I haven't been shy about how much I dislike the behavior of some Hot Wheels collectors. People hoarding cars...buying just to resell...you know, the stuff you've seen online on blogs, Instagrams, and Facebook.
Up until now, that was all second hand information for me. I know it happens and while I'm only out a few cars I can't find on the pegs, it's otherwise had little impact on me personally. I'm not about to get bent out of shape because I'm not able to find car I think is cool, but when the behavior of others impact my experience - and more so - the experience of my family, that's another story.
But first, let me say that the recent Hot Wheels Day at my local Target went really well, all things considered. My kid had fun, I had fun seeing my kid have fun, and we got a few cars to take home. It was clear that the Target staff were somewhat unprepared but even then, they managed to keep things running smoothly. The staff behavior was great, but the same can't be said for some of the adult shoppers, unfortunately.
My kid and I showed up after 10am to find Target staff still getting things in order. There was a small group of people waiting, mostly adults with only a few kids watching. My daughter asked me when we get to pick out the "special" cars, and I told her that those cars didn't come out until 11a...which was met by groans and sighs from the adult collectors hanging around. Really?
Once the main table was set up, the Target floor manager said that everyone gets one free car from the bin, plus some stickers and activity sheet. Then one of the collectors shouted out, "we'll let the kids go first," along with a half laugh. And while that was somewhat of a joke, it probably really wasn't. I knew that he and the rest of the guys there were just itching to dive into that bin like sharks on chum.
The kids went up and picked out there cars, then this happened:
We're gonna need a bigger boat.
The kids didn't care. They were sitting on the floor putting stickers on their cars, but I cared and it seemed the Target staff cared too. After that display of poor self-control, the Target lady said that she was mistaken and the free cars were only for those under 18. I don't know if that was legit or if it was just a way to stop the feeding frenzy, but it was the right call.
To be honest, it was an embarrassing display. I don't care what type of collector you are, casual or hardcode, that's just not acceptable behavior for a grown ass man. Not to mention, there were less than 10 people waiting in the first place. This wasn't Black Friday or anything.
With the collectors stopped from raiding the free bin, they were relegated to waiting for the Collector Event to start at 11am. They were told to wait in line "over there" while the staff finished setting up that table.
There was a single table put out and then they cracked open cases and covered the table. People were told they could only pick out 5 cars and then would have to go to the end of the line if they wanted more. No raffle tickets or anything, which I know some stores did do.
My daughter was excited to pick out cars so after she was done racing on the loop-de-loop track, we waited in line. We stood there while the collector guys himmed and hawed over which cars there were going to choose while loudly commenting on which cars were valuable and so on. Fine...just know that there are people waiting.
As we got closer, I saw that one of the collector guys was standing next to the table as if he were Target staff. But he wasn't. Yet there he was behind the table helping crack open boxes, organizing the table, and ushering people through as though it was his event to run.
I'm sure he thought he was helping but he was just making things quite annoying. My kid and I got up to the table and were looking over the cars. My daughter was asking me about some cars and asking me to look at things, but here this guy was grabbing stuff for us, telling us which one's are worth money and otherwise just shooing us along. It was unnecessary and, quite frankly, a little creepy. Don't be that guy.
Of course, I put some blame on Target for not politely asking this guy to return to the line, but ultimately that dude should have known his place and played along nicely. In the wise words of The Rock, "know your damn role!"
As long as we were there, that guy never had cars in his hand, so I don't know what his deal was. I assume he was waiting for more cases to get opened seeing if there was a TH or something like that. Or just hanging around to try and sweet talk his way into getting first crack at box later. It was a weird thing to witness.
Now, if you're a hoarder or door warmer and buy all the inventory Target has on the pegs, so be it. I don't like it, but that's what you're gonna do. You're taking the fun out of hunting and collecting from a distance...but when you bring that behavior to an event in front of me, my kid, and even just the shopping public, that's not cool. It's sad.
As a parent, it makes me have to shift my concern from having fun with my kid to a) protecting her, and b) having to explain to her why those men are acting that way. Even my 6-year-old daughter thought it was weird.
As a casual collector, it was amazing seeing that behavior live and in front of me. It was amazing because it validated everything I had read online and feared in my head. I always thought, "people can't possibly be that bad," but it seems like the internet is right sometimes. It was one of those times when I didn't want to mention anything about being interested in collecting Hot Wheels, and that's not a situation any of us should be in.
As a Hot Wheels guy, I was borderline ashamed and embarrassed. I was ashamed because what I saw happen in that store is not what Hot Wheels are about. The fun of toy cars isn't about pushing aside people and kids to get your hands on a car that you have deemed rare or valuable. It takes the fun out of the experience of finding, buying, collecting, and playing with toys. In the end, it makes me question whether or not I will attend future events like this.
And look, I know all of this isn't going to go away anytime soon. It's a problem that I'm sure none of us enjoy and that we just have to accept...but a few can ruin it for the rest. It's a curse we as Hot Wheels fans have to deal with and do our best at fighting.
I know it's exciting to see and buy some new cars, but there are some people around you that do not care as much. It's everyone's civil duty to be aware of that and not impose yourself onto others just to get to some toy cars. This isn't just sour grapes from a guy that didn't get his hands on a car he wanted...the cars don't matter when the experience as a whole is at stake.
And I know I'm preaching to the choir here...but, man, don't be one of those guys.