This past Friday should have been a very good start to the weekend for Hasbro. The day before, they’d announced an exciting slate of new store exclusive figures for their 6″ scale Black Series line, all of which were going up for preorder the next afternoon at 1:00 EDT…or so we thought.
The first sign of trouble came on Wednesday, when Hasbro announced a fantastic Amazon Exclusive box set for its 3.75″ scale Vintage Collection at around 11:00 AM EDT. It went up for preorder a mere two hours later and promptly sold out in under 15 minutes, which almost never happens with Amazon. The set also carried the surprisingly high price point of $62.99, which comes out to around $15.75 per figure
Unfortunately, Vintage Collection fans (like myself) are so desperate for new and exciting products that we expect to get dumped on.
Things grew a bit more concerning on Thursday when the Black Series figures, which normally cost $19.99, were revealed to have shockingly high and wildly inconsistent price points. You expect to pay a small premium for exclusive items, but these markups didn’t make any sense:
- The Walgreens exclusive 212th Battalion Trooper cost $22.99. Fair enough.
- Each of the ShopDisney/Hasbro Pulse exclusive Power of the Force figures cost $26.99…for a repack.
- Despite both figures being Walmart exclusives (ugh), Imperial Crosshair cost $24.99 while Captain Rex, an extremely popular/main character, cost $29.99.
Combine all that with the recent “deluxe figure” pricing debacle, and you can understand why people might be a bit put off.
Also, those of you who regularly read my toy articles (HI MOM) know all about Walmart’s many issues with handling Star Wars preorders, which they have a nasty habit of canceling out of the blue.
And then there’s the weird issue of preorders going up at 1:00 EDT. Aside from the pandemic, most of us can’t get online to buy action figures in the middle of the workday. I mean, we could, but that might result in some very uncomfortable questions from our various IT departments.
Surely things couldn’t get worse, right?
Things Get Worse
As luck would have it, this past Friday was a half day (and the last day) for students in my school district. Being a teacher might not come with a lot of perks, but this time I was sure it was going to pay off.
After dismissal, I opened up my computer, went to the Walmart product pages for Crosshair and Rex, and began mashing my F5 key. Once the items popped up at approximately 1:01 PM, I put them in my cart and began to check out.
Unfortunately, both were sold out by 1:03 PM and my purchase could not be completed.
If you were in the same boat trying to get these items, then don’t worry. You can still head over to eBay right now and buy one from a scalper who used an automated purchasing bot to snag the entire stock. Just be prepared to pay $100 or more.
So that’s fun.
The Phantom Trooper
To be fair, at least Walmart wasn’t taking every preorder without concern for their stock levels and before canceling them like they usually do. In fact, this was one time when America’s Superstore wasn’t Hasbro’s worst retail partner. Their figures may have been all been snatched up by scalpers, but at least they actually went on sale.
The Walgreens exclusive Clone Trooper didn’t even show up online when it was supposed to at 1:00 PM EDT. As of Sunday evening, it still hasn’t.
This normally wouldn’t be a big issue except for the fact that obtaining Hasbro’s exclusive Star Wars items has become a digital version of the Hunger Games. If you’re not in front of a computer from 1:00 PM – 1:05 PM on a given weekday, then you have absolutely no chance of preordering one (and even then, the odds still aren’t likely to be in your favor).
Meanwhile, the three Power of the Force repacks have finally shown up on Hasbro Pulse, but are still nowhere to be found on ShopDisney.
Yes, the figures are ridiculously overpriced, but the folks who want them still should’ve had a chance to purchase them (and the retro packaging is admittedly pretty sweet).
New Hope, Same Frustration
While this isn’t the first time Star Wars collectors have been frustrated with Hasbro, the inflated prices combined with the prospect of another tone deaf “we’re aware of the issues” response appears to have been the final straw for some.
Over at Jedi Temple Archives (who made the header image and graciously allowed us to use it), Paul Harrison penned an excellent piece explaining why exclusive items are killing the enthusiasm for Hasbro’s Star Wars toylines and how they can make them work to benefit both the company and the consumer.
While I don’t 100% agree with Paul about phasing out exclusives all together (since many niche figures would not get made without them), his idea for a set preorder window makes a heck of a lot more sense than the 2 minute crapshoots that Hasbro is doing now.
Unfortunately, the comment section for Paul’s article (and another article over at Yakface) contain many frustrated collectors declaring that the hobby has become too frustrating and expensive to continue. Yes, they could simply be speaking out of anger and will be right in line for the next preorder. But as someone who frequents these websites as both a reader and commenter, trust me when I say this feels different a lot worse than just a bit of venting.
Hasbro can obviously survive losing some business from a small segment of their customer base. But why give up money that’s right there for the taking?
People obviously want to buy these figures even at inflated prices. Made to order product runs might not be possible, but a very low risk/high reward action would be to bump limited stock they do offer. The astronomical prices on the secondary market (which are still selling through and continuing to rise) prove that the sales are there for the taking. As for the bots, Walmart could combat them with the two pronged approach that Target appears to be using:
- Limit orders per customer.
- Actually put product on the shelves.
Perhaps there are complexities about this issue that I simply don’t grasp or understand. But am I crazy for thinking Hasbro could generate a decent amount of revenue simply by making figures that people obviously want available so that they can purchase them?
Whatever the case, their Star Wars brand is losing customers — not because of lack of interest, but because of lack of accessibility to purchase product. You don’t need a degree in marketing or business to know that’s both very bad and completely inexcusable.
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