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TNI Editorial: How To Fix The Scalper Problem - The Power Is Within YOU!

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There is no denying that the hobby of action figure collecting is facing a bit of a crisis with scalping these days. More and more, collectors find it difficult to get their hands on the products toy manufacturers are producing at reasonable prices.

First, let’s clearly define what a scalper is in the context of this problem. A scalper is someone (or someones) who buy all or most the product they can find at regular retail with the intent of reselling it at a marked up price for profit. The mark up is generally double the original price, although items perceived as high demand sometimes can be marked up even more. eBay is the most common place the scalpers go to resell their stuff.

Scalpers have always been around and frankly always will be around as long as perceived demand for an item exceeds supply. However, as toy manufacturers turn more and more to store exclusives and technologies like online bots that allow scalpers to clean out website stock in seconds improve, the scalper problem is only getting worse. So what can be done about it?

Seeing toy manufacturers quit giving stores so many exclusives would be nice, but such an expectation in today’s limited retail landscape is seemingly neither practical or realistic. Toy Manufacturers increasingly are beholden to their largest customers, which are the Target’s and Walmart’s of the world, especially when talking about the larger companies like Hasbro. Expecting them to turn their backs on the big box retailers is like expecting someone who has been wandering the desert for days to turn away a canteen filled with water. It would be suicide for them to do it.

Seeing the big box retailers implement counter-technology on their websites to prevent the scalper bots from cleaning out inventory or putting in place policies that limit purchase quantities to one or two would be cool, but also is unlikely. First, implementing new website countermeasures means the retailer has to spend money to update the websites. Second, it’s really not in their best interest if something like an exclusive is easy to find. To understand why I say that, you first have to really understand why these stores want the exclusives in the first place. The primary reason for making highly sought items an exclusive is to pull you through their doors. They really don’t care if you find said exclusive. In fact, it’s counter-productive if you find the exclusive on your first trip. If you have to keep coming back to the store multiple times, so much the better. The idea is browsing - once you are in the store, you will buy something. Also, a sale is a sale, whether the buyer is a scalper or a collector. The whole psychological impact of the perception that something is rare and valuable is another bonus for them. In my view, collecting (really anything) taps into the addictive impulses of wanting something others don’t have. The harder-to-get something is perceived the more people want it, hence the increased demand for an item that might not otherwise be there. It’s not really logical, but it is human nature.

Now I can’t sit here and tell you retailers are deliberately keeping inventory low on these exclusives so you can’t find them, but you certainly can see the benefit to them if something is harder to find, causing you time and again to come to them for what you seek.
 
 
So if we can’t really count on the toy manufacturers or the big box retailers to fix the problem, where do we collectors go from here?

Well, the answer is simple and difficult all at the same time. As I mentioned before, perceived demand of limited supply will always create profiteers. So the goal is simple. Don’t let them profit. If collectors quit buying toys from scalpers, the scalper will be left with unsold inventory. Like with any retail business, if your inventory doesn’t move then you go out of business.

A scalper is only going to scalp something if they think they have a fair chance of reselling that item at a marked up price. If they are not able to sell an item for more than what they paid, they will move on. In fact, if they have to sit on lots of unsold inventory for any significant period of time, eventually they will be forced to discount the stuff just to clear it out.

Now the tricky part is getting people to quit buying from scalpers. It sound easy, but it’s not really. No matter how many times you hear people say “don’t feed the scalpers”, there are always those who seem to do just that. Of course, there is no way to force people not to buy from scalpers.

So once again, how do we go about fixing the problem? Honestly, I don’t think a silver bullet solution exists, and we will likely never completely fix the problem. But here are a few easy recommendations that may help reduce the problem.

1. First and foremost, remember these are just action figures. If you don’t get it, the world isn’t going to end. Yes, collecting can be an addiction, but don’t let it rule your life. Be willing to walk away if you need to.

2. Remember, you really do have the ultimate power with your wallet. You can’t stop a determined scalper from buying stuff, but if they can’t sell it at a profit they will have no choice but to stop buying it. It’s all about supply and demand, and while we have little control over the supply side of the equation, we do have significant control on the demand side.

