Don't Fear The "Scalper"
October 19, 2011

Savage OpressWhile reading some recent store report posts on another collecting site, I noticed some disturbing comments. Someone had failed to find what he was searching for in a toy aisle, but he noticed another man in the section with multiples of the figures he wanted in his cart. He asked the other fellow if he could have one of them, and his request was denied. Another collector responded by saying he would have simply taken what he wanted and dared the guy to “hit” him. To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, So uncivilized. This deteriorated into the usual anti-”scalper” ranting, coupled with more Internet Tough Guy bravado. Another insisted he would have initiated a confrontation with the “scalper” so his child could get the toy instead. I’d imagine setting a good example for that child would be a more worthwhile gift, but perhaps that’s unreasonable of me. The sense of entitlement was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I always believed people were supposed to grow out of, “It should be mine here and now just because I want it,” before entering adulthood, but it seems to be a permanent frame of mind all too often these days. As I was reading this nonsense, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of appreciation for the “scalpers” in this hobby.

On our way home from work on August 3, my girlfriend and I got stuck in traffic on the interstate. There was a wall of brake lights, and everyone had come to a complete stop. The driver of the work van behind me never noticed that, so he didn’t slow down at all. He drove the van straight into the back of my car at full speed. Other than the car being totalled (R.I.P. Bat-Fit I), there was no permanent damage. It’s nothing anyone would want to experience, but we were very fortunate. I had no vehicle to get around a city that’s seriously lacking in the public transportation department, though, and I began having near-paralyzing muscle spasms in my back around lunchtime the following day. I missed three days of work, my first unscheduled absences since February of 2005. I’d never really been immobilized by an injury, but just getting off the couch was a real struggle for the first few days. This was despite the glorious bottles of hydrocodone and muscle relaxers prescribed by my physician.

Needless to say, I wasn’t really in a hurry to go toy shopping in Big Box retail stores. I was still walking with a nasty limp when I bought a new car nine days later, and even after I was over the limp in another week or so, the tightness in my back lingered a few weeks longer. But the hobby must go on, to paraphrase an old cliché. While all this was happening, three new waves of what’s become one of my favorite lines, STAR WARS: The Clone Wars, were shipping to online retailers and brick and mortar stores alike. I was in no mood – and no condition, for that matter – to start scouring the city for these new toys. I could have ordered from one of my usual e-tailers, but since I wasn’t interested in everything from each wave, ordering sets or full cases would have meant paying for a number of figures I didn’t want. It quickly became obvious that the most efficient path to Clone Wars goodness was to win auctions for the figures I wanted from the same eBay seller, and win them I did. Four days later, I had every figure I really wanted from the three waves, leaving only a couple to buy if I happened to see them. Even though I paid more than retail, he cut a great deal on the combined shipping, did a marvelous job packing them, and even tossed in some of the new Star Cases at no extra charge. Consider me one very satisfied customer.

While this was an unusual situation for me, I’m not a fan of driving from shopping center to shopping center to look for toys in general. Even at my healthiest, there’s no shortage of things I’d rather do with my time than navigate my way through a crowded Walmart. It’s also a reminder that some people simply cannot actively seek out toys at traditional retailers, whether due to physical limitations or other reasons. I couldn’t possibly care less about “the hunt” (“chase,” whatever) described here by my pal Ryan. Even if I was interested in the concept, my idea of a “hunt” wouldn’t involve recently mass produced plastic in Walmart, anyway. I just like the actual toys, so having them delivered to my front door is a wonderfully convenient method of adding to my collection. I often purchase from online retailers like Big Bad Toy Store and Entertainment Earth, but I’m more than happy to buy from the dreaded eBay “scalper” when it makes sense to do so. Never mind the gas and wear and tear on Bat-Fit II; not spending my free time driving to the suburbs to wander through Target or Kmart is worth the few extra dollars per item. That time is worth considerably more, and I am perfectly happy to pay a “scalper” for services rendered: tracking down the toys, listing the auction, packing my purchases, and getting them shipped. That all requires time and effort, and I don’t expect anyone to work for free.

