Once upon a time, if a person wanted to voice their opinion about a topic to the general public and and not do so in “real time”, he or she submitted a “Letter to the Editor”. The author could write up their opinions and position and have it posted for all to see. Along came technology and this concept evolved: businesses and institutions use social media to better communicate with their clients, fan clubs have forums and message boards, and groups of fans are able to come together in the form of online communities. All of this breeds a climate where ideas can be freely exchanged and both praise and criticism can be shared. It’s the “Letter to the Editor v3.0″.
No one can dispute the fact that 2012 has been a year of blunders and missteps for the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. Pretty much anything that could go wrong with the Club’s various endeavors has and the organization has been left scrambling to communicate details and a positive message. However, it would seem that the issues might go back further than that. Presented below is an item that dropped in my inbox today– an editorial from a long-time member of the Collector’s Club who has had enough. It is presented in its entirety– with only the author’s identity removed at his/her request.
The GI Joe Collector’s Club needs to be immediately disbanded: One betrayed former collector’s 11 year long rant
I’m done. DONE. I have enjoyed collecting both 12″ and 33/4″ GI Joe figures for over 20 years now. I’ve enjoyed it with my children. I’ve enjoyed showing that what Daddy wore when he was in the service, while they were fascinated with characters like Snake Eyes and Destro. But now, thanks solely to the GI Joe Collector’s Club, an organization who exists only to cater to people like me, I am so disgusted with the hobby as a whole, I am walking away.
Over the last 10 years, the GIJCC has become increasingly greedy, arrogant, mismanaged and unapologetic to the people it professes to serve. I blame it on the dollar signs I saw in the eyes of Brian Savage (the Club owner, directer, patriarch, resident Kool-Aid mixer, der Fuhrer, etc) when he got the OK from Hasbro to take over the Transformers Collector’s Club several years ago. The Transformers brand is a worldwide seller, with many more members with much, much deeper pockets. The GIJCC has been a small, family run club for many years, so giving them a cash cow like Botcon was bound to turn them into the money grubbing, greed-mongering, carpet-bagging bridge trolls they have become. But as I have watched their slow decline, I held out hope that the core tenets of my precious GI Joe fan club would remain unchanged in the face of it’s more lucrative younger brother, that they would still put on a family friendly event that we could afford, still put out product I can be proud to display and play with, and still make me and my children happy. As of today, I have had enough.
I’ve been buying from the club since the late 90′s, and a member in good standing since 2001. I’m mainly a 12″ GI Joe collector, the more realistic looking military items, not so much the “Adventure team” weirdos but i enjoy the smaller figures as well. Between my own collecting, and my older son who was into the smaller Joes, it seemed like a good idea, and we would have a convention we could attend each year as club members. And as members, even if we could not make the con, we were still able to get the exclusives as “Homefront Heroes”, a wonderful part of the service that we greatly appreciated over the years when family events (like the birth of my first grandchild, or my step son’s homecoming from Iraq) kept us from attending. The club was a caring, understanding organization, and my family felt like they were part of something good, with good people behind it.
I’d have to say I first noticed the club’s attitude changing several years ago, when they took money from members for a “pre-order” on an item they could not deliver, a set of GI Joe Mauler tanks from 2006, and were completely unprofessional when they had to give everyone their money back. They acted as if it was OUR FAULT that they couldn’t deliver. It was like catching a kid with his hand in the cookie jar, and their response is “if you would give me a cookie, I wouldn’t have to take them”. Their attitudes over the Maulers did not sit well with most of the collectors I knew who were affected by it, but I saw it as one hiccup in an otherwise smooth run. There were frequent price increases on the sets from year to year which I certainly didn’t appreciate, but I trusted my club, so I supported them through the increases, delayed products, mediocre products, and over time, endless excuses.
I think my own eyes started to open when they began regurgitating their own ideas in slightly different formats, but still charging more money for figures that many con attendees already owned. I just shrugged when I saw the second version of the Crimson Strike Team (from the 2009 GI Joe Convention), thinking that we already had it, why buy it again? But my younger son had really grown attached to the newer “modern” little Joe format, so we got him the set. It never sat right with me, but this was my hobby, and this was my Club, and I was there to support it in hopes we would get something we liked better next year.
And we did. The Red Shadows set was a wonderful homage to the classic English Action Force teams and it’s Villains. It was well done, different, imaginative, had great characters, and the souvenir vehicles were fantastic as well. It was one of the better con experiences my family has had for certain. the format had gone back to the older style of the 1980′s Joes, and that was where I hoped it would stay.