3. As collectors we all are in this together - and as with anything, the more united we are, the stronger we are. Don’t let your frustration turn to anger. Look to each other for help in finding stuff. Create networks where you can share information like area reports or even obtain toys for one another at cost. If we make the hobby less about the physical items themselves and more about the relationships and friendships that can be built while collecting these things, it will bring the fun back even if you end up missing out on a figure here or there.

Anti-Scalper.jpg

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Well said. I think your definition of "scalper" needs a little fine-tuning, but otherwise, right on the money. I've walked away from the hobby before, and I'd do it again in a heart-beat. If that's what it takes to starve out a scalper . . . or shock a retailer who enables such behavior (Walmart, Amazon, I'm looking at you) into cleaning up their act, so be it.

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Indeed it is a great post and honestly i wished that both toy manufacturers and big retailers can take this into consideration but since they have their own rules and regulations so we can't convince them :(.

But that aside yes it is always good to take certain measures about taking the hobby as a hobby and not as something forced in life, for example since wednesday 15th i hoped badly to find the G.I. Joe classified series wave 1 and i never found any at all, in the end i went with something else to cheer me up since there we toys i was interested on too, still it is better not to be desperate for exclusives or just any products you can't find because you'll end up buying something else, kinda a mistake i did there and it's one i am not gonna do again. So of course not only will i be patient for when the opportunity presents itself but as mentioned I have the power and choice whether to buy this or not, just to avoid spending too much money on it.

and as for scalpers, NOPE i will never ever buy from them and never did so, i knew that everytime i saw a figure that is meant to be 20$ is "marketed" as 40 or more dollars is not something i would dare to buy, i may love action figures but not to the extend that i would have to buy figures that are waaaaay to pricey for my wallet, if anything i would go from 1 to 50 dollars or in my case 1 to 1000 mexican pesos, heck not even the biggest figures are in my wishlist, that even means the famous Mattel Brachiosaurus or anything made by Haslab, however if the big retailers or toy manufacturers do ever officially sell the average 6 inch figures as 40 dollars or more than that's where i am done with toy collecting for good.

not gonna lie, but as of now while i can't exactly quit my action figure collecting hobby easily i do know that I'll always be patient when the time or times of whether i get this figure here or there presents itselfs no matter if i buy it or receive it as a gift, even that i have the will of not compulse buying everything i see and thank goodness i don't really go for that since i mostly prefer to buy the characters i like and know the most thank goodness.

i admit it is a looong comment than what i usually write but this is a good post nevertheless and quite helpful in an aspect 👍

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Great article.  Admittedly, I do resort to eBay for some convention exclusives.  When paying a premium for these figures, I do factor in the cost of traveling, convention admission, and time spent waiting in line.  I'm not paying double the price as the article points out, more like a reasonable "service fee" for saving me the hassle.

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Great article @JayC , I agree completely, I think the companies should make an effort in keeping costumers happy like implementing countermeasures that only allow 1 or 2 of the same item to be purchased per account or even adress (now this can be circumvented but it does slow down a little enough for collectors to actually pick up the items they want before they are all out in seconds) another meassure is that the toy manufacturers ask for these countermeasures to be placed if said retail store wants an exclusive (companies like Neca or Hasbro or what not should tell Wallmart/Target, yeah we'll give you exclusives but we want you to put in meassures to prevent bots/scalping), but in the end its the collectors like you said that have to do their part and even though as you put it there is no silver bullet the one thing that comes close to it (and believe me it works) is STOP buying from scalpers, sooner or later theyll buckle under with having inventory that isnt selling (most of these people use this thing to earn money quickly cause they invest a good ammount of income they have in buying these items to sell them quickly and make a proffit and repeat the process, its not in their best intrest to be sitting on product that isnt selling because they need that money back fast either to invest in the next sought after product or just for their daily spending).

