Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hasbro versus Mattel - A San Diego Comic Con Story

I’ll warn you in advance – this may not be worth reading. I just wanted to say something about Hasbro’s post-San Diego Comic Con sale the other day.
Hasbro kills me with their SDCC exclusives every year. I don’t ever plan to attend the world’s premiere movie, TV, celebrity, toy, oh; and comics, too convention. I develop habits way too easily and I know full well that if I went one year I’d have to go every year and I don’t need that kind of expense in my life. So it is an ongoing struggle to obtain a lot of the convention exclusives every year –which are often the very coolest toys a company releases all year.

Your options kind of suck if you’re not attending. You can beg some poor individual who happens to be going to utilize twice as much luggage space just to bring your dumb ass some toys back, you can hope that some of the dealers at Dragon*Con will have the exclusives available for double the original price or you can go ahead and pay thrice the MSRP to some dirtbag scalper on eBay. I’ve done the Dragon*Con thing more often than any others. Oh, there’s also the option of just waiting a year or so until the prices inevitably decline on the secondary market, but what kind of patient loser does that? By then they’re not exciting anymore.
And then there’s the fourth option, which is not embraced by every company and is unreliable and frustrating at best when employed by those that do so:
Getting online after the Con and ordering the exclusives direct from said company.
(actually, there’s a fifth option from Sideshow Collectibles and Entertainment Earth of preordering their exclusives before the convention with very little fuss or trouble; but they seem to be the only decent human beings in the toy business)
(well, shit – there’s a sixth option too; you can try and catch one of the online retailers whenever they offer up the exclusives for double the price. It’s a wonder the damn things aren’t easier to obtain with all those methods)
This year Mattel, Hasbro, and Toys R Us held post-SDCC online sales to offer their respective exclusives. Naturally, there are items I desire from each.
Here’s my SDCC shopping list if you’re curious:
Underground Toys
Doctor Who River Song w/ Pandorica chair (I got it from JRsToyworld – an amazing site for Doctor Who stuff)
Hasbro
Marvel Legends Thor - got it from HabsroToyShop
GI Joe Sky Striker – Starscream variant - got it from BBTS - though I didn't pay what they've currently got it listed at. That's some fast inflation.
GI Joe Zarana – Cold Slither variant - missed it
GI Joe Zarana – standard - got it from HabsroToyShop
Indiana Jones lost wave set - got it from HabsroToyShop
My Little Pony SDCC 2011 edition (for Mrs. Troublemaker, asses) - got it from HabsroToyShop
MOTUC Marlena/Cringer (I can’t remember which version is which because I’ll open it either way) – got one thanks to some incredibly nice folks
DCUC Swamp Thing (though I can’t say I’m going to be happy if that thing’s as tall as some folks are reporting) –incredibly nice folks again
Polly Pocket She-Ra set (Mrs. Troublemaker again) – nice folks
Monster High Ghoulia Yelps SDCC variant (ditto) – also ditto
6” scale Voltron – I’m on the fence about this one, so I’m waiting until the online sale
Star Wars Republic Commando set – missed it
Transformers Masterpiece Rodimus – missed it, but I think it’s headed to stores
DCUC versus MOTUC Bizarro/Battle Armor Faker set – not up yet due to some vaguely-defined shipping issue. I’ll probably end up missing it, but I hope it’s headed to stores as well
Entertainment Earth
Venture Bros. Dr. Jonas Venture and Rusty Venture Boy Adventurer lunch box set – preordered
Twilight Zone Talky Tina doll (for the missus) – preordered
Toys R Us put theirs up first on the first day of the Con. The Star Wars set and Rodimus sold out almost instantly and there’s some kind of problem with the DCUC/MOTUC set and they haven’t offered it yet. TRU had some other items that sold out almost instantly as well.
Mattel is putting their items up for sale at noon on August 1st. I actually rearranged my schedule so that I could be at home for this one. I wasn’t positive I’d have a source for buying the stuff at the convention and I’m probably still going to get on and order an extra Marlena and maybe a Voltron. While Matty is generally viewed as grossly incompetent as far as online sales go, aside from waiting through their white screen of death this one should be relatively simple. Marlena/Glenn might sell out but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to get a Voltron if I want one.
And then there’s the Hasbro items.
Hasbro usually puts their wares online 1-3 days after the Con and you have to keep an eye on their site to get anything. I did luck out this year because I happened to be off on the day that stuff went on sale. ToyNewsi posted an update stating that Hasbro had confirmed to them their exclusives would go up the morning of the 26th; but they didn’t know what time. I usually stay up until around 4 AM when I’m off and Mrs. Troublemaker is usually up early, so I started checking at midnight and she got up at about seven and started looking. The first batch of stuff went up at 11:00. It was the Sky Striker and a couple of things I didn’t care about.
