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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Topps can recover from a PR Disaster

Last night's "Let's make the very first rookie card of the most insanely overhyped rookie since Brien Taylor a super short printed gimmick that you can only get online in a baseball card slot machine and to make it fair for everyone let's tell everyone it is available after the first pitch before the game and then actually release it around the seventh inning" marketing genius from Topps has really energized the hobby! Just look at all these positive reactions!

A Cardboard Problem
"Strasburg's RC - AKA the card I didn't win"

The Paper Chase
"One card I will never own"

Mint Condition
"Words cannot describe the anger I am feeling now"

JD's Wild Cardz
"these cards were not even available when I entered my code"

Sign Here... And Here.
"Strasburg broke the Transmogrifier"

Sports Cards Uncensored
"Everyone will need to spend a ton now to truly complete the base set. Nice job there."

Stale Gum
"Topps: Go Fuck  Yourself"

Um. Ahem. Those aren't very positive reactions at all. Oh, but those are bloggers. Bloggers are a bunch of nerdy entitled gripe asses who complain about everything. Let's take a look at some of the comments on the official Topps blog!

This whole promotion has been shady from the beginning. If each code is not directly linked to a card there was no sense in entering any at the beginning of the year. You know the Mantle won't be given away until later in the year to keep people buying codes. Huge gimic, blown my trust. Now the Strasburg thing comes up. This is what I get for being a loyal customer and buying all my cards at release date in large amounts and entering the codes right away. Extremely disappointed
Joe Joe:
This venture sucks! I miss the days of no inserts and all that garbage---true rookie cards! 

Thats BS... I am Very unhappy now cause you all said that AFTER the 1st Pitch they cards would be available. Thanks for the BS. You are lucky you are the only MLB liscensed product. Cause this shit pisses me off and why I left the hobby before. Thanks for screwing with us and lying to EVERYONE!!!

QUOTE FROM TOPPS so you all don't have to look up:

"Major League Baseball trading cards, has announced that Strasburg’s first ever MLB rookie card will be made available exclusively online via www.toppsmillion.com immediately following his first pitch in the big leagues." 
Is it time to start entering codes?? When can I enter my codes and be eligible to get the strassburg????????????????????????// This is confusing???
I went out today and bought two code cards so I could enter them for tonight's promotion. I waited until after the first pitch (after the first half inning, in fact), and now I find out that the Strasburg's weren't available as of the first pitch AS ADVERTISED???!!! This is absolutely disgraceful Topps... the collectors here have shown their support, but this is a huge let down on your part.

Bruce Campbella:
I hope everyone realizes that this will be an incredibly short-printed card and almost impossible to pull/redeem. Topps has strung people along with this Topps Million Card Giveaway promotion and it has worked wonders for selling product. It hasn't done wonders for the collectors. Most of the vintage "cards from their vault" are in terrible shape, including a lot of hand-writing, creases, etc. It's been a scam since day one, why should the Strasburg idea be any different?

Yes, Just another "ripoff to the buyer" promotion it seems. I am a small time collector but I would have to say that I spend in the neighborhood of $1000 per year on Topps products alone. Or should I say that I did in the past. I will not buy any more Topps product unless it is from an individual who already has what I want or need. No more from the outlets. I feel that the hobby is collapsing because of this type of dealings. Mostly I feel insulted that Topps would do this and think that I was stupid enough not to catch it. Maybe they think that all of their customers are gullable eight year olds. Hell, thats an even bigger insult ! Take the kids money ... he will never know !

Ryan Emery:
I guess I got taken by topps... I entered my codes when the site came back up... no Strasburg for me! But money in topps pocket, as I bought to get code cards today... no more, done for the year!
listen it is not about us right now its about leting the new guys have a chance to make a name for them selves. u should be in it not for ur selves and what u collect but what u collect for your kids our even your grand kids.........................

Dan Jackson in reply to wayloheyo:
Ok, if that's the case, I want to make sure that Topps doesn't pull unfair and shady promotions on my children and grandchildren.
Topps no longer Tops on my list 

These comments are all on Topps' official blog by die-hard collectors who spend time on that blog and were extremely excited about the promotion. This is not positive feedback in any way shape or form. I don't even know how people are reacting on Facebook or Twitter or on the forums, but I can't imagine that it's mich better than this. I fully expect to see a press release describing how successful the Strasburg promotion was in the near future. Heck, it probably was very successful for Topps. They probably sold a lot of packs, the code cards are already selling for ludicrous prices on eBay and I'm sure this promotion will be mentioned in the media more than once giving Topps some free advertising. So short term, this is going to be a boon for Topps. There is a very serious long term price to be paid however.