Just as a little insight on where im comming from, Ill give a little info on how scalping works in my country: In mexico (like in most places scalping is not reserved to toys, heck with covid people started scalping lysol bottles, facemasks, and even Beer cause beer manufacturers shut down and there was a shortage) but sticking to Toys, most scalping in my country is with low priced item (since most scalpers try to move quantity over quality) like kids toys or hotwheels (there is a big issue with hot wheels scalping here), the more collector figures hadnt been scalped that much because they werent items that were on high demand but a couple of years now demand has gone up with figure collecting (its become more of a hobby and more people are getting into it) and this has brought on scalpers (many who scalped cheaper items have moved to scalping action figures because their profits are larger with these items and now there is a demand) but one thing that happened is that when collecting rose we werent getting a lot of product in stores so it was getting hard to find these items because of scalpers, lately companies like hasbro saw the demand and have been bringing more and more quantities of figures which hit a lot of scalpers hard (they would buy the first run and try to sell them for double or triple the price but before they could the stores would be stocked back up and people would prefer to buy them for retail and leave the scalpers with unsold inventory which later down the road would have to practically give away just to recup some of the invesment they made) that being said there is still scalping but luckily it hasnt gotten as bad as in the US (mostly because collecting also hasnt gotten as big and most people dont collect items more expensive than the average Marvel Legends or black series, so more expensive items though have their scalpers if you have patience and know where to buy you can easily find them for retail prices) the issue comes in with the fact that most of these "new" collectors that have just started lately to collect arent real fans, some just collect because its a fad or its cool, they post their purchases and what not just to gain views, stuff like that, its these people who dont have the patience to wait for the figures and end up buying from the scalpers (most of the times in facebook groups or social media theyll even thank these scalpers for selling them their items and recomending them further down as great sellers, even though they paid double the price of the figure, just because these "scalpers" helped them find the figure they were looking for but didnt bother to wait or search for it, and most of the times when they cant find it its because that same scalper already cleaned the stores) these kids only feed the scalpers because they are too lazy or desperate to put in the work to find the figures, but I have seen several scalpers go under because of reading the market wrong or just not being able to re-sell these figures, so in the end I agree that it does work when you dont feed these scalpers, you might miss out on a couple figures in the process but sooner or later these scalpers will stop if they dont see a profit coming their way.

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Great read JayC

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I for one proudly say I refuse and always have Scalpers, and will continue to, I refuse to pay 60 $ for something I know exists some where on a shelf for 30 , its just ridiculous because it's not a magic specialty item its a mass produced product

 

 

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Great post Jay. I think the current scalper problem we are experiencing will not get better unless us in the collector community need to show some restraint when a new release comes out and sells out immediately. Don't go right away and get them from scalpers, give these items a chance to reach saturation in the market and yes letting them sit on their inventory will ultimately slow down the scalpers and give us a chance at getting exclusives going forward.

Companies also do need to find a better way to offer their products as well, we can't let them off the hook. They are the ones who choose who to let carry their exclusives, yes I know that in this current climate big box retailers are essential in the way manufacturers have to offer some products but how about doing something different with some of the he offerings, like say what Super 7 does and offer made to order pre-orders that way everyone who wants a figure can get that figure. Another way could be what McFarlane has done recently and that's do a Kickstarter for some offerings. Not only can you get the item being offered but you have a great chance at getting extras as the project reaches certain goals, like the current Hasbro Marvel Legends Sentinal figure.

Just some ideas I thought were valid and can help with customers and companies equally.

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7 hours ago, JayC said:
Seeing toy manufacturers quit giving stores so many exclusives would be nice, but such an expectation in today’s limited retail landscape is seemingly neither practical or realistic. Toy Manufacturers increasingly are beholden to their largest customers, which are the Target’s and Walmart’s of the world, especially when talking about the larger companies like Hasbro. Expecting them to turn their backs on the big box retailers is like expecting someone who has been wandering the desert for days to turn away a canteen filled with water. It would be suicide for them to do it.

The primary reason for making highly sought items an exclusive is to pull you through their doors. They really don’t care if you find said exclusive. In fact, it’s counter-productive if you find the exclusive on your first trip. If you have to keep coming back to the store multiple times, so much the better. The idea is browsing - once you are in the store, you will buy something.

Anti-Scalper.jpg

Very interesting points here, though I maintain Hasbro can do more to make their product more available to us collectors, without all these unnecessary hassles. I wouldn't have a problem with "exclusives" except that too often, its not just exclusive to this or that outlet, its exclusive to just one out of 4-12 stores of the chain. Exclusive to just 1-2 figures per store, not even one case. Exclusive to just that one day on that one month. We collectors have been complaining about this for years; Hasbro can and should demand that these outlets do better.

