Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanks-Redemption-Giving Day

So what am I doing posting about cards on Thanksgiving? You know, the day where we’re supposed to turn the computers off, put the phones down and pass out on the couch during football with family?  Well, The Duchess is in Florida and I’m still in Chicago eating leftover pizza.  Welcome to the hospitality business!
After a long day at work (one in which I managed to talk my way into a six day work week with two overnight shifts) I figured a nice night with the Ravens game streamed online and a little blogging was the best way to spend the night.

How long has it been since I posted?  Well, Steven Stamkos has had surgery on his leg, left the hospital, ditched the crutches, ditched the protective boot and walked out onto the ice with barely a limp to present Marty St. Louis with a special gift in recognition of the captain’s 1000th game played.  It doesn’t appear that Stammer has been rehabbing outside.  Is it possible that he is getting paler?

We’re not here to talk about hockey, though. We’re here to talk baseball cards and the bane of the collector’s world – redemptions.  In my history I’ve had pretty decent luck with redemptions; I don’t think I’ve waited more than 3 months in the past for the handful of cards that Topps or Upper Deck have sent out for me.

That was until September of 2012.  Remember that month?  The O’s were driving for the pennant and the Ravens were kicking off their Super Bowl winning season.  I was walking around half-awake due to the three overnight shifts a week I was working and the NHL was busy pissing off all of the fans they had left after the last lockout.

I was celebrating my birthday (and about to get married) when the Duchess’ parents bought me a box of Topps 2012 baseball.  It was a fun rip, nothing overly exciting except for one card – a Nolan Ryan Golden Greats auto/relic card. Or at least that’s what the redemption card said it would be.

Awesome.  I don’t necessarily collect Ryan cards, but it’s always nice to pick up a Hall of Famer’s autograph (especially when it comes to working out trades). So I submitted the online code and went on with my life (got married).  Then I promptly forgot about the redemption.

Over the next year or so I would read a post about someone redeeming a card and then remember I had a card sitting out there. After taking 15 minutes to remember which password I used for the site I would log on and find the always infuriating, “Pending” in the status field.

Since I basically got the card for free and I’m tremendously lazy I let a year go by before doing anything about it. Last September I dug up the customer service line and gave them a jingle. After about 15 minutes on line (8 of those with David Wright telling me that Topps is on Facebook) I spoke with a rep who looked up the real status of the card.

Apparently Topps is having an issue getting an authentic jersey to cut up for cards. I guess they’re not having any luck on their eBay auctions.  I’m a flexible guy so I told them I would roll the dice and take the replacement of “equal value”.  No problem, the chap on the other line said, I should see my card in 4-6 weeks.

Needless to say I didn’t.

So, another call to Topps.  At first they asked if I wanted a replacement. I told them I already set that up. They said, “oh yeah” and gave me a tracking number. I tracked it the number and it said, “Return to Sender.”


So, what had happened was…..

In October I had received a notice that the post office wasn’t able to deliver something to me.  No information other than the tag number.  I set up a redeliver and waived the signature needed.  Put the card out so the mailman could pick it up and then went the extra step to set up an online redelivery confirmation as well. I even saved the email confirmation.

Promptly forgot about it.

For some reason the post office didn’t get either notice so they were waiting for me to pick it up at their location. The location that is conveniently open from 9am to 5pm during the week.  Otherwise known as the same hours that I work (hence the reason I wanted it redelivered).

After 30 days they sent it back to Topps.  I noticed the package was at one of their sorting facilities in Pennsylvania so I called the United Postal Service to see if they could route it back to me.

I will never (EVVVVVVVEEEERRRR) do that again. I can’t stress that enough. If you’re ever in a situation where you have to call the postal service or not get something delivered – give up on the

On hold for 15 minutes.  The first agent said no problem let me get you to that department.  Which is apparently code for hanging up on me.

Called back, waited on hold for another 25 minutes and got through to someone who basically told me I was short on luck. She kept asking me why I didn’t pick it up, I kept telling her because I had set up redelivery. She asked for the confirmation on the redelivery. I gave it to her. She said that number didn’t “exist”.  I told her I could forward her the email showing that it did indeed exist. She declined and asked if I wanted to open a complaint.  I asked if that would help me get my package re-routed to me.  She said no.

I thanked her and asked to speak to a supervisor.  She connected me.  The supervisor gave me the same story and said it was too late to re-route. I kept pointing out that it was in their facility, surely in this day in age she could contact someone there and have it sent back to me. She said no and said that if I had just picked it up we wouldn’t be having this conversation so it was basically my fault. 

I hung up on her.  However, before I hung up on her I may have uttered a few curse words. Maybe I pointed out that this kind of service is why they may be going out of business. Maybe I said something about my only mistake was trusting tem to do their job. That might have all happened before I hung up on her. (Spoiler – all of that happened.  Especially the cursing.)

One thing about the digital/cell phone era is that hanging up on someone is nowhere near as satisfying as it used to be. Clicking a button has nothing on slamming a handset down.

I calmed down a bit and called Topps again.  I spoke with a nice gentleman named Vincent (I think) who said he would set up a note to return to sender the return to sender once it hit their receiving warehouse. He did mention that they couldn’t waive the signature fee due to the “value” of what they were sending out.  That made me giddy.

