Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spreading Bad Perceptions Through Poor Actions

Its been a long week for the folks over at Upper Deck, and it should be getting longer as the lawsuit against them drags on. Tensions over their practices are growing across the internet, and to tell you the truth, I am not in disagreement one bit. What happened with the counterfeit Yu-Gi-Oh cards has put the doubt back in the minds of some, and solidified it in others. To say this is a bad situation is like saying Panini only "likes" foilboard and stickers.

The main sentiment against the situation comes in the form of mistrust for the dealings of Richard McWilliam, the guy whose signature adorns the back of each autographed card. If "Tricky Dick" is capable of screwing over the likes of an enormous japanese company that has brought them Millions of revenue, what is he capable of for the cards they sell on a daily basis. The question is starting to spread quickly, even going as far as summoning an indictment parody over on Blowout's forums. I guess its not hard to imagine the jerseys not being game used, or the autographs being signed by a different person related to the player, but I just don’t think its as easy to pull that off with all of the people who invest in cards by the thousands. The true experts are the collectors themselves, and Im not sure I subscribe to a grand conspiracy like that. However, I do subscribe to the fact that McWilliam deserves some of the negative spotlight he has received. He is known for what he has done to former business partners, for the fact that Razor entertainment was created as a way to legitimize a different prospect brand, and for his generally unethical behavior documented in the past 20 years.

So, is Upper Deck's only problem the man at the top? I would say that is hardly the case. Collectors usually still harbor ill will over past redemption times, replacements for problems that never got fixed, or for customer service issues that continue to haunt the product releases, which means that McWilliam isnt the only problem. I have said on numerous occasions that UD has done a notable job in improving the way they do their business, but it is still far from perfect. Redemptions still can take a long time, but it has become exceedingly rare for a card to take longer than the industry average. Customer service is still an issue, and I know that Chris Carlin has that at the top of his list. Yet, instances like this show that maybe the wool has been pulled down a little too far over our eyes. In one article, McWilliam was described as having a shredding session in his office to conceal evidence of wrongdoings. How in the world can he think it is a good idea to do that? If the company has made any strides in padding perception of improvements, that act alone is enough to make us want to run for the hills. Then you factor in that the counterfeits were authorized for the sole purpose of making more money, and suddenly the once improving situation dissipates to nothing.

I really don’t know if this lawsuit will ever be gone from the perceptions of the company, and it could lead to enough damage to permanently disfigure the everyday runnings of the products we love. That’s where I get scared, and I distinctly believe I am far from alone in that. See, my appreciation for UD has always come from the quality of the cards they produce, more in terms of design and concept more than what comes in a box. That has caused quite the backlash with a lot of readers who think that I benefit from my opinionated rambling, but that is as far from the truth as you can get. I like Upper Deck above all else because they do football best, and without them, I am left with a sea of foilboard parallels numbered to 1199. Although it will be on the minds of collectors that McWilliam perpetrated this awful and horrible situation, I doubt there are THAT many people that will swear off UD forever. Because of that fact, I am not too worried about my future opportunities to buy cool cards.

Of course, I am not going to turn a blind eye to what has happened either. The skeptical nature that I had mostly discarded now has new life, and I have no problem admitting that. Yet, I don’t think it stops with UD, and that’s where a lot of people need to catch on. Recently, more things have been brought to my attention that make me question the motives of EVERY company, not just the one who has been caught publicly. Do you really think this is the worst of the worst? I don’t think so at all. I have only gotten a whiff of some of the other stuff, but I have come to the conclusion that UD is only a partial player in the game, and other companies have just as many skeletons in their closet. Yet, because UD has always been the big bad wolf, the focus of people who spend their time investigating usually stops at their doorstep before moving on to the other two companies. Does that mean that UD has been unfairly targeted? Not a chance, but I think the wrath has been spared for the other two in other instances where it could have been harsh.

Lastly, despite the fact that I am angered by the lack of respect shown by McWilliam to the people he deals with, I think it just shows that this industry is driven by things we may not be clued into. Yes, I know that recent actions show that money at all costs is the overall goal of each company, but I think the motives to get that money have become borderline insane. Sadly, McWilliam isnt the only person driven by greed and envy in this hobby, and I think it is now only a matter of time before the perfect world of Topps and Panini comes crashing down. Mark my words on that.


  1. Great take Adam! I couldn't have said it better myself! This is Extremely disappointing and I think UD will take a big hit financially, to go along with the 2 other exclusive licensing contracts that will affect their business. I don't think this will cause the doors to shut down in CA, but they need to do damage control and hire a good PR firm to bounce back. This industry is going through a major rough spot now and needs some changing. Who is going to jump in and shake things up for the better? How can the card distributors improve the business? How can We collectors make a difference? Some things to think about and move forward!

  2. From almost from day 1 Upper Deck has been screwing collectors - the Griffey RCs and Frecnh Hockey cards - and that is why there is such a groundswell of hatred towards them. Topps and Pannini may have some skeletons in the closet, but I find it hard to imagine it is anywhere near as numerous as Upper Deck and over such a long time. As such, I doubt the fall out will be as large if (or when) it happens.

    Also, not everyone agrees that Upper Deck puts out the best football products . That is just your opinion and as such there are many people who would be happy to see Upper Deck go. Me, I couldn't care less if they went under or survived because their football products are predominantly rookie based.

    Oh, and I love that the indictment of Upper Deck on the forum lists "released 2009 UD Black football" twice. Without a doubt the worst football release of all time.

  3. Maybe the reason Upper Deck makes better football cards is that they cheat (sort of like Mark McGwire hitting 70 homeruns on steroids).

    It appears Topps has wised up on their Babe Ruth Memorabilia Cards with the statement on the back protecting it from lawsuits.

    As for Panini they have only been back in Business in the US for about a year. I hope they are not screwing up, however if they have the liability for what Donruss put out in the past then there walls may come crashing down.....