Far as using exclusives to get customers thru the doors, I don't know how effective that tactic is. I know it doesn't work on me. If I'm going to Target for a certain figure, and that isn't there, I don't wander around to buy anything else. If I've been in there multiple times to find it and multiple times it aint there, I'm gonna be too mad to buy ANYTHING from that store. I cant speak for anyone else but I know our local Toys R Us died because of its poor stocking practicing- including figures that were exclusive to them. Good riddance, I despised them.

I agree that we should do everything we can to starve scalpers out. The collector HAS to be willing to walk, and not just from scalpers, but from Hasbro too. Buying a 6" gi joe for $175.00 from a scalper is crazy, then forking over $30.00 to Hasbro isn't much better.

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I've been saying this for the last few years. If collectors refused to pay double and triple retail it would stop, although I do think Con exclusives are different. They are more rare and i have no problem with them getting marked up. I would also just add that another problem is the impatience of many collectors to get the newest figures. Look at this stupidity. I just saw on ebay that someone paid almost $100 for the new G.I. Joe Classified Series REGULAR release Cobra Commander. $100!!! It can be preordered on Amazon right now for $19.87, but you would have to wait until November. The figure is triple packed in every case of that wave and will be very easy to find.

Cobra Commander Ebay.JPG

Cobra Commander Amazon.JPG

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This is an issue across the board - Marvel Legends, Transformers, Ghostbusters, GI Joe Classified, and so on... The market is being ate up right now with retailer exclusives that turn into eBay exclusives. I used to think that scalpers are just a symptom of the problem. A dirty house attracts cockroaches - that's not the bugs fault though. It's starting to flip the other way for me now however. Scalping is getting so bad now that it in itself is the problem. Retailers should do more to control it but at a certain point - how much work can we expect them to do that makes selling stuff more difficult? Its not their problem. Its our problem sadly. The thing is if we all get disinterested then and stop collecting certain lines then the problem will automatically fix itself there. There is no real incentive for anyone to do anything about it really. So, this is the new world order. At least for now.

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I have never paid after market prices for any figure ever and I never will. It has meant me missing out on some figures but I don't care. I refuse to support scalpers. I know not everyone selling figures online is a scalper. Some people need to sell off their collection for different reasons but still, I'm not going to pay stupid expensive prices for figures because it just feeds the scalpers and makes the problem worse. I hate them and I'll do all I can to keep them from making any money. As far as I'm concerned all scalpers deserve to go broke and the sooner the better. One thing companies could do is stop making store exclusive figures. The word exclusive is like vi*gra to a scalper. It's stupid. It hurts the collector and the company. Figures should just be released at any location that wants to carry them. That to me seems like it would boost profits and make collectors happier. I know it'd make me happier to not have to worry about finding the one figure in the only store that has it before some ass that wants to buy all of them just to put them on ebay for 3 times retail.

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So I was listening to and interview Todd McFarlane did on the Official Comic-Con @ Home YouTube channel yesterday, and he made an interesting comment that stood out to me in light of recent pre-order debacles. He said all their internal data shows hands down that people still buy more toys at physical stores than they do online. And he wasn't talking about online at the BBTS and EE's of the world. He was referring to people buying more toys in the physical Walmarts and Targets as opposed to their website counterparts. Now you might argue that is because those stores put more product in their physical stores than they do online, and their shipping generally sucks, but I think its probably safe to say that many do in fact still prefer to buy action figures in a physical store rather than online??? The most noted reasons I hear for that is because they want to inspect the individual figures for paint blemishes and such before buying, and then there is also the added cost of shipping one generally has to pay.

The reason why this was particularly interesting to me is because I often see people ask why do we keep seeing companies give the Targets and Walmarts all these exclusives. Why did NECA chose to get in bed with Walmart and Target to begin with? After all NECA doesn't make action figures for young kids, they make them for adult action figure collectors. You could easily argue that the larger companies like Hasbro make as many if not more toys still for younger kids, so they must have a presence in the Walmarts and Targets, cause they will have a greater chance of reaching parents and kids there than they would online. Most adult collectors however seemingly spend a great deal of time online, and therefore you might argue they can be as easily reached for online shopping as they can with making the sale in a physical store, but is that the case?

