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Introducing Robert's new column with 'Flipping is ruining everything'

August 29, 2017, 1:18 PM · Editor's note: Hi everyone! I am cross-posting this to introduce you to my new personal blog on RobertNiles.com. Before I started posting about theme parks, I wrote editorials and reported for several newspapers. I've been wanting to get back into writing about a wider range of issues, so I now am posting weekly columns over on my personal site, if you might be interested in following my writing over there, too. Thank you.

This weekend, Disneyland and Walt Disney World will welcome Star Wars fans for "Force Friday," the latest big merchandise event at the parks. If you can't make it to Anaheim or Orlando, don't worry. Pretty much everything offered for sale at the event will be available for purchase on eBay by the end of the day.

Theme park fans know the drill by now. Whether it's Tiki mugs at Trader Sam's bar, Beauty and the Beast rose-adorned beverage cups, or the latest collectible pin, fans can expect long lines as people queue to buy whatever limited-edition thing Disney is selling. But more and more often, the people who are lining up to buy this stuff are not fans who want to get their hands on something that gives them bragging rights. They are opportunists looking to make a quick buck by flipping the souvenirs online.

That's frustrating for fans who have to wait in ever-growing lines for the souvenirs they want... or worse, can't get them at all when flippers ahead of them in line buy up all the merchandise. That forces true fans to have to log onto eBay and pay inflated prices for an item that could have been theirs had the park enforced purchase limits.

It's a classic bubble. High resale prices for souvenirs inspires hype, which lures more people into flipping, which reduces availability for core fans, which drives them into an escalating secondary market. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This isn't exclusive to theme parks, of course. I see pop-up stores around the Los Angeles area all the time, which seem to exist for the sole purpose of stocking kids and young adults who immediately resell the hyped-up "luxury" merchandise online. And why wouldn't they? My son made more money flipping one Supreme T-shirt than my daughter made in an entire week working at a local sandwich shop last summer.

And that's a problem. You see, despite the windfall he made, my son flipped only that one shirt. That's because one shirt was all he could afford to buy, in case the flip went south and he lost his money. Flipping is a rich person's game. When you are working paycheck to paycheck, you can't afford to gamble on a box full of $200 T-shirts, no matter how hot the market might appear.

So the people who have money to gamble make more and more flipping — with almost no effort — while those who do not work harder and harder at real jobs, only to fall further and further behind the flippers.

But reselling theme park tchotchkes and over-hyped T-shirts are flipping's amateur hour.... Keep reading Flipping is ruining everything at RobertNiles.com.

Please follow me at RobertNiles.com for the weekly, general-interest columns. We now return to non-stop theme park programming!

Replies (6)

August 29, 2017 at 5:31 PM · Scalpers. The worst of the worst.
August 30, 2017 at 7:47 AM · Unfortunately as society continues to embrace the "sharing economy" the distance between actual producers and consumers will continue to become greater and greater, and the identity of producers becomes further clouded in mystery. What appears to be a website that's selling items straight from a producer to consumers is actually a middle-man taking a cut of all sales. These "distributors" have wedged themselves in everywhere from event tickets to groceries. It's almost impossible anymore to buy something online directly from a manufacturer, even though many portals appear to be a direct connection between producers and consumers. Prices have started to reflect these markups as what used to be cheaper to purchase online (even with obscene shipping costs) is comparable to brink and mortar prices. As shipping costs have become nominal thanks to new delivery techniques, posted prices for items have shot up, not to compensate for lower delivery costs, but instead to compensate for these distributors/middle men that manage websites, deliver analytics to retailers, and control inventory.

It all started with Ticketmaster, followed by eBay, Amazon, and now hundreds of different distributors peddling products from shoe laces to luxury yachts. Even sites like Craigslist that are supposedly public "bulletin board" type portals have been invaded with distributors that are essentially flippers. I think it's only going to get worse, and with more and more people hiding behind avatars, false identities, and virtual storefronts online, it will be increasingly difficult to discern honest sellers from flippers. With prices online no longer besting brick and mortar prices, I could see a shift back, or at least a decrease in the erosion to in-person shopping.

September 2, 2017 at 4:05 PM · Don't worry. Disney will raise prices on merchandise soon. Problem solved. (I know for a fact Iger & Chapek's minions read this site, because they keep ripping off my ideas. You're welcome, greedy little wolverines.)
September 2, 2017 at 9:42 PM · Great article, Robert. It's nice to see you creating your own blog for you to speak your mind on topics that don't just pertain to theme parks. And clearly this is an issue that needs to be talked about.

The internet has lead to some of the biggest innovations in the history of mankind, but it's also created many new dangers as well. Dangers that become more and more relevant with each passing day as our lives become more and more dependent on the internet.

September 3, 2017 at 12:19 AM · I don't feel bad for anyone involved in this charade, if people want to pay big bucks for cheap crap that's made in Indonesia for pennies I say let em pay it.
September 5, 2017 at 10:14 AM · This is capitalism. Demand outweighs supply on some theme park collectibles so the price rises via "scalpers". There are two solutions and both of which require action on the part of the theme park operator: Increase prices to make scalping no longer profitable or increase supply so that everybody can get the item they want.

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