Dear Sports Card Companies in 2013

Dear Sports Card Makers of all Shapes and Sizes:

These issues need to be addressed.  If I do not see progress toward these fronts I will personally raise these questions at the 2013 Las Vegas Industry Summit, the 2013 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago and on your favorite social media venue of choice. I have spent the better part of my life involved in the sports card industry.  In the glory years of the 1990's I sorted cards in the back of a bustling California card store. In the early 2000s I was a "pajama retailer" - selling boxes on eBay of 1996-97 Finest Basketball and 2003-04 NBA products to make extra money while in college. In 2008 I went broke with my brother running our own card shop for two years. Down and out in 2008 my brother started Sports Card Radio while I went to work managing a medial office....... In late 2009 I "retired" and began working on Sports Card Radio and a number of other sites my brother created. In 2012 over 1.3 million people visited Sports Card Radio making it one of the most viewed sports card sites on the internet. All of the work on the site is done by either myself or my brother Colin. We've turned down countless requests for advertising in an effort to keep the information bias free.  We didn't create this site to sell ads or make friends with card companies. We created this site for collectors and their interests.

I've seen card companies, and more importantly, customers of sports cards dwindle from those early 1990's glory years.  Which isn't necessarily a negative thing. Those years in the 1990's were unsustainable from a business perspective, and was a bubble that was bound to pop.  In 2013 people still love collecting cards. It's just more niche and specialized.  I love people who geek out about sports cards. I'm a fellow sports card geek who happens to also like aggregating information for people to enjoy for years to come. A blessed sports card geek in a way. Because I certainly have the time to travel to Vegas, travel to Chicago, travel anywhere I need to in 2013 to make sure these issues at the very least get addressed. 
 
 

1) Do NOT address customer service issues with "Well this is not my department...."

Topps Customer Service

   
From what I can gather Anne made a purchase on ShopTopps and ended up being shipped the wrong item. She originally posted on Topps Facebook on December 6th, 2012 to no response. She posted again on December 19th which got this reply from the administrator of the Topps Facebook. She also stated that she had been repeatedly calling customer support on the phone to no response. The item she ordered was going to be a Christmas present.

Don't do this:
- If you are the administrator of a company Facebook page, and post under the company name, then customer service is your department. Point blank period. Post under your own name if you want to say things like "this is a completely different department." Do not post under the company name and say that to a paying customer. That should be common sense. 
   

 
2)  You need to give people a choice when you can't redeem redemption cards 
   
Open just about any product now and collectors will have a good shot at pulling a redemption card. There is also a decent chance that the card company will not be able to fulfill that card. More often then not, redemptions are for autographed cards. Sometimes, companies cannot get the athlete to sign their cards and that might be totally out of the card manufactures control. Athletes can be lazy (about signing cards) or hard to track down. Collectors by and large (have come to) understand that. Topps Redemption
 

But here is what card manufactures don't understand. Don't just dig through a box, find a "Beckett valued" equivalent card and send that as a replacement for an un-fulfilled redemption.  That's a joke.  You realize that people live and die by some of these cards? They wait and wait for the card of their favorite player to come redeemed in the mail. When you can't come through for your customer, bend over backwards for them, or don't put the damn redemption cards in packs. Give them choices when you can't redeem a card. Don't disappoint them by you arbitrarily picking a replacement for them.  They didn't win that redemption card in a contest. They bought that card with their own hard earned money.  Now card companies you need to earn your money. The way you deal with redemption cards you can't fulfill is a joke. Fix it.

As a side note - the other issue is the cards having an expiration date all together. I've heard this question get raised many a times at many different venues and never gotten a great answer. I'll see what I can do in 2013 to get a clear picture.


 
   
3) Stop letting product hit retail (Target/WalMart) before hobby shops get it 
   

This issue is what helped me go broke back in 2008 running a card shop. I remember people telling me about finding 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter at retail 2 weeks before I could get it. Now you see it happen all the time, mostly with Topps products. Any retail heavy product, Topps Series 1, Bowman, Topps Update, etc can be found at place like WalMart before hobby shops get their boxes. It's a slap in the face to those shop owners. Because they get their customers wondering why "you don't have it but Target does." 

