Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wizards of the Coast

So what is going on with Wizards of the Coast? Well, the short story is this: End of July they told us we couldn't sell Magic the Gathering anymore. Why? Because we failed to register our name with them. What is our name? You are reading this blog, so you know the name. Dogstargames. Right? Half Right. On Ebay, even though we call ourselves Dogstar Games... we are in fact Saladin4. Why? Well... the truth is that we started the Ebay account way before we even considered Dogstargames. So... when we started selling on Ebay, we just used my old account.

What does this matter you ask? Excactly the right question. They shut us down for it because they said it was an attempt to circumvent their rules, which are namely to not sell to anyone you shouldn't sell to, mostly to other stores.

Well, this is what happened. Magic 2010 came out, and unfortunately, it was very short compared to what was needed. As a result, stores across America are caught short. So, two stores in particular, tried to buy from me. One bought 12 cases, the other 20. Now, these were on Ebay, and when you do that, others can see these purchases.

Wizards of the Coast, under the direct of head internet cop, STEVE, saw this and decided that A) I was hiding Dogstar Games because in reality I was called Saladin4, in order to B) break their rules and sell to stores. His proof was that on Ebay you could see that a store bought 12 cases and another store bought 20 cases.

Well... here is the problem. ANYONE can ORDER from me on Ebay. Nothing I can do to stop that. If you are a store, or out of the country (another no no for Wizards of the Coast) you can still order. Now... does that mean I fill the order? Nope. That doesn't. And in fact, I cancelled both the 12 case order and the 20 case order BEFORE 'Steve' even 'cut us off.'.

So what happened? Well I called Steve 5 times to talk, he didn't answer, and even had a secretary (a nice lady named Pat) lie to me and tell me he wasn't there. Then he sent me a letter saying that I had broken their rules because I mistakenly forgot to mention Saladin4, with the intent to sell to other stores and out of the country. He pointed out as proof the 12 case order and the 20 case order. Then as further proof, he pointed out that we sell on Amazon as well, and Amazon sells internationally.

Now... my reaction was to call and write to him extensively. Further, I emailed my entire mailing list and told my customers exactly what he was doing. Shutting down their favorite store. I'll tell you something nice. I got 500 emails from customers telling me how GRATEFUL they were for me and for my store. It was amazing. I was so overwhelmed with the positive energy. It was great.

I also started an instore list for people to sign.

But lo! and behold the next day Steve called me and talked. This was, I thought, a GOOD talk. He told me he had no desire to put us out of business, but that his goal was the expansion of the Magic the Gathering community. My response was that is EXACTLY what I'm doing, and he seemed VERY receptive to this. Further, after talking to my friendly distributors, one of them, Randy from Mad Al up in Alaska offered faith that Wizards was going to do the right thing and fix the situation.

So Steve asked me to compile a list of 'evidence' in my 'trial' that would exonerat me. This seemed odd, as I had already exonerated myself completely. How you say? Well first of all I gave him proof of me cancelling the two orders he sited in his letter, the 12 and 20 cases, and further showed him proof that one of those customers had left me with negative feedback as a result.

This shows that clearely competitors will lie and cheat and steal in order to hurt other competitors. We have proof of this as another store ordered, and threatened in emails all sorts of negative stuff, and in fact followed through with those threats. All just to hurt a competitor.

Now here is the funny part. I forwarded all this to Steve. Showing him the cancelled orders, the negative feedback, the refunds to all these customers. The proof that stores and foreigners can ORDER from me, but I refund them. Proof that Amazon does NOT sell internationally for Magic the Gathering.

He was just plain WRONG about all this and I proved it. I explained to him that this just hurts our business. That it just hurts HIS customers, all of whom are already upset about Magic 2010 being short, and now worse they are upset for Wizard cutting of Dogstar Games.

So have we heard anything? 2 weeks later, NOTHING. I waited paitently at first, but then nothing. Now I diligently write every day, and let him know we are hurting, we need Magic to sell to HIS customers, so we can BOTH succeed.

Again, Randy at Mad All offers faith that Steve knows what he's doing and will fix this soon. But I'm beginning to lose faith in Steve. Why in the world would you keep your customers waiting this long? Is it Ego? Some vendetta? He didn't seem that way on the phone.

But think of it this way. His job is to catch people. What if no one is breaking the rules? He loses a job, right? So he has to invent problems where there are none. Or think of it this way. He obviously hastily cut us off on false evidence. Within 24 hours he had 100% proof he was wrong on the two main accusations: 1. that we Amazon sold internationally and 2. that we sold 12 and 20 cases.

I would have thought he would appologize, and fix the problem forthwith. It is amazing to me that he didn't. But he's being paid to look into it, so never mind that I'm a small one man business with my three kids running it, make me spend a whole weekend compiling evidence in my defense. So I do that, and he says... nothing.

I don't know what to do. This is our whole business. Without it we are sunk. And yet he doesn't seem to care one way or another. He didn't seem that way on the phone. To be honest on the phone I was greatly encouraged. But then nothing, and I'm wondering, what is he doing? Is he afraid to admit he was wrong? Or is he on some vendetta trying to hurt us? I've already noted how competitors can attempt to hurt me, and make it look like we did something wrong. He hasn't asked for any more information. You would think after being so TERRIBLY wrong about 12 & 20 cases followed by Amazon he would probably ask before judging, right?

