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

by Jay Cochran
July 22, 2020
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, letís 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 todayís limited retail landscape is seemingly neither practical or realistic. Toy Manufacturers increasingly are beholden to their largest customers, which are the Targetís and Walmartís 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, itís 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 donít care if you find said exclusive. In fact, itís 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 donít 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. Itís not really logical, but it is human nature.

Now I canít sit here and tell you retailers are deliberately keeping inventory low on these exclusives so you canít 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 canít 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. Donít 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 doesnít 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 itís not really. No matter how many times you hear people say ďdonít feed the scalpersĒ, 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 donít 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 donít get it, the world isnít going to end. Yes, collecting can be an addiction, but donít 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 canít stop a determined scalper from buying stuff, but if they canít sell it at a profit they will have no choice but to stop buying it. Itís 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. Donít 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.
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Comments...

Last 10 comments - ( Read All Posts )
JayC - 2020-08-04 @ 3:09 pm
30 minutes ago, Thunder_Razor said:

There is a lot more to add to the article. The problem is much more deep than it seems. I'm an international collector. I must rely on stores that sell abroad, but since my country over taxes the products from abroad, I use eBay to buy things. Even buying from scalpers, most of time, the figures cost less than buying them from official stores. Me and most of collectors abroad don't have the chance to buy the figures we want in our countries, so eBay is the best, and some times, the only solution. This feeds the scalpers more than anything. There are people with shitloads of money around the Globe, and are willing to pay whatever it costs to have what they want. Some people also like to buy just to show off, and won't save money to do that.

Yesterday, selling something rare was a job, very respectable. People would go to an Antique Store, and the seller usually tells a story about that product and justify why that was expensive. For example, I would think that Toybiz Marvel Legends series 1 should be sell for more than 1000 USD. Those figures have an history, they started it all in therms of 6" figures (I'm disregarding Spiderman classics for a reason), super articulated, the very standard of the industry nowadays. Today we have eBay,and it is not about Antiques, it is about interest, scalpers have rare items and wait until they see someone selling a similar item for a given price. Then, they put theirs on sale for more, if that sells, the other scalper sell it for more, and so forth...

So, the easier solution was distributing items worldwide, with enough quantity that everyone get what they want. But that is not that simple. The production costs of figures is not cheap, and even a highly demanded figure is going to be a peg warmer if it is over manufactured. Doing what is considered "enough" quantity is also a problem, because scalpers are not dumb, they know the business, and they know what is more demanded, and just buy it all, or all they can. This is true for the new GI Joe line, GI Joe collectors are known for spending lots of money for their collections, so the natural move was buying everything they can and re-sell for an insanely amount of money. So, if figures sold out, they end up in the hands of scalpers, and they charge whatever they want, if figures become peg warmers, then, the companies loose a lot of money, and end up giving up the line...

Is there a solution for scalper problem? Yes, there is one, and that solution cannot rely on the collector only. There is no control of people worldwide that cannot buy what they want locally, or people that just want to flex their collections. Auction sites, like eBay should have limits to the price charged, I don't know how much, but should have a limit. They may leave the bidding going on limitless, but the "buy it now" should be cut down, with a button to report the seller if he disrespect the rules. Re-sellers, like Amazon, should also put a limit on the stores that sell through their platform. It worked beautifully during the first months of the Coronavirus pandemic, with scalpers cleaning out drugstores everywhere and re-selling in Amazon for 3 times the actual cost. They just permanently ban those sellers and they ended up sitting on a pile of products they want to scalp people... Those things would not solve the problem, but they would certainly reduce the range of the scalpers...

Sorry about my English, it is not my native language...

Your right in that it gets even more complicated when it comes to International, but IDK how many US scalpers thrive on international sales. Truth is though in recent years I am seeing this stuff more easily obtainable for those outside the US than those who live in the US.

JayC - 2020-08-04 @ 3:05 pm
On 8/2/2020 at 12:08 PM, henryce1973 said:

Im 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 dont but from them isnt 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 its 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 istotally 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 theyre hunting for exclusives is laughable. People hunting for exclusives dont 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, Im sure). Stores and manufacturers absolutely MUST do more to prevent scalping, otherwise scalpers with no customers is all theyll have left, and a scalper with no customers will abandon the hobby also, leaving no audience for the product. Ill tell you what Ive 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 Im an open to display collector, then I intentionally damage the packaging of exactly half of whats 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 thats what the hobby has become.

