Social media has, in many different ways, been a blessing and a curse. In the world of Pokemon cards this holds particularly true. Social media has allowed some of the largest groups of commonly interested collectors and players ever to come together with some groups pushing and exceeding 20,000 members. The individual buyer/seller has far more market power today than ten years ago as social media adds depth to an individual’s profile in ways that eBay cannot. Unfortunately, the social media hype has also forced some very unhealthy practices of buying into the mainstream that have not traditionally existed. As people get burned by the dozens on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and more, I want to look at trust as having a cash value.
“PayPal Friends/Family only; No returns”
If someone were selling you a car through FaceBook and required you pay in cash in a dark alley, you’d hopefully raise an eyebrow. The incredible thing is that when people going into buying Pokemon cards, they throw this same buyer’s conscience out the window. In the aggressive drive to save a dollar or two, buyers consistently purchase cards that aren’t as described, are shipped poorly, that never show up, and through payment methods that come with no protection. The idea that we can save a dollar or two is certainly tempting. On the macro scale, we see large dealers of all types of goods with consistently bad consumer experiences thriving because they undercut the competition by pennies. But is it worth the hassle? In the long run: no. First, let’s get this out on the table: the best sellers are competing with the worst. I’m not advocating for a tiered market with trustworthy “elites” that form an in-crowd and price control everything. A healthy, free market has a steady inflow and outflow of providers per demand. Pokemon functions like this. But if someone has 10 years of experience (or as a market might call it, survival) with Pokemon, you can dramatically reduce the odds of you having a bad experience. This is particularly true for high end goods. If you’re looking to spend $100+ on a card, for example, spending an extra 2-3% to go with a reputable seller who has adequately dealt in such cards is going to save you a LOT in the long run. You only have to get burned once in 50 deals of the same value to make all of your savings on 50 deals disappear. With social media outlets, this is almost certainly going to happen. Paying it up front to avoid the issue is a form of insurance. And anyone in business will tell you that insurance is an incredible investment. Even if you don’t get burned ever, you’ve still not come out ahead. How do I figure? It is easy in the nickle and dime world of Pokemon to forget that your time has value. I can sell one hour of my time for about $10 in most places in the developed world even without an education or special training. When you take risks with your Pokemon purchases, you’re not only risking the principle involved but also the time it takes to resolve the issue, the stress you put on yourself in the process, and the mental time lost to worrying about whether a deal will go well. Spending a small amount extra to eliminate these things is part of being a smart collector. The market value of trust is too often overlooked. Bogus sellers thrive on your unwillingness to spend a tiny bit extra. Thieves and crooks flock to markets where the buyers have more time and money than sensibility. Don’t be hunted. Spend the money to buy from a proper seller with the experience and time necessary to make sure you have a flawless experience.
'til next time,