Friday, December 12, 2008

Opportunity

As usual, I leave for awhile and when I return, I have a 6 page post in my head.

WARNING: Potentially Offensive Language Directly Ahead

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For almost two weeks afterwards, I couldn't fall asleep without regretting what might have been.

Late this past summer, I walked into the card shop, exchanging the usual greetings with the shopkeep. Usually, I'm the only patron there, allowing Jerry and I the chance to talk awhile. I then buy my one obligatory pack and walk out frustrated that I couldn't afford more.

I've read the question posed lately by many different bloggers, but I've yet to hear a yay or a nay on the topic. "Has the recession affected your collecting habits?" I weigh in with a resounding yes.

Mr. President Elect, I and my stagnant collection need you to fix this recession soon.

Like the thorns of a rose bush, his USPS attire stuck out (quite painfully I might add) as if the outfit were audibly screaming for an overhaul. Had it not been for the Postal Get-Up, I would have buried the incident somewhere on the back side of the temporal lobe. Somewhere alongside most of the third season of Quantum Leap and a couple of late era Jackson 5 songs.

Surprisingly, prior to this I had never been in the presence of a pack searcher, or at least not one in the act of doing so. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening to the freshly opened box of 2008 Upper Deck X, and, when I did, I was infuriated.

Even more surprisingly for me, I didn't say anything.

"So...you're the sorry sonuvabitch that's been doing it!?!"

That's what I wanted to say. That's what I should have said.

Instead, I bought the three packs in my hand that the guy hadn't yet searched, and I left the store, utterly and obviously pissed. I've yet to revisit this shop since then because, honestly, I'm going to have a few words for the shop owner for allowing this. Instead, I've gone back to buying retail.

I intended to post about this incident many, many times but always felt that it was more of the same incessant whining from me about the status of today's hobby, that it wouldn't change things anyway. Honestly, that's the reason I didn't say anything to the pack searcher. What good would it do?

Yesterday, for the first time in quite a few years, the snow that fell stuck to the ground. And, as much as I envisioned staying home with my wife and son to build our first ever snowman together, duty called. I reluctantly saddled my trusty old steed, Sunfire, built by Pontiac about 13 years ago, and headed to work.

I had a few catering deliveries that morning, one of which put me right next to a local Wal-Mart.

As I'm sure is the case with most of the Wal-Marts you've seen, the card aisle sits directly across the way from the front restrooms. As I was about to turn through the door of the little boy's room, I noticed a guy perusing the cards. I recognized him as the person who stocks the shelves.

I rifled through the mental Rolodex of faces in my head, not content to assume that this was simply the guy stocking out the new products. My curiosity consumed me. Instead of rushing back to the restaurant, I moved towards the mystery man.

When I reached the aisle, I had discarded all wondering and settled upon the obvious and evident answer. He must be the card stocker. I was further convinced of this when I noticed that he had literally hundreds of packs strewn all across the currently closed checkout counter.

I had no time and no money, but the urge to browse got the better of me. When in Rome, I suppose. I began to shop.

"But, if he's the stocker, where are the empty cases that this product is coming from?" I asked myself. "Why is he more concerned with the product on the racks? Why is he about to shelve cards that were released months ago?"

When he found me watching him, he turned and mumbled an almost inaudible "hey" in my general direction and then returned to the task at hand.

It was then that I saw the USPS logo on his shirt. It all came rushing back to me as I watched him bend the packages, searching for his coveted hits.

I could not contain myself. Before I realized what I was doing, I leaned towards him, as if to whisper a secret in his ear. But, rather than whisper, I spoke loudly at less than 6 inches from his head.

"So...you're the sorry sonuvabitch that's been doing it!?!"

That's what I wanted to say to this person all along. This time, I didn't bite my tongue.

"Excuse me?" He seemed shocked that he was being confronted in such a forceful manner.

"Excuse you? Why should I? I didn't hear you burp, you piece of fucking shit. Why don't you put the packs down and stop ripping off the 12 year olds that will come after you." I replied.

