It’s a new age. Is your dealer still a jerk?
Since this site was born about 15 months ago, I’ve had the occasion to be in contact with a large number of people in and around the hobby. Some are big companies–big enough to have their own public relations departments. Others look big but are really small. Several are smaller dealers. Many more are just average collectors. We also hear from a lot of people who don’t know much about the hobby. They’re just folks who have had something in their family for generations and want to know 1) What it is and/or 2) What it’s worth and 3) How they should sell it.
The variety of personalities and business practices astounds me. I’ve met some exceptionally bright people who are trying to make the hobby better by being totally up front. I’ve seen some very clever things written on message boards about the hobby and the people in it. I’ve run into others who fancy themselves too busy trying to make a buck in this hobby they don’t have time to talk about it. I’ve heard stories about companies doing less than ethical things. I’ve found out more about a few people than I really wish I knew.
I’ve also chatted with numerous dealers. You can usually tell within about five seconds how they treat customers. Some are polite and appreciative. Others are arrogant pricks. Amazingly enough, the latter group includes many who’ve been in the hobby since I have–and that’s going on 30 years now. I usually come away stunned they’ve been not only able to make a living in it–but actually seem to live quite comfortably.
I’ve also seen a changing tide that should give those dealers and companies nightmares. A bad rep is now easy to obtain and much more difficult to shake. No one–not even long-time stalwarts of the industry–is immune.
The younger generation of collectors is far less tolerant of nasty behavior than the group that includes those of my age. While we may have once thought we caught a dealer or business on a bad day and moved on, reputations are now easily cemented in a world that communicates via the internet with lightning speed and reaches a massive audience with just a few keystrokes. Those people are unafraid to point out the bad apples–and also just as likely to drive a good reputation to an even higher level. They are finding common ground with other honest collectors who are trying to keep things fun and maintain a sense of decency throughout the hobby. Of course, good reps can be damaged unfairly, but I see that happen far less frequently.
The internet makes it very easy for word of questionable business practices or rude behavior to get around–very quickly. Those same collectors also insist on conducting transactions with a dealer who answers e-mail, has a website and generally conducts themselves like a 21st century businessman. It was once quaint to say you didn’t understand the internet or know how to e-mail. Not anymore. You can probably find a few other dinosaurs out there, but it’s a dying breed…literally.
I often wonder what those folks who have a family heirloom autographed baseball think of the hobby when they contact the people in it. I hope they’re left with a positive impression. I know that isn’t always the case, but I also think things are changing for the better. I’m glad this site can hopefully play a small role in their education.