About two weeks later I received a call on my cell phone (which is linked to the call box outside of my apartment) and a delivery guy said he had something to drop off.  I said go ahead (thinking it was some stuff The Duchess had ordered online) and once again forgot about it.  When I got home there was a lovely padded envelope waiting for me containing not one, but TWO cards.
And here they are:

A Topps Golden Greats Joe DiMaggio relic card numbered 10/10
A Museum Collection on-card Autograph of Nolan Ryan numbered 6/25

Umm I would say that was of equal value. (Worth reading the 1200 words it took to get to the payoff, eh?) 
So Topps I take back whatever I said on Twitter that made you block me. Your customer service did a good job of taking care of me as a consumer.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bad Day In Boston

So how about that Gennady Golovkin?  That’s the big story in sports since the last time I posted right?  Of course not, the big news is Steven Stamkos and his now surgically-repaired right tibia. It’s been three days since Stamkos broke his leg in Boston and I think I am know ready to process it.

I found out about the injury in a truly 21st century way.  I was at work, stuck behind a computer doing mindless data entry work (the type of work that I got into the hospitality business to avoid) when my cell phone blew up.  Not with phone calls, but with Twitter notifications, texts and e-mails.  I immediately gave myself a 15-minute break (a perk of being a “leader”) and read through my timeline.

First e-mail:  “Don’t jump!” from Scooter

First text: “Stamkos stretchered off the ice. Doesn’t look good.” From Link

First tweet: “Suspected broken tibia for Stamkos.” From various twitter posts and re-tweets

First Justin G. reaction: “F*ckity-f*ck-f*ck”

Oddly enough my first thought wasn’t about how much the Lightning would miss him (that was my third thought). Nor was it how much my fantasy hockey team would miss him (second thought). My first thought was, “Dang. I feel really bad for the kid.”

For the past four seasons Stamkos has been the best goal-scorer in the NHL.  He might not have been the best overall player, but by far the best pure scorer of goals.  We, as Lightning fans, were happy to have him, happy to be able to watch him play 81 times a season.

This season he had turned it up a notch. With 14 goals and 23 points through 17 games he was on pace for his best season ever. Seventy goals was a distinct possibility despite the fact that he didn’t score his first until the fourth game of the season.  The goals he was scoring were from all over the ice.  Deflections, rebounds, snipes from the circle and crazy, toe-drag wristers were all going in for him.

He was more aggressive on the ice, charging into the offensive zone with the puck often going one-on-one or even one-on-two against the defense.  He was shooting the puck instead of deferring and 23% of the time he got the puck on net, the play ended with the goalie digging it out from behind him.  

So I feel bad for him as a player.  At 23-years-old he’s entering into what should be the prime of his career and now the progress on hold.  I’m not worried about what level he is going to come back.  As gruesome as they are at a time, broken bones tend to be easier to overcome than pulled muscles or torn tendons.

If anything, the team is going to have to have the Markham-native slow down in his rehab. I’m sure he’s already spoken with his offseason workout guru, Gary Roberts, and they have a plan for getting him back on the ice. Stamkos’ is one of the hardest working players off the ice and he will be motivated to get back as soon as possible.  Whispers of him making it back in time for the Olympics are already making the rounds, which would put him back in a Lightning uniform towards the end of February, in time for a playoff run.

General Manager (of the Lightning AND Team Canada) Steve Yzerman is already on record stating that he is not going to rush the dynamic forward back.  He doesn’t seem the type of guy to succumb to pressure from outside influences so I doubt the Canadian media will force him to change his mind.  Luckily for that nation they’re quite deep in the center position.

The Lightning, not so much.  However, this is why he stockpiled young offense talent over the last few years.  Both Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn had more than 20 minutes of ice time in the Lightning’s 2-1 overtime win against Montreal on Tuesday.  A lot will be asked from those two, as well as Valterri Filppula, over the next three months as it is unlikely that Mr. Yzerman will go outside of the organization for help. 

Lightning fans that have been around for more than a decade might remember a dark day (actually it was probably sunny and mild in Tampa) in January 2002 when a rookie defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguin named Josef Melichar shoved a young Marty St. Louis into the boards and the diminutive forward suffered a broken fibula.  He recovered quite well from that I would say.

So I am not worried about how Stamkos will perform when he returns, whether it is in February or October of 2014. The injury does, however, open him up to a nice “what if” discussion.  It’s a discussion I’ve gotten into with Link in regards to Sidney Crosby. I’ve speculated that Crosby might be the greatest “what if” athlete of the early 21st century.  As in, what would his career look like if he hadn’t missed so much time over the last few years because of his injuries? Could he have challenged for 600 goals? Could he have been the 2nd best scorer of all time?  Even if he plays at a hall-of-fame level for the next 10 years there will still be the 60-70 game gap in his career when he was sitting in a dark room pondering his future and not on the ices scoring goals.

While it’s not on the same level, as a broken leg shouldn’t linger like a concussion, there will be this gap in Steven Stamkos’ career.  The questions will be there – could he have won his third Richard trophy? Could he have won his first Art Ross or Hart trophy? And the big one – could he have hit the magical 70 goal mark (I think he had a better shot than Alex Steen).

That’s what I take away from the Stamkos injury (that and nothing good happens in Boston). Also, the outpouring of support from all around the league for him was truly great to see.  If there is any player in the league that is universally liked by fans of all teams it is Stamkos. Probably because the Lightning have no natural rival, thus no fan base that is predisposed to not like players on the team, the injury garnered few if any mean spirited comments on the articles posted about him.  That’s really nice to see.

Stamkos will be back and, hopefully like Obi Wan he’ll be more powerful than we can possible imagine, sooner than we know.  The Lightning will adjust (In Ben Bishop We Trust) and hopefully stay in contention till then.  Sadly, I don’t think the “Then You Feel Shame” squad will be able to survive, but my fantasy worries are low in the grand scheme of things.