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This topic has been getting a little more play lately on the forums, including myself getting in on the debate so I thought I’d post about it here. It’s been discussed before, but now more than ever the debate is raging on. SHIPPING!

Why has the debate gotten heated, again? Well many MOTUC collectors just jive with the idea that their favorite toys cost about $30 to buy. They don’t like it, but they deal with it. But now that Retro-Action, JLU and accessory packs are coming in at inflated prices on the Mattel website, that extra shipping cost is really starting to annoy many fans.

Do you consider the shipping as part of the cost of buying a toy? This in particular, based on MattyCollector. Why pick on MattyCollector? Because their shipping rates are some of the worst on the internet. While you can usually get multiple items for their $8-9 (depending on your location), everything costs that flat amount to start.

As an example, the MOTUC weapons pack, which would in reality cost no more than $5 to ship through most postal services, still came up at the $9 price. That’s one of the reasons I skipped the weapons pack. I wanted the weapons, but couldn’t justify another $10 on top of the price for them.

Another major problem is that I have a MOTUC subscription. This means that I can not combine shipping on any items I order beyond that first figure. Which means every month I’m buying an item off of MattyCollector, but if I choose to buy another I have to pay a separate $9 shipping charge on top of it. It adds up quickly.

Of course one of the biggest issues with MattyCollector is that most of the items sell out very quickly. So it’s not like you can plan on combining shipping on several guys as they come out. Even before the figures were selling out, Mattel put a policy in place to ensure that no one got multiple MOTUC figures at the same time. They pulled He-Man and Beastman down off the site before Skeletor went on sale. It was one of the first big problems with the site as many folks were planning on getting combined shipping on He-Man & Skeletor.

One argument I always hear in favor of not counting shipping as part of the overall price is that “with time and gas” you’d spend that $9 anyway. I know several big names have weighed down on the side of this, such as Poe Ghostal. Personally I’ve always found that argument a bit dubious. Yes it’s true, I originally was excited about the online potential of MOTUC just so I wouldn’t have to hunt for figures… But while I’ve never actually logged every trip I’ve made to the store and my gas usage, I can tell you with certainty that I don’t spend $9 in gas every time I go looking for a figure.

Unless you drive a tank, chances are on average you aren’t spending $9 going to Target.

The “time” argument is bunk when dealing with MattyCollector, because if you don’t have access to the website at noon (heaven forbid someone work!) than you’re screwed anyway. I’d venture a guess that most people would rather search for a couple of days at their local Targets than miss a figure selling out in 5 minutes. So I’d say time isn’t a factor at all. Let’s just leave that out. Time and “hassle” largely only apply to Mattel products anyway as the company has become notorious for having their toys under stocked.

So it’s back to gas. On average a car would have to go 75 miles to spend $9 worth of gas. That’s based on the average gas mileage of cars and a $3 per gallon average gas price. While it’s not implausible that someone could spend that much gas searching for a figure, I think most would agree that they don’t.

If that was the case and you spent an additional $9 on every figure you own, if you only owned a 100 figures you’d spent another $900 in gas alone! That seems pretty unlikely. Most of us find figures in one or two trips to the store. Sure, certain figures may remain elusive for weeks but if you hit every Target and Walmart in town every day for a week, you’re not really acting like the average consumer or even the average collector. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s a pretty empty and boisterous assertion that everyone on average spends $9 looking for any one particular figure at the store. It’s more likely that most spend considerably less on gas.

Often in trade forums on action figure sites, people will sell toys they’ve found and will include a “gas” tax of sorts. Hey, they did do the legwork for you after all, didn’t they? Most people charge $1-$2 for this. Can you imagine if they added in a $9 charge for the gas it took them to get the figure? They’d be labeled a scalper and probably banned. Yet people still go to that as a defense as if it’s common practice to spend that much on gas for any one figure.

I make toy runs, but even I, a pretty hardcore collector, do most of my buying when I’m already out. This is true for almost all consumers across the board. So while yes, I do occasionally run out just for a specific toy, I don’t do that every time for every toy. Most of my items are bought when I’m already out.

Therein lay the problem with the MattyCollector website. Lobo is a $30 figure with shipping. To me, he wasn’t worth that. I didn’t really want Keldor and I couldn’t justify spending $30 on a toy with 5 points of articulation and no accessories. I think he’s a brilliant figure and I’m actually okay with the $20 price tag considering the lower run and such… But it was that extra $9, the same $9 that knocked out the MOTUC weapons pack and Tytus that stopped me from purchasing it.

