Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My weakness as a collector

I just rolled back into town a few hours ago. I haven't been able to deal with much related to card collecting or blogging since late last week. I kept up with the blogs as I could, but if you held a contest or something that required my dedication, I apologize. I was too wrapped up in festivities.

I didn't even have time to set foot into the new (well, it's not "new" anymore, but as with anything "new," it remains "new to me" for months and maybe years until I can check it out) Dave and Adam's hobby shop in the greater Buffalo area.

I plan to do that next month. But over the weekend I had the chance to do only one card-related thing ... and I botched it spectacularly.

I know revealing personal weaknesses isn't exactly tradition on the blogs -- we're supposed to present an air of invincibility at all times -- but I prefer to use the blog as my travelogue through the hobby, so bear with me in my moment of weakness.

And my biggest weakness as a collector has always been impatience.

It's not really a collecting thing. It's more of a shopping thing. I'm an impatient shopper in general, unless it's one of your big-ticket items. In those times, I beat the salesman down with my methodical march to purchase. But in the hobby world, impatience rears its demanding head over and over.

I've kept it in check the last year or two. I order online a lot more, even though it's AGONIZING at times. I do not buy blasters at all unless they are marked down (and the cards don't curl). I try to focus on quality over quantity, but that's a hit-and-miss thing, and I really missed this time.

See, there is a giant flea market every Sunday in a suburb of Buffalo. I've been there only one other time, because Sunday is usually get-away day. It's amazing all the stuff that is for sale at that thing. Most of it, of course, is atrocious junk -- used DVDs for yards and yards. Food items. Way too many people buying your gold. Craft junk that doesn't even register in my field of vision.

Out of all of that -- and I'm talking one very large building and one very large parking lot -- there is just one guy selling cards. Well, there were two the last time, but I saw just one this time.

I bought a couple cards from him the last time. Nothing great. He has the usual -- star cards and some single relics and autos, and a few boxes of Bowman and Topps on display. But I spent some extra time looking because I really wanted to get something there.

Yet, even though I was there for awhile, we never had a conversation -- not even a "hello " -- because he was yacking to some other dealer about something. It went on for awhile.

I HATE this.

Then I spotted a '75 Nolan Ryan-Record breaker mini card. Oooh, I liked that. It was too expensive. But maybe I could talk him down.

Only, the two chatty guys were joined by another guy, who slammed his bag on the counter and announced what he had just bought or sold - I don't know which -- and off they went. Yack, yack, yack.

Meanwhile there was this customer. Someone obviously interested in someone's wares because he was bending over and staring in the glass display ...

Still they chatted. Yack, yack, yack.

Then I spotted something I really wanted. A Roy Campanella jersey card. Wool jersey card. Awesomeness. Also too expensive, but maybe I could talk him down on that ...

But, no. Yack, yack, yack.

They really didn't talk terribly long. A few minutes maybe. But like I said, I get impatient. It had to be obvious that I was hovering there for a reason.

I couldn't believe that during that time, the person behind the counter couldn't say, "Just a minute. Sir, can I help you find something?'"

Listen, I worked in retail quite a bit when I was younger in a few different places. I was constantly asking customers if I could help them with shirts or jeans or socks or candy or greeting cards or whatever. I would say it repeatedly and unsolicited, "Sir/Ma'am, may I help you?"

This was not my business. My name was not on a sign overhead. It was merely a part-time job. But I thought it was the helpful -- and professional -- thing to do.

Yet, they were still chatting when I left them. I exited the building. Walked past the fruits and vegetables. Walked past the carpet displays. Walked to my car. Got in. Drove out of the parking lot. Drove a half-mile down the road. Entered the parking lot of shopping center. Pulled into a parking place in front of Target. Walked into Target. And blew my money on a Topps value box and a repack rack pack.

Historically, those two items have been good to me (I will be having a contest in a week or two to demonstrate). But my luck has been running out lately and these particular items featured squat.

