A Year Of Pre-orders, And The Problems That Come With It

This year has been a year with a ton of exclusive Transformers, and most of them you have to pre-order within minutes of their reveals to even get a chance at buying. So lets have a deep dive into the problems that emerge from that. Read on.

One of the main reasons we pre-order an item, is to ensure that we get the item before it is sold out. In our fandom this year, we have been asked to pre-order a multitude of Transformer figures, and we haven’t always been getting them.
Now, Hasbro is making them, but we aren’t getting them. From Target notoriously making people confirm they still want their Earthrise Quintesson seven times before eventually cancelling the item anyways, to Walmart cancelling people’s entire order of the second wave of their exclusive War For Cybertron line, to Amazon literally crushing their exclusives in the mail due to their refusal to ship them in a box, or in some cases, just flat out losing the item after they said they shipped it. We just aren’t getting the toys that we are buying and collecting.
I know that you are saying, “But John, it’s 2020 and we are in the middle of a pandemic! Certainly we shouldn’t be so concerned with all these pre-orders being cancelled, often too late to re-order, or the pre-orders that sell out in seconds, or toys broken in haphazard shipping. ” And you would be correct, but that is a given that there will always be more important things to worry about than one’s hobbies, no matter what time period you are in. It is also a given that during such rough times, our escapism and joy that we find in collecting these little pieces of plastic is a vital resource to our mindset in these times. Go to the Allspark, and look at the threads. See how many people expressing their anger and sadness at the loss of something that was supposed to bring them joy. From the Quintesson, to Scorponok, to Soundwave, to all the exclusives that we rushed off to pre-order on a Friday lunch break before they got sold out.

So lets talk about some of this stuff.  With the on-going pandemic, most of us have bought our figures online rather than go to a store to see barren shelves or figures from last year or even older. Hasbro has even encouraged online buying with numerous Fan First Fridays, where all the “revealed” items would go up for pre-order that day. Yesterday, in fact, we got four more transformers to pre-order, with one being a Target Exclusive as well as a new set earlier this week exclusive to Amazon. There have been tons of these type reveals this year, and a lot of the toys are exclusives either to Walmart, Target, or Amazon. Just about all of these pre-orders would be sold out by the end of the day, with some, like Soundwave, selling out in minutes, and never restocking.
Personally, I have pre-ordered numerous figures this way, including the Ironhide/Prowl Earthrise two pack in July. Almost Two weeks ago, I got a shipping notification for this set, and it never arrived. UPS said they never got it from Amazon, and Amazon said that it was lost and that they had no other option but to refund me. This left me, like a lot of the fandom has found itself this year, forced to choose between having to pay a huge mark up on the secondary market or go without. The set is, of course, long sold out and even though I purchased and paid my $39.99 plus tax for it, to re-buy it, it would cost me $89.99 from a third party seller on Amazon. To make things even more frustrating, they offered me a $20 credit for the inconvenience, but this credit could not be used to buy third party items on their site. So even if I wanted to cough up another $30 to get the set, I couldn’t use the credit, and would have to spend another $20 plus another extra $5 taxes.

When speaking of Amazon this year, we have to talk about shipping, as even if they had managed to get me the toys I bought, its no guarantee that it would arrive safely and intact. This past year Amazon has just decided to start slapping shipping labels and writing all on the toy package itself and send it out in the mail!  When this is done to their exclusives it makes it an insane gamble for those in the fandom that collect MISB. Several of our members have had to get replacements for damaged or even stolen items because of this idiotic cost cutting shipping policy. More have even just not got the toy that they paid for. Personally I have received three transformers this way, and I would wager that this policy is the reason my most recent order was damaged/stolen. The world’s most richest man, who has $184.1 billion even after splitting almost $60 billion more to his now ex wife, can’t afford to pay his employees, give them bathroom breaks, or properly ship items it seems.

This isn’t the first pre-order I had to flake out on me this year either. Just back in September, when I was in the hospital with my wife and newborn baby, Target sent me an email stating that my Quintesson, that I pre-ordered in February, was delayed to some nebulous time in the future and that I would need to approve the delay or they would cancel the item. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the email until after they cancelled it. As it turns out though, a lot of people got that email for that item. From a pessimistic perspective, it seems that Target might have been just trying to thin out the numbers and didn’t have any intention of sending out these items. I can say that as multiple Allsparkers got numerous rounds of these emails, culminating in the seventh delay email simply stating that Target was cancelling the item with no option to approve a delay. I should note that most of these orders were from their February “Buy One Get One Half Off” sale, where the toy was listed at $19.99 on top of being in the sale.

How about the reveal of the second wave of the Walmart exclusive War For Cybertron toyline. Soundwave was sold out in minutes, and even if you managed to get something pre-ordered, it seems for a lot of fans in our forum thread, that Walmart quietly cancelled the items one by one over the past few months. Those items that weren’t cancelled were delayed, numerous times. Just this morning, I received an email from Walmart, informing me that the one item I did managed to pre-order from them, Bumblebee, would be delayed by a month. This is the third delay for that particular item.
So what is the solution to this problem? Do we need to do away with pre-orders? Not a helpful idea, as any Transformer fan can tell you that retail distribution is a nightmare. Do we need to stop having store exclusives? Again, not helpful, as we might not get those figures otherwise.  Do we need to change the way Transformers are made and sold? Not  practical idea in this year of uncertainty. There aren’t any easy solutions to the pre-order problems that nearly all of us have encountered and endured this year. Certainly there are a few things that could help. Hasbro could require retailers to order an extra quantity for replacements for lost or broken exclusive figures. There is some debate on whether this would be possible for Hasbro to do, but Hasbro’s influence over retailers is the topic of another debate.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for all the wonderful Transformers that I can buy and enjoy with my kids, especially during this hectic year. I just know that I am not alone in feeling the anger, disappointment, and sadness when I see something that I have bought months ago, to brighten my day and that of my kids, only not come to fruition. Especially when it is often too late to seek any other retail avenue, with the only recourse to pay some scalper 300% of the price on eBay. What are your thoughts on this situation? Have you had this happen to you this year? Discuss this topic in our forum thread.