20th Apr2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men…

by Will

“They got all the right moves in all the right faces. So yeah, we’re going down.”

I’ve been told that I don’t blog enough on a personal level anymore. The Adventures West Coast posts are all well and good, but they don’t have the gravitas of the Lesbian Chase or Marion Barry Karaoke posts of years past (if you haven’t read my archives, they’re really quite good! I advise you to read them now, while they’re free. When I become famous, you’re only gonna get those in my book!). Anyway, something happened to me today that I felt should be shared.

I’ve long felt that some people don’t have the capacity to be bad. Sure, they wanna be cool like the next guy, and scheme and cut shady deals, but for every Zack Morris, there are about 150 Screeches. I am one such Screech. I tried to fight the giraffe, and the giraffe won. Let me wind it back, though.

For anyone who has never read this blog/known me, I love toys. I buy toys. I don’t usually play with them, but they typically reside in a glass case from Ikea (I highly recommend the DETOLF). In any case, my preferred toy line at the moment is DC Comics figures from Mattel. These either come in the form of DC Universe Classics (I tweet about these a LOT) or the Movie Masters figure line from The Dark Knight movie. This story concerns the latter.

The Movie Masters were released 2 years ago, when The Dark Knight actually hit theaters. They were hyperdetailed figures, with a good bit of articulation, and pretty decent likenesses of the characters. They weren’t all that popular after awhile, and they all went to clearance before the 3 series was released. Well, Mattel decided to make them an online-only collection, where they would release a new one on their MattyCollector.com website on a monthly basis. This idea sucked because they were charging, roughly $20 (not including shipping) per figure. The figures were nice, but not that nice. At San Diego Comic-Con last year, they announced that the figures would first be sold online, but would then make their way to Toys “R” Us stores exclusively. I figured I’d wait for the TRU release so that I wouldn’t have to pay for shipping, plus there was no way TRU was going to charge $20 for them. I watched as the Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent figures sold out online, but I was sticking to my plan. I was hoping that Mattel had put some stock aside for the TRU sales, so I wasn’t gonna order online. Then, I experienced a bit of a toy drought. A bout of ennui had inspired several toy hunts of epic proportion – all of which yielded NOTHING. At the same time, blog posts from Matty seemed to imply that the TRU deal was falling apart. So, if I wanted any of the figures I’d been waiting for, I’d probably need to just buy them online. Needing to get my toy fix, I crumbled and ordered Jail Cell Joker from the MattyCollector site. After shipping, that fucker cost $23! I didn’t care, though, as I finally had a new toy. That feeling subsided, however, when he arrived in the form of the most boring figure I’ve seen in some time. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good likeness, but it just sits there. No special features, and the articulation isn’t as great as that of others in the line.

Fast forward to last week. A Mattel blog post reported that the web-only Dark Knight figures would be showing up in TRU stores “in the near future”. This prompted blog comments from collectors reporting that they’d already seen them in their local TRU stores. Ya see, Mattel didn’t want to publicize this because they wanted to sell them for $23 before you realized you could get them in stores for about half that price. Those online collectors were reporting that TRU’s price for the figures was roughly $12.99 each. But the plot thickens: remember how I told you the first 2 series had gone to clearance after the movie hype passed? Well, the packaging of the new figures is exactly like that of the old. So, many lazy TRU employees had just thrown them up on the clearance pegs for $4.98, not realizing that this was different product. So, if you got to a register and it rang up as $12.99, you could just point out the sign and they’d adjust the price.

Here’s my thought on this: is the tactic wrong? Yes, because you know the real price. That said, if TRU isnt dilligent enough to catch this, it’s not the consumer’s fault. By law, if there are multiples on the peg, they have to honor that price. I feel like a TRU employee in the boys dept should notice something odd about them receiving product for a line that pretty much trickled off 2 years ago. I worked that department for 10 years, so it’s not like I’m speaking out of class. The products look the same, they’re hung on clearance pegs and, most importantly, there’s NO new peg tag reflecting the new price. If a different price is not indicated where they hang, how is the consumer to know?

So, how does this all apply to me? Well, yesterday, I went into a TRU and pulled off this trick. There were no pegs indicating a new price, and the price scanner system was down. So, I honestly didn’t know the price until I got to the register (after all, $12.99 was just the average price being reported online). I told them about the shelf pegs, and they did the price adjustment. So, I got 2 new figures for a total of about $11. The saddest thing is that they weren’t even figures I really wanted. It was a weird Scarecrow variant and a Batman with glow-in-the-dark eyes. I can make all kinds of excuses, but I basically wanted a deal and I was tired of being fucked over by The Man. I mean, Matty Collector put the same “Night Vision Batman” for sale on their site at noon yesterday for, you guessed it, $23 (including shipping). So, Mattel was trying to rip me off by charging twice retail, while TRU’s negligence allowed me to buy what is, really, a dead toy line, at a great price. My problem, though, is I got cocky. I didn’t listen to The Gambler, and I counted my money before the dealing was done.