Instead of going into a fit of hobbyist indignation about how the evil “scalper” had robbed me blind, I sent him an email to express my gratitude. Despite how others feel, the reseller isn’t my enemy. If wasting time in retail stores isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps he’s not yours, either. Frustration was more understandable when a few guys could clean out an entire area and there was no online alternative to their flea market booth, but the internet has left the anti-”scalper” rhetoric of the ’90s archaic and obsolete. Now that eBay has provided collectors with access to so much inventory, a global marketplace is available to everyone. Like it or not, someone who lists the most recent collectibles on eBay is providing a valuable service to me and others who feel the same way. And if you prefer not to buy online because “the hunt” is more important to you than the toys themselves, what kind of “hunt” is it without competition? Wouldn’t that just be shopping?

Personally, I’m appreciative of everyone who’s saved me wasted trips to jam-packed stores and unstocked action figure aisles by doing the legwork for me.

Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards
Born in April of '77, Jon quite literally grew up with STAR WARS. His mother took him to see it barely two months later and started buying him the figures before he was even old enough for them. G.I. JOE and Super Powers came along in the '80s, and an action figure addict was created. The moment he decided he was "too old" to play with his toys, he started to collect carded figures, beginning with Super Powers. No longer in possession of the toys or comics of his childhood, he rediscovered collecting with The Phantom Menace, and has moved on from STAR WARS to JLU, DC Direct, G.I. JOE, Marvel Universe, and various characters from movies, television shows, and comics.
Read other articles by Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards.

 

 

 

100 Comments »

  • Corn Colonel says:

    Dude I totally Agree with you. I think most of the people that complain could seriously benefit from a course in cognitive thinking skills. 90% of your life you will not be able to control the actions of others, but you can control your thoughts about what they do. I’m “hunter” myself I have my ear to the ground on every store around here, and as soon as I get wind a new product is coming out. I’m on it like Stank on amonia.

    My hobby isn’t just collecting it’s the hunt also, the satisfaction I get for getting a figure after a long search for normal retail just gives me the drive to keep going. I’ve been in situations, where the scalpers beat me to it. Also I’ve been in situations, where I see the figure, just one left on the peg and some lucky kid snatches it up before me and takes to his mom. It sucks, but it doesn’t deter me. I’ll keep hunting.

    As far as the scalpers they’re just doing business. Taking advantage of situation that will benefit them. Sounds smart to me. I understand the frustration of having to pay them more for something they paid for but come guys. This is how the world works and it ain’t changing. So lets just move on.

  • demoncat says:

    like them or not scalpers are going to stick around and buy up some of the toys and try to sell them for a profit just like the retailers do. as for the need of entitlement and someone getting upset because some one got the toy they are after to the point of wanting to be nasty over a piece of plastic. shows that some collectors need to accept that its a toy nothing worth causing a riot over. plus i also have from time to time used online sellers to get the figures i want. for scalpers are like or not part of the hobby they are not going away.

  • Gazing Abyss says:

    Sorry to hear about your accident and glad to hear you’re doing better and were able to get the figs you wanted, but I’m gonna have to disagree too. Scalpers are just GREEDY. That’s all there is to it. If you want extra income get a real job like the rest of us. And while I can see what you mean as afar as having the option of ebay when you can’t find something, especially if it’s a bit older, it’s gotten so far out of hand now that because of scalpers you can’t find anything in stores. They’re like plagues of locusts who sweep through my local aisles and make sure I have no alternative but ebay. And what really made this article sound bad to me was that you had the gall to say that anybody who would like the chance to find something in a toy aisle has a sense of entitlement? What about the scalper’s self-fabricated sense of entitlement? Just because they went out and snagged something (only for the purpose of gouging someone) they think they’re entitled to sell it at a %200 markup (if you’re lucky) just because they were dicks enough to swipe it from someone who would enjoy it? The reason we get angry is that toys should be left to those who appreciate them. Scalpers only see them as a profit and take the fun out of the hobby and the extra cash out of our wallets. With what we spend on mark-up and shipping we could have more figures for our collections. And for those who say that’s how the world is, it’s not gonna change, well, you’re right about the first part, but the second is shite. People are stirring up all over and those who have operated on greed are fast moving towards their comeuppance. Just look at the Wall Street protests going on. And as for the guy who saw the scalper and was refused the figure, I’ve dreamed of the day I’d find my local scalpers, they leave their traces at every store I go to. I’d confront them and take the figure. The only difference between that and him leaving and me buying it from him on ebay is that I don’t have to pay triple plus shipping.