The Fleer Inscribed Ichiro at the top is the best thing I found.

And somewhere at the end of opening the last pack, I wished that I had the patience to wait out the chatty salesman or to actually interrupt them and say, "excuse me, but I'm interested in this Campanella card here."

But I didn't, because I was impatient and thought he should DO HIS JOB.

So instead of having two cards -- or maybe one card -- that I want, I have a bunch of cards that I don't.

This would happen a lot more to me three or four years ago. Thanks to trial and error and reading a few blog folks, I've figured it out. But every once in awhile, I slip back into my old habits.

There's one thing you can say, though, that will keep me from doing this.

"May I help you?"


  1. My collecting character flaw is basically assuming that everything that is not priced costs a million dollars. If it's not priced, I won't even look at it. I'm not the haggling type.

  2. While I sort of like being under the radar looking for cards at a card shop, when I'm ready to pay for my haul, I don't want to be stuck in nowhere land while a conversation between a shop owner and one of his regulars is blathering on and on.

  3. Like dayf, I don't look at cards that don't have a price. I figure that if I have to ask, I can't afford it. Unless there are other cards that are priced, and they're at about the right prices I want to pay.

    I don't mind being asked occasionally if I need help, or at least once, and when I'm ready to pay, I expect to be helped quickly. But I hate high pressure salespeople. They're just annoying. Some of the mall kiosk people are really pushy. I don't think I look like someone who would be interested in buying skin care products. Leave me alone!

  4. You don't necessarily have to interrupt, just wave the cards at the guy until you have his attention. Okay, I guess that IS interrupting.

  5. Interesting that I'm not the only one, but me too - if I don't see a price on a card, I won't generally ask. I don't like dealing with sales and haggling, don't see the point. Just name your price, I'll either agree or disagree with it - without your input - and either buy it or not.

    And those mall kiosks, ugh, I avoid them entirely! Do I look like I need zit cream, eyebrow pulling, skin abrasives or fake steaming cigarettes?? Now, maybe if it were a cute girl selling '80's Donruss cards... I could be suckered into buying one or two...

  6. I believe its a common flaw in all collectors. Ive been in situations like that before. Nice post.

  7. I couldn't wave the cards, because they were all under glass. Couldn't get to them.

    All the cards did have prices, which is great. It's been my experience that sometimes a dealer will go down on a price if you ask. I don't haggle much because it's not my nature, but I will ask if I really want the card.

    I like a simply "may I help you." After that, leave me alone unless I ask for more assistance.

  8. I work once a month at my LCS and pride myself on my customer service... There isn't a ton of traffic and most of the afternoon last time I spent watching the Sandlot on the little TV in the corner in between the occasional person wandering in with a stack of bent up 1987 Topps cards for sale... I love it when an actual collector comes in and I will talk their ear off, but if somehow I get 2 customers in the store at once I immediately pause the conversation with the 1st customer... I personally hate haggling, but every card in the store is marked at 50% off high Beckett value regardless on condition. When he has a card I want that is creased up and written on I hand it to the owner price label up and say "seriously?". He generally replies something like "for you, 5 bucks, you want it?". I always say "yes" regardless of whether I can afford it or not...
    When customers try and haggle with me, I mostly have to say that I can't haggle because only the owner can set the prices. When they are done and have picked out a few cards they are willing to pay the marked price for, I will generally say "hey if you still want that Pujols card I can knock off 10 bucks - I'll deal with the owner". It always works. Like you I worked part time retail as a teen and I took it really seriously even though I saw no future in it. Even if I found a Jonny Gomes 1/1 at a Flea Market - I wouldn't buy it if the owner was a total douche... Wow, was my comment longer than yer post... Gosh, I am so sorry...

  9. I can't tell you how many times I've walked away from card show dealers who didn't want to be bothered to pay attention to customers or who failed to price their merchandise.

    - Paul