Attack of Scalp-Or at SDCC

I need to preface this with the warning that this is all hearsay, even with the photographic evidence. I know some will be tempted to believe it immediately based on their own cynicism about/pathological hatred of Mattel, but before you go down that path, just try to keep in mind that all we have right now is the word of some anonymous people on the Internet.

Now then. As you know, there are a mere 1,000 MOTU art books available at SDCC. The limit on them is supposed to be two per customer. Also, vendors, exhibitors, and professionals were not to be allowed to buy any of Mattel’s SDCC items during Preview Night last night.

But there have been reports of vendors not only buying books, but buying twenty of them–and then announcing it to those waiting in line.

Here’s the story from Ted Biaselli on Facebook, complete with a photo:

THIS is an image of a DEALER with all of the Mattel exclusives that he purchased tonight… including 20 of the Exclusive Art Books! What happened to 2 per person!??! He was right next to the booth and said OUT LOUD “I’ll be selling these at my booth!

What do you think Matty? I waited in line for 3 HOURS! And moved 200 feet. It was a TRAIN WRECK! The most poorly managed situation I’ve experienced at Comic Con!

And here’s more from Ted’s friend and member BCRDuke:

I just finished talking with a friend of mine who was there tonight, and he’s one of our own here.

He has PICTURES of booth-owners buying exclusives in bulk. One booth owner bought 20 Art Books. The booth owner then announced to everyone in line that he had 20 books, and to come to his booth to buy them!

He has pics, and put a few up on matty’s facebook page. There is no getting around this, “matty.”

Thanks for looking out for the FANS. THE PEOPLE AT THE CON WHO RUN THE BOOTHS pretty much qualify as PROFESSIONALS in my book… and since they are renting retail space from the CON itself, they are associates of the CON… which makes them PROFESSIONALS. Their badges may not say that, but that’s what they are.

This stuff happens at every con, but this is the WORST example of this EVER.

The “FANS” who were left standing in line AT the cash registers, were told to leave and given passes to come back at 11AM… two hours LATER than opening… which means that exclusives would be on sale for 2 hours (probably to more BOOTH PEOPLE – since they will be there BEFORE 8AM to set up/open shop/MARK UP THEIR MATTEL EXCLUSIVES), before any of these FANS got to buy anything.

It’s just ridiculous. Basically, the hard-core collectors of MOTUC are going to get jipped out of He-Ro, because there will only be a SMALL number on sale on Mattycollector.

Mostly scalpers/re-sellers were able to buy the Art Book. Whatever… we all know how important nostalgia is to them.

Same goes for those who collect DCUC.. the Wonder Twins pack SOLD OUT its allotment for the day, not two hours after preview-night opened.

And here’s the alleged scalper in alleged action:


There’s also a LOT of good MOTUC stuff already, which I’ll get to in another post later today. But this annoyed me enough to put it out there.

39 thoughts on “Attack of Scalp-Or at SDCC”

  1. Let's assume for a moment that this story is true (and really, at this point, the burden is on Mattel and/or the gentleman in the photo to prove it isn't): as long as Mattel sells out of what it produced for the con, they don't care who bought it. The "buzz" about their action figures being "hard to find" is what drives the Mattel marketing machine, and in their mind cancels out any lost good will from fans over incidents like this. The only possible way to change Mattel's practices is to stop buying their products (and stop feeding the scalpers, but that's another battle), and we all know that unfortunately, that isn't going to happen. Just look at the ratio of "OMG Battle Cat is awesome!" posts to "Mattel is inept at delivering product to fans" posts online this morning.

  2. A couple things come to mind here. Mattel has the right to sell the book to whomever it wants to, but it's bad form for something like this to happen. On the other hand, I am more convinced that Mattel really does know what it's doing with the MOTUC line and its production numbers. I am paying attention to the eBay auctions for MAA scalpers and it's interesting how low the prices are. I think the market for these toys might be reaching its saturation point.

  3. I'm not a He-Man fan by any means, but this kind of stuff pisses me off nonetheless. As someone who has experienced similar behavior at other Cons … that guy looks just as much as an insufferable douchebag as other Booth Vendors/Scalpers. Frak em.

  4. I wouldn't be surprised. They always have these strict rules for things like this and then you have people who don't give a shit about the rules (just workers hired to sell toys to people they don't like). This reminds me of the time I couldn't get a George Lucas action figure because the limit rules weren't followed at all.

    And by the way, I'm loving the Scalp-or thing.

  5. ZOMG! This is awful news! The world is going to end! Okay, end sarcasm. If this is true, then bad form on Matty's part, and whoever is running the Matty booth should be held responsible. However we don't know all the facts. Just like a certain Harvard college professor who was arrested in his own home… we don't know all the facts, and its easy to jump……… to conclusions.