So where do you side on this debate? Feel free to answer in the comments section, but please try to be courteous to others and explain your position well. Don’t just make grand statements and generalizations that it costs that much in gas to get the figures anyway. Back it up with personal stories or reasonable logic at least. While all of us may have $9 gas figures in our collections, the majority of the toys in anyone’s collection likely did not use $9 worth of gas. Don’t just say Mattel sucks and leave it at that and feel free to mention other places and the shipping rates you deal with there. Let’s hear it, Infinite Hollywoodians.

17 Responses to The Great Mattel Shipping Cost Debate

  • ministan says:

    Mattel is, IMHO, the worst toy company out there. It's all too apparent that they look at us collectors as cash cows that they can milk for any ol' crap, regardless of quality because we're impulsive and stupid. Personally, I vote with my wallet and stay away from any of their product these days, just like I stay away from BP gas stations.

  • poeghostal says:

    "I'd venture a guess that most people would rather search for a couple of days at their local Targets than miss a figure selling out in 5 minutes."

    You said not to make generalizations. That seems a bit like one to me–a guess, admittedly, but a generalization. Actually two: one, what most people would rather do; and two, that by searching "for a couple of days" you'll come up with that Gentleman Ghost or a Batman & Robin Walmart exclusive. We both know that is not the case.

    In November 2008, I drove to no less than 7 Walmarts across Massachusetts looking for DCUC5. I never found them. I guarantee you I spent $9 in gas, though that was admittedly spread across 5 figures. The cost in terms of anxiety, frustration, and wasted time, though?

    Don't mistake my being OK with paying $9 so as not to have to drive around as some sort of 1:1 correlation, i.e., that I think I'm saving exactly $9 worth of time and money per figure by not driving around to find them. Maybe I've facetiously written something like, "I'd probably spend that much in gas driving around looking for the figures," but that's not exactly the way I think of it. And I wouldn't argue that Mattycollector's shipping charges aren't very high. They are.

    I'm not justifying the high shipping charges to anyone but myself–I hate driving around looking for toys, especially in the day and age when a scalper, or even a collector picking them up for friends, will walk in and buy the entire stock five minutes after they hit the store. As for "one or two trips to the toy store"–I don't find this to be the case with toylines I really want. Yes, I tend to collect Mattel lines, and they're notoriously bad in terms of distribution, but it's not just Mattel.

    Case in point: I've visited three or four different Toys R Us stores in the last three weeks (not for explicit toy hunts, to be clear–I just happened to be in the area. And that number of visits is unusual for me–it's once a week at most on average, and usually the same TRU). I never once found a Lego minifigure. I did find empty pegs for them.

    If a line is popular with collectors–especially a Mattel line–it's going to be hard to find, at least for the first few months. If I'd relied on driving around and not ordering over the Internet to get my DCUC, I probably never would have owned Gentleman Ghost.

    In any event, I'll happily fork over an extra $5 per figure in shipping to not have to worry one bit about wasting time looking for them. Personally, I don't think that makes me a sucker so much as someone who's will to trade a little money for a little less anxiety over what shouldn't be more than a fun hobby. Sure, you could say, "Then just don't buy the toys," but then I'm even grumpier than if I just forked over the $5. I'm no monk, ready to divest myself of all materials things. I want certain possessions and I'm willing to accept being bilked a bit. I'm sure there's a point at which I'd balk, but $30 a month doesn't appear to be it.

    Some people pay huge amounts of money for expensive Japanese import toys that are 3" high, or $150 for 12" Hot Toys imports, and I rarely seem those people being given crap over that. I'd say, that with overcharging on Mattel's part and shipping together, I overpay $10 per Mattycollector figure. That's a couple hundred bucks a year I'd otherwise blow on beer or fast food or some other vice that's likely to be worse for me than toys.

    Sorry for the harangue, but a.) being called out to a degree, and b.) the constant bitching about Mattycollector, which seems to make up 80% of the comments on my blog these days, has put me in a bad mood. It's my own fault, of course, for posting anything about MOTUC/Mattel/Mattycollector. Maybe I'll just stick to pics of vintage toys and interviews with independent toymakers.