First of all, collectors are going to stop trusting the Transmogrifier. This is the second significant launch day that was screwed up by Topps resulting in collectors desperate to unlock codes ending up unhappy. Both times Topps had poor communication that left collectors wondering what the hell was going on, unsure when to enter codes. On the day it went live, they couldn't enter codes at all, last night they burned through many precious codes for nothing. These codes can get expensive and many collectors aren't going to throw away their money for nothing a second time. Counting on everyone who got burned to come back for more is foolish thinking, especially in a hobby that is shrinking, not expanding.

Topps is also looking very untrustworthy right now. Collectors have figured out that instead of having each code tied to a particular card like in redemtions, that any code entered could end up with damn near anything, including cards that weren't a part of the promotion at the start. How many people would have saved up all your codes if you knew you could pull a Strasburg rookie back in February? A whole BUNCH that's how many, but that would have caused their launch to be less spectacular with far, far less codes being redeemed. Since each code is not tied to a particular card, who's to say that Topps isn't giving out the Strasburgs only to high rollers who redeem the most codes or to dealers as a kickback for buying lots of product? They probably aren't - I don't think Topps has gotten to Richard McWilliam levels of shadiness quite yet - but with all the crooked shenanigans going on in this business why set yourself up for the suspicion?

The Transmogrifier (I'm having a hard time trying to write seriously about this subject while calling it that - is there a real name for it yet?) is a very good innovation in the hobby and could be important to Topps for a long time to come. Is it really worth losing your customer's trust in the device just for a gimmick like this? Seriously, are you going to trust it in February 2011 when Topps puts out a whole new batch of codes to redeem? Will you enter in the codes right away or just sit on all them and wait for Topps to pull next year's gimmick? Every Time Topps pulls a stunt, seasoned collectors learn from it. The last Topps base set I built from scratch was the 2007 set. I learned from the 2008 Santana no-hitter card #661 that Topps could screw up the base set at any time so I gave up on trying to collect it. Apparently I was right to do this because now three of the Topps base sets from the last 5 years are uncompleteable by the average collector.

This is the biggest problem I have with this: once again the base set has been compromised. They've taken it off the Topps Million splash page, but every indication is that card #661 in the 2010 Topps set is an extremely short printed Strasburg rookie card that is only available through an online slot machine. That card would have been highly sought after and pricey without the artificial scarcity aspect.  How much do you think it will go for now? How many set collectors will be willing to pay that just to be able to complete the set? THE. TOPPS. BASE. SET. Topps has forgotten that this hobby (and their own success) was originally built by kids who bought piles of crappy gum just so they could collect 'em all. Now it's all about people gambling to get the big card. I don't know about you, but if I want to gamble, I'll just go to Vegas. If I want to collect the 2010 flagship exclusive baseball set... well, I just can't do that anymore. Because Topps has completely forgotten what this hobby is about.

As a pain in the ass blogger who just likes to complain, I am fully aware that I have done nothing but complain in this post. Well, here's something positive and constructive. Topps has completely screwed the pooch on this but they can fix everything pretty easily AND make tons of money AND get a ton of publicity all at the same time. Let me explain.

First of all, the genie is out of the bottle, 2010 Topps card #661 is Steven Straburg's very first official rookie card and is only available on www.toppscards.com. This is a fact written in stone which has made a large number of collectors very unhappy. However, Topps doesn't have to backtrack, apologize or change anything about the promotion to make it so EVERY 2010 Topps collector is made wildly happy by this state of affairs. Here's all Topps has to do:

Topps simply needs to release a press release stating that every collector who enters a Topps Million Card Giveaway code after Strasburg's official debut on 6/8/2010 gets a Strasburg RC in their collection in addition to whatever vintage card they received, limit one per account.

That's it. One small change to the promotion and not only is any goodwill they lost last night immediately restored, but Topps also gets to deal with a second frenzy of code redemptions and all the publicity that comes with it. Think about it, if you want the first Strasburg rookie card, you need a Topps Code. Here are just some of the benefits of this move:

  • All existing collectors with a Topps Million account will want to enter in a code to get that last card for the set. 
  • Plenty of collectors who never bothered will sign up and enter codes to get a Strasburg. 
  • Plenty of people WHO DON'T EVEN COLLECT CARDS will buy some packs of Topps or some codes online just to get a card of Mr. Superhype. 
  • Most of these collectors will now actually pay the shipping charges to get their redeemed cards so they can get the Strasburg in their hands.

