I stumbled across this amusing account of my encounter with the oft-reviled “scalper” collector from 2004. This was posted to RTM and the AFi forums, before it was deleted during the Great Hack of the 2005. Keep in mind, I have obviously added anecdotal aspects for the sake of entertainment, and reflects my feelings and my reaction to the events of that morning. While my personal views of so-called “scalpers” have changed over time, I kept the original writing intact for the sake of authenticity.
- – - – -
I’ve read these types of stories many times on the different boards, but now I have to share a wild and dramatic tale of my own. My up-close encounter with…
A Real, Live Scalper!
(cue dramatic ‘dum-dum-dummmmmm‘!)
The dangerous but exciting liaison took place this morning, at the new Wal-Mart store near my workplace. The Grand Opening was today, and I thought I’d swing by on my way to the office, just to take a curious look. The parking lot was nearly empty, and I had hopes of finding some new figures. As I entered the store, it seemed nearly empty, save for a dozen people standing around the front, so I headed back to the toy aisle. I passed a 30-ish guy in a ginourmous puffy red parka and white shorts, who I noticed was peripherally eyeing me. I noticed his clothes because it was barely 40 degrees on this Colorado morning and thought shorts were an odd choice. At the Marvel Legends section I happily discovered the 1-per-case Apocalypse, Hawkeye & Vision, and I proceeded to grab them as Parka Guy comes up and starts rapidly searching through all the Star Wars figures on the pegs.
I thought to myself, “He must be another collector…”.
Just then an Associate comes down the aisle and tell us both we can’t be here yet, because the store hasn’t officially opened. She ushers us to the front of the store where we have to watch a truly unique event – the Grand Opening Ceremony.
The sometimes-bizarre 30 minute display included, among other things, a dramatically out-of-place flag-folding with WWII veterans; a giant fuzzy Twinkie The Kid & a big Keebler Elf lurking about and high-fiving people; a lengthy speech by the Mayor of Centennial; various awards for employees; and an awkwardly loud and way-too-happy “RAH-RAH TEAMWORK” screaming cheer by the store manager, attempting to rally the sleepy troops. I guess he wanted to pump everyone up, but it was so odd and uncomfortable in the quiet store, and he received little support…I really felt bad for the guy while silently watching all of this.
So, during all of this activity, Parka Guy comes over to stand near me…actually, right next to me, like shoulders-touching-next-to-me. So being my friendly self, I attempt generate some small talk. “Find anything good?” He says, “Nah. The only good stuff is what you saw”………and then he asks “so are you gonna sell them?”
Oh boy, here we go. I said “I’m not selling them, these are for me.” His response:
“Oh, you should totally sell them on eBay; that’s what I do.”
I just stood there and stared, giving him a slow nod, my mind feverishly processing.
One of the Evil Empire, standing before me!
I said (half-jokingly) “Oh, so you’re one of those guys driving up the prices on eBay, huh?” He replies, “No, man, not really, it’s not my fault they are worth money! I drive around to all the stores and buy stuff to support my Hot Wheels addiction! (laughing) I gotta pay for my Hot Wheels somehow!” He then goes on to tell me that the Toy Manager at this particular store is his personal friend, and whenever new product will come in, she is going to hold it for him in the back. He told me he knows all the dates when toy items will be stocked in this store.
I’m stunned. My mind is reeling. Can all this be true??
This freaking store has been open a week and this guy already has the place permanently staked out? And then he tells me, “those Marvel Legends are pretty hot right now, but the ones you found aren’t even worth much anymore. I’m surprised you even want them.” I explained that I don’t care what they’re worth since I open them up, and he just shook his head and laughed. At that point I realized that he was trying to talk me out of buying those ML figures, hoping that I would not go back and get them because he wanted them for himself. And he was really starting to get on my nerves. Who wears shorts in winter in Colorado?
As the ceremony is coming to a close, I realize Parka Guy is slowly inching closer to the edge of the crowd to get the early jump towards the aisles once they let us filter back into the store. Like a dummy, I take the bait. I quietly make my way through the crowd and move over near to him, and begin to ponder what wrong turn I took with my life to be in the position of racing another middle-aged man through a Wal-Mart to grab little plastic men at seven in the morning.
Finally, the ceremony is over and the store is officially open, and we both silently begin to walk toward the aisle. He then picks up the pace a bit, and I match it, thinking the whole time about this great new story I have for the forum.
All of a sudden he mumbles, “Oh man, there’s Leann” and points ahead of us. “Uh, I’m gonna go this way!” and he quickly darts to his left, into his planned shortcut. And he starts running.
Running. A full-on sprint. In housewares.
I pass this “Leann” associate, smile, and head right into the aisle, ten feet in front of Parka Guy, whose shortcut wasn’t so short. Yatzee! I grab the Marvel Legends figures, and then I see my new buddy head toward two other guys who appeared out of nowhere at the end of the aisle. They were all buzzing around the aisle like insects, and, of course, they all unfortunately fit the stereotypical scalper appearance that is so often discussed on the forums. Big Guy and Flannel Guy joined up with Parka Guy to discuss the situation. I was vaguely looking around the aisle, but mostly eavesdropping and looking in their direction every so often. Here’s a rough concept of what I saw:
Big Guy says to Parka Guy “Find anything good?” and his buddy says unhappily, “Nah, no Treasure Hunts or anything. The only good #@&% was what that guy got…” and I see him half-pointed towards me.
I turned my back to them and froze, while trying to pretend I was oblivious to their presence. The adrenaline shot through me, as I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and just awkwardly stood there and listened.
They were obviously not happy that I beat them to their payday. I thought it was a good time to go. As I walked off in the opposite direction, I hear Flannel Guy call me an “a**hole”. As much as I wanted to hop on my soapbox and confront them, I chickened out and decided it would be best to get outta there with the figures.
Unbelievably, Flannel Guy and Parka Guy follow me all the way to the register; not right behind me, but about 20 feet away. I’m feeling a bit nervous now, wondering if they are going to confront me and wondering if I should just wander around the store or find an employee. I decide to just head to the register and buy the items.
As I head to the exit, I see the two guys are waiting, talking to each other and glaring at me. At this point, I’m expecting they are gonna either challenge me in the store or jump me in the parking lot. There are no employees around, so I just walk by and ignore them, and head out the exit. I can hear them following me out of the store.
But for whatever reason, they stop just outside the entrance, at the edge of the crosswalk and just stand there, arms folded, watching me get in my car. Maybe trying to intimidate me? Keep me away from their “turf”? I had no idea, but was very glad to just get into my vehicle without incident. It was very, very bizarre.
So I guess today is a victory for the little guy VS the big, bad scalpers…but I was really taken aback by their behavior. I’ve heard some really strange stories about meeting scalpers in stores, and honestly not really believing them – but to witness it this morning firsthand is totally surreal, and now I understand just how odd some of these people are. It’s just sad and pathetic that these guys are acting like this over toys.
But perhaps…I’m the sad one, to sit through the Wal-Mart Grand Opening Ceremony and race another grown man in order to buy action figures…