  • Tarman13 says:

    what is with this COMPANY!!! sure they make the figures that every COLLECTOR would love to get. MOTUC, DCUC, GHOSTBUSTERS & JLU. More & More i keep hearing sorry excuses from the pathetic company about Policy and Honor and each time the Break them– one moment it's the shaping cart fiasco- next it's the higher price crap– now it this!! this Company is so backward and trying so HARD to screw the Collector's Market–

    More or less they continue to Piss off Collectors and most of these Collectors just eat these products up, they will continue to throw their money at Mattel and Mattel will continue to screw the Collectors…I was a Huge fan of their DCUC figures– and I treasure the Figures i can find but their scarcity and overprice $15.00 kinda just lost it for me… I would LOVE to get the MOTUC but with all this Crap going on–why bother.

    One last note People, watch how well Mattel will do during this year's San Diego Comic Con.

  • Paul says:

    I always consider the cost of shipping, but lets face it, Mattel is overcharging for the figures. In the beginning when they weren't sure that MOTUC would work, it was a fair price for the lower figure lines. Now they should give their fans a break.

    And while 8 bucks seems like a lot, it's a fairly accurate shipping price, having shipped a lot of stuff the same size I kind of can gauge these things now.

  • Great response. To be honest, while those might be generalizations they seem more plausible than the others. I've NEVER seen any of the Walmart DCUC wave with Joker (I think it was 10?) so yeah I could have spent a billion dollars on gas searching for them. Heck, I may have spent $9 on gas searching for the Joker myself, but that's the exception not the rule. If Mattel made their figures more available, we wouldn't have that problem.

    I guess my problem with that logic is that you're saying every figure that Mattel releases will be as rare as Gentleman Ghost, which even with the nature of the beast when it comes to Mattel, just isn't true.

    Your hunt for Legos makes my case though, at least to me. You made several stops, but you were already out. So only a percentage of that trip's travel would equal part of that $9 in gas.

  • My main argument isn't that YOU CAN spend that much, it's that every figure has an expected $9 on average gas price. I think we'd both agree that's not true, but a lot of people justify the extra Matty shipping by saying that we'd spend that much in gas anyway. But I just don't buy that, for every figure.

    It's not like I think Mattel should give their figures away or anything and I know that the system they have in place is so skewed right now that it's of little point to debate it anyway, but I was mostly just curious what everyone thought about it.

    I import a fair amount of figures and for the most part I add the shipping cost into those as well. So it's not just Matty I take into account. Of course I'm sometimes more leniant on say a rare Japanese figure's shipping than Mattels, because I know that nowhere is going to carry certain Japanese products anyway, whereas most of Mattel's crap could be on shelves. Plus, I tend to order in bulk on most import items so I save on shipping, something Mattel's system rarely allows me to do.

  • I don't mind the $30 for a MOTUC, I don't like it, but I can take it. It's when every figure from that website gets an extra $9 charge if you order it by itself, that the problem comes in.

    I think if everything was available at once and lasted more than a day, you'd hear infinitely less complaining of course. The lack of true combined shipping is probably why it's more of an issue.

    I offer no solutions, because I know Mattel has shown an inability to get the products on the shelf to meet demand and to many the website is a god send even with high rates. I just wonder how everyone justifies it in their own heads.

    Did anyone just order the weapons pack? Did anyone just order Lobo? If so, how do they feel?

  • I've never been one to gripe about the shipping, it is what it is, but I do say this… It's beginning to effect how much Mattel stuff I buy. I've waited years for a JLU Lobo, but he was a real stretch at $20, he's just not worth $29 to me. Same for the weapons pack and Tytus too, as I liked him but once he went from $40 to $49 he was too much. It just seems that as of late that $9 shipping price has become the tipping point for me with many of Matty's items and I think it's coming up in heated debates more often because others are starting to feel it too.

    I know with the Lobo, I felt compelled to buy Keldor, just so I could justify the shipping price. Which made me seriously think about the Mattel shipping charge. I had actually convinced myself that I needed a $20 figure that I really didn't want, just so I could justify the $9 shipping on the other $20 figure I wanted. That's when this shipping thing really began to stick out to me.

  • As for the Mattel ranting, I've largely come to peace with many of my grievances with Mattel but I understand being frustrated with everyone's gripes about them. I know your site attracts a lot of Mattel negativity, but that's why I was hoping people would respond with some decent opinions (like yours) about their thoughts on it. This is less about Mattel's practices and more of a case study in general. Mattel just gets singled out because they're the ones that seem to be burning me as of late with shipping prices.

