by Rich Klein
Earlier this week, I was "selected" to be part of a research panel or 'focus group' which was to give a leading drug company a consumer's voice at a roundtable with their professionals. I had some time off from work so I decided to give it a go. The funniest part of the "interview" process was when the recruiter asked me what my hobbies were and I mentioned baseball cards. To my surprise, he was a collector and even offered to give me his eBay handle. I said that was all right and was approved for the next level of the roundtable which would be on Tuesday morning.
We were ushered into a meeting room with all kinds of snacks and drinks. Since this was a very nice hotel I did take advantage of the generosity and grabbed a USA Today as well as a Wall Street Journal to read (remember, I am a print guy). Then I sat myself in the back of the room and observed some of the people around me as I waited to be called upon. A couple of things really struck me. The first was when we were asked to totally turn off our phones and some woman said "I have kids. I will not turn off my phone!" The other one was we were asked to come in business casual and one man arrived wearing a cap, jeans and what looked like a t-shirt under his coat.
And, while all of this may be no surprise, I started thinking how our hobby has thrived for years despite sometimes displaying the worst in human behavior, especially in terms of greed. After all, how many times have you read on the message boards about "I went to this store/show/flea market and look at the great deal I was able to score. The guy didn't know what he had!”
Also as a dealer, how many times do you hear at a show, “Man, I sold those cards for more than I probably should have.” And there is the taking advantage of "non-hobby" people while buying. How many dealers light up when they see a collection, and the person selling says: "I have no idea how much this is worth." Suddenly, the box of old cards changes into a big dollar sign like one might see in a cartoon with the $$ like a light bulb above the dealer's head.
And, of course, there are the collectors who claim they have never made a mistake in buying or selling a card. I swear sometimes, those people drive me the craziest. We’re all human and have all made some mistakes along the way and you know in this business someone knows more than you do about a specific area. I still remember running into Al Rosen at the Garden State Plaza in early 1982 and he told me then, "The whole key to this business is not how you sell, it's how you buy". Remember this was before Al really became Mr. Mint and even then he knew the secret of hobby success.
And, the other aspect that really drives me up a tree is when people spread false accusations about a company or a person. Recently there have been several threads about a successful eBay vendor named Rick Probstein. Understand, I have never done business with Rick as either a buyer or a seller but I’ve seen message board threads complaining that some of his consignors bid on their own auctions. Other than making each consignor sign an agreement to not do that (which is really not enforceable since they would just have some friend bid for them), he could never monitor every auction because of the volume involved and frankly that is not his job. His job is to prepare cards for sale, post them, sell them and ship them. That is his job-- nothing more.
What was happening to him reminded me of my Beckett days and some of the more bizarre allegations that popped up from time to time on SportsNet. The classic was "Jim Beckett and his three sons run a string of card stores in the Dallas area". Well, if Dr. Beckett could find time to run several stores while running a company which was then more than 150 employees, he must have found the secret of finding 30 hours in a day. So, come on, folks, use some common sense and don’t post just to blow up a message board.
And the thrilling conclusion to my adventure with the research panel? Well the recruiters brought too many people and some of us did not make the cut. That did include me but this company still paid me for my time, sent me on my way early and they said this adventure did not count as participation. So it was the best of all worlds; some extra money and the chance I might be called again to make more! I started laughing at my human nature.
Of course, if Panini, since they are in Dallas, ever wants me for a focus group, I'm all ears Nothing like extra money for doing very little.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]