    Nothing personal to the original author, but I’m very disappointed in this article.

    • Gazing Abyss says:

      Also, don’t call them “Re-sellers”. Attitudes like the ones expressed here and trying to euphemize what they do is only enabling this kind of behavior. Don’t encourage them.

      We already have re-sellers: The stores we (should) find them in.

      They buy from the companies and sell them to us, we don’t need a second middle man. And like I said, I do see the appreciation of being able to go back and get some stuff you missed, but my problem is when you can never find anything to begin with because (at least the ones around here, which is maybe why I’m so biased) they take EVERYTHING and leave nothing. It would be different if they bought a case of something online and then sold them, but when I go to a store I’ve just checked the week before and see three of the same figures from a new wave left lonely on the pegs, knowing that there had to have two assortments put out and all the good ones were taken and that because of these pegwarmers there won’t be another restock it annoys me greatly, I hope you can understand that.

      • Jonah says:

        When I was a child, I had a dream. To own my own toystore and have a huge displayable collection.

        Kinda like a pee-wees playhouse all my own

        Im middle aged now, have a decent job not married and no kids and now As a collector I found myself in the perfect position to pursue that dream on the Internet…

        So I Started buying stuff I thought could be rare or exclusives at retail and selling on ebay regularly as a side job/test.

        I currently have a stock of over 3000 items for sale at markup.

        I don’t make too much money yet, but what profit I do make either helps me collect for free or pay a few utility bills or buy new stock.

        Am I wrong for pursuing my dreams? For wanting to increase my income, my collection, my lifestyle? Does this make me a bad person in your eyes and a blight on our hobby?

        I spend countless hours driving, paying for gas, spending money on food during my missions. I get to meet other collectors from all walks of life and occasionally chat about the hobby, always with respect and dignity.

        Really this whole scalper issue is ridiculous.

        We live in America..the land of the FREE…The land of Opportunity…Capitalism

        For every Market a Sub-market Grows

        If you believe that everyone deserves a nice even portion of everything in life for everyone equally I recommend you try living in a communist or socialist country.

      • Scalpasaurus Rex says:

        Anyone who gets the good figures before you is immediately a scalper? Not a collector buying items for his personal enjoyment? How do you know the motivations of the people who bought the figures? It could just be another dude posting anti-scalping messages here.

        I mean, I’m a scalper myself, but I’ve been to plenty of stores where the good stuff was gone already. I just assume that another collector got to them first, not another reseller. One population is way more numerous than the other.

        And the idea that reselling/scalping action figures could possibly be compared to Occupy Wall Street is ludicrous. That’s an extraordinarily complicated situation with a ton of different root causes, and symptoms that include widespread unemployment and economic turmoil. This is people getting to luxury goods before other people and profiting off it. Even making that comparison is a lack of proportion at best and yes, entitlement at worst.

        • Gazing Abyss says:

          Jane, you ignorant slut. No one is comparing the two, but it all goes back to GREED. And I know it’s scalpers locally because many times I’ve found the same ebay seller located in the same city selling the things for double the price. I’d love to run my own toy shop myself some day, but I’d do it honestly. I’ve even thought about having my own ebay business selling collectables – by registering as a business and buying dealer cases straight from the companies like a real store does. My biggest problem is that they’re creating the upjump in prices themselves by snapping up the stock and making the items hard to find. Like I said, it’s greed pure and simple, it’s what’s gotten this country in trouble and why things are in such a bad place.

          • Scalpasaurus Rex says:

            Are you really quoting 30-year old SNL sketches? Just how old are you?

            Or should I have begun with “Dan, you pompous ass?” I suppose it’s at least better than reading Steven butcher his poor thesaurus.

