The Force Is Not Strong With Hasbro

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

I think I am over due for a blog post about Hasbro, however something occurred today that has thrown me over the edge. I absolutely feel that it is necessary to write something on this topic now. I also hope to touch on as many points as I possibly can, as to help drive my point home that there is something wrong with how Hasbro has handled the Star Wars franchise recently.

To introduce my views on this topic, I should mention that I am familiar with the line to an extensive amount. I have collected 3 3/4 in. Star Wars figures since I was about five years old, however I did take a break during the past few years. After auditioning for Episode 7 my interest in the line had been rekindled, as I also introduced my girlfriend to the films. I got back into collecting, and looked into what had happened in the few years I was absent. Oddly enough during my hiatus, it seemed the golden age of collecting had occurred. However, there was a new record on the player, and it seemed to be scratched to Hell and back.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

Hasbro has always had its minor issues, but then again most companies do. However the prevalence of problems should never be as apparent in so many ways as they are with Hasbro. Recently consumers have noted they have been displeased in a variety of ways, from the figures themselves, all the way to how the products have been distributed. Unfortunately I absolutely have to agree with them. Fans on several forums (such as YakFace) have been quite outspoken with their views. There is a problem, and Hasbro is either unaware, or does not care to fix these issues.

The problem that has prompted this post is something that occurred today. I picked up a Black Series figure from Target in Edwardsville, IL. I haven’t bought a new figure for at least five months, so this was a big event for me. The only issue is that the card and bubble were excessively damaged, and there were only two *new* figures on the pegs. The other older figures have been there for months. The inclusion of two new figures can be attributed to a new store procedure. Target has started to split up cases between stores. They no longer send out solid cases of twelve figures any more. Instead of relying on a good mix from the manufacture, Target must now take distribution into their own hands, and split the cases themselves.

This presents two issues, both of which hurt the 3 3/4 inch line. The first being that the products are easily damaged in transit, and that consumers will not be able to purchase as many items in the toy isle. The variety to shop from is simply not there. There are two or three other figures in the wave that Target received that I would still like to purchase, however there is a zero percent chance of them arriving on local shelves now. Furthermore, what *has* recently been on the pegs in the past year are figures that no one wants, which oddly enough, still ship to stores under Hasbro’s supervision. Whether it is a distribution or availability issue, either way it is going to hurt the appeal of the product when it shows up on store shelves.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

This brings me to my next point, poor initial distribution, which threatens to harm the line as well. In the first wave of figures that shipped, there were several characters that were poor choices (I’m looking at you X-Wing Pilot Biggs). Not only were they characters with no consumer demand, but they were also carry forwards in just about every case that was distributed. Not only were they peg warming during the first case that hit stores, but they were included in every case after that. In a short amount of time all that was available became limited to one or two characters that were moving slowly from the shelves (if at all). The figures no one wanted had essentially clogged the pegs for any future releases, and even then in-demand figures we not carried forward, and were single packed in a case.

Additionally, if there were any different character on the shelves to purchase, then their packaging had probably fallen apart. Many plastic bubbles had come off the figures’ cards because of poor quality manufacturing. The adhesive used wasn’t strong enough, so just about every action figure isle became scattered with open Star Wars packages, or cards hung on the pegs mismatched with their merchandise stapled back onto them (many in a Frankenstein’s Monster-Esq. way). For me this honestly generated a tacky image for the line.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

An even further problem is that many times these figures that have been haphazardly put back together actually share the pegs with figures that have been there for years. These products have seriously not sold since they shipped in 2012. Almost every store I can visit within a two hours driving distance stocks a mixture of products from several different lines, none of which have ever been clearanced out or sent back to Hasbro to make way for new products to be stocked. This further complicates the problem of smooth distribution, as many stores seemingly have a plentiful stock of Star Wars figures.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

Another issue with the figures themselves is that Hasbro apparently recently switched production plants in China, so the vast majority of action figures had horrible paint applications. Many items I have seen first hand were either missing huge sections of paint (Like the 41st Clone Trooper), or had wonky eye syndrome (like gluing googly eyes to anything and everything). Overall, consumers were forced to cherry pick what figures looked the best, and because distribution was so bad, this became increasingly difficult. Quality control is not what it used to be for the line, and it definitely shows.