I guess where I am going with this is, to me it seems as long as these companies have to rely on sales at physical stores to survive. As long as their data dictates more sales are made in physical stores than online, they are going to be beholden to the Targets and Walmarts, because there really aren't any other options for physical stores anymore. So that means if we ever really want to see these companies cut the cords with the Walmarts and Targets, we are going to have to significantly shift our purchasing habits to online shopping, and not just through Amazon. I don't know how practical that really is, in fact I would say it probably isn't that practical, just as asking ALL collectors to quit buying from SCALPERS isn't terribly feasible, but at the same time I think that means we are stuck with the necessary evils that are Walmart and Target with these things.

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On 7/22/2020 at 7:22 PM, Atlantis said:

Very interesting points here, though I maintain Hasbro can do more to make their product more available to us collectors, without all these unnecessary hassles. I wouldn't have a problem with "exclusives" except that too often, its not just exclusive to this or that outlet, its exclusive to just one out of 4-12 stores of the chain. Exclusive to just 1-2 figures per store, not even one case. Exclusive to just that one day on that one month. We collectors have been complaining about this for years; Hasbro can and should demand that these outlets do better.

Far as using exclusives to get customers thru the doors, I don't know how effective that tactic is. I know it doesn't work on me. If I'm going to Target for a certain figure, and that isn't there, I don't wander around to buy anything else. If I've been in there multiple times to find it and multiple times it aint there, I'm gonna be too mad to buy ANYTHING from that store. I cant speak for anyone else but I know our local Toys R Us died because of its poor stocking practicing- including figures that were exclusive to them. Good riddance, I despised them.

I agree that we should do everything we can to starve scalpers out. The collector HAS to be willing to walk, and not just from scalpers, but from Hasbro too. Buying a 6" gi joe for $175.00 from a scalper is crazy, then forking over $30.00 to Hasbro isn't much better.

I see this all the time and it’s just as ridiculous as the scalpers who run in the store at 8 am to try and buy all the stock. I go to target when I need something for the house. Why? Because any rational person knows that there’s a 95% chance that they don’t have any of the neca or hasbro stuff that I Would buy. I do look for it if I happen to be in the store, but I’m not wasting my time. You’re using up all that energy and gas to drive to different target or wal mart stores, and you end up spending just as much as you would with a scalper. More often than not, if I wait a few weeks for anything, I’ll find it at retail or below online. Patience is key. Everyone has to have everything NOW and that’s what feeds scalpers. None of this plastic crap makes anyone happy, and I’m not chasing anything that doesn’t make me happy. Just some perspective. 

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On 7/25/2020 at 8:05 AM, JayC said:

So I was listening to and interview Todd McFarlane did on the Official Comic-Con @ Home YouTube channel yesterday, and he made an interesting comment that stood out to me in light of recent pre-order debacles. He said all their internal data shows hands down that people still buy more toys at physical stores than they do online. And he wasn't talking about online at the BBTS and EE's of the world. He was referring to people buying more toys in the physical Walmarts and Targets as opposed to their website counterparts. Now you might argue that is because those stores put more product in their physical stores than they do online, and their shipping generally sucks, but I think its probably safe to say that many do in fact still prefer to buy action figures in a physical store rather than online??? The most noted reasons I hear for that is because they want to inspect the individual figures for paint blemishes and such before buying, and then there is also the added cost of shipping one generally has to pay.

The reason why this was particularly interesting to me is because I often see people ask why do we keep seeing companies give the Targets and Walmarts all these exclusives. Why did NECA chose to get in bed with Walmart and Target to begin with? After all NECA doesn't make action figures for young kids, they make them for adult action figure collectors. You could easily argue that the larger companies like Hasbro make as many if not more toys still for younger kids, so they must have a presence in the Walmarts and Targets, cause they will have a greater chance of reaching parents and kids there than they would online. Most adult collectors however seemingly spend a great deal of time online, and therefore you might argue they can be as easily reached for online shopping as they can with making the sale in a physical store, but is that the case?

