Preorder Culture

This is a response to an article on the official TFSource blog. It’s by Maz, one of the best photo reviewers of TFs, and you should go take a look at it before reading this.

I’m responding via a blog post and not just an article comment because what I want to say about it doesn’t easily fit into a snippet. Well, it might, but you’re here and this is a blog so I might as well go into detail about it. Condensation is better left for windows, anyway.

So, about that whole preorder thing…

 

Some collectors are nostalgic for the days of hunting down items from store to store, following leads from friends or online forums, or even the days when there was no internet and each new release was a complete surprise.

I’m not one of those collectors.

The cost of gas, the anxiety and uncertainty of approaching an isle to find a schrodinger’s item, or- even worse -not knowing what items to expect for my collection… Those are aspects of collecting that I’m glad preorders have fixed.

 

Travel Time

I live a good hour away from the nearest store, which would mean a two hour investment for things that might not even be there. And that’s just getting to and from the city, so it doesn’t count how long it would take to navigate around the urban sprawl and the traffic. While a long drive can be enjoyable, dealing with the hassle of the city should involve something more than just snagging a tiny plastic giant robot for retail price.

Now when my wife and I go on a trip, if we want to go for a look around a toy store it’s a leisurely side jaunt instead of a checklist of required investigations.

And without having to fit a trip to Walmart, Walmart, Walmart, Target, Toys-R-Us, and maybe that crappy looking K-Mart that barely has a toy section anyway… Without having to fit in those, there’s more time that can be spent at the zoo or the movie theater or some place other than a retail store.

As with all these reasons, feel free to enjoy the things I list as things I don’t like. If everyone preferred empty country roads, they wouldn’t be as empty. :)

 

Schrodinger’s Item

Travel time wasn’t always much of an issue, as I’ve lived close to stores before.

Yet even then, I’d rather not have the anxiety of an uncertain purchase.

I’ve often heard of collectors who love the thrill of finding whether or not an item would be on a shelf, even after a long trip to get there, but that kind of thing just isn’t a thrill to me. For instance, let’s say a fellow collector left a tip that there was an anticipated item at a nearby store, and even if it was in a personal message to me and not just on some public forum, I’d have growing anxiety the whole way to the store and on the way to the isle and then to the spot on the shelf. Maybe for you it would be a rush of adrenaline, but for me I’d just be more worried that someone else would have picked it up or how I’d have to keep myself from running to the isle because I like to be polite.

Yes, running to the isle to pick up a tiny plastic giant robot. I’m man enough to admit I can squee.

But even if there was no notice of an item being found, uncertainty paired with want can make browsing shelves an unpleasant experience. If I’m browsing a toy store without looking for something in particular, and I come across something cool, it’s much better to have that surprise untainted by expectation or not finding the item you were looking for.

With preorders, it removes the uncertainty of finding the item, and that’s a very good thing.

I want to also note that if my wife and I drove to the city and I didn’t find a collectible that I was looking for, I’d still have enjoyed myself because I was spending time with my wife. But, as mentioned previously, there are more fun places to go than retail stores. :)

 

More Thorough Decisions

Before the internet was popular, the best way to find out about upcoming releases was to see them on the back of a box or in a commercial, and everything else was a random surprise. Some collectors are nostalgic for those days, and feel like knowing releases months or years in advance has ruined a part of their collecting.

Maybe so for them, but not for me. Knowing what items are going to be released well ahead of time means they can be planned for, budgeted for, and more thoroughly decided on.

Not knowing about items ahead of time can lead to spur of the moment purchases, which can lead to buyer’s remorse.

Ask yourself, how many things have you bought or almost bought that looked cool at first but turned out to be less than that once you had it? Or have you ever picked up something you hadn’t cared about before, just because you hadn’t bought something in a while and it was right there on the shelf and looked a lot better than you thought it did before so maybe it could be cooler than you thought and– You see what I’m getting at?

Sure, there’s still the possibility of that now, but there’s far more opportunity to make informed decisions.

I’m not a completionist collector, so I’m not in danger of hoarding. But since I started using preorders for almost all of my collection purchases, I buy better things. My collection is more cream than crop. Yet if I’ve wandered into a retail toy section I sometimes catch myself considering something that wasn’t really on my buy list before.

Also along the lines of more thorough decisions… When I buy a collectible, I do so with the intent that I’ll be content with it even if another version gets made. That doesn’t mean I won’t ‘upgrade’, but in that case the other version would really have to go above and beyond my expectations.

With both photo and video reviews from trusted sources happening sometimes months in advance, test shot pictures even before that, companies with good track records, and companies that participate in forums for feedback, there are plenty of opportunities to decide on something before actually having it in hand.

 

Cult Of The New

In board game culture, there’s a thing called ‘cult of the new’. It’s where people have a bunch of unopened or barely played games yet they’re obsessed with ones that have either just come out or that will be coming out. Some of that is because of kickstarter, where a game can be purchased and paid for yet take months to a year to get released. Some of it’s just because they’re obsessed with new and different things.

Does that sound familiar?

It should, because it happens with TF collecting too, and probably just about any other collecting where things are known in advance.

