Greed + No Education - Soap = BAD.
There's a few things thirteen-year-olds should never become
involved with. Drugs, sex, Yogi Berra biographies, and stupid
trenchcoat mafia toy scalping bastards.
Friends, I was once thirteen. It was a long time ago of
course, me being 67 and all, but I remember *this* experience
with more vividity (I think I just made that word up) than
I care to admit. You see, I was raped by the toy
scalpers. And I'll never forgive them for exploiting my
innocent interest in collecting obsolete and overpriced
action figures. They jaded me - they took me in and turned
my visions and outlooks on life into something blacker than
Regina Hall's ass. Today I tell my story
- today I get it off my chest.
Okay, first, the definition. A toy scalper isn't a guy who
chops the hair off Barbie dolls and mimics Cripsin Glover's
memorable performance in Charlie's Angels. A toy
scalper is a guy (or in rare cases, a fat bald woman) who
buys highly sought toys from the stores at retail cost and
then marks them up to unfathomable, ridiculous prices. Now
I know what you're thinking - this is just about those stupid
action figures I talk about endlessly on the site that provide
entertainment for nobody but me and the five people reading
who understand what I mean when I infer that the Centurions
couldn't have possibly been very buoyant. You've experienced
the phenomenon too...ya just don't know it.
We got any parents in the HIZOUSE? If so, remember a few
years back when all your daughter wanted for Christmas was
a Tickle Me Elmo? Remember how gracious you were to shell
out more than double the retail cost to some shady villain
at a church holiday fair, almost blindly accepting the purchase
as the guy doing you a favor? Make no mistakes about
it - you just met up with a toy scalper.
In my toy experiences of yesteryear, and lord knows there's
tons, I've met many different types of sellers. Some are
just really cool fanboys who've managed to parlay their
interest into a full-fledged business the right way
- making a little cash, but not at the expense of anyone
and never outright tricking people for the fast buck. I've
kept touch with many of these guys, some of whom have been
so successful in their odd little craft that they've given
up full time jobs to do it full time. To most, this line
of work doesn't sound glamorous I'm sure. And it's not glamorous
- it's actually pretty boring, full of little nuances with
bounced checks and ripped stickers - but to us, the toy
enthusiasts, what better way to make some cash than dealing
out the very things we'd otherwise waste our money on? Ain't
nothing wrong with that, the entire freaking world was built
on capitalism. If you can make 50 bucks for a toy you paid
50 cents for - more power to ya. But there's a darker side
Some toy seller are so inherently greedy and without the
social interaction one usually needs while building up their
moral virtues that the customer is simply another test in
the quest to make as much money as possible. I know this
isn't a problem along the lines of world hunger or the horrifically
increasing amount of 'reality tv' shows popping up, but
I find something a little disgusting about a guy raiding
a toy store in early December to swipe up all the stuff
kids really want just so they can turn a profit. Parents
are suckers - I know mine were. So what we've got here are
poor people spending much more than they should, and sometimes
way more than they can afford, just so they can get their
kids what they want for the holidays. The worst part? In
doing so, they put money in the pocket of someone who's
probably only going to use it for three Taco Supremes and
a 40-ounce Bud. Scalpers suck.
Anyway, here's my story.
got into toy collecting at a really young age. I'm
not sure exactly how or why it happened, but I guess I should
be thankful because I wouldn't have much to talk about on
here besides Nicole Eggert movies if I didn't spend so much
time buying loose mailaway Cobra Commander figures. I'm
pretty sure it had to do with the ratio of Starlog magazines
to real friends outnumbered 46 to 1. Or maybe I just wanted
to play with that silly Chewbacca figure again. Either way,
by age 13 my daily life included making phone calls to every
dealer I could find, wheeling and dealing with people twice
or thrice or seventy-thousand times my age. I was in over
my head, but fortunately, most of these dealers realized
I was just an enthusiastic little kid and didn't take advantage
of the situation. I got yelled at for calling dealers a
little too often (somehow I thought these guys would want
to talk about Snaggletooth for at least an hour a day, every
day, with a thirteen-year-old stranger who overpronounced
his 'S' sounds) All in all though, the experiences proved
to be good ones: I wasn't the most social child out there,
but all these various dealings really boosted my ability
to speak without breaking down into a disconnected string
of syllables and otherwise incomprehensible gibberish.
But, as always, one bad experience soiled all the good ones.
US1 was this old flea market building opened only on the
weekends over in Jersey. It was famous for a few things,
namely the peanut vendor strategically placed outside the
exit in the ultimate impulse-buy-position who sold nuts
in a paper bag so unbelievably hot that hardcore peanut
fans had to wear gloves in the middle of summer just to
taste the honey roasted heaven. US1 had no less than 250
different vendors, selling everything from gaudy vases to
gaudy tapestries to gaudy brass elephants. The only prerequisite
it seemed for the selling block was that it had to be merchandise
everyone but Mexican gypsies would be embarrassed to display
in their homes. It also played host to the only two vintage
toy dealers that I knew about. For me, this was absolutely
thrilling. Sure the shit was expensive, but this was like
being given the end-all opportunity of walking through a
Toys R Us as it appeared in 1983.
I was tipped off to the dealers' existence by my brother,
who after watching me read price guides and shill the value
of these old plastic things had gotten moderately involved
with collecting himself. While I merely justified the spending
by saying the toys were worth that much, his plan
was to just hold on to 'em for a while for the quick buck.
