Today, for the first time ever, Topps posted their application for the new Five Star club to coincide with the release of Five Star baseball. Many collectors, including myself, have been waiting for details on how to qualify and what it entails, and after today, there should be A LOT of questions that will be directed at the people responsible for moderating this program.
For a long time, we have speculated that this is Topps’ answer to Upper Deck’s Diamond Club, an exclusive group for people who spend the most money buying product each and every year. The Diamond Club has been known to be controversial in the past, and I doubt that the Five Star club will be any different in generation of feedback on its existence. Personally, I feel as though these clubs are a good way to reward your biggest customers, the way that many other companies provide. As long as no unfair perks are provided to the members, it should serve as a good way to get people some awesom. My definition of an unfair perk is based on how processing of their account would take place over that of a normal customer. Basically, that they would receive the same redemption replacements, the same customer service, and the same boxes shipped to them as anyone else. There should not be loaded boxes, loaded redemption replacements, and escalated customer service just because they are a member of the club. This was some of the criticism that has been talked about with the Diamond Club, as they have been rumored to get favorable treatment in every aspect of their hobby life.
As long as this is the case, where the club just a way to get some cool exclusive swag, get the opportunity to get on a conference call to speak your mind, and attend exclusive events, that’s normal perks. That’s what I expect and I support. However, I dont think that is the biggest issue members of this club are going to face.
There are a number of clauses outlined in the app that prevent members from presenting anything Topps does or releases in a negative light. It says “Members must present Topps in a positive light in any statements…including but not limited to press, blogs, and social media postings on sites such as facebook and twitter…and cannot bring Topps or its products into disrepute.” Additionally, “members must attend most Five Star Events (Conference calls, meetings, events).” As you can imagine, this might pose some problems for a number of people, once again myself included.
Even though I have been overwhelmingly pleased with MOST of what Topps has done, I have used this site and Twitter to post some negative feedback on frequent occasions. Though past posts will likely not affect membership qualifications, I do want to maintain that ability to continue to give my opinions as I see fit. In the end, this is probably going to be a club where bloggers like me are NOT the target audience, and the online personalities of huge buyers usually are non-existent. Secondly, this could be a measure to allow policing of members who get out of line, and that enforcement may vary depending on how Topps feels the club is going. I have to say that if you are going to meet the 10K buy in, you probably should be given a leash in speaking your mind as any customer would. Obviously there are limits to what should be said, but to say that NOTHING bad is allowed is way too harsh.
That being said, this clause may severely limit participation, which seems to be a key call to action. Topps wants to hear feedback, and has been legitimately great at communicating with collectors – both good and bad. If there are issues with people speaking their mind, I believe they would have shut that valve off a long time ago. What I think is the main point here, is that your membership is not guaranteed, and that they need to have a catch all in case someone goes ballistic, as some collectors are known to do at times – MYSELF INCLUDED. I agree that they should not have to continue to reward someone that makes them an enemy. That should be expected. However, if someone DOES want to offer feedback constructively, or even just complain over a legitimate issue, that shouldnt jeopardize their participation. That is where I draw the line.
Overall, this is a good idea in practice, and we wont necessarily get to see what happens until we get the reports from Topps’ eventual membership. There are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, however, and it will rely on the structure and transparency that I believe Topps has been great with.