    Apologies for the 88 replies, apparently my post was too long and had to be broken up. That's what I get for being long winded.

  • Well there are two schools of thought. ONE that people just like to complain. While that's certainly true in many instances, I do think a large bulk of the Mattel complaints are based on some validity. And TWO, that Mattel makes such good products that people just don't care and put up with it anyway.

    Obviously they're doing well, so whatever they lose out on with me not buying certain figures because of the extra shipping, they're making up elsewhere.

  • Nik says:

    The worst part of all this was when Mattel suggested ordering same day items separately to guarantee you get the one you want!

  • ministan says:

    Mattel is the BP of toy companies.

  • Riz says:

    I totally agree with the argument. When MOTUC-DCUC 2-pack came out, I initially visited the two TRU locations near me out of excitement. But I wisened up quickly and simply kept calling both locations till one of them confirmed arrival – TRU holds the action figures if requested for that day (save Xmas season). So, if MOTUC were to be released via retails, I surely would save on shipping cost.
    In addition, with only minutes to buy all the desired figures at, you barely save on combined shipping as at least one of them sells out by the time you hit Submit. So, typically you end up buying only 1 figure of each type (hello! $9 S&H) – I don't quite see S&H savings in buying multiples of the same figure as you'd have to buy the missed figure upon it re-issue, so it evens out.

  • Grayson says:

    I'm a fan from Mexico City, so is even harder to get stuff over here. Honestly, matty is a blessing, I pay excactly 49.95 usd for 2 motuc figs shipped to mexico, no custom fees. Yes stuff takes about 2 weeks to get here but it's still a great deal

  • wesitron says:

    I always factor in cost to ship into the total cost. It's why I had to curb my importing as well. I'm not an impatient guy, either, you can't be when you want to import toys for as cheap as possible, so I wouldn't care if it took longer for my package to get here if it could save me some cash. The easiest way I can approach this subject is from recent experience.
    I couldn't justify She-ra because for what I consider only an okay figure, at 25-30 bucks she just costs too much for me. However, the wave 5 order, which was 5 figures in similar sized boxes as MOTUC minus their white mailer, only cost me 11.75 to ship. To me, that's worth it. That's a helluva lot of figures to ship for that price from California to Kentucky.
    Being from KY, I really can't see eye to eye with anyone from the west coast because they ge their figures like the next day so that extra scratch may be worth it for them. However, as I said, importers can't afford to be impatient so I don't mind the wait. They still get here by Monday/Tuesday anyway, which is astounding.

  • wesitron says:

    Does it make it worth the $9 for a regular figure? My answer is no. Mattel already overcharges for their toys and the shipping cost is ridiculous. At this point, their basic buck is way paid off, and despite it's ingenious re-use with armors to make it seem new, it's still an old mold. DC Universe? 15 bucks a figure at retail? If I can find them, I have to cherry-pick the characters I love most. I can't afford to get them all. Y'know what I can afford? Marvel Legends. Marvel Legends 2-packs at 20 bucks a pop with better articulation, similar paint apps, and similar re-use. Mattel always claims they're the biggest and best toy company in the world, but they can't even match Hasbro's prices. Not even close. The figures are already overpriced and I have to count shipping as part of it because, well, I don't have any other choice. It's not like I can compare prices or take a shot at finding it in the wild before a scalper gets to it. It's Matty or nothing. Unless they just blow me away with some new sculpts in the coming months, this'll be a pretty slow year for Matty at my house.__

  • Sinje says:

    agreed. the shipping plus the overpricing of the matty website is the reason i didn't bother picking up the ghostbuster figures even though good god i am a huuuuuge fan. i know the discussion is primarily MOTU but even still i can't justify 30 bucks per figure. i mean sure it's been 20ish years since we got a real glut of gb product excluding the extreme ghostbusters stuff and then on top of that we never got the likenesses of the actors. but mattel's end product just doesn't feel like 30 bucks nor feel like they're doing this great license with actor likeness approval any justice. the head sculpts are decent to soft, paint is generally good but doesn't complement the headsculpts, the bodies are pretty much reuses of eachother, and the proton packs aren't removable (the real gbs could do it, what's wrong with it here?). also no proton stream or swappable gloved hands. i can forgive the last 2 but at 30 i expect as much.

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