I guess where I am going with this is, to me it seems as long as these companies have to rely on sales at physical stores to survive. As long as their data dictates more sales are made in physical stores than online, they are going to be beholden to the Targets and Walmarts, because there really aren't any other options for physical stores anymore. So that means if we ever really want to see these companies cut the cords with the Walmarts and Targets, we are going to have to significantly shift our purchasing habits to online shopping, and not just through Amazon. I don't know how practical that really is, in fact I would say it probably isn't that practical, just as asking ALL collectors to quit buying from SCALPERS isn't terribly feasible, but at the same time I think that means we are stuck with the necessary evils that are Walmart and Target with these things.

I used to hate buying action figures online, because unless it's something like Mezco One:12 Collective or Hot Toys, I didn't feel like I could count on getting good paint apps, perfect bilateral limb symmetry, etc and HAD to see something in store before I saw it.  With the Covid19 situation, that's now changed.  I've always hated going into Walmart stores, and now there's no way I'll go into one, no matter how careful they're being with mask requirements, marks on the floor, etc.  Target, I feel similarly about right now but to a lesser degree.  I can't imagine I'm alone in this, and right now, and for the foreseeable future, I will be buying everything online that I can.

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I’m sorry but this whole article, while painting an accurate picture of the problem, sounds more like a scalper apologetic when it comes to the solution.  “Just don’t but from them” isn’t a realistic answer if collectors want to continue to be in the collecting game. Scalping in my area has become such a huge problem that one could say the manufacturers may as well be sending their entire inventory directly to the scalpers. And it’s not just individual scalpers. There are stores here that actually send their employees out on a daily basis to make sure collectors have no choice but to go to them at a significant markup. The entire collecting market (in the 7th largest city in the country no less) around here is totally controlled by the same 4 scalpers and two stores, who hit every Target, Walmart, and Walgreens  within an 84 mile, 3-city span almost daily. While it may be true that manufacturers have an interest in partnering with stores, and vice versa, how long will that interest last if the collectors just quit altogether, which is what I see happening here more and more.  The idea that people will shop in a store more often if they’re hunting for exclusives is laughable. People hunting for exclusives don’t spend any appreciable time in any one store.  They run inside, head straight for the home shelf, find it empty, then run right out on their way to the next Store, hoping to find whatever scraps the scalpers may have left (by accident, I’m sure). Stores and manufacturers absolutely MUST do more to prevent scalping, otherwise scalpers with no customers is all they’ll have left, and a scalper with no customers will abandon the hobby also, leaving no audience for the product. I’ll tell you what I’ve had to resort to...if I somehow walk into a store at just the right time and find the exclusives on the shelf, I take the one with damaged packaging since I’m an “open to display” collector, then I intentionally damage the packaging of exactly half of what’s left, making the items less marketable to scalpers but now accessible to those who want to open and display. It that a crap move?  Probably.  But that’s what the hobby has become. 

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I don't think the scalper problem is ever going to go away. In fact it has gotten worse with technology ie Brickseek and Bots. I do agree that corporations like Target and Walmart could do more with the situation like have measures in place to prevent bots on the website and stuff like that. Ultimately, these companies don't really care whether a kid, collector, flipper or a scalper buys the figure as long as they make the sale. Not buying from a scalper in order not to support them helps; I myself have done it, I have actually missed out on figures I wanted rather than support a scalper. Problem is not everyone has that mindset and there are people that are willing overpay for an item just to have it than miss out on it. After so many years of collecting, I have changed my collecting habits. I have cut back on my store hunting. I'm doing  more online shopping, it's not ideal when it comes to QC issues but it has helped a lot for assuring that I get things. If it's something I really I want I don't risk it, I immediately preorder it on either Amazon or BBTS prime shipping and pile of loot are a blessing. If it's something I kind of want but I can live without I wait to see if I can find it in stores. Exclusives can be a pain because depending on the product and store you can have a hard time securing a pre-order. Now Hasbro and NECA are taking steps to help this situation or at least this is what they are saying but time will tell if things will get better. Ultimately, there's no blanket solution to the scalper problem. You can try different approaches and they might help but that's the best we can hope for.

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