The ability to preorder certain contributes to that, but it’s still the person at fault for it. Well, I say ‘at fault’, but what a person does with their collection is up to them, and if they want to focus on new or upcoming items, then they can do that. It doesn’t affect my collection, and even if it might annoy some people on some message boards, it’s not a big deal for me.

I won’t deny there’s an appeal to a just received item, as I’m guilty of indulging in that, but because I try to add cream instead of crop, the new items should still be good even when they’re not new. I try to make decisions about purchases, so whenever I walk by my shelves I get that giddy feeling all over again.

But you won’t find me obsessing over items that I have on preorder.

Having new items coming up is great, and I’m not saying I don’t look forward to them, but I don’t obsessively look forward to them. That kind of thing was actually more likely to happen before the ease of preordering, actually. Now I don’t have to worry about making sure to find an item, I can check in on it occasionally to see about colored test shots or reviews or if the company is taking feedback, and do so leisurely.

Instead of focusing on products that might be months to years away, I’d rather be appreciate of what’s here in my collection now. Really, that’s just a basic life skill, and should be applied to a lot of other things. :)

So companies can delay their tiny plastic giant robots all they want, especially if it’s because of improving the product. It just makes for more time to make informed decisions.

 

Availability

Some of you will contend that most items are easily available after they’re released, and that’s true.

But why take the chance if you don’t have to?

If you want a good example of this, take a look at the recent release of MMC’s MP Mirage, or Ocular Max Sphinx. The first release is in the more accurate blue and even comes with a parachute. It’s also sold out at most places. Sure, you can still find it if you’re willing to pay a bit more on ebay, but you’re paying a bit more and you’re not getting the customer service of ordering through a place like BBTS or TFsource. And when it comes to more expensive tiny plastic giant robots that might have qc issues, customer service can mean a lot.

MMC is doing a second run, but it’s also in less accurate colors and doesn’t include the parachute.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen often, but why even bother when preorders are easily available?

Some people also say that early bird discounts barely save anything, and while that’s true I view it as a nice bonus, not strictly a reason for preordering.

Others also say that they’d rather wait in hopes of finding a deal or a discount, either through clearance or through a sale, but that kind of thing doesn’t factor into my purchasing decisions. It used to, back when spur of the moment purchases were more of a thing that I did, but with preorders I’m much more focused on buying only what I really would like to buy. Because of that, why would I bother waiting for an item to maybe go on sale? I’ve nothing against people that get better deals, as I just see that extra bit worth it for getting to enjoy it months earlier than them. :)

That’s also why I’ll buy a Takara MP TF instead of waiting on Hasbro to maybe release a slightly cheaper version.

 

BigBadToystore

How much I like preorders and a lot of the points I’ve made about them is based on how BBTS handles preorders.

This isn’t sponsored by them, and this could apply to other retailers like TFSource, but BBTS is who I usually buy TFs from so that’s what I’m basing this off of.

And with them, a preorder isn’t charged until the item is in stock. That’s a huge advantage, considering some items take months to more than a year before they get released. And with a lot of collectible TFs costing $50 or $100 or more, why in the heck would I want it sitting around for a year doing nothing when I could have used it for other things in the meantime?

A good budget is of course something that needs to be implemented, so you still have the money available when the product is released, but a lot can come up in a year where you might have better uses for that money, even if it means not buying that particular collectible or buying it after it’s been released. These things aren’t necessities, after all.

And even then, why risk having a company sit on your money for so long? There are a lot of smaller TF stores that require you to pay up front, and there are lots of those that people swear as being reputable. I won’t argue that point, as I’ve seen enough people talking good about enough places to know they’re telling the truth.

But I will say that one of the retailers people talked highly about was AcesToystore, and back in April they suddenly stopped communicating with people and didn’t send out the products people had paid preorders for. There’s a huge thread on TFW about it, if you want to check it out. It involved, lots of angry people who had prepaid hundreds of dollars each, and who weren’t getting their money back because they had missed the Paypal refund window. People might have been more understanding, but the retailer just stopped talking to people, and it took Paypal contacting them to even get a response. The thread went all the way to July, and as of then there were still a bunch of people who were angry and hadn’t got their issues with AcesToystore resolved.

Let me reiterate, that’s nothing against smaller stores, but it is an example why I personally wouldn’t pay upfront for a preorder when other places have the option to do otherwise.

And while we’re talking about preorder policies, another reason I like BBTS is because preorders can be cancelled just by logging in and clicking a button. You don’t have to email them, or explain why you’ve cancelled the preorder, and there’s no chastisement from them. I have heard that can be an issue with certain retailers, and it’s honestly understandable why cancelling a preorder isn’t the best thing for that retailer… but if it’s an option and your retailer doesn’t care, why not use it if needed?

If it weren’t for BBTS having those two options, I’d approach preorders very differently. But with not paying up front and being able to cancel any time before the item comes into stock, having an item preordered has far more benefits than just waiting for after it’s been released.

 

Solomon Grundy Want Pants Too

So yeah, preorders are a good thing.

 

Want to support this blog or just read a cool story bro? Check out our illustrated book, The Witching Well!

 

What do you think about preorders, dear readers? Are you made of straw?

Leave a comment and let me know! And don’t forget, you can share this post with your friends using the links below!

~Matt Booker

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