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John's Action Figure Column 10/24/96


"If I Ran The Zoo..."
(With a mix of apologies and fondest thanks to Theodore

"In all the whole town, the most wonderful spot
is behind Smitty's house in the big vacant lot.
It's just the right spot for my wonderful plans,"
Said young Johnny McG, "...if I clean up the cans."

"Now a fellow like me," said young Johnny McG,
"Could get rid of this junk with but half a day free.
I could yank up those weeds and remove that big stump,
Haul off those old cars -- they'll go right to the dump!
And then the whole place would be ready you see."

"All ready to pour in a concrete foundation
I think I will call it 'McG's Figure Nation.'
McG's Figure Nation, the world's greatest store
to sell action figures, their vehicles and more!"

Now young Johnny McG had a dream, and a plan
to become the preeminent action figure sales-man.
"It's not profit I'm after," he said with a grin,
"For profit to me is original sin."
(But avoiding a communist/capital digression
We'll table that rant until school's back in session.)

"I just want my friends to get all that they want
Without spending their lives in a Tee-Are-You haunt.
For life is too precious, too joyful when free,
To be wasting it all by the racks of Kaybee,
A-waiting for figures that never arrive
(For they're stopped in the back where the scalpers do thrive
Diverting the product away from the shelves
And into the hands of their greedy, base selves)."

"My store will be different, unique, breaking trends
For I'll only be selling my toys to my friends!
But fear not, ye strangers, your status can change --
I make friends quite easily, from the staid to the strange."

"You need only promise one thing, and it's small:
You cannot resell them for profit _at_ _all_.
For I've but one abiding belief to my name:
I sell 'em at cost, or I trade same-for-same."

"The toys that I sell you can give out as presents,
Trade them off for more toys, or for kittens, or pheasants.
You can chop them all up for some customized dreams,
Or give them to tots in a charity scheme.
You can paint them in red, or yellow, or blue,
Or all as a rainbow-fied gobbledy-goo
(Yes, I like that a lot; I'll reward the ones who
Paint entire collections a pied-plaid-checked stew!)"

"So long as you don't buy from me and then turn
To another collector, their wallet to burn,
Then we'll get along fine, and from me you can buy
Whatever darn figure might catch your bright eye.
I'll have shortpacks and longpacks, deluxe and re-issues
In boxes and bubbles, packed dearly with tissues.
McG's Figure Nation will carry them all
And together we'll have a collective fun ball!"

All was well, there in G-land, under Johnny's great plan
Until Smitty spoke up, that fine honest young man.
"But young Johnny," he said, his face creased with a frown,
"There's one problem that could tear your whole idea down!"

"Speak further, oh Smitty," worried Johnny then said,
"I don't want my wonderful figure store dead!
Please say more of my problem, what woeful dire flaw
Could devour Figure Nation in its slavering maw?"

"Tis a beast old and deadly," hale Smitty replied,
"Called the 'Case Packing Ratio,' and its grasp reaches wide.
If you really just want to sell toys to your friends
You'll get all tripped up by the case odds and ends.
For all figures, you see, do not come in packs even
And often those packed one-per-case do the leavin'
While the others remain, cast aside, all neglected
Left behind when their less-well-packed cousins defected."

"But that make no sense, Smitty," flustered Johnny retorted
"Why on earth would the best figures *ever* be shorted?"

"It's a time-honored policy that just doesn't make sense,"
countered Smitty, "the makers just have to be dense.
They're thick in the head, out of touch, all benighted."
"But don't they all realize it's their fans getting slighted?"
"Sigh," said Smitty, a long, deep heartfelt sigh,
"When I think about all this I just want to cry.
No, they don't seem to care for their customer base
To them it's a mindless and pure profit race."

"Well this changes my plans just a bit," said McG.
"I'll have to consult the toy makers and see
If they'll listen to reason, to sense and to pleas
Designed to resolve this foul shortpack disease."

"But Johnny, you can't -- " gasped Smitty, " -- please, wait --"
But young Johnny McG had run off; t'was too late.
For you can't stop exuberance, ideals, the desire
To keep your friends' toy fingers out of the fire.
And McG was consumed by a passion most grand
To get all the toys his friends craved in their hands.

