If there’s one thing Disney knows how to do it’s sell toys. Friday, September 9th, also known as Force Friday, was no different. The media buzz was everywhere. From television, to the internet to NPR radio you couldn’t help but feel a disturbance in the Force. It was as millions of fans cried out in excitement…
…and were suddenly silenced.
While there were undoubtedly many fans who stormed the isles of Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us other retailers at one minute after midnight on Thursday night and found the perfect piece of Star Wars swag to slake their thirst, quite a few were greeted with empty shelves and disappointment. A combination of low stock, badly organized logistics and the greed of online scalpers turned excitment into frustration for both long-time fans and the next generation of Jedi Padawans.
io9 released an article filled with Twitter users expressing their disappointment. Many retailers received limited stock of highly sought after items. eBay scalpers lined up hours ahead of traditional fans so they could be the first in the door. It was a recipe for disaster. In many cases, digital scalpers would rush into the isles and simply clear entire shelves so they could turn a fast profit and with nothing on hand to restock, retailers were left with empty shelves and angry fans.
In spite of signs at many retailers asking customers to only buy two of any items and similar pleas (via Twitter) from such stars as John Boyega and David Prowse many were left out in the cold, empty handed. Profiteering from rabid fanboys and foolish concepts like “mint in box” won the day.
My own personal experiences mirrored this. Unable to visit any participating retailers until Friday evening, I found wrecked shelves and empty peg boards. Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Toys R Us – all demolished. Service reps ranged in attitude from apologetic to bewildered to irritated by the whole thing. So, I turned on my heel, accepted this as the likely outcome and headed home.
Sure, there were a few action figures I wanted. Sure, they weren’t there. And sure enough, I was disappointed. But then, I saw a tiny miracle as I walked across the sea of black concrete.
A little boy, no older than six, was excitedly walking out clutching a bright red and black package. His high voice rattling at his mother, who was feigning interest: “I got an X-wing, Mom! And a TIE Fighter. And a Millenium Falcon!”
The boy was overjoyed. He didn’t care that all the Kylo Ren figures were gone or that the Toys R Us exclusives had been snatched up in seconds. He was going home to have his own Star Wars adventures and he was bouncing in excitment. I was instantly pulled back to my own childhood in 1983 when I opened that Luke Skywalker figure. My figure. My own Luke Skywalker.
It was awesome. And it still is, but this time it’s awesome for a new generation. And that’s cooler than any selfish, jaded fanboy sense of entitlement.
Man, I love Star Wars and I’m so glad to see that love living on in the next generation. That’s worth more than any toy that’s mint in box. So, here’s my challenge to anyone who participated in Force Friday or who is looking to keep the love we all have for Star Wars alive: Go out today and purchase a Star Wars toy – it doesn’t have to be expensive – and give it to a child. Or better yet, give a kid a copy of the classic films. Because it’s not about getting that Lego X-Wing or talking Kylo Ren (though those things are cool). It’s about the impact and affection we all have for Star Wars – and that’s something both belongs to everyone and is never out of stock.