How I Learned To Never Buy A Mattel Subscription

That's right, normally I review products that generally enjoy, but today I'm going to tell you how I got duped into buying a Mattel Action Figure Subscription and why that ended up being a bad idea. Read onwards to discover my mistakes....

 

Back around July of 2011, I was young(er) and stupid. I had been doing "Action Figure Friday" with my daughter (to be) Chloe for a couple of months and was really getting into the collecting of action figures. I had a relatively small collection, mainly focused on Batman and other DC Super Heroes, with a couple of Marvel figures from the Thor/Captain America movies that came out that year. It was around this time that Mattel announced their "Club Infinite Earths" subscription. I knew nothing of the Mattel subscriptions, but the idea of getting a random DC figure each month sounded rather appealing. So I signed up for the subscription. I knew that not every figure would be someone I was interested in, but I thought maybe I could re-gift them to other friends and family.

Worst....idea....ever.

First of all, I bought the subscription in July 2011 as I stated above. The first figure didn't even ship until almost A YEAR LATER in April 2012. Then, the subscription period ran until here recently, when I got the last figure in December. So from when I bought the subscription to my last figure received was a total time frame of a year and 5 months. In that time, the following items occurred:

- Bought a new car

- Got married

- Ashley changed jobs

- Bought a house

All of which contributed to my free spending money being far less than it was in the past. Yet, once the subscription kicked in, there was money that I had promised to pay every month going to an action figure. I tried sending an email to Mattel, saying that I just wasn't in the financial situation that I was when I bought the subscription and would like to cancel. Yet would they let me get out of the subscription? NOPE! Asking people to make that big of a financial commitment every month when we are in this economy is a bit nuts if you ask me. There was no way for me to know what my finances were going to be like when the program started.

The sad part is that if I could easily rationalize these figures if they were characters I was interested in. Yet, a year of figures later, there is maybe only 3 or 4 that I actually would want to keep. I was hoping there would be more, but some of these characters I haven't even heard of! This was also the first year of the DC Subscription. I would think that for the first year, you would want more recognizable characters to entice people to continue their subscription for another year. Not only that, I had no idea how much my credit card would be charged each month. Some months were normal figures, but some months had "deluxe" figures, and some months they doubled up on figures since the program didn't start until April!

As messed up as the program is, I do think that it could be really great with a few minor tweaks:

1) Allow people to cancel their subscription: The only real reason to get a subscription is that you get guaranteed the figures and you get the special "Club Exclusive" Figure. All they'd have to do is make the Club Exclusive figure the last figure of the year, then if you stayed with it the whole time then great - here's your figure! If you cancel your subscription, then oh well you're out of luck until next year - but if you couldn't afford to buy the figures anymore, this would really help you out.

OR

2) Require everyone to buy all the figures in advance: Just like magazine subscriptions, you put up a bunch of money in the beginning and then you get the reward sprinkled out throughout the year. This way, if you've got the money then you can buy the figures. Then if your situation changes, you're not out any extra money because you've already spent it. Also, this would help people new to these subscriptions (like I was) to better understand how much this would cost overall.

Basically, the point of this article was to warn people who aren't as familiar with these subscriptions like I was to be careful. Make sure you fully understand what you are committing to before you sign up for them. Honestly, its probably easier to just buy the figures you want individually from Mattel's website. If you really HAVE to have that Club Exclusive figure - go get it on Ebay. It's probably cheaper than buying all the other figures you won't want.

Having said all of that....when I heard the first figure for 2013 was the Blue Lantern Saint Walker, my first thought was "Ooooo I would actually want that...."

 

Keeping Track Of All My Action Figures

Earlier I wrote about my experiences at Baltimore Comic Con. One of the issues I had leading up to comic con, however, was trying to find a way to keep track of my action figure collection so we didn't buy figures that we already had. Click on through to see what my solution was.

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For my comic books, I've used the Comic Collectorz software (www.collectorz.com) for awhile now to keep track of what I do or don't have. Yet I haven't found any sort of similar software/website for letting me track what action figures I did or didn't have. I had a couple of ideas about making a database in Microsoft Access, but it would have taken too much time, and I also needed a way to view the database from my phone. That's when I stumbled onto Evernote.

