So yesterday sucked.
I considered writing a super-snarky, profanity-filled rant, but then I remembered something. When I was six years old, I went to my cousin Mike’s birthday party, where he received the original Battle Cat as a gift. I didn’t have one yet, and being six, I sulked and threw a fit because he had one now and I didn’t. Basically I was a brat about it. But our parents learned their lesson, and that Christmas, when Mike and I opened our presents from each other’s families, we both got the MOTU Battle Ram.
It’s now 25 years later, and I think I’m a bit too old to throw a temper tantrum about not getting a Battle Cat. So I’m not going to. I got one off eBay for more than I wanted to spend but less than I would have spent had I waited another half hour.
(And let’s take a moment before indulging in an orgy of complaining about toys to remember the real disasters.)
Anyway, I do want to briefly outline my experience yesterday. I logged on to Mattycollector around 11:50 and immediately got the refresh screen. When I finally got through about five or ten minutes after, I put two Trap Jaws, four Battle Cats, one Man-At-Arms, two display stands and one Joker into my cart. (All the extra stuff was for friends.)
Here’s what I think happened. First off, I think there was some sort of screw-up with Man-At-Arms, so the system thought he wasn’t in stock for a few minutes past the hour. So that caused my first error, where Mattycollecto claimed something in my order wasn’t in stock.
On the second or third time I tried to submit my order, Trap Jaw had sold out. And by the time I figured that out and tried to put my order in again sans Trap Jaws, Battle Cat had sold out.
Here’s the funny part. On the advice of Rob from Topless Robot, I then went to BigBadToyStore to try to order a Battle Cat from there. I threw one in my cart, but by the time I hit “submit” guess what? Sold out.
I then went to eBay, where I barely managed to get in on an auction before all ten the guy had were gone. I ended up not paying quite double the price for Battle Cat, which seems almost like a victory at that point.
If there’s anything more annoying than a minor disaster like this, it’s everyone knowing it’s going to be a disaster and then having it happen anyway. Mattel has no exuses for how badly yesterday went. Seriously, in their rush to get their order through, how many people even used that coupon? I would have happily preferred a chance to pay full-price ahead of the mob than a coupon for eight bucks.
It’s not like this sort of thing is that unusual. Anyone who buys tickets for popular concerts or sports teams has been through this. The difference is those companies have worked out some relatively fair ways to handle these situations, such as waiting rooms and queues. At the very least, they’ve thought about it. And certainly anyone who has made some sort of prior financial committment–such as season tickets or oh, I don’t know, subscribers–get at least a small advantage over the general public.
For what it’s worth, here’s how I think Mattel should have handled this sale:
- They should have offered a brief half-hour window of pre-sale for subscribers, who have put their money on the line for stuff sight-unseen and proven their loyalty to the line. But that would have required some sort of special password-protected ordering page (with one unique password per subscriber, like the coupons), and I’m sure such incredibly advanced technology is far beyond the abilities of Digital River.
- They should have limited Battle Cats to no more than four five or six per order. I know many fans, especially international fans, get together to order multiples to save on shipping, but ten seems like a sop to scalpers.
OK, so that was mildly snarky, but it wasn’t profanity filled and I’d argue that describing it as a rant would be hyperbole. But take from it what you will.
The good news is I don’t see this happening again (unless Mattel makes a Castle Grayskull). Yes, there will be competition for Tytus and Gy-Gor, and certainly King Grayskull, but I doubt we’ll ever see something this bad again. Trap Jaw and Battle Cat are must-haves for even casual fans of this line. Aside from a new Castle Grayskull, I’m not sure there are any more iconic characters that will draw this sort of crowd.