Friday, June 13, 2008

The Voice Of The Collector

I remember walking to the store with my uncle when I was 5. He would buy tons of Topps, and I would buy as many Garbage Pail Kid packs as I could afford. I don’t know that I ended up with any baseball cards out of those trips. I also remember when I was 9 years old receiving a “Baseball Collecting Starter Kit” with a bunch of the 1987 Hygrade cards of Baseball Legends. But, I don’t think that these were the first cards that I ever owned. I really don’t remember when, who, or what I started collecting. I just know that I fell in love with baseball cards one day.

I disagree with the “dark ages of baseball cards” statement made in Mario’s most recent post. I think this is, by far, the greatest time ever in the hobby. Technology in card production, accessibility in the form of the internet, Game Used Memorabilia embedded in cards, and (gulp) variations and printing plates bring a newness to the hobby that have made it better than ever. I own a Babe Ruth Jersey card. I have an “on card” auto of Griffey, Jr., a legend that I may never have a chance to meet. Who could have dreamed it would come to this?

But this is where I disagree with the sentiment that “complaining” can be a bad thing. I have a young manager that works for me. Yesterday I made the comment that he complains about everything, no matter what. He stated that he just gets frustrated when it rains and he wants sun, or vice versa. I told him, “That’s not wrong. You just have to bring a set of clothes for both.”

If you’re going to complain, you better be ready to defend your beliefs. Expect opposition. Expect that people are going to say, “Get over it.” Personally, I hate complainers. I can’t tell you how many customers that I’ve “fired” at my restaurant simply because we can never seem to make those individuals entirely happy. I have asked quite a few customers over the years, “If we can’t satisfy you, then why do you keep coming back? If I were you, I wouldn’t waste my money somewhere that I never received satisfaction over my purchase.”

Would you believe that EVERY single one of those customers are now some of my best? Why? One gentleman would get so angry that he would almost curse my employees on every visit. I confronted him with this question, and now he never leaves my restaurant without tipping. He rarely complains, and, when he does, it’s more valid. Why?

This customer and many others that I’ve spoken with realize that I don’t want their money if they’re not happy. I’ve never said “don’t come back because you complain to much” or “get over it.” I’ve simply said, “Quit paying me! I obviously can’t make you happy.” They realize where my intentions are, and they love that someone cares that much about their experience. All they want is for someone to listen and someone to care.

I say that I hate complainers. Yet, if you’ll look to the right, you’ll see an entire “Division” devoted to “Gripes.” How can that be? Am I a hypocrite? I don’t think so. I’m the type of person that if I’ve come to the point of complaining about something, then I’ve come to the point of wanting resolution.

To Upper Deck, Topps, Tristar, Fleer, Donruss, Score, Beckett, Tuff Stuff, Sports Collector’s Digest, I ask the following question, “Are you guys listening?” WE ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS. WE PAY YOUR ELECTRICITY BILL EACH MONTH. Without US, YOU go under. The hobby, unfortunately, goes under with it, and that part scares me. You need me. I don’t need you. Granted, I want you because I love the hobby with all of my heart and all of it’s quirks. The good far outweighs the bad. But, in the truest sense, every collector could walk away tomorrow. The only person hurting would be the companies.

Now, this ideal shouldn’t breed a “me, me, me” mentality in anyone. I used to hate the commercials where the customer gets anything they want simply because they are the customer. Too many people abuse that philosophy. I’m the type of manager that I have no problem explaining that “anything you want” has limitations based in reality. If we mess up your $50 order, I’m not going to give you two cookies and say, “Sorry.” But, then again, if we forget your two cookies, I’m not going to say, “Here’s your $50 meal for free” either. Common Sense and Logic.

There are two types of complainers. The first type loves the sound of their whiny voice more than anything in the world. No matter what is happening, they’re complaining. Most of my mom’s family is this way. Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh was this way. I think that Shredder from the Ninja Turtles kinda fits the mold as well.

But, fortunately, there is a second type of complainer. Me.

Maybe some of you fall into this category. The type that complains because they love something so much that they demand perfection. Those individuals so embedded in something that it literally “hurts their feelings” when they see something wrong with it. Another one of my managers, Janee’, complains with the best of them. But, only because her heart is in her job, and she wants true resolution when there are problems.