In case you aren't familar, Evernote (www.evernote.com) is a place where you can create notebooks of all kinds of information and have them sync across multiple devices. I now have it installed on both my Macbook and Windows PC, as well as my iPhone and iPad. Changes I make on one device are pushed to all my different devices.

Playing around with the different options available, I first tried to create one master note that would contain all of my action figures along with a picture of them. This proved to be quite difficult, as I had trouble formatting the note and it was taking a lot of time to scroll back and forth through the note due to the amount of figures I had. Then, I realized I could make a whole notebook dedicated to action figures and have each figure be its own note. I used my webcam to take a picture of each one and resized it so that it wouldn't take up too much space (free Evernote accounts have a limit on how much can be uploaded during a month). Now, not only does the notebook look so much neater and more organized; I can also use the search feature to quickly find a certain figure and see if I have it/don't have it. Then, I shared the notebook with Ashley so that she could access it as well.

Overall, this solution has been great. It came in really handy when Ashley found those World of Warcraft figures because she could look and see which ones we already had. Now I just need to put in all the different figures that we obtained from the comic con, and I'll be all set!

Do you keep track of your action figures/other collections? How do you do it?

 

Baltimore Comic Con Wrap-Up

This past weekend, I took the family (and Philip) up to Baltimore for the Baltimore Comic Con! Those of you who listen to Relative Dimensions have heard some of this on this week's episode, but for everyone else I wanted to put up a blog post about it as well. Read onwards to hear what I thought.

Ever since I have gotten into comic books, I have looked forward to the Baltimore Comic Con every year. It is probably my favorite comic convention that I have been to (New York ranks up there as well, but the distance and money involved make it second best). The first year I went, Ashley and I even dressed up and participated in the first annual costume contest that they held.

So how did this year rank up? First of all, I tried to fix many mistakes that I had made in the past. Starting off - I tried to park a little ways away from the convention center, but not TOO far away. My reasoning for this - I didn't want to have a long walk, but I didn't want to waste $15-20 of valuable comic con money to pay for parking. I still ended up paying $10, which is not as good as I would have liked, but I think to get any cheaper I would have had a long hike.

Secondly, I made sure to get there as soon as I could. We got to the convention center right around when the con started, and aside from some issues checking in (more on that in a second), we still were able to get in not too long after the doors opened. Given that most of the vendors do not change between years, Ashley led the way to one side of the dealers and started looking for good deals -- which she succeeded at. She found some of the World of Warcraft Premium series of action figures for only $5 a pop (normally they are like $30+), which we quickly snatched up. At the same booth, I even found the Caveman Batman and Colonial Batman figures from the Return of Bruce Wayne series (didn't really care to get them at $15+, but at $5? Sure!).

Normally, I use Baltimore Comic Con as an excuse to stock up on $5 trade paperbacks, but this year I didn't see a lot of them that I wanted. Ashley and Chloe sure stocked up though; they found lots of them that they wanted to read. I'm not going to complain, anything to get Chloe reading is a plus in my book. What I *did* find though were a lot of retailers selling $1 single issues - INCLUDING new releases! I immediately took to those bins, digging for any New 52 Batman titles. See, I haven't been following that many comics recently due to the wedding/new house. While I've stayed up to date with at least Batman and Justice League, a lot of the other Bat-titles (Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics) I've gotten behind on. However, at $1 an issue, I quickly caught up on many of those titles, which I'm excited about.

My only beef with Baltimore Comic Con is that if you show up to the event having not bought a ticket, it can be kind of hard to understand what you need to do. Ashley and I had already got tickets in advance, so we were good; but Philip didn't. We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what line he needed to be in and where to go for tickets. At one point, someone made us believe that he had to get his ticket and then leave the convention center to get his wristband, but that turned out not to be the case. The other downside to the convention wasn't the convention's fault, it was my lack of keeping up with the comic book world. I normally like to cruise around artist alley and interview a couple of comics peoples, but having not that much time to spend at the con and not being as up to date on what people are working on, I chose to spend my time going through the rest of the floor.

All in all, Baltimore is a great convention that I look forward to going to with the family every year. Just as in years before, I'll take lessons from this year and apply them to my experience next year. Heck - hopefully next year or the year afterwards I'll be able to afford a table at the con and be there both days to enjoy the event to the fullest. If you live in the DC/MD/VA/PA area, then I highly suggest that you attend next year.

Did you go to the convention? What did you enjoy about it? Leave me a note in the comments.