WalMart Stock
I get how Target and WalMart pushes out product. I was a manager at Target. Time sensitive material like Video Games, Music CD's, DVD's, were stored in this locked environment until release day.  You can't do that with baseball cards. It's just too expensive and Topps, Panini and Upper Deck don't really care.  But your dealers do. Ship the Target/Walmart crap out after the Hobby stuff. You can do that. You can control what gets shipped when.
  
4) You got to do something about these sticker autographs 
   

They look weak. And..... in 150 years will that sticker autograph still be attached to the card?  How strong is the glue you know what I'm saying?  I know that is the furthest thing from your mind. But geeky dorks like me actually think about how these cards will be perceived long after I'm gone.  The reason for the stickers is obvious. It cuts costs and allows you guys to crank out the required sets per sport.  But they are potentially worthless cards, literally, if the glue ever wears out on those sticker applied autographs.

Elton Brand Sticker Autographs
You don't want to make on-card autographs. It's too much work. Way too much work. Every damn card needs to be approved by the league. Cards need to be printed in advance and it's real easy to just go to that file with 1,000 Ryan Broyles stickers with autographs on them. It's easier for the athlete as well. He/She just signs a bunch of stickers and is paid and done.

But when is crap just crap? When has a sticker autographed card looked nice? Talk to the people who have your license. The NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL. Plead with them. Tell them you are making products just to compete and crank out 18 sets a year per sport. Tell them you need on-card autographs. Have that conversation. See what they can do. Can they be of any help?

 

5) Treat people with respect and reach out to dealers not on social media

   

Seems obvious. But just do a quick glance at company Facebook and Twitter (gloss over all the free swag being given away) and look at some of the customer complaints. Many go un-answered.  I've seen numerous, what I'd characterize as rude, comments by company employees on Twitter. Search sports card forums like Blowout Cards and Freedom Cardboard for "Customer Service" and read for yourself how some long time collectors get treated.

It's gross. People who spend thousands of dollars get no response. But companies continue to give away stuff on social media daily while redemptions go un-fulilled, questions remain un-answered in company inbox's and nobody is picking up the phone.  How about this, a little less stroking yourselves off on social media and a little more grassroots. I never got free boxes when I owned my hobby shop. Spent thousands a month. Was broke all the time. Never got a phone call from a card company. Never got a letter. Nothing. If they had Twitter and Facebook back in 2006-2008, I wouldn't have had the time to follow that stuff. I was trying to grind out $3,000 a month just to break even. Twitter and Facebook don't cut checks.  I can personally guarantee everyone, Twitter and Facebook has never cut a card company a check for any amount. Dear card companies, you have to reach out to these people who are grinding online or at a hobby shop. Make them feel good. Give them a surprise email. An out of the blue phone call.  Don't wait for them to at tweet you. Stop worrying about "the next set" for a second.  These guys are selling the stuff that's out now. Granted - you the card company has already proclaimed "sold out at the factory" but show some respect to these people who are grinding away selling this stuff.

I'd pull my hair out if I still had my hobby shop. Since I stopped selling product, stress has virtually vanished from my life. I don't worry about margin, or how I'm going to come up with that $1,500 retail rent.......... which is just the start to the bills card shop owners pay. These same card shop owners and online retailers will pay $400 a head just to get into the Las Vegas Industry Summit. I've been to the Vegas Summit twice and the card company employees always put on a good face in front of the hard working dealers. Say some of the right things.  But there are too many issues that keep cropping up each year. Redemptions, sticker autographs, lack of communication with dealers and customers.  The latter being the most important to me. It bothers me that people routinely have poor customer service interactions with card companies. Most of the issues never get brought out into the forefront.

I have a tremendous amount of time to monitor these issues to see if they are getting addressed.
Ryan Tedards