An entirely different issue which has also arisen is the inner-franchise competition of Hasbro’s six-inch Black Series, an entirely new scale of figures, as well as the Saga Legends/Mission Series figures, which feature only five points of articulation. The later obviously limits playability for kids, and posability for collectors (or anyone else). Likewise the quality of figures are nowhere near what had once existed, and they too have horrible paint applications. By offering these two lines alongside the Black Series, it really limits how much merchandise can be on the store shelf, and given the cheaper alternative of the SL/MS series, parents are more likely to drop five dollars for a figure, as oppose to the $10+ that the Black Series demands.

In addition to these two collections of figures, Hasbro has also introduced another gimic line, titled Star Wars Command, which is essentially an expensive version of galactic army men. Though they are a more inexpensive option for children, they take up over half of the Star Wars section, and are therefore another liability to the Black Series’ strength as a collection. I have no doubt they will follow in the footsteps of other “side lines” Hasbro has produced, such as the miniature Unleashed figures, Star Wars Angry Birds, as well as the Fighter Pods. The clearance isle is imminent.

If you’re wondering what else Hasbro can make that few people are asking for, then you may have guessed gigantic static vehicles (though I’ve heard big vehicles aren’t child friendly/don’t sell well to collectors). This year the big H has also produced a large X-Wing that isn’t to scale for any of their available lines, as well as a Millennium Falcon that doesn’t do anything. In the past Hasbro has made the argument that childrens’ play patterns have changed over the years, but I don’t think it has devolved into doing nothing with their toys. I don’t think these were good choices to produce, especially when there is such a demand for playsets or other large vehicles such as Jabba’s Sail Barge.

On the topic of vehicles, Hasbro has also downsized the molds they use for their starships. Now Imperial walkers and anything else that is large from the Star Wars universe is produced at a fraction of the size it should be (or even has been in the past). This so-called Hero Vehicles line is anything but something that stands for a positive company goal. Not only are the toys sized smaller than ever before, they have also risen in price by around five dollars. Though I’m sure most collectors would pay a premium price for more properly scaled vehicles. In fact, I think most were probably hopeful that this dream would eventually come true, however with the new trend of tiny proportioned vehicles, this seems highly unlikely.

By taking all of these factors into consideration, I don’t believe the Star Wars line seems too healthy. That is to say in comparison of how it used to be,  especially between 2007 and 2012. As mentioned before, that seemed to have been the best time to have been collecting the line, as not only were figures of extremely good quality, but they were also of characters that had been long in demand. Distribution was not a major issue, and the line was seen with a positive view.

By taking this once bright past into consideration, and looking at the current state of things, I don’t think many collectors have smiles on their faces. These people are not only displeased with the products on the shelves (or lack thereof), but they also have an intense hatred for what Hasbro has done to their once appreciated line. These fans no longer have the desire to help carry what shows up at retail, as many have now turned to purchasing their figures online, and only in a limited amount.

Personally, I think this may be one of the worst times that Hasbro has handled their line. The company has been producing figures from Star Wars since the late 1970’s, and by now they should have enough information or know-how to accomplish the task of pleasing their fans, especially when they can easily access a great amount of commentary on dozens, if not hundreds of online forums. I understand the limitations they face, and that they must keep other consumer groups in mind, as well as their bottom dollar. However it it is always strange to compare how the license was handled in the past to how Hasbro has recently dealt with the line. I can only hope that with the advent of a new television show, and the new movies produced by Disney that Hasbro will be able to change their game, and drive home a better quality product that is distributed well. However, I’m not holding my breath.