"You're just mad that you don't know how to do it." He stated, grinning as if he had won.

"No, I know how, trust me. It's just that I'm not a dirtbag, you fuckstick."

"Whatever. Feel how you wanna feel about it. I don't care. If you don't like it, that's what those boxes are for. They're safe until I figure out a way to search them, too," he professed.

A part of me wanted him to keep it coming, yearned for him to put his hands on me. I was so angry that I had begun to tremble. My temper is like a land mine buried 20 feet deep. It takes awhile to get to it, but, when you finally do, it's over. He was already 18 feet deep in a hole. Had he kept digging, he would have been 20 feet deep in an explosive ass whooping.

Instead, I walked away again. This time I had said my piece. I walked away elated that I had been afforded the opportunity to do what I had so badly wanted to do months before. But, there was less of a spring in my step with each one that I took away from his direction.

What had I accomplished? I had whetted my own appetite for retribution, but what had I done for the hobby?

I've spent hours of my life pumping out posts such as this over the last six months. I've argued the case of action vs. inaction. I firmly believe that it's worthless to sit around and verbally spew hate on the quirks of our hobby. There has to be an action that accompanies it if you want resolution for the complaint.

As the mechanical doors of Wal-Mart opened before me, I exited to find that the beautiful snow from the early morning had now turned into a stinging cold and relentless rain. Had this been 13 days ago, I could have made a nice Guns 'N Roses reference.

Sadly, I know no songs about December Rain.

I sat down in my car and felt the satisfaction of victory turn into an overwhelming sense of defeat. My words had not been enough. I felt that there was something left undone. I sprinted back towards the entrance.

As I hurried past the card aisle, I found that he was still entrenched in the center. I slid past, unbeknownst to Asshole, and located the store's General Manager.

I was now taking action.

After a few minutes of standing in Customer Service, patiently waiting for a manager, he noticed me. He then promptly paid for his packs and scuttled out the door.

When the GM arrived, we returned to the card aisle together. I relayed a CliffsNotes version of the incident, going all the way back to my first encounter with Asshole. She told me that they knew who he was but that they couldn't figure out what he was doing. They were frustrated that he was damaging the packages every time he came in.

She assured me that they would pull the surveillance tapes and seek legal action about it.

Whether or not they do, that's Wal-Mart's business. I could care less. I can at least sleep at night thinking that Asshole got his just desserts.

I wish that I had the patience and frame of mind to be as civil as my good friend was during the subject of this post.

But, alas, I must apologize and inform you that I'm not. My redneck raising has programmed me in such a manner that when confronted by an asshole, or in this case "The Asshole," you just have to be a bigger asshole.

Maybe what I've done is laughable, and maybe some will consider it over the top. I like to think that I tried. Even if nothing comes of it, I tried.

At least I'll get a good night's sleep tonight knowing that I spoke my mind.

16 comments:

White Sox Cards said...

At least you did something about it, which is more than I can say about a lot of people. The more times people speak up, the closer we will be to packs that weigh the same, look the same and feel the same.

Dave - Fielder's Choice said...

Good job, JV. But what I'm really shocked is that you drive a car made by GM that has lasted for 13 years!

Anonymous said...

Saying anything to GM does not do a thing. I'm no packsearcher but I have seen it up close, you get a manager, but the searcher pleads a case and still is able to buy the packs. To rid the hobby of this need vending machines to dispurse the cards. Until then it goes with the hobby.

jv said...

I agree Anon. But I think it's less a problem of Point of Sale and more a problem of manufacturer packaging.

jv said...

Dave, my two door Sunfire is a friggin' monster! I don't think it's ever gonna die.

Ben said...

Pack searchers suck, but are they really doing anything wrong? It's annoying as hell to see it happen, and I've seen it happen plenty over the years, but they're just the evoloved form of the kid that buys a pack from the top, digs to the middle and then one off the bottom.