            See, you’ve still got no sense of proportion. You’re drawing a line between totally different levels of greed. One involves playing with people’s livelihoods by exploiting their dreams of home ownership or their retirement accounts to push bad investments. One involves buying and reselling luxury goods for profit, which is perfectly legal and would be considered just fine morally by anyone who’s not a nerdy figure collector like us. I mean, have you seen how many auction/collector shows are on TV now? People love that stuff. The only difference with figure scalping is that we’re selling products WIDELY AVAILABLE NOW. Think about that. These are consumer goods you can find at the biggest retail chains in the country! And we’re supposed to feel bad when a collector can’t find his Gentleman Ghost?

            And it’s all well and good to talk about buying from the companies, and that’s a perfectly fine thing, but the volume you’re going to need to do that in is significant, and that’s while you establish a customer base. I can’t make any claims to know how ETC or BBTS got started, but I’d have to assume a sizable loan for initial capital was part of it, or else years of building a base through selling vintage stuff interspersed with new. At any rate, I wouldn’t suggest going into that business. It’s incredibly niche, dependent on a fickle market, and companies are realizing that they can make more by just selling to collectors themselves (ie, Matty). Not to mention that you could lose one of your major revenue sources in a blink, like say if DC decides to make Mattel overhaul their line to suit their own license’s needs. Small business guys trying to sell the same stock as Wal-Mart have it rough, even in a collector community.

          • Daniel says:

            It’s a shame the poor web design here doesn’t let me follow up to Scalpasaurus directly, because I know the feeling of getting “The Last Word” has his Silent Bob shorts all in a twist. I’m so glad that someone at Scalpy’s community college talked to him briefly about economics over a bag or two of Dorito’s because it has made him a second Adam Smith. How can ANYONE follow up to such a post? How can anyone end so many sentences with prepositions? Anyway, here’s the bottom line, folks:

            Buy from scalpers, support 35+ year old men who hit Target when it opens in the morning and quote “Clerks 2″ dialogue like Scalpy. Don’t buy from scalpers, wait a while and you’ll probably find what you want in the stores. The end.

          • Gazing Abyss says:

            Dan: Exactly.

            Scumbag Rex: U Mad?

  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Jon, I just wanted to say I’m glad you and yer gal are okay after the accident. I’m very happy to hear that. Excellent blog, as well. I have no problem paying over retail prices on eBay to save myself from driving all over town looking for something. This area especially is usually devoid of anything I’m looking for, and if I do find something while out shopping it’s a nice surprise. Take care.

  • George says:

    I think people shouldn’t always assume someone is a scalper, just because they have multiple figures or multiples of the same toy in one’s cart.
    I have four nephews and will buy three (one nephew is a tad young) of the same items a lot of time. Case in point, the 30th Anniversary GI Joe Sky Striker that’s in stores now. I was in a Target, didn’t actually think they’d have it, but checked anyway. Lo & behold there were three. That’s three Xmas gifts in my book. I put them in the cart. They were the only three there that day (in times since, the shelf has been restocked). I continued to go along the toy aisles for other toys for one of my nieces & a guy stopped me & asked if they were for me or if I was buying for others,as there weren’t any other planes on the shelf. I told him I was giving them to my nephews.
    That was the end of the conversation. He walked out of the store. Now, if he said he was looking for one for his kid, I probably would’ve handed one over because I figured they would probably be restocked and for a kid, I know how that goes looking for that special toy.
    Now, I’m not a scalper at all. To assume everyone is just because someone was out of luck, I think is grossly unfair.
    And to reach into someone’s cart? That person has more problems than any scalper if you ask me.

  • kr says:

    I know what you mean about “praising scalpers”. When MOTUC first broke in 2009 it was the first method I used to get the figures before the notorious sellouts. Also the whole DCUC crap about shortpacked cases through the life of the entire line and so on and so forth. Think everyone on here more or less gets the picture. They lived the drama. Hell, its still fresh in my mind. hauahahahaaha

  • El Honez says:

    Free Market.

    I wrote a sentence fragment all by its lonesome up there to sum this entire discourse up. We have a free market, no one is breaking the law, and life goes on.

    It sucks when you want something & it was not produced in ample supply for you to be able to pick it up at MSRP without competing against your fellow man. This is true. But what are you going to do about it?

