Friday, February 15, 2013

Toy clearance sales, scalpers, sellers and Michael Jordan

    So I went down to Toys' R Us at Suntec two days ago, 'cos they're having a clearance sale this week. I was kinda excited about some dirt cheap finds I might encounter, since they're declaring up to 60% off on items. Everything has to GOGOGO!! My wallet was quivering with anticipation. Will I find a platinum Year of the Snake Omega Supreme on offer? Is Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime going for half price? Can I get an MG gunpla kit for a steal? The answer was a disappointing, flat, anti-climatic 'NO'. LOL.

Where did all the Gunpla go?????
    You see, I had forgotten to do my homework, because I thought that since these were toys, not branded handbags or some IT fair, that no one would be interested except kiasu parents. What I didn't realise was - a sale is a sale. Especially in Singapore. And a toy clearance sale or warehouse sale, is essentially a battle between scalpers and collectors, and caught in the middle are hapless parents of kids who just want a toy. This interesting dynamic is captured in an excellent post by Leon from Open the Toy. Read his article for the main juice, but to sum it up, collectors just want a chance to get their coveted items at affordable prices. They're not interested in buying up the entire market, or re-selling their loot at sky-high prices. They. Just. Want. To. Complete. The. Collection. Scalpers on the other hand, are seen as the scum of the toy universe, the villains of the show. They're not interested in toys per se, but in the profit they can earn from toys, so they might buy up anything that's hot just to re-sell it later on eBay for a quick buck. The hardcore ones 'invest' hundreds or thousands into multiple sets, and wipe out the entire stock. You can call it 'kiasu' behaviour, but I don't think it's endemic just to Singapore.

    Because a renovation for due, and thus, the clearance sale, Toys 'R Us Suntec was a wreck; a shadow of what it once used to be. I was there on the second day of the sale (the first was reserved for card members). And I thought I was early at lunchtime. But no. Everything of any adult value, from model kits to TFs to Star Wars toys and such were wiped out. Clean. All that was left were kiddy toys of use only to well, kids. In one corner, there's your typical kiasu parents, shopping for toys for their kids, nephews and nieces, one plastic rifle tugged under an arm-pit, another shopping bag strapped across the forearm, huffing and puffing for their next big find. In another corner - a shifty-looking middle-aged man with 'scalper' written all over his face, stuffing his bag with over 10 sets of matchbox toy cars, wearing a sheepish look and wishing that he's invisible. I walked two rounds, sighed and left the battle ground.

    So I guess the question is - was I there as a scalper or a collector? Fact is, I do not know. LOL. Suffice to say that if I had saw some TF or gunpla at a steal, I would probably snap it up for MYSELF first. And then, cash or stock permitting, I might buy another one to admire in a box and sell at a later time once I'm done LOL. With TFs though, it's extra tricky, cos if I hada personal one, ANOTHER piece wouldn't be all that bad since it'd be cool to have robot and vehicle modes side by side, right? LOL. Which means if I wanted to SELL anything, I would have to get myself a THIRD set, and so on.

    The thing is, I've been buying so much stuff lately that it's starting to make more sense for my bank account (and my wallet, AND to my girlfriend) to start selling. Granted, profits in toys are meagre. They usually range from $10 to $50 if you're lucky. Only if you find a really rare piece and keep it for years might you be able to find a willing buyer that will take it off you for twice or thrice the cost price. And even then, he's probably not gonna come from Singapore. People here want their stuff CHEAP AND GOOD. I never really understood this saying. Cheap and good? Guys, if it's good, it's NEVER cheap. Singaporeans don't seem to appreciate the idea of quality or art.

   I was caught at point blank range between this war of Collectors Vs Scalpers, and experienced the venom that the former had for the latter firsthand. What happened was I bought an extremely rare and limited edition Michael Jordan 1/6 action figure by Enterbay while in HK. (I'll do a proper feature of this exquisite toy next month.)

    I bought two sets. Because I am a crazy fan of his Airness, and because I had to queue up for four hours (8am - noon), and win a friggin' BALLOT just to buy this guy. And I don't even live there! What are the chances, right? I got crazy-lucky!! They allowed a max purchase of two sets per person, and for all that effort queueing, I'm going for the max buy, so two was what I went for. When I returned to Singapore, people in HK were already selling their MJs on eBay for US$1,000. That's right. One-friggin-thousand US bucks fellas. You read right. Can you say "SCALPER"? Since there was no way in hell I'm selling my personal MJ, I thought heck let's put up the second set on eBay and see how much I can get. I set it up for S$900. Within a coupla days, some idiot buys it, then leaves me a negative comment saying I had cheated him and didn't deliver the item. WHAT?!? I'm new to eBay, so I was dumbfounded. Without getting too technical, buyers can leave feedback for sellers the moment they purchase an item online, regardless of whether they have paid (I was only selling to locals, pickup, cash on delivery). And whatever feedback buyers leave is for all to see and CANNOT be taken down. Which means if a buyer says you're a phony seller and your items suck, you can't take that down either. It's on your seller feedback listing forever, thus denting your rep. You could try to open a case with eBay, which is what I am doing, but even then, what's there to stop this buyer from simply opening another account and sabotaging others again? It's the Internet man...the WWW. Not World Wide Web, mind you, but Wild Wild West LOL. Now the question is - why would some asshole want to sabotage my sale? The only possible reason is - he's probably a fan or a collector of MJ. Hell, he might have even queued up in HK but didn't win the ballot LOL. So asshole comes back to Singapore, sees my sale on eBay, probably goes WTF, you paid $350 and now you want $900? Screw you! If I can't have him, nobody else can! And so he 'bought' my item to sabotage the sale and leave a negative comment. Makes sense? The interesting thing is, I realised that I have became a scalper myself - buy low, sell high. Was I too greedy? Perhaps. Should I have put up my item at cost price or only slightly more? Maybe. But you know what? I queued and won it with my luck, and it's a free market out there, right? Let's not even talk about the airfare and lodging costs. So - why can't I sell it at whatever price I want? You don't have to buy it.

    This whole episode, including the trip to Toys R Us, opened my eyes to the seedy underbelly of the toy world. It's disillusioning but also kinda exciting lol. I can't say I'll stop selling stuff, because I think everyone has the right to try and make some money, (and really, if I don't recoup at least SOME of the moola I'm spending on toys at this rate, I'd go bust LOL) but I guess the question for myself is - if ever I cross the line for good and move over to 'the Dark Side' as a scalper, would I be able to live with it? Right now though, maybe not....Why? Cos I still want to open my damn toys LOL.

Oh, and if you wanna see how crazy people get, check out this video of a Hasbro clearance sale at some community centre. Can you tell scalper from collector? I think not. But you sure as hell can tell they are SINGAPOREANS! Watch, and be aghast LOL:


LEon said...

The person that gave you a bad rating could also be a seller of that item as you put lower price do such stunt so other will buy from him.

Waylander said...

Yeah bro, idiots exist everywhere LOL.

C.Jin said...

Dat Michael Jordan. Looks bloody amazing.

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