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The Perfect College Doesn’t Exist

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

The past few days have been stressful thanks to my current college. Actually, the past year or so has been really stressful because of my recent college experiences. Being a dedicated veteran to the art of being a dedicated student has had its pitfalls at times, but the usual experience has been an overwhelming positive one. That is up until now. As of late, if it hasn’t been one thing it has been another. From financial aid to bothersome students, I think there has been an issue for me in every single area of the educational system this past year.

Let me begin by saying that I believe I do a pretty thorough job preparing myself for classes. I have spent many hours pouring over the university’s website, especially my department’s webpages. I have attempted to be as prepared as I can be for just about anything. I know pre-requisites for courses by heart, I have memorized student loan obligations, and have visited many people at the college. All in an effort to be accustomed with everything there is to know on the topic of being a successful student, and how to navigate the now shady waters of college life.

I should also mention that I have graduated at summa cum laude status (4.0 GPA) with two degrees, and I’m a pretty confident guy. I might even go on to say that you could describe me as an effective driven student. I think my GPA reflects the idea that I have had a good grasp on things when it comes to my education. In the past I have known what’s going on, but now that I have changed to a different college, it seems there is a new issue every time I turn around. Unfortunately, these problems aren’t just limited to one department either, they are wide spread throughout the entire campus.

Early this year I experienced several problems while trying to get an appointment with an adviser, and even then the adviser was less than helpful. At my current college you register yourself for classes online, which I also had to figure out with little to no guidance, as the adviser had not really gone through my schedule well, nor was he directly involved with my program. I eventually had troubles with the financial aid department, as they were not being clear with what documents they still needed from me, and each time I talked to them I would get one of the rudest ladies this side of the Mississippi. Another department contacted me, and offered their advising services, but I was reluctant. When I visited them to declare my major a student worker was the only person on staff, and she did not have a good idea on how I should fill out the declaration form. On top of the stresses from these departments, I also obviously faced the difficulties of my classes, dealing with fellow students as well as difficult professors. At the same time my friend was having problems with housing on campus, and I heard horror stories of his first hand experiences as well.

Over the summer there were not too many issues, aside from some strangely worded syllabi, and some students online who were out spoken about their weird ideas on how social media represented them, and how the majority were too afraid to post a picture of Garfield on their FaceBook. The cat was having a “case of the Mondays”, and they feared it might represent them as poor unmotivated workers. If an employer saw they had posted this then they would never get hired. I rolled my eyes as I read their posts over summer session, but I was too busy worrying about what would happen next in school.

I planned extensively for the current semester, as I would be renting an apartment, and I was also helping my girlfriend figure out her college schedule. I enrolled her in classes, and everything else that went along with attending college. Before the semester even began we had trouble with financial aid, as they required a few documents which proved a bit hard to acquire. We spoke with someone in that department for a significant amount of time (who I tried to prove wrong), however they did not let up. A few days later we received the documents at the last possible moment, and upon arriving in person at financial aid, we were told they did not really need them, and it would all be okay. This of course should have been good news, but after all the trouble, it was only more frustrating.

During the first day of class I was actually quite pleased with how relatively simple everything was going, but I should have known better. By the first night I found out that there was an alcohol education test that you had to pass (with a 70% success rate), as well as an anti-rape program you had to go through. The kicker? It was due by midnight of that day. Of course I had never even heard of the programs, let alone did I realize they were mandatory. After four hours of cursing, mocking the program, and extreme frustration, my girlfriend and I finished them, only to prove that we still don’t drink alcohol or rape people.

The second day of class proved just as discouraging, as I realized I had to drop one of my classes, and we now had more financial aid woes. At the same time I was still trying to make sense of my new classes, and I was also trying to adapt to the new apartment we had just moved into (which was now in jeopardy due to financial aid, or lack thereof). The cherry on top of the figurative shit sundae was also the negative attitudes of nearly ALL the students that I encountered. Out of the hundreds of people I saw only one or two who smiled or held the door for me. All the others had negative demeanors. The first two days proved to be some of my most difficult I had experienced thus far in higher education, but Lord knows other students had more atrocious things occur to them during the semester (such as losing their entire scholarship because of a misunderstanding).

