Friday, August 27, 2010

Musings on yesterday's post

Yesterday's post (on a store's side view of speculation) ended up becoming much bigger deal than I ever anticipated. In the last 24 hours I've had more page loads on this blog than ever before in the same period of time. The post also generated more comments than my entire blog up until this point (even if you don't count my comments which were replies to others' comments). My post and the post that inspired it were each linked to begin a thread in the MTGSalvation forums, and (my biggest shock of all), the post was featured on ManaNation's This Week in Magic. I am humbled and honored by the response. At least I can say it got people thinking :-)

I've had some thoughts about the comments left that have been percolating in my mind, and I thought these deserved a post of their own, so I'm jotting them down here. Two posts in two days is quite something for me, so hopefully this comes across as coherently as yesterday's seemed to. So, in no particular order...
  1. It has been recommended that I limit the quantity of a card to some number (likely 8) to help combat the issue of being bought out entirely by a "speculator". This has the added advantage of the fact that if/when someone buys 8 copies of something (especially if that's ALL they buy) I can quickly price-check that item and make sure it's a reasonable market price. This won't 100% solve the situation. I only had 2 copies of Personal Tutor in stock when it went, and only 7 of Pyromancer Ascension - and while I had 19 Polymorphs when they were snatched up, I had less than 8 of any given version, so they still would have flown. Also, someone could come in and make several purchases of 8 each. But, I am looking into whether this can be automated in ProStores or if I will just have to have a posted store policy like the unfortunate store that canceled the alleged speculator's order.
  2. It was recommended that I follow @mtgmetagame and Kelly Reid over @quietspec and folks like that that deal with these issues, so that I can hopefully be ahead of the game and catch these card bumps as they happen (or before) and not have the problem. I actually do already follow these folks (nice guys and savvy in the biz), but it doesn't always help. Sometimes it's my own darned fault (really, I seriously don't know what the heck was wrong with me on the Pyromancer Ascension card - that was just dumb!) but sometimes its out of my hands. Kelly Reid tweeted his recommendation on Polymorph approximately 20 minutes before every copy I owned was bought out at $0.75 each. This all happened after midnight, when I was sound asleep. Ditto when Kozilek was spoiled on DailyMTG and the price of Eye of Ugin skyrocketed. I awoke to an email showing that every copy I had was sold to one buyer. So, I do what I can, but I am only one man. I have to sleep sometimes!
  3. It's been recommended that I keep my inventory active even when I'm out of stock. It's actually easy to do this, and I may have to ultimately go this route - but there are reasons I have not done so before. This topic I feel is deserving of its own post (because it's full of all sorts of convoluted Don-think) so I won't elaborate here. Suffice to say I probably will have to do this, but I'm gonna need the community's help in ironing out some wrinkles (you all as a whole are great at helping out and wonderfully creative at problem-solving).
  4. I want to apologize for my use of the phrase "greedy bastard" in my post. I think I did a pretty good job overall of not coming across as nasty and spiteful (because, really, I didn't want to start a flame war or anything like that - just wanted to present a side that I felt hadn't been yet), but that one phrase really stands out like a sore thumb. I considered editing the post, but to do so would be disingenuous, and would also make the comments that refer to the phrase make no sense. So, I leave it in, but want to acknowledge that I could have certainly phrased things better.
  5. I have finally come to believe that there really is a place for this Blog out in the MTG Blogosphere. There's blogs on strategy, on flavor, on trading, on just about everything else there is to do with Magic - but I don't know of any (and feel free to direct me to the one(s) I undoubtedly have missed) that discuss what it's like to run an online Magic store. So I want to try to be better about getting posts up that actually have more potential meaning than just "I added cards to inventory today" which is what my Twitter feed is for :-)
  6. Did anyone get the joke in the title of the post? Hint: I meant volume as in sound, not amount of cards.
  7. I am, first and foremost, a Magic player. I am a casual player (a phrase that may make some like @the_stybs cringe) who somehow ended up running an online store as a sideline to make a little extra money for himself and his family. It is not my family's only source of income, mouths do not go unfed if I mess up a pricing issue. For me it's all personal - which is why I wrote the piece I did, to share my feelings from the other side of the shopping cart. I am glad that it was, almost completely, taken in the spirit it was intended.
Okay, enough rambling for now. I have The Great Foil project to get back to (repricing and adding inventory due to a collection of hundreds of foils I recently purchased). I only have the Kamigawa and Time Spiral blocks left to process. Then, due to your vote in my blog poll a few weeks back, it will be time to start getting the hundreds of non-English cards (mostly Chinese, Japanese and Korean) up into inventory - good news for anyone who is a lover of non-English Magic.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Case Against Speculation (of any volume)

This is a topic that I have been thinking of writing about for quite a while now, ever since the first time I got burned by a speculator (who shall remain nameless, as this is not about casting blame, but hopefully to offer an alternate point of view to my readers). What made me finally get off the fence and write about it? This blog post was the final nail in the coffin.

First of all, to clarify - what do I consider speculation? Sometimes also called hoarding, the basic idea is this: I have a card for sale on my site that is cheaper than it should be listed at, or cheaper than it will soon be listed at. Most likely cause: a deck (or decks) has hit the scene that is winning tournaments, and a key card or cards in that deck, being a previous "unknown" as it were, suddenly sees a peak in popularity, and therefore price. Secondary possibility: some decision made by the DCI has caused some card to somehow become more desirable (as in the recent case where the banning of Mystical Tutor lead to a leap in price for a similar card, Personal Tutor). Someone then comes along to my site, and buys out every single copy of that card, with the intent of selling or trading that card for a profit - not for personal use in decks of their own.

