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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.
I started this mission to see how much Walmart cares about their customers who purchase their toy collectibles that are sold at their stores and online site. Reading TNI Admin JayC post about fixing scalping problems again helped push me to do it as well... On Friday, August 7th, Walmart.com put on sale at 2 PM Eastern, the 7" Mortal Kombat Spawn figure Signature Edition with a limit purchase of 1 for $59.99. This was a very limited figure of 1000 and was signed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. The figure being sold was the 7" Mortal Kombat Spawn figure with the mace, which is the second release. The first release being with the sword and the third release being the Target SDCC 2020 with the axe. When the sale went live, I refreshed the page and clicked the pre-order button. I received a pop-up message stating there was an internal error on Walmart.com side and I should try again. I refreshed the page again, clicked the pre-order button and same pop-up error again. I refreshed the page again and the figure was listed as sold out. I knew going into this purchase it would be very hard to obtain because of the limited supply but I decided to check out eBay.com and saw 2 or 3 figures being sold with the asking prices from $200 to $1,000. Six hours later and at the time of posting this thread... There is currently 38 live auctions and 10 completed auctions on eBay. Out of the 38 live auctions, there are 15 live auctions where the sellers have a quantity of 2 to 6 figures for sale. Out of the 10 completed auctions, 2 sellers sold 2 figures and another seller sold 4 figures. For only 1000 figures available with a limited purchase of 1. I'm starting to wonder how many employees from Walmart.com are selling these figures? I decided to take this information and email Walmart.com about this incident and the listings on eBay. I informed them about what happened to me on their website and pointed out directly all the eBay auctions. I don't believe Walmart will do anything about the auctions but I wanted to let them know that real customers are sick and tired of getting screwed over by Scalpers who are somehow purchasing multiple items just to sell at a higher cost and major corporate stores are ignoring the whole situation just so they can make a buck. Walmart has not commented about this incident.