Solving the Funko Fiasco

Funko-Pop-Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-Buffy-SDCCI am singling out Funko for this post, but really it could apply to any of the myriad of toy companies which were selling exclusive toys at SDCC this year.  So, if you are not one of the thousands of people who waited in line for a Funko bobble head and instead would prefer to imagine yourself in the Hasbro line or any of the other lines, please feel free.  I am only talking about Funko because that is the line I had the “pleasure” of standing in.

I am not a toy guy.  Despite the fact that I have several bobble heads and potato heads, they are more a giggle for me than a desire.  So how did I find myself endlessly circling the Funko booth at SDCC trying to get in the line which was always capped before the con even opened?  Simple.  I did it for love.

My wife texted me while I was in San Diego and asked if I could “swing by the booth where they are selling the Buffy bobble heads.”  My wife is a Buffy fan and had seen a tweet from Sarah Michelle Gellar about the limited edition bobble head that would be released at Comic Con.  For my wife?  Anything.

Each day I would get to Funko as fast as  I could, only to find the line capped and a gruff guy informing us that the line would be re-opened in anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour.  Fortyfive minutes would pass, I’d be back in front of the Funko booth, only to find that the line was once again full and would be another hour or so.  Repeat for several days until finally, on Sunday I loitered and hustled enough to get into the line.  An hour later I was at the front of the line, only to find that Buffy was sold out.

Now, don’t cry for me.  I’m not here to whine about the line waiting.  I’m not here to boo hoo about not getting Buffy (I found my wife a nice t-shirt by an independent artist and an IOU for a regular Buffy when they are released later this summer).  I’m here to offer a solution to the long lines at Funko, Hasbro, and all the other “limited edition” retailers.  I call it the “McFarlane Method.”

Many years ago Todd McFarlane (the creator of Spawn, for those of you who only know him as “the toy guy”) came up with a plan for alleviating the line in front of his booth.  He issued tickets.  Each ticket had a number, and that ticket was good for two items to be signed.  One ticket per person.  He didn’t do it to be a jerk or to cut down on people having their entire run of Spawn signed.  He did it so that people could enjoy the rest of the show.

He figured he could sign 100 books an hour.  So, he would issue the number of tickets that corresponded to the amount of time he would be signing.  Three hours signing = 150 tickets.  Six hours signing = 300 tickets.  Then, he would post a sign saying that he was now signing tickets 1-50.  The people with those tickets could get in line, he would sign their books, and they would move on.  People with the higher number tickets were free to enjoy the show and then come back as they got closer to the time their number would be called.  No one went away unhappy.

Funko, Hasbro, Mondo (what is it with these companies ending in “o”?) all know how many customers they can process in an hour.  Why can they not just issue tickets for their shops which are good for a specific time/location in line?  Then, instead of everyone standing in line for hours, or milling about so they can get in line once it opens, people could enjoy the con, and then check in when their tickets are good?

Before you rush to say that there will just be a crush of people getting tickets, Lego executed a similar plan last year for their mini-fig drawing.  Once the line location was established, the line moved quickly and orderly.  People who wanted more than one ticket could get back in line and get another.  In our case for exclusives, this would just allow them to get in line a second time later in the day.   Then, once people had their tickets, they could enjoy the rest of the show.  To be even more efficient and hi-tech, the companies could set up a dedicated app which would indicate what numbers were being served.  That way people would not even have to keep cycling back in front of the booths, clogging up the aisles.  They could just check their phones every so often from anywhere in the con.  In short, the current scenario is not the only way to do business.  Companies just have to be willing to try something a little different.

Some people believe that standing in long lines  is part of the Comic Con “experience.”  For those people, I suggest that Hall H may be the place for them.  For the rest of us, I would like to see a solution that allows people to get the exclusives they desire while still being able to enjoy the rest of the show.  Hopefully Funko, Hasbro, Mondo and the rest of the companies offering exclusives will re-examine their line strategies and come up with a solution.

What are your thoughts?  How would you solve the issue of long lines and circling for exclusives?  Sound off in the comments!

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