Needless to say, the lure of having a Bib Fortuna in a Kenner
baggie proved too much for him, and I don't think to this
day he's sold a damn thing. Anyway, I met up with the first
dealer - complete with a bag of my own stuff as trade material,
and my life savings of a hundred bucks.
Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons? Well, for all intents,
this was him. Just add in a black trenchcoat, a heavy dose
of death metal, and the stench of rancid chicken. Somehow
the creature had a wife, but I'd bet she just wanted to
become a part of the glitzy, whirlwind world of dusty toy
flea market selling. They did have some nice stuff - items
I've only seen in toy guides up to that point. I had taken
a pretty rare Star Wars toy with me to trade for some of
his stuff - and trade we did. Thing is, I'd later find out
that I was outright swindled on the exchange - I gave him
something worth well over a hundred bucks, and in return
got a few things that I didn't even want - and based on
their value, I wasn't alone. Basically, the guy acted as
though I was being childish by not wanting to trade, and
made like he wanted to write the whole thing off in his
efforts to get my cash cow. It worked. I was 13...this guy
had to be at least 35, and roughly the size of the elusive
Himalayan Yeti. The powers of intimidation were clearly
on his side.
That's not the big incident though.
With our trade business out of the way, Scalper Scum went
back to cataloging his satanic CDs and paid little mind
to me - until he noticed me counting my money to see if
I had enough for the vintage Star Wars 12" C-3P0 and R2-D2.
I asked how much they were, and got back a shill so hardcore
than the most grizzled used car salesman would feel like
a failure. By the time this guy was through, I believed
that these figures were obviously worth several hundred
each, and were so rare that I'd never see them again. He
offered 'em up for 100 bucks. 100? I wasn't sure - that's
a lot of money to spend on two action figures...albeit two
big, beautiful, sexy action figures. Making matters worse
was the scalper informing me that the price would only be
good for fifteen minutes. Talk about a hard sale.
Like the guy really wandered around his little shack of
a store choosing which toys needed to appreciate in value
in fifteen minute intervals. Please. I'm not even sure I
believed it back then - but I ended up paying the hundred
Then I walked to the other toy dealer in the market, and
saw the exact same figures again for sale...this time, both
for 65 dollars.
With that, I took my magic beans to my older sister who
took me there and explained that I had royally goofed up.
I had just been swindled out of all the money I had. By
a guy who smelled like old chicken. She was a tad furious,
having asked the guy before she left to 'go easy on me',
and we fully expected the devil to refund all my cash. That
wasn't to be. I'm paraphrasing, but the conversation went
something like this.
Me: Hi - you know those figures I just bought? I
think I made a mistake, that's a little bit too much money
for me to spend.
Devil: You think you've got problems? I haven't seen
my dick in thirteen years.
Me: Also...I noticed that the other dealer here is
selling those figures much cheaper than a hundred dollars.
Could you at least refund the difference?
Devil: ::quickly scribbles on a Taco Bell baggie::
See this sign? All sales final!
My Sister: You know, his brother comes here every
week and buys stuff from you. Don't you think this is bad
business, you took way too much money for those figures...that's
all the money he has.
Devil: No it's not - I counted 102. He's still got
two bucks left. Gimme some credit.
Me: What's that smell?
Devil: Morphine. It usually doesn't smell, but when
you mix anything with that many Snickers bars...bad
things will happen.
Me: Look can I just have my money back?
Devil: ::grabs the nearest John Travolta Mego
figure:: Can't you see I have a customer here? John,
are you interested in any of these Desert Isle records?
My Sister: My god it stinks in here. My eyes haven't
teared this much since Dear John went off the air. Let's
get out of here.
They're just bad people. The extra 35 bucks was worth enough
to this guy to send some little kid home crying because
he just wasted all his birthday money. Over the years, I've
met many similar types. These people need to be stopped
- I have no qualms with how people make money...I myself
would rather rip off my head than work a 9-5. But some of
these guys can be absolutely vicious, like pitbulls. Pitbulls
who roll around in their own feces and drink a lot. It's
hard to stop the bad ones who sell vintage stuff, as the
prices aren't really set in stone. But you can stop the
really bad ones - the ones who take current items
and mark 'em up for your displeasure. Just follow three
1) DO NOT BUY anything that's still being sold in
stores at a marked up price from a dealer. These people
exploit and cheat the idea of supply and demand and literally
take money out of your pocket by denying you regular service
and forcing you to utilize a middle man. If enough people
stop feeding their greed, fewer of us will have to pay 60
grand for a Game Cube this fall.
2) Bring golf clubs to toy stores. If you see old guys in
trenchcoats and painter's caps stockpiling all the desired
figures into their wagons of sin, use the sand wedge to
nail them straight in the balls.
3) Blow up their houses. If you're afraid that this may
seem a tad extreme for crimes involving action figures,
just tell everyone that they were pro-life.
We live, we learn. I still have those 12" Star Wars figures...they
serve as a constant reminder to let the buyer beware. Pfft.
Who am I kidding? I just really like SW toys. It's still
a valid point though, remember it. Other hobby genres ruined
by scalpers: sportscards, beanies, Hot Wheels, Fabrege Eggs,
obscure TV guides with misprinted L&S ads, and soccer.
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