Between 2011 and 2012 is when I truly began to see the club for what it is. I saw a growing dissatisfaction among other club members, disagreements over how things were done, and a prevalent “Us against them” mentality on both sides. Members weren’t happy with decisions the Club was making, but the Club would just sit there and say “We’re sorry, but this is how it is”. They did some Adventure Team smaller Joes with terrible vehicles that were horribly overpriced. They teased this “MANTA SQUAD” set that used the older tooling and looked great, but never delivered on it. There was this whole “Figure Subscription Service” that they were going to sign members up for, where you could get 12 carded figures, which they have never bothered to start up, or even grace us with the cost we would have to pay if we wanted it. I’ve seen a lot of collectors, friends, simply drop out and stop dealing with them.
In 2011, we weren’t able to attend the convention, but we were able to get the set sent to us (only the boxed set, not the bagged set, those were sold out) and we had to move quickly to get it because the set sold out very quickly. I didn’t remember the sets selling out that quickly in the past, but I was just happy I could get one, and so was my son. We were hoping some of the souvenirs would be available on line after the show, along with a carded Dial Tone we were hoping to get, but neither happened. Instead, we found out about something called a “Golden Ticket” that was sold to attendees, that allowed them to purchase extra souvenir items 3 at a time. Well, that didn’t sound right to me. In the past, the club limited purchases to make sure everyone was able to get what they wanted the first day, then come Friday morning, they let people buy whatever they wanted, and no one had to pay extra for anything. There had to be something we were missing.
Well, we made plans to attend the con this year. It was going to be a family event, both my sons and my step son were going to attend. My youngest was moving out of toys so this would probably be his last con altogether. My older son has been poking around on line and on eBay so his interest has been resurrected a bit, and my step son had never been to a con mainly due to his military service, and was really looking forward to it. We waited for the information, but it seemed to be taking forever. My older son had been reading some of the on line sites, and would updates me as needed. I had been paying down one of our family credit cards that we had used for vacations in the past, including conventions, so we were ready as soon as the club was. That is, we were ready until my wife caught over $4000 in charges on that account. Three separate charges, in Europe and Asia of all places. It was a MESS. We didn’t catch the charges until we got the statement for January, so at that point they were almost a month old. This card was our convention lifeline, it wasn’t used often, so we didn’t know how someone could have gotten the card number. My son told me he had read something on a site called “Hisstank” about credit card fraud somehow linked to the GIJCC. Well, much like the Golden Ticket, I didn’t believe it right away. If there was some issue with my club, they would spare no expense in immediately contacting their members to be sure we were protected. Or so i thought. As I am sure many of you know already, it turned out the Club WAS “hacked”, and the personal information of it’s members was stolen and sold to scammers around the world. I took a look at the information provided on the GI Joe side of the club, but on the Transformers side it looked like it was far more widespread. I was stunned. I checked my email and saw nothing from my Club detailing this situation. My Club, who I supported for over 10 years through thick and thin, didn’t even think enough of me as a member to warn me that my information, my money, my family’s potential livelihood was at risk due to the Club’s own outdated software and on line mismanagement. When they finally did see fit to email us, it was two months after the charges hit out card. TWO MONTHS. That is INEXCUSABLE.
It took several hours of phone calls, and we had to get a new card, but my wife was able to straighten out the account. I was still angry, and was ready to bail on our convention planning, but we had already made the plans, saved the date, and my family was really looking forward to it.
Then, my son told me the date for the convention had changed. WHAT? Changed to WHEN? AND the hotel had changed? This was unprecedented. And it effectively sank our chances of going to the con. My step son wouldn’t have been able to make it, and I had already set my vacation time at work. I was unable to change it because the new convention time was already taken by someone else. We were done. The Club had just destroyed my entire family’s vacation plans. Not safeguarding our financial information wasn’t enough, they seemed dead set on pushing membership out the door.
My younger son still wanted to get the Convention set, so I told him we would do it. He was hoping for a carded Footloose figure, that, similar to the Dial-Tone from last year, would be available as a carded figure at the con, but I doubt we would have a chance at one of those since Dial Tone goes for quite a bit of money now, much like all the convention souvenirs from last year that we were unable to get. We were supposed to get a loose Footloose as part of the club membership, so he would get that certainly. Then, he told me that footloose was already going for over $100 on eBay. i told him he was wrong, it couldn’t be, because we didn’t get ours yet. But he showed me, people had already gotten their figures and were selling them for hundreds of dollars. How? We were members in good standing, we paid for our membership BEFORE the credit card issues, how do we NOT have our figure yet, but others do? I called the Club and was told they were “Asking members to be patient and wait until May 31st because they were sent bulk mail which takes time”. So, someone in Seattle, and Florida, and even some collectors in England, THEY have their figures, but we, who live just a couple states away from the Club hub in Texas, don’t have ours yet? What does it take to rate with these people? I’ve been loyal, supportive, non-judgmental, patient, but they don’t seem to care.