He drove over hill and he drove over dale
In a beaten up Ford, with his lunch in a pail.
His journey began at a Tower named Coit,
and its first leg concluded outside of Detroit.
"I am here to see Todd," young McG called aloud
to a well-dressed suburban Livonia crowd.
"But it's Plymouth you want," said a kindly old gent,
"That's where McFigs go, when they're broke, or they're bent,
They moved there just recently, to a man, one and all."
"I suppose I'll be leaving then," said McG, in a pall.

And on back to the road in his beaten-up Ford
To a tough conversation that he hoped would reward
Not just his emporium, his fine employees
But his customers, who, to him, were the bee's knees.

And finally, he stopped outside McFarlane Toys
Purveyor of consummate figures to boys
(And to girls, and adults, of both sexes, it's true
But I'm the one telling this story, not you
And I'll move it along without help or deflect
Even if thus politically we're a bit incorrect).

"Ho, King Todd," McG bellowed, intent to be blunt
And in rang his voice through a door in the front
Past the workshop, the office, and even a lounge
(Where Chet, so it happens, was trying to scrounge
Just a wee bit of lunch, a light bite, a piece fruit,
Then back to his labors promoting McLoot).
"Ho, King Todd," he repeated, "I've got a proposal,
Regarding your figures pen-ultimate disposal."

And then waited a time, for an answer, a sound
But the air was quite still, from the sky to the ground.
And he waited some more, and his feet grew quite cold
But his path was determined, his will was quite bold.
And even when night's ebon curtain did fall
McG hadn't moved, not an inch, not at all.
And then suddenly, with a boom, the front door opened wide
And Todd, Todd himself, loomed large right inside.

"Can I help you, young man," he asked pleasantly enough.
"Yes you can, and I hope I won't have to get rough.
I'm selling some toys to my friends, far and wide,
And I need to make sure that I'm evenly supplied.
If the balance gets off, then I'm screwed, if you know
What I mean," so he said, and then, "or I can go."

"There's no need, friend McG," said the friendly toy maker,
"I've got plenty of toys, by the yard, by the acre.
And I just want to sell them, to you, to them all
The shortpack is only a Toys 'R' Us stall.
They're an antitrust nightmare, the two-ton gorilla
A violent unbridled free marketplace killer!"

Young McG thought this over; it rang not quite true,
What with Target, with Kaybee, and Super-K too.
And Wal-Mart, and Venture, FAO and the Zoo,
But he just couldn't see what else he could do.

Then he got an idea, just a little idea,
A prevaricatingly wicked idea,
The kind of idea you get but once a year,
But it might give his problem a kick in the rear!
"That's too bad, Todd," he said, in a sorrowful voice,
"Too bad that you're making a terrible choice.
For Kenner, you see, has decided to play
Selling toys to me in my desired toy-way;
And Toy Biz, as well, for me, even-packs, too;
And Playmates (which between us, I think, was a coup).
So McToys will be out in a field all alone
As their sales to my friends, large in number, will groan
And diminish, and narrow, as my friends' cash recedes
And moves on to the companies who _do_ meet their needs."

And the Todd he looked angry, then bitter, then sad,
Until something shifted and his features turned glad.
"Why, I see, young McG, the intent of your plea,
And I think from the shortpack I can make you quite free!
To your group of nice friends, I can now make amends
And cease all my uneven figure-sort trends!"

And with that the Todd turned to his office to plan,
And McG for his own part drove off and began,
To rehearse his next speech, which he'd have to deliver
In Ohio, which he'd reach with the aid of his flivver.
Where Kenner would now hear the bulk of his story
Which he'd leverage with hard-won McFarlane Toys glory
And his conscience would clear, since from now on his tale
Would have truth at its core, instead of a whale
Of a whopper, a falsehood, a lie, yes it's true
But since it was for a good cause he'd not rue
The slight knowing break of the Lord's Ninth commandment
The Lord, so he thought, would know what the demand meant,
And realize that when for collectors we work,
The truth absolute can be...quite a jerk.

And then from Ohio young Johnny would fly,
To the land of the Playmates, La Mirada, to vie
With the company that gave the world one-seven-oh-one
Truly, his struggle had only begun.

But believe me, in time, and indeed, with some luck,
Young Johnny will get his dilemma un-stuck.
And the figures will flow, and they'll be there for you
At McG's Figure Nation, provided you're true
To the honest collector's abiding refrain:
"I sell 'em at cost, or I trade same-for-same."

[Dedicated with love and affection to my dad, who must have read
me every one of those darned Seuss books until he knew 'em all by
Copyright (c) 1996 by John Gersten. All rights reserved.

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