If you have a Target within driving distance I’m betting you’ve waited outside its doors for the 8 a.m. opening. Its just one of those things we do. Since JLU became a Target "exclusive" I’ve been thinking more about the Big Red Bulls Eye. Here are some random observations and recollections.
Collector Sign and Price / Stockroom Scanners
What has been your experience with these signs? At the very least it is an acknowledgement of the adult collector community. Despite its stern message I’ve never had an employee refer to it and refuse my request that they "check in the back." I don’t do this often, but when I do most employees help.
Usually I’ll ask when I hear reports of a new wave hitting and, after scanning and receiving an "in stockroom: Yes," I’ll explain to the employee what I’m looking for and inform them that apparently there are some in the back. I should say, though, that this almost never works out for me! The odds I place on toy hunt miracles are around 100 to 1. A few times at Target a "new" case is brought out that has clearly been picked over at some point.
I do like the Price / Stockroom scanners, though. They at least make me feel better that I’m not missing out on something that’s just beyond those mysterious stockroom doors.
Hot Wheels Guys
One thing you’ll notice while standing outside Target’s doors in the morning are Hot Wheels guys. Although they can be spotted at any of the common collecting watering holes, this is where I run into them most. One particular Target I visited regularly in my early days of collecting drew a pretty sizable Hot Wheels crowd. These were the guys who helped me tune in on that particular corner of collecting culture. (Note – I’m about to engage in a little light-hearted stereotyping.) Now-a-days I can peg a "Hot Wheels Guy" rather quickly. For instance, a few Tuesdays ago I went by a local Target before work. While standing outside the door a man walks up and subtly positions himself so that he’d be first when the doors opened. When they do open he walks at an accelerated pace that’s slightly beyond normal. Just fast enough to stay ahead of the rest of us but just shy of outright jogging. He’s in his mid 50′s. Salt and pepper hair and beard that both need trimming. Oh, and a fanny pack. No doubt about it: Hot Wheels guy.
A collecting buddy and I would make up nicknames for the Hot Wheels guys we’d see regularly. I’ve forgotten all but one. He was an older guy who would always commandeer one of those Rascal scooters Target has available. When the doors opened he’d go for a scooter while the other Hot Wheels guys high-tailed it back to their isle. He’d always get there a few minutes later having missed out on anything new. We kinda felt sorry for him, but our (not-so-PC) nickname stuck: Wheels.
Now, although the Hot Wheels crowd is a different breed than the Action Figure crowd I’ve only once had an unpleasant run in. By and large, they are nice folks who seem to get just a bit friendlier once they realize you are not another predator treading on their turf. My most heated toy isle confrontation came one morning with a Hot Wheels guy who also had an annoying interest in HTF action figures. He grabbed the only two of a new Star Wars character before my "Go Go Gadget" arms could reach them. I mumbled "scalper" under my breath but loud enough for him to hear. It set him off. He literally got right up in my face and snarled something about "picking them up for a friend." Besides him, I’ve had good relations with the die cast crowd.
When I was living in NJ I used to commute to work with a friend. He was a collector, too. Each morning, either out of habit or just because we didn’t really want to get to work, we’d stop the Target off Rt 46 in Totawa. There was an old guy named Bill who worked in the Toy Department. Probably due to the regularity of my visits Bill and I struck up a pretty good friendship. We’d often chat for a few minutes each morning about this and that. I’ll go ahead and note that he had a fairly negative opinion of the Hot Wheels crowd because, as he would describe it, they’d explode through the pegs leaving him a mess to clean up. He was always very helpful keeping his eyes peeled for figures I was looking for. I really missed him when I moved away and I often wonder if he’s still working there.
Back in the heyday of the new Masters of the Universe line I was on the hunt for Buzz Off. One day as I was shuffling through the MOTU pegs a big guy with a ponytail and glasses asked me what I was looking for. "New Masters of the Universe," I said. He was looking for the same thing. After a moment he mentions: "I’m Cornboy, one of the Four Horsemen." I honestly didn’t believe him for a second. (After now having seen him at Comic Con panels a few years in a row I’m pretty sure he was telling the truth.) I’d run into Cornboy on occasion and always enjoyed the opportunities to chat. One day as we were walking out I told him how much I liked the 4H’s take on Ram Man. He replied, "Oh, wait until you see Roboto." He described how the guts and gears all move when you turn the waist, etc. I love that figure all the more for the early inside scoop I got from the source.
Well, so much for my Target related ramblings. Funny how a big box retail store can become such a part of your life. I’ll see you next Tuesday my red shirt with khaki pants friends!