Recently I started to reflect on my experiences as of late, when I realized that the negative experiences were not just coming from one department, but almost all outlets that I interact with on campus. In the past I had some negative dealings with a minute amount of professors, or had some minor issues otherwise, but now negative situations seemed to overtake my experience as a whole. Why wasn’t financial aid easy to work with? Why were students acting so strange? Why wasn’t anything simple or easy?

Well, yesterday evening I finally had a breakthrough moment. A single thought popped into my head, and I had sudden clarity. The reason why everything had been a negative experience recently was simple. The reason why financial aid was so hard to deal with was easy. Why the students had poor outlooks on life, why housing was screwed up, and why I had to take a rape test for school, it all seemed so clear. The reason why everything seems so bad, is that I was comparing my college to the way I thought a school should be ran. It should be simple, efficient, and friendly. However, in my epiphany I understood one thing: that school doesn’t exist.

This entire past year I had been basing my experiences on what ought to be, and how I thought the college should be handling things. This entire time I had expected things to be straight forward. I get my classes, I get financial aid, I attend classes, then after a few years I graduate with another degree. I should not have to worry how financial aid will screw me, or the like. I want things to run smoothly. I want the college to work for me, and I want them to be efficient and to the point (because after all it is a service I’m paying for, and at a premium price). I don’t want any bull, just the facts, and after that less is more.

In the past few days I’ve spoken or heard from people from all over the United States, and it seems they face almost the same situations I have encountered this year. It turns out I am not the only one displeased with how schools handle things, and that my feeling are shared by a great many people nationwide. Yet with this new understanding, I don’t know how I should feel. Should I perhaps feel better that I’m not the only one, and that many universities face the same problems? And in this I should perhaps be more understanding of the difficulties they face? Or on the other hand should I be even more frustrated that these problems are widespread, and that things could be much simpler, but they are not.

Therefore I’m really in a predicament. I cannot decide if I should continue to be a disgruntled student who can only think of how things should be, or if I should create entirely new opinions considering how bad (or good) things might be at similar institutions. Should I hold on to my imaginary college where things run smoothly, or should I give into the idea that a place such as this doesn’t even exist? Should I let go of my dream, or give into the world?

Core Values and Ethical Dilemmas

ethicspicture
A To Z Photography

 

There are many skills and facts that you can learn in school. You can find out how to compute confidence intervals in a statistics class, or learn that the manubrium is part of your sternum with help from an anatomy and physiology class. You can even discover that Paul Revere had been assisted by his daughter on his famous ride from a history class. These are all things you can learn in school, either by application or memorization, however one class has always alluded me as a plausible skill to learn. That single way of thinking being ethics.

Most higher education degrees require a student to take an ethics class in their course requirements. The first college that I attended offered several that could be chosen from, and there was a mandatory “core values” class required as well. This class helped to establish how a good student should behave, and how they should think about potential problems that may arise in class or at their future places of employment. It was worth one credit hour, and was usually a course that met once a week (though you could take it online, and in an eight week format as well).

I had signed up for it several times, but it either did not fit my schedule in the end, or I did not feel like taking it at the time. Finally, after being in school for three and a half years I decided I needed to absolutely register for it. The course was one of the first classes a student should take, so that they could establish a firm ground to have their education stand upon for the rest of their academic life. Oddly enough, it was the last class that I took at the college for my degree. By then I had held several positions on various committees (including student member of the board of trustees), and I was just about to graduate with a 4.0 GPA.

In that small core values class of eight people I did not really learn anything. We talked about ethics, and how to deal with some issues that may arise in our lives, however there was nothing new to talk about. I felt that I knew the difference between right and wrong, and it was really no concern of mine to discover some new value a teacher thought was locked away deep inside of my mind. Instead I day dreamed a significant amount. All the topics we covered were not new to me. I had considered moral and ethical ideas since I had been a child. I vividly remember discussing these issues with my family, especially my great grandpa, for many hours at a time. I really did not require this class to discern anything further.