And the most important part:

  • Topps packs - Series One as well as Series Two - will fly off the shelves by people wanting to get a Strasburg rookie.

The only drawback I can possibly see from this is from people creating tons of accounts for tons of codes in order to claim as many Strasburg cards as they can get. Even so, Topps STILL makes money from the two dollar shipping charge! Think about it - one code per 6 packs is $12 in packs sold per code. Add two more for shipping and you have $14 spent on each Strasburg. You really think it will cost $14 to print and ship each Strasburg? And no matter how many are ultimately redeemed and shipped, the Strasburg RC will STILL be seen as an extremely short printed redemption card so it will STILL retain an excellent price tag in the long run.


You have a chance to recover big time from this colossal screw up. You can get some great publicity, bring new collectors into the hobby and make a lot of money. For the good of the hobby, please don't blow it.


RoofGod said...

I have a few redemption codes lying around and was toying with the idea of redeeming them, but know I don't think I want to participate in these shenanigans. I for one (or 12 it seems) have had about enough of this nonsense.

Captain Canuck said...

something I'm missing here.... it was announced that strasburgs card will be included in factory sets.

will this be a different 661?

dayf said...

Canuck: When was that announced? I completely missed that. I was under the impression that the only place you could get the card at all was online.

If you can get them in factory sets, that's great, but it still doesn't solve the problems of all the pissed off code redeemers and set builders.

PunkRockPaint said...

Thanks Dayf. That was brilliantly written. I can see why everyone is pissed.

I had fun with the Strasburg Day mania. But I am a degenerate gambler.

I certanly would be happier with the whole transmogrifier process if they threw in a a little something for loyal customers. They did it with etopps back in '01 or '02. They gave out a set of 5 rookies. Montanez, Burroughs, Bradley (Bobby), Munson, and Hamilton. I think I even got a free 2001 Erstad at some point. I haven't checked my portfolio in about 8 years, so I wonder if it still exists...

Chuck's Used Cards said...

This is just another reason I stopped collecting baseball cards and began with soccer.

At least I know the Panini cards and stickers are real and I can get ANY that I am missing by paying 10 cents each for them.

I WILL complete my 2010 World Cup set.

Play at the Plate said...

I'm still on vacation so I can't post on this subject, but you can count me in as one of the extremely disappointed in Topps. I've redeemed 40-something codes, all from retail and hobby packs. I spent more money on Topps flagship than I ever would have if the MCG didn't exist. I know it's cheaper to buy vintage cards, but the Transmogrifier was fun. I said WAS. Just like most things they touch, the card execs completely "F"ed up a good thing. I've got to examine the whole thing closer when I get back, but I'm seriously thinking of dropping out on anything new Topps puts out, including A&G unless they do something.

dogfacedgremlin said...

Are we sure Topps isn't run by Gary Bettman? Just kidding.

I haven't entered in a code card in months but I was actually on my way to the LCS to buy a Jumbo box for this very reason yesterday before I got detoured by a phone call. I am so glad I heard my phone.

willworkforcards said...

Topps announced on their Million Card Giveaway Facebook page that the Strasburg #661 in factory sets will have a different picture and a different card back than the one given away on the site.

Ryan said...

@willworkforcards: Great, just what we need another variation card!

gritz76 said...

You guys need to relax and do what I do. No, not weed, just stop at #660 and be happy you didn't fall for the trickery. If you did fall for the trickery then you really only have yourself to be pissed with. I dumped the ten codes from my jumbo box a couple nights before this little debacle and don't feel one bit upset. If I pulled one of the Strasburgs it would have ended up on theBay right away. BTW they are going for $350 to $700 on there right now.

Don said...

let me see if I understand this correctly. There will be a 661 in factory sets, but it will be a different photo. I just figured that it would be a part of the factory exclusive cards that come with the set.

Slangon said...

Great post.

I think your idea about giving the card to everyone who has an account is a good one, although if I were one of the lucky bastages that ended up with the Strasburg card, I'd be pretty pissed if I had one and now Topps is just handing them out to everyone.

Also, even if they were including the same exact card in the factory set, I'd still be a little cheesed off. I've already dropped however much money on packs and boxes and made however many trades and piled up however many doubles in an effort to try and build this set. I don't really feel like dropping another bunch of money to then just go out and buy the entire set in one shot just to get one damn card.

Sooz said...

This blog post made me laugh, although I am not sure that was the point. I was laughing at all the negative comments that were going around one after another.