I just happened to be looking at the site then and immediately put one of the planes in my cart. I had already preordered one from BBTS, but it was half the price if I could get it from Hasbro. I logged in and selected my payment method and then I got a “too busy” message. I backed up and tried again and the site stalled out again. Apparently a lot of people were trying to get that set. After about thirty minutes I backed up one final time and got a red-lettered message telling em that my item was out of stock and I would have to remove it from my cart to proceed. Fuck.
We were going to see Captain America at 2:00 (it’s damned outstanding, by the way), so I ate my failure and went to take a shower. I figured since Zarana and the Indy set were never posted they had sold out at the show.
After I showered and dressed I just happened to pull my phone out while making lunch and was shocked to see all the other Hasbro exclusives listed. I added both Zaranas, Thor, the Indy set and the My Little Pony to my cart and was able to make it to the payment page and log in pretty quickly. I raced downstairs to my computer, thinking it might be quicker or somehow more aggressive (yeah, I don’t even know what I mean by that) than the phone. I sat there until one o’clock (and ate a cold lunch – I left it in the microwave and forgot about it for a while) refreshing that damn screen and backing up and trying over and over again. I didn’t feel it was worth missing Cap only to get another red “Out of Stock” message, so I kept trying on the phone as I got ready to elave. By which I mean I went to have a poo. It was the right decision, as right there in mid-poo the screen suddenly changed and I got to the final “Submit” screen and placed my order. The Cold Slither Zarana had disappeared from my cart long ago, but I got the regular one along with Thor, the Indy set and the Pony. I was so ecstatic I jumped up in the air, which turned out to be a huge mistake, given what I was doing. Just kidding.
I already had some trading opportunities set up – most notably a tremendous offer from our dear friends over at Veidt.com – for the Hasbro items, so I was trying to get three of each Zarana. I wanted one of each to open, one of each to hang on the wall and one of each to trade. But you could only put one in your cart at a time (which is the only thing about this sale that I appreciated – I like that Hasbro did what they could to battle scalpers; unlike Mattel with their “10 per” limit). So I got back on my phone and tried to order one more regular Zarana while Mrs. Troublemaker drove to the theater.
I eventually got the “Out of Stock” message and that was that.
So I spent almost three hours trying to order those fucking Hasbro exclusives because - when tested – Hasbro’s website is even worse than Mattel’s. I suppose you could excuse them by saying that they only do this sort of thing once a year and Mattel does it once a month and I can’t really argue that. But I really expected better from Hasbro. They were grossly unprepared for their post-SDCC sale and it was an utterly terrible experience.
That being said, despite a couple of misses I feel extremely fortunate that I managed to score all of the exclusives that I did. I’m not sure “fortunate” is the right word, as I did work my ass off for most of them, but whatever. The only thing I feel like I’m totally getting boned on price-wise is the Starscream Sky Striker and there’s no way in Hell I was going to miss out on that one. Everything else I managed to get for its original price and that’s pretty awesome. I’m sure I’ll end up paying out the ass for a Cold Slither Zarana, but I feel pretty good about my chances for the Faker set and Rodimus.
I’d like to take a moment and suggest that if you’re looking for Doctor Who toys you always go to JRsToyworld first. The site is fantastic and the furthest thing from a scalper you’ll find. I really think whoever runs it does so more out of a love of toys and commerce than making money. Not only was he selling the River Song set for the bargain price of $30; he was also offering a separate package of that set and the Pandorica series that works with it for a measly $99. That’s less than some places were selling the series by itself for the first time around. I love that place and give it as much business as I can. You have to get there as soon as he puts preorders up, but you’ll always have advance notice of when that will be. I also ordered the new Leela figure from JRs for less than anybody else was offering it. Also, the shipping is fast and cheap. JRsToyworld is absolutely incomparable in the world of toy sales websites. Much like Snow White, it’s the fairest in all the land.

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

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