    You can get to a shop early, do your due diligence. RUN to the toy aisles first thing in the morning, every morning. If that’s what you’re competing against, and you want something bad enough, and the “scalper” situation where you live is bad enough, either do this or shut up about it already.

    If this seems unpalatable to you, or you are incapable of competing for any of numerous other reasonable factors, such as having a job during hours when new product is stocked, or a physical disability, them’s the breaks.

    There is no law that says every toy must be available to every American for MSRP. Star Wars toys are not a commodity or heavily regulated like oil barrel prices. Folks buy the hot stuff to re-sell online because they can. Wishing things were different does nothing.

    I appreciate Jon’s enlightened attitude about the subject. He was able to get a good deal & that’s great. I think with PATIENCE, most of us can, either with re-sellers or at retail. In a free market, your power is your purchase. Don’t pay the extreme end of these inflated prices to these jokers, and you’re doing your part by sending a message about the prices the market can reasonably tolerate.

    …or you can pick up a new, less stressful hobby. Like yoga, or quilting.

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Jon, Congrats on another outstanding blog in terms of how it really brought out discussion on both sides of the topic. Well done. I salute you.

    • Daniel says:

      Did you actually READ some of these comments? I’m all for freedom of expression, but allowing the type of bullying and name-calling in this thread is unacceptable.

      AFI used to be regarded as a paragon of how toy collector websites should be managed. I think the comments section of this editorial managed to undo all of that.

      It’s not only irresponsible, it’s just plain lazy.

  • alcinde4 says:

    I’m apparently late to the party. Glad I didn’t miss anything of importance. Jon I’m glad you and the GF are okay. I never know what precipitates your hiatuses from the board. I guess this time around it didn’t have anything to do with regular annoyances with whiny fanboys. Glad to see you back.

  • FanofLife says:

    what a joke of a blog….really?? we are now defending scalpers? wow

  • George says:

    I think people forget to realize why scalping is frowned upon if not illegal (depending at where you live) Now I’m not talking about resellers who try to make a buck off finding items in demand. We are talking about people who counterfeit or steal stuff, or have back door deals with workers at a retail store, to buy out an item to mark up the price. I’m sorry if you used the money to take your wife out, its still morally wrong its gluttony and greed. No maybe its not illegal but it doesn’t mean its right this is true for any business. Our country used to thrive on “Capitalism” because we had no competition. But since Global Market-ism our country has gone down the toilet. The idea of free enterprise was great when we had the upper hand, but people forgot that its a economic circle; things evolved. So go on thinking price gauging isn’t bad, it will eventually catch up to you one way or the other.

    • El Honez says:

      The thing is you could do the same thing. You could work harder to get what you want by getting to the store earlier, making friends with the guys who work there, whatever. Nothing’s stopping you from doing the same things the resellers are doing, apart from a sense of entitlement or moral high ground. Which by itself is not going to get you the results you’re looking for.

      If you could have someone at the store call you up and let you know they held some stock back for you, would you pass up that opportunity? Or would you say, “No thanks, that’s bad toy karma – I’ll take my chances in the ailse!” I think confronted with that temptation, most of the folks who complain here would find their moral high ground evaporate.

      I’ve heard the expression many times: You make your own luck. It gets tossed around so much because it’s true. It’s easy to sit back and complain impotently about the state of affairs, but nothing’s going to change if you don’t change (and here I don’t mean you specifically George, I’m speaking generally). It relates to another statement that gets bandied about a lot: The definition of “insanity” is repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different result.

      These “scalpers” are able to get what they want… why can’t you? Are they better than you? Born with some advantage you don’t have? Is it just that they’re jobless losers, and you only have certain windows for toy shopping, making a fruitful excursion nigh-impossible? Well life isn’t fair, and you then fall into the category of having to rely on the secondary market.

      I know some folks who, bafflingly, collect designer sneakers. Oftentimes there are “exclusive” offerings that are only available from a certain geographical location. That’s just the nature of that commodity. If they can’t fly to L.A. to be there when a specific store opens, they’re S.O.L. for getting those sneakers. This is an extreme example, but there are “limiting factors” to any commodity, good or service on the market. And one primary factor is the ability to be present when the product(s) are made available for consumption. If you can’t meet that basic factor for any reason, you cannot participate in the consumption of that good.

