If you have not seen the challenges Panini has been having with redemptions, it is reminiscent of Upper Deck in the middle of the 2000s. Huge issues with customer service, fulfilling cards on time, and offering equitable replacement cards when the originals cannot be sent. Its all over the place, to the point where their existing customer service team was revamped completely. On top of all of these very public issues, Panini has been trying to save face by using their publicity machine via blog and twitter to give themselves pats on the back for inconsequential details of running a business. This includes stuff that probably should not have been released in a public press blast.
I get that collectors are pissed off at Panini, and I will give them a minor dose of understanding that it is just as much the players’ fault in some cases. However, like Upper Deck’s redemption problem, it is also a level of responsibility of the business to provide a fair product, coupled with a fair standard of expectations for a make good if they can meet those product goals. Redemptions suck, and collectors hate them, so much so that companies have pushed back product street dates to prevent extras from being included. This does NOT excuse poor customer service, as it is one of the main controllables in the situation. Its gotten to a level now where the card company’s service teams are AS important as their other facets of collector interaction.
Panini isnt coming to this understanding proactively, and is instead looking to beef up publicity on things they get “kind of” correct, rather than generating buzz over things they are doing right (which isnt many). The most recent example is their self gratification post on Chris Johnson’s National Treasures cards that have been in process for four years running.
For some background, I direct you to do a google search on Chris Johnson Contenders and Chris Johnson National Treasures. During his 2000 yard rushing season, Johnson was a popular player whose autograph was worth less than nothing. Johnson’s give up signature is famous because of lack of effort, and Panini had trouble back in 2008 even getting him to sit down for a signing. Since that time, there have been very few companies willing to work with Johnson because of his awful autograph, and yesterday we get this blitz about how his cards from 2008 are FINALLY in house.
What I didnt expect was that Panini copped out on these cards in just about every way. For a set that was on card autos in 2008, Panini opted to use Chris Johnson stickers on his patch auto instead of going with hard signed signatures. Strike one – a big mistake. As if that wasnt enough, Panini opted to continue to use the event used material in the patches, even though Johnson’s game used jerseys have been frequently included in checklists for almost 3 years. Strike two. As if to add insult to injury, they run a blog and twitter blitz talking about how big of a victory this is. Strike three.
Panini has become so embroiled in putting their products on a pedestal, they are missing the main point that I have been screaming from the mountaintops for years now. Product and design quality is lower than any other company out there. Instead, Panini has opted to cut corners to save money rather than promote brand loyalty to new products with top offerings in the majority of the sets released. I can understand how there would be a need to cut corners if money was an issue like it is at Upper Deck, but its not. Its like the Brewers building a new stadium, and rather than invest the new profit money into the team to make the product better, the owners just pocketed the difference. As a result, the team fan base has become disappointed, and I have a feeling that Panini is already feeling this same type of pressure.
Panini can spend all the time in the world trying to wash their hands of redemption problems and Johnson cards that are FOUR years late, but it wont hit as hard if they continue to be focused on getting retweeted by Darren Rovell instead of important things. Customers are unhappy, and this whole thing with Chris Johnson’s NT patch autos is a huge slap in the face.