Monday, July 12, 2010
Fear and loathing in my LCS
I think I've struck upon the reason why I have issues with my local card shop. It's not necessarily the prices, although that plays a part as you'll see in a moment. It's not necessarily the workers' complete disinterest in cards, although they're very interested in taking your money. It's not the NASCAR jackets or the NFL bar room signs.
It's this: I have a problem with businesses that are set up like a general store in the 1880s.
Maybe this only makes sense to me, but when I made the connection it was like I had unearthed a great discovery. I then immediately knew why I had a pit in my stomach when I walked into the store and a sense of either relief or disgust when I left the store. I do not like shopping when I have to stare behind the counter at the merchandise or pepper the guy behind the counter with questions.
I do not converse and shop at the same time. Or, let's say I do not do it WELL. I don't like talking and shopping -- at least not with the person trying to sell me something. I get confused. I grew up in the department store era. You walk into the store, and all the merchandise is sitting out there for you to look at, touch, try on, bounce, kick, squeeze, whatever the heck you want to do. And you can do it for as long as you like. And there's no one staring at you while you do it.
There's no one trying to steer you into buying something else. I don't feel like I'm begging to look at something. I don't have to ask the price for everything because the price is right there for me to see, touch and eat, if I'm feeling particularly insane.
Yet, in the majority of card shops that I have been in (and that's not very many actually) just about everything is off-limits, up on a shelf, behind a counter, as if I'm purchasing cigars or girly magazines.
I'm assuming some card shops aren't like that. I know Dave and Adam's Card World in Buffalo is not like that. They have a few things behind the counter. But a whole bunch of their merchandise is on display, with prices, that you can review.
I don't have to get into a conversation with the shop owner about my likes and dislikes or why he's selling a box of Allen & Ginter for the cost of a week's worth of groceries.
I know some collectors like a set-up where you converse with the shop owner. I can see that. It's helpful at times. Especially if the shop owner likes cards. But I'm not someone who likes to make small talk. And I don't like feeling like I'm Mrs. Ingalls asking Mr. Olsen how much eggs are today and whether those cocaine toothache drops will make little Carrie's mouth feel better because we have a long journey by horse and buggy across the prairie!
Put the damn merchandise out on the floor so I don't have to ask so many questions! I'm not buying a car! They're BASEBALL CARDS. Lordy.
Plenty of department stores have no problem putting items above 100 dollars out on the floor. Now, I'm totally aware that comparing a tiny card shop with a department store is not fair and that loss prevention is a much more serious topic for a small shop than a large store. But this set-up is honestly keeping me from going in the store. I mean not everything in the store is that much money anyway. There are 4-dollar packs everywhere.
That's why I enjoy the little discount bowl of cards that sits on the floor in front of the counter. I can grab the packs that I want, no need for questions (although they don't have prices on them either).
So, the bowl is where I started when I stopped by this weekend. I grabbed four more packs of 2002 Topps Gallery because it's about the only thing in the bowl that I like. I didn't get anything great. Just a Dodger that I needed:
OK, so then I braced myself for searching out some new stuff. I asked if they had 2010 Finest. Nope.
2010 Bowman? I knew the answer was going to be nope for that. And it was.
2010 Chicle? Nope. I'm pretty sure the guy didn't know what that was.
2010 Pro Debut? Hey, I was willing to try a pack. But they didn't have any.
He was the weekend guy, so I gave him a little slack. He said all they had was base Topps and Upper Deck and they just got some Allen & Ginter in. I was momentarily stunned. The most recent product on the market was in the store? How unlike them.
I squinted to try to see the price sticker off in the distance on the two A&G boxes. Was that $159.99?
"Yup," the guy said. "One hundred and sixty. Because Strasburg is in it."
Oh, yeah, that Strasburg guy. I wonder if he knows he's being blamed for price-gouging.
I immediately told him that I got a box for 84 dollars right before Strasburg's first start in the majors. What I should have said was that at this very moment you can order a box of A&G for under 100 bucks.
But it wouldn't have mattered. The guy responded with, "Oh yeah?" and I couldn't tell if he didn't believe me or didn't care. He was just the weekend guy. Totally disconnected.
He wasn't going to break up a box, but I was determined to buy something new of hobby quality and hopefully nab a hit or two. So I decided to grab a few hobby packs of Topps Series 2, threw down too much money, and went to ripping.
I didn't get a single relic or autograph.
I didn't really care about that if I could have come very close to finishing off the Series 2 set. But out of the four 50-card packs that I bought, I pulled dupe after dupe. I don't even know how many I pulled because they're all stuffed in the doubles box. But I do know I still need 59 cards to complete the set. The new want list is up.
That was what annoyed me the most. I paid a lot of money -- from my perspective -- in an attempt to come close to finishing off the final third of the set. And I'm way off.
Also, while I'm in a crank-rant, here's another thing about the set that's begun to bother me. I didn't even notice it until Peterson of Sign Here ... and Here brought it up.
He mentioned that Topps appears to have done something to lighten the faces of the players to bring out their expression. Caps or helmets naturally darken faces, and low-riding caps popular with today's player, darken faces even more. (By the way, Topps refrained from doing this with the Joba Chamberlain card -- apparently to continue the legend of Joba, which we all know now is a fantasy).
He said that it made the faces look grainy. Disney-esque, he said. I went back and looked at my cards. I thought he had something there. But I wasn't sure about the reference to cartoon characters. Until I pulled the Omir Santos card out of my pack.
I stared at the card and thought: "That doesn't even look like a real face. It looks like a cartoon face! It looks like they put another face on a player's body. ... Wait -- Peterson was right!"
This little bit of insight has tarnished 2010 Topps for me. I don't like this development at all. I'll press on with completing the set. But between the collation and the constant toying with photos, I'm starting to wonder whether collecting 2011 Topps base is a good idea.
Anyway, here are the highlights of those hobby packs:
Three of those Vintage Legends things. All they're doing is keeping me from completing the base set.
This is pure evil. I pull three 2020 players who are on teams that are direct rivals of the Dodgers? I also pulled Buster Posey from a cereal box a couple weeks ago. So I have three freakin' Giants. I can't even trade those things because, understandably, no one likes them.
This is the highlight of the packs. It's one of the short-print cards and a very nice photo. But I'm pretty certain this card is headed for beardy in an attempt to land whatever Dodger hit he's pulling today.
If my speedy research is correct, this was a play at third base during the seventh inning of Game 1 of the 1971 American League Championship Series. The game, a 5-3 win by the Orioles, was played at Baltimore and featured a four-run seventh inning. In that inning, Robinson walked to lead off the inning, went to second on a single by Brooks Robinson, then went to third on a fly ball to right field by Andy Etchebarren, which would be this play here.
Actually, the highlight of the packs for me was the Andre Ethier Peak Performance card at the top of the post. It looks very All-Star-ish, which is appropriate on All-Star eve, as he will be the N.L.'s starting right fielder.
So, on this day in which I've pretty much sworn off my card shop and soured on 2010 Topps, I'll remain positive from this point forward and focus on a National League victory Tuesday.
See? I can be cynical, cranky and hopelessly hopeful all at the same time. The many moods of night owl.