As a store owner, I have a massive problem with this. And it's not completely the problem that you would automatically think it is. Yes, I will admit, it hurts to have 8 copies of a card sell for $0.75 when the prevailing market price is more like $2.00. And that is certainly a reason I don't like this practice. But there are other issues here that I think need to be discussed from the store owner's point of view that the speculators may not think of. So, in no particular order, I share some thoughts...
  1. The most common response when I gripe about this behavior is that I should just be better at keeping track of prices. I fully admit that this is my least favorite part of running a store, and I don't keep up as well as I should. In my case my store has a single employee: ME. My two sons sometimes help me with sorting cards, but that's about all they can handle (they're only 7 and 10 right now, after all - maybe when they're older I can hire them on with more responsibility). In addition to this store, I am essentially a full-time stay-at-home, homeschooling Dad. I have a part-time job that occupies me one day a week. In other words - I have a lot on my plate. Those who follow this blog or my Tweets on Twitter know that I rarely have time to sit and work on store stuff beyond pulling orders - and when I do, it's usually getting new inventory listed. It takes a long time to reprice inventory, and a great deal of time to try to follow the many blogs, tournament coverage, etc. that I would have to follow to stay up-to-date on what the hottest deck tech is, and therefore what the hot cards are. Time I usually don't have. Sometime this leads to kick-myself-in-the-pants moments (how many days did I hear about the freaking Pyromancer Ascension deck and not keep up on the price of that damned card?!?! ARGHHH!!!!!).
  2. My personal biggest grief (even more than loss of potential income) is loss of hits. What do I mean? The vast majority of the hits on my web site come from Google searches or something similar. People looking for the hot new card for their own personal deck will Google search for that card. But if I don't have a card in stock, I don't show up in that Google search. Which means a potential new customer (who would possibly have bought more than just the hot new card, and may have become a long-term return customer) never finds my site. All because one greedy bastard came by and bought every copy I had. THIS is the part that really steams me: when you come and buy me out of a card, you come to me only when it serves your wallet. Potentially, then, people who MIGHT come to me because I offer amazing service, reasonable prices, quick shipping, etc. may never even know my site exists because YOU bought every copy I had. it's not JUST the card in question that you burned me on - who knows what all business you may have robbed me of?
  3. Unlike some stores out there, I do not limit the number of copies of a card you can buy, nor do I (nor will I ever) cancel an order I deem to be "speculative". Sure, I'll whine about it on Twitter (and have), but I honor my commitments, even if it hurts and I'm ticked off at the speculator.
  4. I take it as a personal insult when someone only buys at my site for speculative purposes. We sellers can tell who these people are. A very famous speculator has bought from me several times - and only for these purposes. I'm good enough to make a quick buck off of, but not for anything else. That hurts.
  5. If you want companies like mine to stay in business, don't be greedy. If you find a cheap card that's hot or about to become hot, buy 8 or so (so you can make SOME profit) then be a nice guy and write to them to bring the low price to their attention. Everybody wins - you make some profit, and they get to adjust their price to make it reasonable and still potentially draw in traffic.
Okay - those are the things I wanted to get off my chest. I know I probably come across as a whiner, and hard-core speculators will probably just say "screw you, man - if you list a card low I'm gonna buy 'em all 'cause that's how I roll" or some such BS. But, hopefully, at least one reader will possibly think a little differently about the situation hearing the other side of it.

Comments welcome!

Friday, August 20, 2010

New contest time!

Well, not so much a new one as a continuation of the old...

I goofed up and forgot to have the drawing last night (Thursday, August 19) for the 8th Edition Lord of the Undead box-topper (the one chosen by your vote two weeks ago). So I had the drawing tonight and have emailed the winner. Hopefully I will hear back from him or her soon.

But, anyway, that means that in two weeks (Thursday, September 2) I should hold the next drawing. But what will the prize be this time? This is where you come in, trusty reader! Up above is a poll (assuming you're reading this before Thursday August 26) with four choices of box-topper giveaway prizes. Vote for your favorite, and the one receiving the most votes will be given away in two weeks!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Store & Contest Updates

Just a few quick updates that would take more than 140 characters...
  1. The "Great Foil Project" continues. I still have hundreds more foils to process (which includes processing their photos & getting them into inventory). While I am doing this I am also readjusting the prices on most foils in inventory. I used to have these somewhat arbitrary lower limits on foils when I was pricing (I wouldn't let a foil common be under $0.75 for example) which ended up with many of the cards being overpriced. That's being fixed.
  2. The giveaway last night was successful. The Ninth Edition Force of Nature box-topper was shipped off to the lucky winner this morning. The next giveaway will take place on Thursday August 19 at 9 p.m. EDT. Again, all one needs to do to be eligible is sign up for my email newsletter on my store's home page:
  3. Which card will be given away next? Voice your opinion by voting in the poll at the top of the page. Deadline for your vote is next Thursday (August 12).
  4. I'm trying to decide what to tackle next after the Great Foil Project is finished. My choices are basically two-fold: get back to processing common cards from that 400,000+ collection I bought over a year ago, or work on the non-English cards I have. Maybe I'll have a poll to see what y'all think I should work on next :-)
That's all for now - just wanted to get those up quickly. Perhaps a more substantial entry in the next couple of days.