coles calls "iconic, household brands", including Vegemite, Nutella and Mount Franklin Water and more.
Yes, that's right. ONE collectable per $30 spent, two for $60, etc. With 30 to collect during the eight-week campaign, that equates to a lot of groceries - $900 to be exact. Add on the cost of extra merchandise that was available to buy, including a shopping trolley, apron, collector case and shop front, many of which are sold out, and it soon added up to a giant nightmare for parents.
But like all these marketing campaigns designed to encourage children to badger their parents to shop at one supermarket chain over the other, there is a catch. You can almost never collect a full set of whatever is on offer in the designated time, which leads to lots of sad little faces and, it seems, some desperate measures.
At least one school in Victoria asked parents to stop sending the collectables to school after children were reportedly stealing them from their classmates and fighting.
Pascoe Vale Primary School principal Peter Adams took to the school's newsletter to complain the toys had created a headache for teachers as they tried to iron out reported thefts. He said complaints from parents that their children were being bullied because of the toys had led him to suggest they were best left at home with other "valuables" such as mobile phones.
It is not just children who have been behaving badly. At a recent playdate, a mother snatched collectibles from the hands of her daughter's friend moments after they had been given to her. "What did I tell you about giving them away?" she barked at her daughter. "You have to swap them for the ones you don't have." "But they were spares," her daughter argued. "I don't care," spat the mum.
Some money-seeking types were selling whole sets online for hundreds of dollars within days of their release. Just how they got their hands on a full set of 30 collectibles within 48 hours is anyone's guess.
While some took to the internet to sell their leftover pieces for up to $5 each, others flooded social media sites and groups to arrange swaps.
"I need Huggies, Finish, Vanish, Yoghurt, Coffee, Vegemite," says one of the many thousands of messages. "Will swap for Cold Power, White King, Sunbites, Nutella, Dettol."
Some mums agreed to drive an hour each way to snare a prized collectable, while others met in coffee shops, shopping centres and even the side of the road to make deals.
Then there were the mums we all aspire to be, who went online with offers of free collectables so other children could know they joy of completing their sets before the promotion ends and those carefully curated masterpieces are relegated to the rubbish heap along with the Woolies Aussie animal cards, Disney movie projector sets, Marvel Super Discs and the like.
So, while we might all be pleased when the Coles Little Shop collectibles are done and dusted and pray for a breather until the next craze thought up by a supermarket marketing teams comes along, like most things that brings out the worst in people it also brought out the best.
It showed that us parents will do just about anything for our children, including hunting down a teeny tiny Tim Tam pack, and there are still a few good people in the world who are willing to give away a piece of plastic crap, just to bring a smile to another child's face.
Little Shop Swap Locations, Saturday September 8, 10.30am - 2.30pm.
New South Wales
• Penrith — Station St & Reserve St, Penrith
• Bateau Bay — The Entrance Rd, Bateau Bay
• Blacktown — Westpoint S/C, Patrick St, Blacktown
• Kellyville — Kellyville Plaza, 50 Wrights Rd, Kellyville
• Charlestown — 1 Smart St, Charlestown
• Carlingford — Carlingford S/C, 801-819 Pennant Hills Rd, Carlingford
• Macarthur Square — 200 Gilchrist Drive, Campbelltown
• Erina — Erina Fair S/C, Terrigal Drive, Erina
• Newcastle Junction — Junction Fair S/C, 204 Union St, Newcastle
• Market Town — Market Town S/C, National Park St & King St, Newcastle West
• Chadstone — 1341 Dandenong Rd, Chadstone
• Craigieburn — Craigieburn Rd & Windrock Av, Craigieburn
• Waurn Ponds — Pioneer Rd & Princes Hwy, Waurn Ponds
• Hoppers Crossing — 50 Old Geelong Rd, Hoppers Crossing
• Roxburgh Park — 250 Somerton Rd, Roxburgh Park
• Brimbank — Neale Rd & Station Rd, Deer Park
• Casey Central — Cranbourne Rd, Narre Warren
• Wendouree — Cnr Gilles & Norman Sts Wendouree
• Chirnside Park — Chirnside Park S/C, Maroondah Hwy, Chirnside Park
• Forest Hill — Forest Hill S/C, Cnr Mahoneys & Canterbury Rds, Forest Hill
• Sunbury — Cnr Evans St & Riddell Rd, Sunbury
• Greensborough — Greensborough Plaza, 25 Main St, Greensborough
• Rowville — Stud Park S/C, Cnr Stud & Fulham Rds, Rowville
• Cranbourne Park — 125 South Gippsland Hwy, Cranbourne
• Robina — 19 Robina Town Centre Drive, Robina
• Indooroopilly — 322 Moggill Rd, Indooroopilly
• Pacific Fair — Hooker Boulevard, Broadbeach Waters
• Maroochydore — Horton Parade & Maroochydore Rd, Maroochydore
• Hervey Bay — Pialba Place S/C, Main St, Piabla
• Ipswich River — Cnr The Terrace & Downs St, North Ipswich
• Earlville — Stockland S/C, 537 Mulgrave Rd, Cairns
• Ellenbrook — 11 Main St, Ellenbrook
• Ocean Keys — Ocean Keys Boulevard & Key Largo Drive, Clarkson
• Eaton Fair — Corner Eaton Drive & Recreation Drive, Eaton
• Belmont — 227 Belmont Avenue, Cloverdale
• Joondalup — Cnr Joondalup Drive & Collier Pass, Joondalup
• Gateway — Shop M2, Lot 182 Beeliar Drive, Success
• Churchill — 390 Churchill Rd, Islington
• St Agnes — 1244 North East Rd, St Agnes
• Gawler — Cnr Murray & Cowan Sts, Gawler
• Parabanks — 64-84 John St Salisbury
• Mount Barker — Cameron St, Mt Barker
• Coolalinga — 405 Stuart Hwy, Coolalinga
• Glenorchy — Main Rd & King George V Avenue, Glenorchy
Australian Capital Territory
• Amaroo — 11 Pioneer St, Amaroo