I remember kids back in the wax days going into a store with a stack of cards in their pockets. They'd sit in the card aisle opening packs, looking and closing them again. If they found something, they'd set it aside and replace it with a card from their stack of doubles.

Because of that, I typically only bought cello and rack packs back in the day.

The only way to stop pack searching is to package everything in shrink wrapped cardboard boxes. But then with all the extra packaging, the price of cards will go way the fuck up.

As to your Sunfire, a friend of mine just got rid of his '93. Had almost 200,000 miles on the clock and still ran. It was a piece of crap, but not so bad for an early 90's pontiac... my mom's 92 Gran Prix's transmission fell out at 100k.

I just hit 45,000 on my '06 Impreza :(

tastelikedirt said...

excellent

Johngy said...

You might not have saved the hobby. You might not have even caused the guy any trouble. That's not the point. You spoke up and tried. It would be a better world if more people did that about more things that weren't right.
nice work!

Matt Harwood said...

Wow, way to go JV. I think pack searchers are just as bad as shop lifters. They should be arrested and have thier baseball collection taken away and given to charity.Down with the pack searchers.

dinged corners said...

jv, you, Ben and anonymous are right about where the problem truly lies. That's why I can't get too worked up about this...the pack searchers and Target employees are not the issue. The manufacturer packaging is the issue. Until the manufacturers decide it's in their best interests to fix, this will always be a problem. So if we reeeallly want a better world, everyone should stop buying sports cards until the packaging is made tamper proof.

Joey said...

I am glad you spoke up. Maybe the next time Mr. Postman is feeling up the packs someone else will say something to him. It won't change him but at least maybe the collectors can get on his nerves for a change.

Sometimes I wonder if the more trouble this becomes if the big box stores will just say forget it and stop selling cards.

A way to deter some but by all means not all pack searchers would be to put the packs behind the counter and dispense them like cigarettes.

--David said...

So, the next logical question is this: If he searches packs like this, does he also bust open 100-count boxes traveling through the mail!?

I think it was great that you not only confronted him but that you pulled the GM into it. I think it also shows a lot that she said they had watched him but couldn't figure out what he was doing.

There is a card shop about 45 miles from my house and he sells retail packs by handing the packs to the buyer. The retaail boxes are on the shelf behind him just like the hobby boxes. I think it's a great way to deter this kind of thing.

There's not a good way for Wal-Mart or Target to do this unless they moved card packs to the cigarette aisle and required customers to request the cards.

Kudos to you!!

jv said...

I agree, David. I think that's what bugged me the most during the time between the two incidences that I witnessed this.

I think it's safe to say that Mario is the most well known of all the Card Bloggers. What if this USPS guy were transferred to Florida and worked in the office where Mario's mail came through.

He could swipe packages by name recognition alone if he wanted.

I've considered taking this a step further and contacting the USPS with a complaint about this. If for no other reason than to know their stance on the issue.

ElectricFriar said...

I just wish the card companies could come up with a way to make all the packs uniform. Those white filler cards really haven't done much to deter pack searchers.

Anonymous said...

Back when I first bought cards, you could see the top card and bottom card on the rack packs through the plastic. Should I have been arrested for leaving the crap cards and buying the players I liked? Or should I have been forced to buy something I didn't want when the player I wanted was hanging on the next rack? Btw, I also turn over apples and green peppers and leave the bruised ones for the sucker that buys the top one without looking. muahah

jv said...

Anon - I've been considering the Fruit/Veggie scenario myself. And, no, I've done the same with see through packs. They are marketed in such a way as to give you a peak at what you're getting.

Knowing what's inside (partially) is part of the marketing.

And this is where I have a problem with it all. If it's this easy to do, why aren't card companies doing something to protect the integrity of their "lottery"?

I think it's because card companies are using the pack searchers as part of their marketing. They don't care who pulls what. They don't care if it's an actual collector or worthless shitbag pack searcher.

The problem is the packaging, not the purchasing.