I can’t sit idly by when I hear so many collector’s complain about various aspects of the hobby. Especially when I feel that some of the issues being complained about could literally be detrimental to the hobby. Complaint without action is a waste of time. If you don’t like it, don’t just whine about it, do something.

I mentioned in my first post that I would be writing my mission statement post very soon, and 19 posts later, here it is. I couldn’t post my mission statement back then because I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do when I began Treasure Never Buried. Now, I think I do.

I’m not afraid to be the spokesman to the companies about our problems. We’re the customer. I’ve spent my entire life in the customer service industry, and I know what it takes keep to them coming back to my store. I think I know what it takes to keep people in the hobby, as well. I’ve read my own story about leaving and coming back to the hobby 1,000 times since last year. I’ve read it through your posts and comments on various collecting blogs around the net. Many of you have said the same thing:

I got out because of _________. I came back because of __________. (optional - I will leave if _________ or ________ does/doesn’t happen.)”

I’m not saying I’m going to email Upper Deck simply because someone doesn’t like variations. But, show me where you think it’s “hurting” the hobby, and I’ll write about it on our behalf.

I love Game-Used relic / patch cards, but I feel that, at the current pace, they’ve diluted what began as a great thing. My solution? Slow back the production on these items. Go back to the “less is more” strategy. Take them out of both base set series of Topps and Upper Deck, but leave them in Finest and Premier. Make them “worth” something again. To me, worth doesn’t mean money in this case. Does every single set need these high end inserts?

I love pack inserted Autographs, but I feel that it’s taken away from the magic of what an autograph really is. My solution? Throw your sticker sheets away! “But, it’s hard, time consuming, and costly to get on-card autos.” Great! Do it exclusively on-card anyway. Nobody likes these sticker autos. If Random Player Jones/Smith/Williams is a difficult signer, then don’t worry with their autos. Their fans will get frustrated, because there are no inserted autos in the products. They’ll realize they’re favorite player is a pompous punk; they’ll move on to a true collector’s player like Andrew Miller; and, their original guy will never get voted All-Star by the fans because there won’t be any. Besides, Mario needs another Bourn auto like I need another Game Used Lasting’s Milledge. On a side note, the crappy quality of sticker autos is a personal issue of mine. My Matt LaPorta PROjections auto has the ink from the sticker that was above it leaking into the one I pulled. Wonderful.

As a player collector, you might love variations. I hate them. I am a completist, through and through. I want ALL of Manny’s cards. I want all of Kenny Lofton’s cards. My solution? Take the variations out of the low-end base sets. I don’t need the Topps Base, Gold Foil, Gold Label, Black, Red, Blue, Refractor, of a Topps Base Set. Leave that to UD Masterpieces.

I love “pulls / hits” in general. Read my last post and you’ll see that I have yet another “Gripe” with this subject as well. My solution? Read the previous post.

If I’m coming across as angry, I assure you, I’m not. Mario, I’m not taking offense to your post, and I don’t look at it as a personal attack based on my previous post. I look at it as two valid arguments for each side. WaxHeaven has been the voice of the hobby for almost a year, and with good reason. And that isn’t going to change until Mario decides to retire, which I hope happens 3 weeks after never. TNB doesn’t even have shot at becoming what WaxHeaven has become until Waxheaven leaves. And, maybe not even then.

Treasure Never Buried isn’t, can’t be, and won’t be a WaxHeaven ripoff, though. I just can’t do it. I don’t think Mario would want it that way, either. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have linked to TNB in His Top 7. If I don’t quit complaining I’m afraid he might replace me though…haha. But, if so, then I understand. Treasure Never Buried was created with the intent of doing everything it can to keep people from leaving the hobby and to get as many people back into the hobby as possible.

The official Mission Statement of Treasure Never Buried is this:

“I will NEVER advocate something I don’t believe in. I will NEVER complain unless I feel that there is a solution. I will NEVER stop loving Baseball or the Baseball Card hobby. I WILL stay true to myself and my ideals. I WILL represent the hobby through this site to the best of my ability.”

I will NEVER be WaxHeaven and I’m proud of that. Believe me, I read WaxHeaven the way that Billy Graham reads the King James Version. I’m a devout WaxHeaven Junkie and I will be until the day it goes away. That being said, I’m also a devout Mario Alejandro fan and will follow his writing wherever he goes. I feel eternally grateful to have considered him a friend and colleague.