After the class was over I spoke to a student, and she mentioned that the class had been insightful; she had discovered a significant amount about her inner thoughts by taking it. She said that she had not really considered idea or thoughts such as what we had discussed. This class had opened her eyes to ethical decision-making for the first time. I was shocked. How did she not know these things about herself already? How had she not weighed out the difference between lying and being truthful? (Also see my “Is Honesty the Best Policy?” blog post from a few weeks ago.) How did she not know that it is not always good to go with the crowd? How did she not know what a good person was, or how an ethical student should behave?

I honestly do not know. How had I been a twelve-year-old talking about these things, while she was a twenty-something who was just now discovering her own views on the subject of cheating in class or lying on a job application? I could not believe it. Why had it taken a prompt from a teacher for her to think about these things? And more importantly why had she not considered these things before now? She had gone through high school without any waning thought on the topic, had entered college, and was just now thinking that it might be wrong to cheat. That’s not great.

Another aspect of ethics classes I had noticed was the lack of ethics. I enrolled in an ethics class a few years ago to fulfill a degree requirement, but while in class all I could think about was how inappropriate the professor had been. From name calling to sexual innuendos, he pretty much covered all of the bases in class (unfortunately he covered them with dirty pictures). At one point in time one of the students had even been asked about her sexual preferences, because the professor had decided it might be interesting to find out. On another occasion he told a female student that she could call him “daddy”. I could provide more examples of the same type of behavior, but you probably get the gist of the professor’s attitude.

After turning in our first paper (which had been the only assignment), I received a seventy percent. It has been the only paper I have never earned an A on thus far. When I asked the professor to explain my grade, he could not clarify why I received my score, and he finally decided that I repeated myself too many times within the work. However in my defense, when a summary is required at the end of a paper, it’s hard not to present the same ideas again. After telling him I thought I deserved better he commented that he would not reconsider the grade. I then told him I knew a plethora of teachers who could vouch for my “A” work, and he retorted he did not believe I was capable of said feat.

Needless to say I ended up dropping this ethics class, even though we had been about twelve weeks into the semester. I had to declare why I was dropping the class, and I gave a thorough explanation why. The professor received a copy of the letter a few weeks later, and has yet to make eye contact with me when I see him. Likewise he also started treating a few students who I am friends with differently. Perhaps he should consider his own ethics next time (or registering for the core values class).

It was the instructor’s duty to introduce and influence his students in an ethical way, however he failed to do so. Therefore how are the students under him supposed to be held accountable for their thoughts and eventual actions (if they have never considered ethics before)? Perhaps instead of counting on a college course to provide such information or guidance, we should consider inspiring ethics earlier than this. Instead of waiting, we should take the time as adults to address the situation at hand. The sooner a young person can distinguish right from wrong and true from false, then perhaps they will also go from being lost to found.

Unethical decision-making at a young age could be a considerable problem in the near future. In fact I have already seen several instances with young people who have totally disregarded ethics, as they behave in a poor (and sometimes criminal) manner. If we are to save the next generation of people from being such deviants, perhaps we should begin to instill values into them at a younger age. Likewise, as a parental source or family member who guides a child, perhaps they will do the same with their child, and that child’s child after that. By creating a tradition of strong values in a family that can be passed down, I have no doubt we can curb the distasteful views some young people have today. We shouldn’t have to rely on a warped professor’s bastardized vision to guide our children. We should do it ourselves. By committing ourselves to being moral people, and by teaching our children at a young age to uphold their value, perhaps we will see an eventual change to a more virtuous society.

In my experience, I cannot say that ethics classes have been a positive experience. Likewise I do not think I have learned much from them either. I believe I had most of my values instilled in me as a young child thanks to my family, however I cannot help wonder how many people are not as privy to such ethical decisions making skills as I am. With this in mind, I wonder how some people are even capable of completing high school, or entering college level classes. Furthermore, when it comes to teachers going against the values their very class should be teaching, I must ask, “who watches the watchmen?”