Sure the simplest solution would be for the manufacturers to produce enough inventory and the retailers to carry the inventory in the numbers to ensure there was enough supply to fill demand, but the retailers wont do that cause they dont want to be stuck with unsold inventory. The truth is we have no control over what Walmart ,Target or even the manufactures do beyond simply not buying the stuff at all, which is kinda like burning down the house to kill the spider. We do however very much have control over our own actions, and so using your example, if everyone in your area quit buying the stuff from these 4 scalpers and 2 stores you mentioned sending employees out, then they would be the ones stuck with the unsold inventory and I guarantee if that were the case they wouldn't be running out to the stores to clear the shelves for much longer.

Thunder_Razor - 2020-08-04 @ 2:43 pm

There is a lot more to add to the article. The problem is much more deep than it seems. I'm an international collector. I must rely on stores that sell abroad, but since my country over taxes the products from abroad, I use eBay to buy things. Even buying from scalpers, most of time, the figures cost less than buying them from official stores. Me and most of collectors abroad don't have the chance to buy the figures we want in our countries, so eBay is the best, and some times, the only solution. This feeds the scalpers more than anything. There are people with shitloads of money around the Globe, and are willing to pay whatever it costs to have what they want. Some people also like to buy just to show off, and won't save money to do that.

Yesterday, selling something rare was a job, very respectable. People would go to an Antique Store, and the seller usually tells a story about that product and justify why that was expensive. For example, I would think that Toybiz Marvel Legends series 1 should be sell for more than 1000 USD. Those figures have an history, they started it all in therms of 6" figures (I'm disregarding Spiderman classics for a reason), super articulated, the very standard of the industry nowadays. Today we have eBay,and it is not about Antiques, it is about interest, scalpers have rare items and wait until they see someone selling a similar item for a given price. Then, they put theirs on sale for more, if that sells, the other scalper sell it for more, and so forth...

So, the easier solution was distributing items worldwide, with enough quantity that everyone get what they want. But that is not that simple. The production costs of figures is not cheap, and even a highly demanded figure is going to be a peg warmer if it is over manufactured. Doing what is considered "enough" quantity is also a problem, because scalpers are not dumb, they know the business, and they know what is more demanded, and just buy it all, or all they can. This is true for the new GI Joe line, GI Joe collectors are known for spending lots of money for their collections, so the natural move was buying everything they can and re-sell for an insanely amount of money. So, if figures sold out, they end up in the hands of scalpers, and they charge whatever they want, if figures become peg warmers, then, the companies loose a lot of money, and end up giving up the line...

Is there a solution for scalper problem? Yes, there is one, and that solution cannot rely on the collector only. There is no control of people worldwide that cannot buy what they want locally, or people that just want to flex their collections. Auction sites, like eBay should have limits to the price charged, I don't know how much, but should have a limit. They may leave the bidding going on limitless, but the "buy it now" should be cut down, with a button to report the seller if he disrespect the rules. Re-sellers, like Amazon, should also put a limit on the stores that sell through their platform. It worked beautifully during the first months of the Coronavirus pandemic, with scalpers cleaning out drugstores everywhere and re-selling in Amazon for 3 times the actual cost. They just permanently ban those sellers and they ended up sitting on a pile of products they want to scalp people... Those things would not solve the problem, but they would certainly reduce the range of the scalpers...

Sorry about my English, it is not my native language...

Belmont13 - 2020-08-02 @ 7:34 pm

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 ordernot to support them helps; I myself have done it, I haveactually 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 doingmore 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 noblanket solution to the scalper problem. You can try different approaches and they might help butthat's the best we can hope for.

henryce1973 - 2020-08-02 @ 4:08 pm

Im 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 dont but from them isnt 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 its 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 istotally 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 theyre hunting for exclusives is laughable. People hunting for exclusives dont 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, Im sure). Stores and manufacturers absolutely MUST do more to prevent scalping, otherwise scalpers with no customers is all theyll have left, and a scalper with no customers will abandon the hobby also, leaving no audience for the product. Ill tell you what Ive 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 Im an open to display collector, then I intentionally damage the packaging of exactly half of whats 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 thats what the hobby has become.

Satam - 2020-07-28 @ 8:39 pm
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.

ZoomAir - 2020-07-28 @ 2:37 pm
On 7/22/2020 at 7:22 PM, Atlantis said:

Very interesting points here, though I maintainHasbro can do more to maketheir 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 its 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 theres a 95% chance that they dont 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 Im not wasting my time. Youre usingup 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, Ill find it at retail or below online. Patience is key. Everyone has to have everything NOW and thats what feeds scalpers. None of this plastic crap makes anyone happy, and Im not chasing anything that doesnt make me happy. Just some perspective.

JayC - 2020-07-25 @ 12:05 pm

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.

Gilgamesh79 - 2020-07-25 @ 4:31 am

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.

Mr_Scary92 - 2020-07-24 @ 3:10 pm

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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