One of my favorite quotes is, “What you permit you promote.” If you allow something through inaction, it’s the same as advocating it. I hope that I don’t lose any readers over this ideal, but that’s just the way that I am. I am in no way making the claim that ANY other baseball card blogs out there are doing something to the contrary. I think we all have the same agenda in writing as we do in collecting. We all have our own opinions and you’re cheating yourself if you don’t stick to them. You’re also cheating yourself if you’re too big of a person to admit when you are wrong and change your opinions if the opportunity presents itself. I’ll never be too big to admit when I’m wrong.

I do love the hobby. It’s just that I love it so much that if the card companies are doing more to hurt the hobby than to help it, I want to do my part to police them back into satisfying the customer.

I want to insure that my grandchildren will love this hobby as much as I do one day. I want to insure that it’s still there for them to love. And, if by chance, there are more people that feel this same way, I want to help revolutionize the next generation of this hobby. I want the voice of the customer, our voice, to be heard.


Dan Waldron said...

June 13, 2008 at 6:16 pm e

Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

Joe said...

June 14, 2008 at 12:36 am e

Great read!
I see you may not be a Wax Heaven rip off but you are definitely a Cincy Reds Cards rip off with that Griffey posted on her. Be glad I am not a copy write lawyer.

Dave said...

June 14, 2008 at 4:07 am e

So you’re a manager at a McAlister’s deli? I didn’t realize that McAlister’s existed outside of North Carolina. It is a great place to eat :)

jv said...

June 14, 2008 at 4:40 pm e

Thanks, Joe! You had me thinking I was going to prison for it…haha… I’m not on the up and up on copyright laws so I was thinking you might be on to something… Thanks for the comment. Gave me a good laugh in the end…

Yeah, Dave, I’ve been the Assistant General Manager for the last 3 and 1/2 years. We’re finally getting some more stores open this year so I should be moving up to the driver’s seat of the Byram, MS location within the next few months. I can’t wait! And yes, McAlister’s Deli is a great restaurant. In all honesty, I’ve worked for MANY different restaurants over the last 15 years. McAlister’s Deli has been my longest run at 4 years and I have never once gotten tired of the food. McAlister’s has the best variety of any of our competitors… Sorry, eat at Mc’s plug is over…lol

Patricia said...

June 15, 2008 at 5:19 pm e

That Babe Ruth jersey card is one of the coolest I’ve seen. Ev. er.

jv said...

June 16, 2008 at 3:09 am e

I love it! One night after work I went to Wal-mart and bought a blaster box. I was ripping packs driving the back roads home and I felt the jersey under my finger. I turned on the light and saw it and I almost ran off the road. I started screaming and freaking out! I look at this card just about every day!

Joe said...

June 16, 2008 at 8:31 am e

Byram? You’ll be a few hours from my hometown of Bay St. Louis. Not as pretty since Katrina but nice place. Make sure you go down to the Coast for a day of two and relax. I would suggest the Grand in Biloxi. Plenty of stuff for the family and a 4 star spa for the lady in your life. Plenty f couples with children go there for weekends from the Coast just for a break. Local card shop - Gulf Coast Sports Cards in Edgewater Mall 15 min from the Grand in Biloxi. Tell em Joe the Barry Larkin collector sent you.

Vicksburg can be fun for the family. The Civil War park is a great slice of nature and the city has great festivals throughout the year.

And let me know if you want to trade that Ruth card. I have a great PSA 9 1986 Donruss Pete Rose. Would be tough giving it up but I can be persuaded.

jv said...

June 16, 2008 at 9:47 am e

We thought about going to St. Louis this past March for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We ended up in Houston, TX instead. I’m taking a week’s vacation next week and if we decide to go somewhere (gas prices might hinder it) St. Louis is way up on the list.

Mario A. said...

June 16, 2008 at 9:49 am e

Awesome story, thanks for the kind words. It took me a while to read it but I am glad I finally did. You are definitely one of the best in the Blogosphere. I am very picky about who I add to the Top 7 because it’s pretty much the 7 blogs I read daily, 7-10 times a day if I have to.

Keep up the great work and that is one beautiful Ruth. You have the magic touch when it comes to wax for sure!

jv said...

June 16, 2008 at 9:17 pm e

Joe, my wife pointed out that I misread your comment. I didn’t see the BAY in Bay St. Louis. Sorry… No offense but I’ve never considered going there for a wedding anniversary…lol…