Regardless, my son wanted the Convention set, so we waited for registration, and assumed Footloose would get to our home soon. Registration finally went live on line after many issues including something having to do with the new movie release date, but last week it was ready to go…FOR ATTENDEES ONLY. The Club’s response was that they “wanted the con sets to go to convention attendees only” and that “some non-attending packages would be on line later but only after all the attending packages were sold”. Apparently membership and support doesn’t count for what it used to with this Club. I know one collector who is deployed overseas in the US Army from time to time and has relied on the Homefront Hero Package to help him stay connected to his hobby. He is deployed this year. Does the Club hate our troops? I also found out about this “Golden Ticket” that was being sold again this year. It allows the purchaser to buy up to 3 of every item before anyone else who DIDN’T purchase the ticket. We used to be allowed to buy extras for FREE, but now, the cost of this Golden Ticket is…$300. An EXTRA $300 on top of the $345 for the boxed set, which is the highest that the attendee set has EVER BEEN. So, for the opportunity to buy more of the items, an opportunity that used to be FREE after everyone else was allowed to get one of each item, will now net the Club almost $30K EXTRA on top of the already highly priced con sets, con souvenirs, and now useless membership subscription. I guess they are soaking their membership to help pay for all of their mistakes? For all of the potential pending litigation over their mishandling our their member’s personal information? For the software upgrade? I guess the Club’s mistakes are OUR mistakes as well, after all, we have supported them in their continued mismanagement. Even at it’s basest level, the Golden Ticket makes no sense. If you go to the grocery store and buy a roll of toilet paper for $1, they don’t charge you $5 for 3 rolls. It sounds to me as if Brian Savage saw what the items were fetching at auction and decided to charge more and get a piece of that pie. I can’t beleive people are falling for it, honestly.
I was disgusted. This wasn’t my club. MY Club made the hobby better. This Club is a money sucking vacuum, and they don’t care at all about their membership any more. They only care about the money they can take. But I was still prepared to give them my money for my son’s boxed set. He had a game last night, so I went to see him play. I checked the registration before I left, and it wasn’t open yet for non attendees. Hopefully tomorrow…
We got home a little late from the game, my son’s team didn’t win. I checked my email before bed to see that non-attendee registration was up and running, so I went in to get my son a set and…They were gone. Gone. I checked some of the web sites and there were reports of non-Attendee registration being open for two hours before that email was even sent to me. I had to tell my son that we weren’t getting a con set for the first time in 12 years. Another email that I got this morning basically said “They sold out, don’t contact us”.
As I’ve said, I’m done with this Club. Once we get Footloose figure (no, we still have not gotten ours yet, and they continue to be sold on eBay for insane prices) I won’t be giving Brian Savage’s traveling money hole and carpet bagging fan club any more of my family’s money. We have our memories, and that is what it was really about. I’ll miss it, but I am still hopeful that the rest of the Club membership wises up and sees that they are being horribly taken advantage of but an unscrupulous and morally corrupt individual. I also hope that Hasbro sees the club for what they are, as well, and refuses to do any further business with them. It is time for a new club. A Club made by collectors, for collectors. A true FAN CLUB. When there is, we will come back to support them. Until then, it was nice, and I wish my fellow collectors well.
(I was advised by fellow collectors to issue this anonymously, because, and I quote, “The GIJCC has proven they have a short temper, no patience for criticism, and a long memory when it comes to their detractors.”)
Another Angry Former GI Joe Collectors Club Member
Sgt. A Nonymous
Again, this is the opinion of one fan but it certainly seems that the author has several VERY valid concerns. Given that 2012 has proven to be a year of one mishap after another for the Collector’s Club, as well as my own editorial that the Club has turned into a “Convention Only” organization in terms of their priorities, and you have the beginnings of a very dissatisfied membership.
So, is “Sgt. A. Nonymous” just ranting or does he have a valid point? Use the comments section below and post your thoughts on G.I. Joe Collector’s Club and this editorial. (Remember– keep it strictly “on topic” and avoid personal attacks.)