    I was not puchasing an art book, but I truly do sympathize with the fans who waited in line only to be turned away whilst "scalpers" mocked them.

  6. @prfkttear: waiting for the facts before calling the Matty booth workers stupid would be a change I could believe in. . . 😉

    It's a shame that Matty couldn't be bothered to employ thoughtful workers at a convention that, unless I am entirely misguided, is meant to increase public awareness of their product and business practices? That's pretty stupid.

    I've been to very few conventions, but I have NEVER seen a manufacturer's booth staffed by salespeople that gave a crap.

  7. Mattel botching the distribution of a product (exclusive or otherwise), much like the existence of racist cops (in Cambridge, no less), is so squarely within the realm of likelihood that I'm inclined to believe both.

  8. "Pathelogical" hatred for Mattel here…..

    "Alleged……" Ha! That's a good one.

    It's Mattel, of course it's Fucking Hell. They barely pause for breath between fuck-ups/downright lies about their business practices these days…..and with good reason – it aint hurting them in any way.

    Only us.

  9. When did Cons like this become such circuses? I can't say too much because the extent of my Geek-Con going is limited to Wizard World Boston (the only time they ever came, and Bot Con '07. It seems like everyone scrambles for these exclusives, maybe I'm just too naive or not enough of a hardcore collector to care, but it seems like the point of these Cons are lost to this type of behavior/business practices.

    Most normal conventions in the business world, like one I was privy to attend at my former job, On-Demand, a convention for the print/digital imaging industry. There were hundreds of vendors, like most Cons everyone had booths, they were displaying their latest/greatest products. Some were giving out free squishy stress balls, candy, lanyards, pens, etc. In retrospect I guess it was a circus in its own right, but comparing a Con in the professional world to a Con in the geek/entertainment world is like night and day.

    I don't mean to open up a can of worms here, but obviously the idea behind exclusives is to "reward" fans with the opportunity to purchase something that is unique and not available anywhere else. Maybe the onus is on Mattel for offering highly sought after things like Wonder Twins w/ Gleek or the MOTU Art Book to those lucky enough to live within driving distance or those who can afford to make it out there. Yet, those fans who Do get there are "rewarded" by waiting in line and being told to come back and wait in line again, while vendors walk off with cases of figures/books gloating about it.

    I guess in the end what this does is create hype around a particular product or line. If a company only makes 1,000 of something, its guaranteed to sell out and there is guaranteed to be much chatter about it around the water cooler known as the Internet. Sometimes even bad publicity is good publicity. No matter how many times people get “screwed over” there will be ten people behind them to take their place. I think with a product like He-man, they could take a Popsicle stick and call it “He-Man” and people will buy it.

    I guess the point of this diatribe is that so much emphasis from Cons seems to be placed on exclusives rather than the meeting of folks who have shared interests and the opportunity to scope out some new products & have a good time.

  10. For something lighter… has anyone seen the image on the Google homepage? Its comic themed, there's Batman, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, Robin, and Green Lantern. (as if you needed the link)

  11. The whole con exclusives thing does seem weirdly anti-capitalist, doesn't it? Or at the very least, not in Mattel's own self-interest.

    "Let's make a product people want, but deliberately limit it so that, rather than getting any real PR benefit out of it, we just piss hundreds or even thousands of people off." Same deal with Gleek. Just weird. I mean, I know there's the whole supply-and-demand thing, but if it's practically a given they could sell at least another 1,000 art books (probably closer to 2K or 3K, or even more) at $50 each, how did they let themselves get roped into limiting it to 1,000 copies? And why the hell did they let a vendor buy 20 copies? (Aside from old-fashioned bribery, of course.)

  12. @prfkttear–that's cool!

    @Poe Very good point. They should stop the exclusives–those that like MOTU, DCUC, etc. are going to buy them anyway, so why limit them?

    I'm not suprised by any of this, really. Does Mattel not realize their limits on the MOTU figures on their website are as stupid as the "limits" at these shows? It's a scalper bonanza anytime you make an exclusive or limited run. I have a friend of a friend at the con trying to get a Wonder Twins set, but I guess that's out the window…oh well, at least I'll save $40.

  13. I have mixed feelings about this, but I'm mostly angry because of the treatment of the people in line.

    For the congoers, that is utter crap. With as bad as that line had to be, to stand there and see that… I don't know how everything stayed so pleasant. Even if the guy didn't break the rules and just had 20 people in line, that still blows.

    Normally, I suspend my scalper annoyance for comicon resellers because a lot of times they're the only way for me to get the figure. I don't see it the same as the scalpers I'm competing withevery day.

