Thursday, April 28, 2016

So, I Yelled At A Pack-Searcher...

Sorry, no pretty pictures of cards in this post.

Well, I finally ran into one of them.  The much-discussed, possibly-apocryphal diviners of hits....the ever-elusive pack-searcher.

I was in the Westlake Village Target store picking up a prescription, so I hopped over to the card aisle to see if anything caught my eye.  I was looking at repacks when another fellow came along to look.  I graciously stepped to the side so we could both have some space.  He was white, about early-to-mid thirties, about 5'10", with a black beard and stocky build.  His T-Shirt was stylistically reminiscent of those "Tapout" shirts, but I can't recall what it said.

While I was looking, my wife called me on the phone, so I stepped down to the end of the aisle -- away from the cards -- to take the call.  While I was down there on the phone, I noticed that he had proceeded to take all of the Topps Platinum Football hanging "Value Packs" down off the rack.  Those are the ones that look like this:

This seemed unusual to me, but not nefarious.  As you can see, they always pack 3 extra parallels in those types of packs, and often you can see through the wrapper as to what player/team you are getting on 1 or 2 of the cards.  I don't have a problem with that...if Topps puts it in clear cellophane, that's not hurting anyone to look and see if you have one of your favorite team on the top.  He was "holding" each one, then putting them back.  He didn't set any aside to buy.

At this point, my call ends, so I got back over to the card aisle and started looking at repacks again.  At this point, he walks over to the retail box of Panini "Decision 2016" political cards and pulls a giant stack of them out of the box...probably 10-12 packs.  These things are pretty thin, and he proceeds to take one pack, with an end in each hand, and gives it the most-severe bend I have ever seen given to a pack.  He probably gave it about a 45-degree arc bend, then threw it back in the box.  Then I watched him do it again.  On the third pack, I finally speak-up to the pack-searcher, aka "PS":

Me:  "Hey, please don't bend the cards."

PS:  <turning and smiling> "Oh, I'm not."

Me:  "Yes, you are.  I just saw you do it to three packs.  It's obvious you're pack-searching, and that's not cool."

The PS's face got a lot more serious in that instant, and he goes:  "Hey, just mind your own business, OK?"

Me:  "What you're doing is not cool.  Please stop."

--I was hoping he would just throw the cards back and leave to avoid a confrontation, as many others have found when confronting a pack-searcher.  However, this guy was not deterred. --

PS:  "Leave me alone.  Don't worry about what I'm doing.  It doesn't concern you."

Me:  "Yes it does.  When I buy packs that have creases down the sides or the corners all dinged up from pack-searchers, that concerns me."

PS:  "I don't do that."

Me:  "Well, when you're bending cards like that, they're gonna take some damage."

PS:  <Takes a step toward me>  "Just leave me alone, go over there or something."

Me:  "Or what?"

PS:  <mockingly>  "Or what?"

Me:  "This is wrong what you are doing and you need to stop.  Just to get a hot pack to put on Ebay?  Just stop, man."

PS:  "Fuck you."

And with that, he just turned away and ignored me and went back to looking at the wall of cards, never to make eye-contact again.  He stopped searching them, but just stood there.   I could tell it was a standoff where he wasn't going to move and was just waiting for me to leave before he did anything again, and if I told anyone about it, he would look like he was just standing there.  I had to roll anyway, so with that, I left the store.


After the fact, I kept thinking about this incident.
1)  I really wish I hadn't made it so confrontational from the get-go.  I have never had this experience before, so I just sprung into action without any real plan.  It would have been enlightening to actually have a discussion with find out if he was a collector or just a "Ebay Mercenary."

2)  Either I should have tried to calm the situation and get him to talk, or gone full scorched-earth and pulled out my camera phone to take pictures and videos of him to post online.  This never once occurred to me while I was actually talking to him.  Only when I was gone did this enter my mind.

3)  Would Target management have wanted to know about this?  Would they have done anything about it?  My guess is no, but I couldn't say for sure.  I assume this feels like a much bigger violation to me than it would to them.

4)  I really need to come up with better reasons than, "That's not cool, man."  :-)


So, dear blog readers....what do you think about this?  What should I have done differently?  Have you ever run into a retail pack-searcher?  What was your result?


  1. A few years back, I was at a Target and happened upon a pack searcher as I was heading to the card area. He was real discreet. Sitting Indian style on the floor with the box of cards in between his legs and in the same scenario as yours bending the packs of cards. Immediately, I found a store manager and explained to her what he was doing and how it affected people who would buy packs from the store and how it was screwing over little kids in the process who would never have a shot at getting a retail hit. The manager then went and confronted the pack searcher telling him she had been watching him for a few minutes and told him he needed to pay for all the packs that were sitting on the floor around him and to never enter "her" store again. This I know as I stayed out of sight but within earshot. At first the guy balked at her but, she explained that if he didn't she would call the police to report someone damaging merchandise at Target and she would be more than willing to press criminal charges against him. AT that point he agreed to pay for everything he had around him. I wish I would have stood in line behind him to see how much his pack searching cost him but I only thought about that after the fact.

    1. Wow! That sounds like a best-case scenario...avoid the direct conflict, but still hold the guy responsible for his actions. Thanks for sharing that story!

  2. I guess I don't mind if someone wants to take a gamble on a pack that feels thicker than the others. My problem is that pack searchers have a tendency to damage cards by bending, scraping, and banging them around trying to discover what's in the packs. If you were going to get them in some kind of trouble with management, that would be the angle to take. It would be hard to prove, though, without opening the actual packs you saw him bending up. I'm not a confrontational person, so I'm not likely to be one of the ones who gets into an argument with a pack searcher. Usually when I've come upon someone who is searching packs, they do what this guy did after your argument and just kind of hover around until I leave. That in itself should be evidence enough to them that what they're doing is at least in a gray area if not outright wrong, but I would imagine they've each got some kind of justification they've made up to push the guilt/blame away.

  3. I think you did completely fine. I'm glad you spoke up. He clearly didn't care, but hopefully he'll keep it in the back of his head.

  4. I had only heard of the searchers taking scales with them to weigh the packs, so this talk of bending cards is new to me. In light of hearing about this, I think it's every collectors duty to do something if they see it occurring. I think Marc's situation above was the right way to handle it. Since there are supposedly cameras everywhere around the card aisles, the searcher wouldn't be able to pull the innocent little lamb act if they have been filmed during there bending process. I think in your particular instance you should have at least mentioned it to someone on your way out, but that is just my opinion. For me personally, I probably would have handled it much worse, in that once he said FU, I probably would have decked him and then in the eyes of the law I would be the bad guy. In closing, I appreciate that you at least had the courage to confront him, as most people these days don't. Those tend to be the same people who then complain that someone needs to do something about (insert issue here), all the while never actually doing anything themselves to try and fix the problem.

  5. Props to you. I don't think I would have had the guts to say anything in person, but I'm pretty cool with several of my Target cashiers. I would have pointed the guy out and let Target do whatever they would do.

  6. If that would have been me, I would have at least mentioned it to a store manager or someone and let them handle it. I'm not a confrontational type but in this instance, you did the right thing. Pack searchers are evil.

  7. Hey, props to you for confronting the guy. Letting the manager or the Assets Protection Team Member on duty know about it would be useful as well, as long as they understand why what they're doing is bad. And depending on how well you get along with said Team Members already, more direct action may be taken on their part.


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