      So what I’m hearing is that scalper-haters hate captialism, and therefore democracy and freedom. And probably baby seals too. :)

      All kidding aside, it sucks to be priced out of a hobby, but as long as there is a market for said hobby no one will care that you didn’t get what you want, or quit buying entirely. In summary: 1) Try Harder. 2) If you must go to the seconary market, set a limit for the % your’e willing to pay above MSRP and stick to it, b/c collectively we (the market) tell retailers and resellers what we’re willing and able to pay.

  • StrangePlanet says:

    If people did the same thing with flu vaccine, which are often at low supplies in a community, there woudln’t be a question of what a terrible person he would be. They would automatically qualify as scum. That might be a legal practice, but not one most would consider right.

    But toys aren’t flu vaccine. It is a different moral argument because of the severity of the situation, but the practice is the same. Businesses do things that most would consider wrong all the time, in the name of profit – it’s hard to get too upset about this particular issue because the stakes are so low. This doesn’t dump poison into the water table because it’s cheaper to build a low-cost and dangerous wall between your coal-slurry and the environment, the worst that happens is someone doesn’t get his toy.

    The crime of greed is the same, but the consequences are negligable, and without any real harm or victim, it’s not much of a crime or moral offense.

  • 3Kings says:

    Toy companies and retailers should just release boat loads of the new waves. This will eliminate all the conflict with scalpers and all this bs blah blah blah haha.

  • George says:

    I guess we can say well there’s no point in stopping scalpers, its something that will never go away. But it can go away based off the decline in the toy industry. Prices go up, production numbers go down and even with those smaller numbers, the toy industry aren’t selling enough to make a profit. One of the best toy companies to make a high quality mass productive item was Toy Biz and scalpers made the most money off them, what happened to them?, they went bankrupt; and Hasbro’s garbage took over. If you think scalping only affects one little customer who couldn’t buy one little toy your wrong.

    • El Honez says:

      That example is just wrong — ToyBiz didn’t go bankrupt; Marvel owned them and made an executive decision to shift the business to Hasbro, for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which involved economies of scale. Also consider that Marvel (now Disney) is making HUGE licensing fees from a 3rd party manufacturer (Hasbro) rather than making them in-house (Marvel Toys / ToyBiz).

      In summary: No, scalpers did not bring down ToyBiz.

      I thought of a more positive point I could make as well: we post to these boards for a reason – there’s a community here. Lots of folks pool their resources to buy cases, trade items, and often sell the ones they don’t want for reasonable prices on ebay. Might be something to consider doing. (I’m a big fan of doing things)

  • Wahhhhhhh says:

    Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – I didn’t get my little plastic toy because someone else bought them all….Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Grow Up all of you complaining – The “scalper” has every right to clean out an entire store if they want as you have to buy it and stick it on your wall with a push pin.

  • norris mcmahan says:

    So you are saying it is ok for them “scalpers” to buy every figure, and mark up the value so you as a collector can get what you want. Instead of driving all over wasting your time, money and wear on you car looking for said toys. On the other hand if they would not buy every figure they saw, they would be left on the pegs at you local store for you to go right in and buy. Not to mention children who would get immense joy upon finding the toy they have quite possible been searching for as a reward, for behaving all week long. You are looking at scalpers from solely a collectors point of view. So yes it is not right for collectors and children alike. To the scalpers i would ask them to (instead of wasting their time, money and wear on their car) find a real job.

  • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

    Jon, this was a really good blog. I read it a while back and didn’t comment ’cause I felt like I should read through all the previous comments first. Yeah, well, that ain’t happening, lol. So anyway, I see that you’ve almost got 100 comments so I wanted to get you one closer!

    My two cents: scalping is not a proud nor lucrative business. Man, if some dude wants to spend his time racing from Walmart to Walmart to snag a fig before it really starts hitting, then bring it home, create an eBay listing, pack the thing and ship it out for a couple buck profit, then geeez, go for it homie. Kind’uv a rough existence, but who the hell am I to judge!

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