    But my sympathies go out for the attendees on that one. That's just ridiculous.

  14. I wonder how much it costs to pay-off Mattel booth workers. 😉 In all seriousness, are these people at the booth actual Mattel employees or just people they're paying for the Con? Like one of those people who make those free samples of food at Costco or BJs, they don't work for Costco and they don't work for Tyson or whatever brand they're exhibiting. Most of ‘em don’t care if you take more than one sample… as far as they’re concerned, when they run out, they run out!

    As far as exclusives, its one thing to offer a figure and put a SDCC stamps on it. That’s kinda neat (I guess) and gives someone a souvenir of sorts for the Con. Of course if I want a souvenir, I'll buy a t-shirt or a mug or something. I just hope the exclusives that they're also selling online will be available in enough numbers to accommodate those who cannot make the Con, or god forbid, those of us who are fortunate enough to have people there picking up stuff on our behalf and cannot get them.

    Enough is a loaded word. According to some people there will never be enough. For collectors who buy up four or five of a single figure for their own purposes (one to open, one MOC, one to sell for their child's education). It'd take a crystal ball to know exactly how many of any figure to produce. At the end of the day, it goes back to Mattel is a business and if they only make 1,000 of something and sell out its a success, rather than making 3,500 of something and only selling half, which would be considered a failure.

    I've been reading Mastering the Universe by Roger Sweet, which he details the conception of MOTU and it also provides an inside look at Mattel. Granted the events described happened almost twenty years ago, but it’s possible that not much has changed. While its true for many companies, Mattel seems to be damned by the whims of those who are in charge, and there is a constant internal power struggle. They will never make everyone happy. Even if they bent over backwards and Matty himself delivered the figures to each fan individually on a silver platter there would be no way to appease all fans. People would still complain, its in our nature. Still, there seems to be a lot more Mattel could do to try to show they’re trying to work with the fans instead of solely based on their own capitalist motivations. That said, for all this “rage” you see on FB or .ORG, as soon as they unveil new figures, it’ll be all “OOH&AAH” and all will be forgiven, of course then immediately afterwards the bitching will commence again.

  15. BTW, I just looked a little closer at that picture… is that dude flipping the bird?! 😉

  16. @prfkttear: I was just wondering the same thing!

    This is kind of why I got out of collecting new stuff (for the most part) in the first place. The problem is that YEARS ago, an SDCC exclusive was something that was a repaint or rehash that just served as a little souvenir. But it's gotten so perverted since then. All of these companies are producing items that people would buy anyway.

    I've heard stories in the past where dealers/scalpers will literally pay people a few bucks if they agree to stand in line and purchase an item for them. Also, keep in mind, a person with a "dealer" booth is most likely not one person. Depending on his "company," he might have 10 employees who all got in line as early as possible.

  17. According to a poster at who spoke to Neitlich about the apparent scalping at preview night, the official line is "that's not my department." Next up: "it was like that when I got here."

  18. Yep – right up there with the "a bigger boy made me do it" and "I was only following orders" c and TM the Nazi Party 1946.

    Mattel's shadowy Legal Dept no doubt – in charge of screwing us all over, repeatedly.

  19. Hey Motorthing, "I was only following orders" has a proud tradition that dates back likely thousands of years but at least with the Confederate Army at Andersonville in 1865.

    And I agree the exclusives have gotten out of hand, but as a recovering transformers junkie nothing is quite as bad as when they released the other three seekers as part of the Botcon bundle a couple years ago. People still bitch about that one. (With good reason, as far as I'm concerned.)

  20. @Frowny: Aah yes, the Seekers debacle… and those who have so eagerly gloated about it in their signatures…

    @Taruan: The people at Palisades were a class act. I met them at the Wizard World Boston, and chatted it up with a couple folks. I even asked about my Mega Meatwad, and got an gasp answer!!! There was an issue with the bottom seeping out an oily subtance. The guy I talked to told me it was the glue or something, and told me to take a hot blow dryer to it.

    Even better, one of their exclusives was a mini set of ATHF with Fry, Shake, and Meatwad, plus the Mooninites! I wanted to pick up Super Grover, but alas, I was too late, they sold out!

  21. Oh, big f–ing deal its an art book! Lord knows I'm waiting for the next big New York Times best seller from Mattel! Thats the only thing I buy from them…GO HASBLO

  22. Not to say I told you so, but this same thing happened last year with King Greyskull. People were buying 25-30 at a time and most were vendors. I don't know hy Mattel allows that, or why they offer such strict rules on the stuff to begin with…

    But I know tons of people are growing tired of Mattel's games. Even the biggest Hasbro haters in the world have to realize they do not treat their fans like that.