You see, today, I had lunch with my friend “Special Forces” (we call him that because he was in charge of the storeroom at TRU, and when it was holiday season, he got to wear a special black uniform so customers wouldn’t ask him questions). He had acquired a DCUC Deadman figure for me, so I took him to lunch to thank him. When we were done, he informed me that TRU had gotten a truck last night, so there was a chance they might’ve gotten the Harvey Dent figure I’d been wanting.

We get to the store, and all they have are a shitload of the older figures, on clearance for $4.98. After looking all through the aisles, we stumbled upon 3 of the new figures. I had them all, but he needed 2 of them. Now, since my episode yesterday, I now know that these things scan as $12.99. That said (and I checked), there was NO shelf tag indicating the new figures. So, as far as TRU’s shelves were concerned, it was a $4.98 figure. So, SF is all nervous, ’cause he used to work at this particular store, plus he knew he probably couldn’t use his discount card because he’d have to identify himself as an employee, which would require a manager. To make matters worse, the manager on duty was actually a guy we both used to work for at another store. When I noticed this, I said “Crap, we can’t do it because Paul’s here.” Remember that. I didn’t yell it or anything. Just said it. It’s going to be important later.

Instead of going to customer service, we go to the R-Zone, which is the electronics dept. I ask the chick in there if she can ring us up, and she begrudgingly agrees. Since SF’s nervous, and I didn’t really care about $10 (yup, I’m a balla!), I told him I’d take care of it. She scans the figures, at which point I do the whole, “The sign said these were $4.98.” Of course, she returns with “Well, I’ll have to see the sign.” I follow with a “And I’ll be glad to show it to you.” We get to the aisle, and it’s not like she can find anything to the contrary, try as she might. I know how this works. I’ve been in her role before. Still, there’s nothing she can do. She goes back to the register and then decides she has to look up something. She runs over to customer service, while I’m running my mouth to SF about how you’ve got to take back from the system sometimes. The rantings of a failed revolutionary. So, she comes back, and it all falls apart.

First off, she says that the clearance price is just for Scarecrow. I say that it’s not, and that the signs make no indication of this. Then, she says, “You knew this, which is why you said ‘We can’t do it because Paul’s here.’ Yeah, you didn’t think I heard that. You also didn’t know that I’m a supervisor.” Well, bitch got me there. No, I didn’t know she was a supervisor. I still held on to the argument that it’s not my fault that they didn’t retag properly, and that they were hanging with all the others. She goes through the whole “somebody must’ve put them in the wrong place”, which still isn’t my fault, but I was still pretty much caught because she’d heard the Paul comment. So, I played it off and followed through with the transaction. However, what was originally gonna be an $11 transaction was now (and correctly so) a $27 transaction. FUCK! Sure, I could’ve walked away, but I was already guilty, so I paid the woman. Special Forces got his figures, so he was happy. What pissed me off most, however, was how she took her damn time ringing me up once she felt vindicated. OK, I suck at bamboozling you, but just get me out of here, OK? Nah, she milked it. When it was done, I went over to Customer Service to talk to Paul. I knew I’d avoided him in the beginning, but I still felt I could argue to my advantage, especially concerning the lack of shelf tags. If nothing else, maybe he’d dispatch someone to retag the shelves at once, and I’d feel vindicated or something. Unfortunately, Paul was gone. Yup, he was there one minute, and gone the next. I thought that meant he was hanging out around the corner, but he was nowhere to be found. So, I walked away, tail between my legs, $27 poorer.

This isn’t Consumerist, so I’m not going to try to say what I did was right. I was merely trying to exploit a loophole in the system. However, I let greed and cockiness get the best of me, and my luck ran out. So, now they’re probably gonna look at me funny whenever I go in that store ’cause I’m that “guy who thought he was slick”. I hate those looks. I used to give them to the guys who’d pulled this stuff on me. But I guess that’s what this is really all about: I worked for TRU for 10 years, and there were countless times I was on the other end of this. Unfortunately, the law is that they have to honor the price, so they got away scott free. I guess I just wanted my corner of the sky. But, as you’ve read, I’m just not cut out for deceit, even concerning something as lame as action figure collecting. The way I see it, TRU just got from me today the money that they should’ve gotten yesterday. Everything balances out in the end, and I can’t beat the system when I try.