It's Monday, and if you're in the United States it's the Monday after the Thanksgiving Day weekend, the traditional start to the holiday shopping season that begins with a weird pseudo-holiday we call 'Black Friday', and that follows up with the American Express sponsored Small Business Saturday, so that local businesses can pick up the bread crumbs that are left following the fiasco of cheap television shopping and deeply discounted random things we don't need.
It should be the beginning of a season of joy.
But, despite the beginning of the holiday season, there were dark tidings in our industry, as it seemed we were reminded that rules are only rules when they suit both sides of an equation. Let's start with the long-time issue of two companies and their inability to enforce street dates; Wizards of the Coast and Pokemon USA. These products lines are notoriously available in mass market stores before street date, and that trend continued with Explorers of Ixalan, with photos being posted around the internet in the days before Thanksgiving, like this one from a Wal-Mart.
I've stopped being overly enraged, because I just expect it at this point. If anything is being done to enforce street date regulations by Wizards of the Coast when it comes to the third party vendors that supply places like Wal-Mart it is clearly a woefully inadequate measure. I'm reminded of fines levied against oil companies, and while I doubt the scale of economics is the same, if the 'fine' is 1% of what a company makes selling the product, it's clearly not a deterrent at all.
The above photo was supplied from a Wal-Mart before the product had even arrived in my store, so there seems to be a simple solution here.
Stop shipping these third-party vendors so early. Product should leave the Wizards warehouses on release day, not one second sooner. Better yet, give WPN locations the same two week head start on Magic that we get on Dungeons and Dragons product.
For Pokemon, just follow the above advice...ship it on release day. The current Pokemon policy as stated to me is "If a mass market store in your area breaks street date, you are also allowed to break street date..."
What the ever-loving...
This is a case where the rules are only the rules for FLGS, and if they are at all applied to mass market competitors they are applied in a way that is not coherent, and we have never seen any consequences.
This week a company I am unaccustomed to seeing break the rules also broke their own street date. I had a Facebook feed with a healthy amount of people showing off Necromunda, purchased direct from Games Workshop and delivered to their homes two days before I'm allowed to sell it...
Games Workshop did a brilliant job of proving the rules don't apply to them, which is disappointing to me. Games Workshop is a company that I frequently hear consumers complain about, but as a retailer I have always enjoyed working with them.
Finally, we come to the biggest of rules that matter to me. It's time that we talk about MAP policies. On Wednesday, only an hour or so before I walked out of the store to enjoy Thanksgiving (by 'enjoy' I mean sleeping until 0700 instead of 0630, and decorating the store that day for the holidays) one of my publishing partners announced that they were suspending their MAP policy for the period of time between Black Friday and Cyber Monday...
I became furious. I started texting that publisher to share my disappointment at this decision. I explained that I had made buying decisions based on the promise of price protection, and put his games on several of my demo tables. I had no plans to discount those games, I was planning on teaching people fun games and selling them at retail, because that's what I do. We disagreed on the effect it would have, and so I came home to do research. Here I shall share that research.