  23. THe books could be explained away as he had 10-15 people getting two apiece for him. But I have yet to figure out a legitimate explanation for the CASES of figures I'm seeing there with my own little eyes.

    I think this photo is going to be iconic, a picture demonstrating not just Mattel's mistakes, but what's gone wrong with the whole convention exclusive concept. What was once a nice novelty to take home from a fun convention has become a beast unto itself, and it's taking some of the fun out of the hobby.

    The whole justification companies give for exclusives is "creating buzz." Well, they sure succeeded in that respect this time around, didn't they?

  24. There's a rumor Mattel won't have any product on hand today (they won't have a new shipment until tomorrow). If true, that's pretty damned awful for anyone who's coming for just Friday. And holy crap, Saturday will be a f***ing zoo.

  25. On the plus side that should make the Matty Panel on friday a little spicy for those eager to share their thoughts with Toy Guru and the rest of them.

    We may get to see a live Matty lynching tubed out of SDCC…..and it couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.

  26. How can Mattel not have any product on hand? Even if they sold out of everything yesterday, which I can completely understand, how can they not have any merch available at all?! I have a feeling the Mattel booth is going to be Ground Zero at the SDCC…

  27. 1st let me say that Im a true figure collector of all sorts. Like many of you when I start a series of figures I aim to have a complete set, includng all exclusives. So when I made plans to get the wonder twins set at comic con today (7/24/09) I was excited. After pushing myself through the crowds to get to the Matty collector booth (Mattel booth) I had no idea how it worked, 2 lines filled with people that were unsure wheather they were in the right line, some with a come back later ticket (a fast pass of some sort) with no idea of how to use it, and me just another collector trying to get theres.

    I got in line at 10:30 am, after 25 minutes of waiting in a line that was suppose to lead to the line for matty collector (supposively)I hear we are sold out of the DCUC Wonder Twins, and MOTUC figures. My first thoughts were "I just got here"! They said we might have some later (which they didnt)or come back tomarrow, well guess what I cant because its a one day pass like most people here.

    I had plenty of money to spend,

    I wanted my free gleek with purchase, and add your figure to the colection. This is ridiculous, there was no organization, the con had alot of pro's but just as many con's,Mattel, your first dissapointment came from poor figure distribution, 2nd was the painted stuck joints, 3rd was he Walmart exclusive wave 5, which Im still missing the Atom w/ piece, now this garbage at the comic con which lasted all day. Get organized, and keep better order as who is selling your stuff at a higher price right next to you!

  28. The whole situation was ludicrous. I wound up having to bribe someone in line with $5 to buy Beastman, Skeletor, He-Man and He-Ro for me.

    As for the Wonder Twins, I was "fortunate" to find someone at a booth selling them with Gleek for $50. I gladly paid the extra $10 rather than brave Matty's line again.

  29. Well that was my picture. I took it, around 8:30, as I was going up to the Mattel booth to find out what they were going to do about ALL of the people still in line that were in no way getting to buy anything that night. After I spoke to the guy with the goatee and red shirt, I turned to leave the booth, and that guy was standing there, with his haul. I heard him CLEARLY say "I'll be selling this all at my booth on Saturday." So I took a picture of him. I'm calling this s*&^ out. I can tolerate MANY things. Two things I can't are hypocrisy – and bad customer service.

    The people around me in line all know me. I was very vocal about my dissatisfaction. I'm a professional. If I did my job that poorly- I'd be fired. There was no excuse for that disaster.

    AND another thing. I was present for every drawing of the Anti Monitor. One guy won THREE of them. One on Thursday and two on Sunday. And when I said to the girl… you put caps on limited items, and you didn't specify one Anti-Moniter per winner? And she said – "There was 5 he didn't win" And that summed up the mental capacity of the hired help.

    Another thing that few people are talking about. They sold out of Gleeks before they sold out of Wonder Twins… I wonder how much the booth workers were charging for extra Gleeks!

    I was lucky. I got everything I wanted, including the book. I bought CONSIDERABLY less than the limit for everything.

    But compared to the management of the Hasbro Booth, Mattel's looked like it was run by Blue space chimps!

  30. Thanks for stopping by, Ted–appreciate the eyewitness testimony!

    Frankly, I'm surprised no one's tracked down this guy's name and store and posted it online. Not that I'm advocating harassing the guy, it just seems like something that irate, Internet-savvy fanboys would have done.

  31. @Poe: I would not advocate harassment either, fans can be pretty vicious. Do you recall what happened when someone "dropped" their business card in the action figure aisle (I think around GI Joes) and what ensued was a barrage of harassing telephone calls….

    That said, certainly if we knew what his business was or who he worked for people could boycott him. I'm surprised someone didn't follow him and find out where his booth was so people would protest or something! 😉

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