The thefts began on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is the official start of the Christmas shopping blitz.
By the time shoppers were doing last-minute sweeps of the store last week, they were stuck holding piles of toys in their arms or leaving in disgust.
“I’m a small person, I had to leave. I couldn’t carry anything,” said Linda Poust Lopez, 47, a legal aide lawyer who was shopping for big items for her nieces and nephews.
“When I stopped an employee and asked ‘Where can I find a cart?’ she shook her head and said, ‘Well, to tell you the truth, they were all stolen.'”
Police in the 44th Precinct are investigating how the carts went missing from the new store at the Gateway Center Mall on E. 149th St.
Police suspect the carts might have been pilfered by an organized gang which could unload them at local scrap metal shops, or by homeless people who use them to carry their belongings.
The carts cost about $200 apiece.
A spokesman for the New Jersey-based toy chain had no comment.