Redemption Programs: Help Us Love You

Frank Thomas 2008 Upper Deck A Piece of History 500 Club #FT Redemption
Frank Thomas 2008 Upper Deck A Piece of History 500 Club #FT Redemption

Occasionally I’ll hear collectors complain about the modern day redemption programs. Here’s the hard truth black and white of it – these programs are meant to drive profit, that’s it.

For those of us that don’t like dealing with redemption programs, we shouldn’t bother opening packs because all it does is increase our chances of being put in highly undesirable situations with manufacturers when we pull redemption cards. This is especially true with modern wax. Our only concern should be the acquisition of singles sold by those of us that do open packs and aren’t personally affected by the egregious modern day redemption programs.

Now, that’s not to say that 100% of interactions with these programs are unsatisfactory because I’ve known some fellas that haven’t had any issues procuring their redemption cards by way of online code submission or even the old fashion mail-in route. Sure, good experiences do exist. Whether or not they’re the majority is another conversation entirely. Often times, I hear literal horror stories about wait times. We’re talking well into the years. Why on earth would a company have any customer wait that long for anything? All it does is cripple brand loyalty, which is always a bad business move. This brings me to another question, why bother with redemption programs in the first place? Why not just put the card in the pack?

Redemption cards come in many different formats: Base Parallels; GU; Signed; GU Signed; Sticker AU; On-Card AU, etc. For the following dialogue, we’re going to be talking specifically about on-card v. sticker autographs since this comparison offers a quick understanding of procurement lead time durations associated with redemption cards.

I get the hunch that companies push redemption programs to give them more time to secure the signed cards from the players. Now, I can understand this logic if the cards were being signed on-card since we have to take into account manufacturing schedules. But with a lot of redeemed cards, we’re talking sticker autos, which means there’s no reliance on a manufacturing schedule. A stack of to-be-signed stickers can and should be mailed very early on and well prior to the presses being run. Stickers are what you get when the firm wants to cut costs. I get it; it costs more to ship cards than it does to ship stickers. Sure, fine. But if that’s the case, I should get my redemption card back pretty quickly. I say this because by the time the pack gets to my hands, the presses are done running and stickers should have all been procured from the players. In fact, redemption cards should only be made for players whose stickers have been received.

Going back to lead time. It really should only be the duration required for logging the redemption code online and shipping the card to me. These companies should have someone on staff that manages the redemption procurement process on a day-to-day basis. This means, tracking the codes that come in and sending the cards out that day, or within the next business day. There is absolutely no reason for these absurdly long wait times.

Frank Thomas 2001 SP Game Bat Edition Piece of the Game #S-FT Autograph Redemption
Frank Thomas 2001 SP Game Bat Edition Piece of the Game #S-FT Autograph Redemption

Here are a few annoyances with the modern redemption program: Sticker or no sticker, I shouldn’t have to wait years, or even months to receive a redemption back. That’s ridiculous! And another thing, don’t tell me you can’t fulfill it if it’s not yet past expiration. There’s nothing worse than opening a chest full of gold and realizing there’s nothing in it.

Moving on from my rant with these programs. Let’s talk about the situation where the collector deliberately buys an old box of wax, say from 2009 and pulls a redemption card that’s long been expired. In no instance should that collector ever expect to have that sucker fulfilled. Would you believe I’ve heard some collectors do this, pull an expired redemption card, then complain on forums because they cannot fulfill it? Yes, adults too can sometimes act like children.

Let’s not forget this. The primary goal of these firms is to make money. That’s it. End of story. They aren’t concerned with expired redemption cards and they are in no way obligated to fulfill them. The expiration date means just that, an expiration. If it’s not fulfilled by that date as indicated on the card, that’s where the conversation ends.

We, as customers, on our own and without anyone asking us, make the decisions to purchase and open packs that yield expired redemption cards so we really have no reason to get upset when we can’t secure fulfillment. Even if we buy modern wax and pull an unexpired redemption card that can’t be redeemed until the better part of a year, we should know and accept this going in. Nobody told us to make the purchase. We made that decision on our own. If you don’t want to deal with a somewhat inevitable outcome, don’t buy the product. But there’s no reason to complain about it when you do.

Fact of the matter is this, companies that offer redemption programs have a responsibility to consumers to offer quick and reliable service, that is, of course, if they care about their brand image. Redemption programs can be great for collectors if they’re implemented correctly. Note to companies, if you’re going to make us redeem unexpired redemption cards, please don’t make us wait for months and months. Also don’t tell us you don’t have the card stated on the redemption card but will, instead, send us a different card of unequal value. All of this just muddies your brand image, makes you look bad, and makes us like you that much less and we actually want to love you. Help us do that.

To view the current eBay auctions for redemption cards, click here.

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