Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The tactics of a retail pack shopper

I don't remember when I bought my first pack of cards.

All I know is that almost every single one I've bought has come from a retail outlet of some sort. Every hobby shop I've gone to over the years seems to overprice their packs for whatever reason. I'm not sure if that's just a regional thing or not.

Sure, I love busting a couple boxes a year. But it's not something I do on anything near a regular basis. It's just not in the cards for me financially. (Even if I did have that kind of cash, I'd probably lean towards acquiring singles rather than boxes.)

All this has led me to becoming a "professional retail shopper", in my view. Ninety-five percent of the packs I've ever purchased have been retail.

Whenever I walk into a Target, I have my system. It's the same every time.

I even have a thing about keeping at least a couple wrappers from every product I open. I still have two of last year's A&G wrappers lying on my bookshelf for no specific reason. (Dozens and dozens of empty blasters line the top of my bookshelf as well. I can't throw them out.)



One of my little "rules" stands above all.

Never grab the first packs in the box.

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I never, ever buy those packs that are sitting on top of any of the rows. While I've never seen a pack searcher "in-action" at my local Target, I have to imagine those are the first ones they go for. (Actually, I might have saw a searcher once, but I just grabbed my rack pack and went on my way. I'm not a "confrontational" type of guy.)

Plus, those first packs have the bad mojo. The Dave Righetti autograph I pulled came three packs deep into the Archives box at Target.

A lot of the time, I'll grab the absolute last pack in the box. It's a lot of work to do that, though.

I've never gotten the big "hit" out of the first pack in any of the boxes I've opened. (Not that I care about those anyways.)

Even with blasters, I never grab the one sitting in plain view. I sneak my way back to the dark, shadowed depths of the blaster rack and grab the second or third one.

It's what I did with my Series 2 blaster yesterday, and that turned out pretty well.

Although I've already briefly mentioned it, I guess I should delve a little further into it when we're talking about retail.

Please don't pack search.

As I said, I don't intend to get in any arguments with these people if I ever see one. It's disappointing more than anything. And a bit sad.

I seriously hope my life never gets lonely and depressing enough that I'd have to go to Target and feel my way into getting that eight-dollar Howie Kendrick jersey card.

Rack packs are a little different though.

You can see through the backs of them. I know I've looked to see what card was visible on a few occasions.

I'm sure most of us have done it.

I specifically remember seeing a Mike Napoli card peeking out of the back of a 2007 Topps rack pack at a local K-Mart. (Ah, the days when I still bought cards at K-Mart.)

I've been a big Napoli fan from the start, so I bought that one. I didn't damage the cards in any way, and it was in plain sight.

All I wanted was a simple Mike Napoli base card.

The "strategy" doesn't end once I've bought the packs, though.

It continues to when I'm in the process of opening them as well.

As we know all too well, the first thing you see once you crack open the seal of a pack is the back of the last card. I've heard some collectors say they just flip to the front of the pack without looking at it.

Not me.

That back tells me how good the pack will be. I always look. If I see the name "Tom Seaver", then I'm instantly happy. The pack has already been a success.

Nothing against the guy, but if I see something like "Shaun Marcum", then I get a little worried. Sometimes, the other seven or so cards will make me forget all about Mr. Marcum. But a lot of the time, the pack is slightly disappointing if I'm not too happy with that first name on the back.

It might sound crazy, but it's true.

Once I've flipped the cards over, I have a bit of annoying habit.

Whether I like it or not, I always find myself skipping the first few cards and briefly checking to see what kind of insert the pack holds. I don't usually look at the player, I just want to see what to expect as I'm flipping through them.

That first card back can often be an indicator of whether I'll like the insert or not. I think Alexei Ramirez was that first one in the pack that held this neat DiMaggio mini. That was a good sign. (By the way, I apologize for using mostly recent issues in this post. I usually like to switch it up when featuring multiple cards, but these are the ones that are still fresh in my memory.)

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has these little "tactics". As crazy as they might seem sometimes, these idiosyncrasies are part of thing that keep drawing me back to Target, and specifically back to that section where they keep all the cards.

Twelve years in this hobby, and that great rush of opening a pack has never gone away.

I love it.


BA Benny said...

When I pull packs from boxws at my LCS I always got to the middle of a stack on the left side, just a thing with me, a little OCD perhaps.

Wilson said...

I never take the one off the top of the stack, I assume that's the last one the last pack searcher put down, if there was a pack searcher there. I'll usually grab the bottom or second from the bottom, sort of a Pascal's wager of pack-choosing. Ever since I've seen the searchers locally though, I've started checking to make sure the wrappers don't look like they've been poked and prodded and felt up too much, so I don't get damaged cards.

More often than not though, if I'm sure I really want 8-10 packs of the product, I'll buy sealed blaster boxes because any searching is much more obvious. Sometimes I'll pace myself on opening the packs over the course of the week, and sometimes I'll rip the whole box as fast as possible, looking to see what non-base cards showed up on the first pass, then going back and looking at the base at the end.

AdamE said...

For me I go for the pack next to the bottom on the back left stack first.

JediJeff said...

Left side, middle of the box. I could even know for a fact the box is new - I will not buy the top packs.

GCA said...

I always open full boxes by layer - first pack on each stack, then second, etc. Most collectors I know do one stack at a time (all the top lefts, then all the top rights, etc.)
Lately I've been choosing blaster boxes by checking the most random and irrelevant thing - the shrink wrap. Most blasters have a protrusion where the seams come together near the top, but I've been getting the ones that have flat seams. Got at least a gamer out of all of them. (They probably all have gamers or something in them).

Play at the Plate said...

I've had numerous encounters with pack searchers and have written about it a number of times. I'll just say this. If it's a box of loose packs or rack packs, they've all been searched. It doesn't matter if it's the bottom pack or the pack in the back, they get to them all. Sure, they sometimes miss a card, or you get there before they've been searched, but it's rare. As for the Archives auto, they can't search for on-card autos (unless the wrapper is see through) so it didn't matter where that pack was in the box. I've seen blasters taped up on the bottom too and I can only assume that something was removed from it. Pack searchers aren't just sad old men, they're douchebags who kill retail odds for other collectors. That's coming from someone who only buys retail about 99% of the time.