I’ve been hearing a lot about the Mattycollector web site and all the fury it tends to generate for fans of Mattel’s action figures. For those of you who have never heard of Mattycollector, it’s a web site where you can buy exclusive Mattel action figures you can’t get anywhere else. Lately, most of the scrambling has been for figures from the Masters of the Universe and DC comics lines.
Being the crack investigative journalist that I am, I thought it my civic duty to investigate further and try to buy some toys. So, I put on my Sherlock Holmes cap, grabbed my oversized magnifying glass, and set to work. My goal: find out if the customer service experience at Mattycolllector could really be as bad as reported.
Yesterday at noon, the site opened its doors for the monthly grabfest which included a total of six new items from Masters of the Universe Classics, Justice League Unlimited, Ghostbusters, and DC Universe Classics. Shortly after noon, I tried to log in to the site and place an order. This is what I saw:
That is what is commonly referred to as the white screen of death, or WSOD. It’s never a good thing when your failures are so common that they get their own acronyms. Here’s the text of the message in case you can’t read it in the image above:
Hey Toy Fan,
If you’re seeing this screen, it means we’re experiencing extraordinarily high levels of traffic. No need to worry — it’s a normal function of traffic management.
PLEASE DON’T REFRESH YOUR SCREEN! To keep our servers performing properly, your request has been placed in a queue. This page will automatically refresh every 3 seconds – if you refresh your screen, you’ll lose your place in the queue. Once the high traffic levels subside, you’ll be taken to the page you requested.
Well. I dutifully just sat there and waited. And waited. After five minutes, I started to feel like a chump since my browser had obviously not been refreshing a thing, so I rebelled against the man, that’s right, and I hit refresh. And I hit it again and again and again, and then… it worked! I got to see the list of items up for sale. She-Ra – check. Keldor – check. Venkman – check. Now hit the checkout button and we are…
We are currently unable to perform the selected action. Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience. We have been notified and are already working to correct this issue as quickly as possible. Please click your browser’s back button and try this action at a later time, or take a different action.
Error Number: SYS_000001
Frack! I hit the back button and was once again faced with the WSOD. After a few minutes of refreshing again, I was back to my order page and She-Ra was gone. Somebody took my She-Ra! She was right there, she was in my cart! Where did she go? Imagine heading to the checkout line of Toys R Us, smiling as the last She-Ra on the shelf sits so pretty in your cart. But then one of the wheels on your cart falls off. You bend down to see what happened and when you look back in your cart, it’s empty. That’s how I felt.
I finally was able to successfully checkout with a Keldor and a Venkman, but I got the WSOD again and wasn’t sure if the order actually went through until I received an email receipt. Overall, it was an exhausting and frustrating experience, that certainly lived up to the hype.
I understand how difficult it can be to run a web site (but I can only imagine what it’s like to run a successful one). The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that Mattycollector may be intentionally making this process difficult to build up the hype machine and make their items appear more scarce and collectible than they might otherwise be. Or maybe they really do just have a lousy processing setup.
Much like securing 50-yard line tickets to the big game, there is an inherent competitiveness going on here, where part of the fun is the bragging rights you get if you actually manage to reach the final checkout page with all your items.
As a collector, the thrill of the hunt is one of the driving factors that keeps me going. This experience certainly qualifies as a hunt and it was an ordeal I probably won’t submit myself to again, but you never know. I did end up with the Keldor and Venkman figures but I really wanted that She-Ra figure. I want it even more now that it was taken away. I checked the site this morning and apparently, there are still some Venkman’s available, which makes me feel a little bitter.
This was all a “journalistic” experiment, and I plan to give away the Keldor figure once it arrives. I’ll try and think of a good contest for all you Keldor-less MOTUC fans, but I think I’ll hold on to Venkman for a while, as a trophy of the big game.
Anyone else have any good stories about Mattycollector or other collecting experiences? Do tell.
My new toys arrived five days later and I tore open the box like it was Christmas morning. Each figure came in its own shiny white box, marked “adult collector,” so there’s no mistake these are very special indeed. Inside the box, the figure is protected by a fancy piece of tissue paper, which surely justifies the $20.00 price tag.
The figures are really great looking and I can’t wait to break free the Ghostbuster’s Venkman and place him on a shelf of honor. I have a different idea brewing for Keldor, which I think you’re going to like. Stay tuned…