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.


Show and Tell > Jack Burton (by Jon)


And now the good MOTUC news…


  1. Motorthing

    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.

  2. Paddy Fitz

    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."

  3. Ben

    @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.

  4. prfkttear

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

  5. prfkttear

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. The Flash III

    @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.

  8. Poe

    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.)

  9. prfkttear

    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)

  10. prfkttear

    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.

  11. Motorthing

    "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.

  12. Paddy Fitz

    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.

  13. misterbigbo

    @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.

  14. prfkttear

    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.

  15. It would be nice if Mattel (and others) would honour the loyalty of its fanbase by following the rules. I mean is it so difficult to follow the rules?

  16. 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.

  17. Diego Zubrycky

    Well… It's Mattel, folks.

    It's NOT a surprise…

  18. 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.

  19. misterbigbo

    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.

  20. Paddy Fitz

    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.

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