In a recent post, Kimaloo mentions offhandedly that even at her local Tar-ghay store she inevitably gets hits. It almost made me misty-eyed because, you see, that can never, ever happen at the Target in our town.
It took me a while to notice that the trading card distributor who stocks Target here is usually present on Wednesday or Thursday mornings. That's been true for at least a year, maybe longer, now that I think about it. Okay, so I'm slow.
But whenever I've noticed her, I also spy a fellow in the following uniform:
- wool hat;
- several shirts;
- a hoodie;
- droopy pants;
- a backpack;
- and iPod earphones leading to some electronic gizmo tucked in a pocket of one of his shirts.
Last week as I strolled by seeking dryer sheets, baby wipes, and a certain item that must go unmentioned in case You Know Who sees this post, there they were, the two of them, and it finally dawned on me that it's no coincidence. He is lurking.
She'd open a case of retail boxes (many different products inside the cardboard boxes; not 12 of the same). He would pick out a couple boxes, walk with them over to a nearby empty cash register conveyor belt, remove the outer cellophane, take out EVERY SINGLE PACK from the boxes, give each one an expert corner-to-corner quick bend and a run down along the sides, and then return it to the box. Or if he detected something, put it aside.
Did he appear guilty or nervous? Not a whit. Were Target staff members walking by? Sure, he even said hi to one of them. Then, in an indication of the glasnost and perestroika to come, he said to me, "Wow, don't see many girls* over here! What I'm doing is I'm checking for game-used jerseys and autographs." When finished scouring, he returned the box to Distributor Lady. Really, you've got to credit PSG for his straightforwardness and lack of guile.
Then the distributor said to me, all chirpy, "He's my best customer. And at least he doesn't use those little scales."
Didn't think to ask, "How can he be your best customer if he buys a few packs at at time? He certainly doesn't buy BOXES." But remember the part about my being slow.
"What about people seeing what looks like a full retail box, then they buy a couple packs but have no chance now to get a 'pull' despite the odds described on the box? Because by searching everything right away, you have ensured they have no chance." How about that, Pack Searcher Guy and Distributor Lady? Huh? Huh? Huh?
The distributor shrugged. PSG didn't respond because he was busy opening a retail box. Here is the gist of the conversation that followed: PSG has a skill. And he takes the time. And he employs expertise. And he pays for the packs he selects. If he's rewarded for his results, well there you have it. Nothing is stopping anyone else from stalking the distributor and spending two hours box searching while she unloads.
Nothing except, of course, time, responsibilities, and life itself.
"This is how I do it," he said raising a pack, demonstrating the technique. "The autos aren't usually thicker but if you slide your thumb and index finger down the sides you can feel them sticking out....I'm always one hundred percent right about game used and seventy percent right about autos."
So, no secrets. And it's not rocket science. Attempting to maintain journalistic (or at least blogalistic) objectivity, I said, "But this ruins chances for anyone who follows, doesn't it?" This vague notion of fairness didn't give him pause. And it's probably quite a bit easier to detect differences in a pack when you have the entire untouched box of packs for comparison.
"No, it depends what they're looking for! Not if they're looking to complete a set, for instance. Or they can always get a blaster or repack box."
"Which cost twenty dollars," I said. "Packs are $2.99."
Another shrug. "A couple of months ago I got a Joe Montana multi-colored game used auto from a pack." He then reeled off numerous impressive pulls.
"Do you sell the cards on eBay?" I asked.
"Sometimes," he answered. "It's not bad money. Every now and then I keep one, like I kept a Walt Frazier game used auto for a rainy day."
Although I was horrified and fascinated, I needed to get going and felt surprise when PSG said, "It was very nice meeting you. I hope to see you again!"
His openness surprised me...although I'd pictured the pack searcher costume pretty accurately, I didn't think of them as friendly. Just purposeful. After shopping for the items I needed, as I headed past the Box Pair to the cash registers, he stood amid widely strewn boxes and cellophane, waiting while Distributor Lady opened more boxes and arranged the contents on display shelves that were now groaning full for holiday shoppers. She didn't mind when he removed retail boxes to open.
Distributor Lady, who seems like a pleasant enough and hard working person, had no problem with the scenario. The Target folks had no problem with the scenario. If the world turned upside down and I wanted to show up every week to do the same thing, I have a feeling even PSG wouldn't mind. He's very democratic.
But I prefer Kimaloo-style luck or our own technique: the thrill of the two-minute clueless chase.
*Neither do I.