In his initial letter he called me a liar. Not directly. But he said it. Who would kill a small yet up until now successful business? I hope he contacts us soon and puts us back in bussiness. Others have Faith, but my customers are getting angry, and it's harder and harder to watch this Steve man do absolutely nothing but seek to destroy us.

Well, that's the details. I'll keep you up to date. I've already had over 500 emails in support, and countless local customers. There doesn't seem to be anything more to do but wait.


Dinner at the Ram

Every year the judges from NASCRAG get together for a dinner. Asher and I arrived early with Len (the founder of NASCRAG) to learn that they had forgotten our reservation at the RAM. This means that there are about 500 people vying for about 40 tables. They acknowledged they screwed up, and ended up making room for us. And then slowly, the gang of judges seeped into the place and we all hugged and talked and shared stories.

Then we ate.

Then... we left. And now I'm back at the hotel room. We did stop by the convention center to get our bag of swag, which is the free bag they give you to badge holders every year. I'll be honest, never has the bag of swag been so little. Very small. Very paltry.

But what are you going to do? It's free!

So now it's 8:00 and we are here in the hotel with no games to play. I didn't bring any because year after year we don't end up playing any I bring. This year of course proves the exception. We could really use a game to play.

Instead, I'll work. Why not? :)


The Gamers are Coming...

So last night there were a few gamers. Just here or there. But today... they are increasing. Slowly, growing. Their numbers in little clumps, sprouting up, are increasing as we speak. It's 4:29 PM. We've been to the convention hall. We found the Privateer Press room which is filled to the brim with tables and miniatures for there wargames. And when I saw room, I say there are at least 200 tables in the room. It is HUGE. There is the requisit folk band playing by the ticket counter, and there is the huge Serra Angel statue that people are taking their pictures by. There is an audible buzz in the halls and on the street. Though I haven't seen any games actually starting yet, I'm guessing there are some impromptu ones here or there, starting in the crevices and cracks of the hotel and convention center. In my hotel, the Marriot, the entire second floor seems to be taken over by the True Dungeon crew, which is a huge maze with puzzles in it that people get to go through and try to succeed by getting to the end. It has become one of the most popular features of Gen Con in the recent years. And yes......... I've kept my camera with me so I can take pictures of all the corsetted women and flowing robes of wizards that will soon flock all around. So far I have yet to see a photo worthy person, but these types usually wait till the Con actually starts before they unleash their costumes on the world. After all why waste a great corset on a few people the day before the convention? Tonight is NASCRAG dinner at the RAM. We will keep you informed of how that goes, and write tonight. Parker flies in tonight, and I think Greg does too. So it's starting to build. It should be fun. I'll keep you informed! Jason

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Worst Chili Ever

Asher and I just ate at the Steak and Shake. He proclaimed their chili the worst ever. I tried a bite and it tasted right out of a can. I can almost name can it came from. Hormel, or something like that. Here is an appetizing picture!

What is this Gen Con Thing?

Gen Con stands for Geneva Convention. As opposed to General Conference. Much different, are those two things. Why Geneva Convention? Well because the first convention started in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. So Gary Gygax, who founded the convention, named it that as a play on the term, Geneva Convention. It shall heretofore be shown as Gen Con, is a gaming convention. Here for four days people gather to play games. All sorts of games. Role Playing Games, like Dungeons and Dragons. Board Games like Monopoly. Miniature games like Warhammer 40,000. And video games up the whazo! There are even live action role playing games. The place gets about 40,000 - 50,000 people a year.

It's been going for like 40 years now. When I was a kid, 17, Parker and me and Barry Memmot went. We drove my Subaru out there and had a lot of fun. The next year, 18, Parker, Ben, me and Josh went. That was the year we won the D&D Open Tournament. Our lives would never be the same! Why? Because it was such a highly competative tournament that it filled our young skulls full of mush with a huge confidence! :)

We planned to go back very soon, but didn't go back for many years. Finally, we ended up going back about 10 years ago? Maybe. I would have to think hard to figure out how many years I've been coming now. Maybe 10? Asher is on his third Gen Con. So that tells you something! It used to be in Milwaukee, but now is in Indiana.

Anyway, coming here we always entered as many tournaments as we could, being highly competative people. The biggest tournament in Gen Con is the NASCRAG tournament, and while I could go on and on and on about our heroics, I'll shortly tell you we won the tournament twice, and after that were asked to become part of the NASCRAG family and judge. Meaning we are now BEHIND THE SCENES! Lots of stories to tell you about that stuff, but I would be typin till next Month telling you them all so I will just keep it very short.

So this year, I will be judging for the third year! We are also writing a series, and hope our story will get to be played by the tournament starting in 2011. Let's hope!

Anyway, that's what we are doing here. We'll be judging, and going to the dealer hall, which is the huge room filled without about 500 booths of game sellers selling every game you can imagine. Big money in games, as you can imagine. I have some friends I'll be stopping by to see along the way.

So I will keep you all up to date on goings on along the way. And by the end of this little four day jouney you will undoubtably know more than you ever wanted to know about... GEN CON! :) Good gaming! We'll talk again soon!



Well, the flight was smooth and quick. I watched The Matrix Reloaded along with an episode of Arrested Development. There really, and I know you are going to find this hard to believe, is very little to tell you about the flight. It was fast. Oh, and I had a can of Tomato Juice. Not sure why, but on a flight, I will drink a can of Tomato Juice. No where else. Just flying.

So we landed. I texted Jennie, she's at the gym, and I texted Ben, and then called him him and we talked about Gen Con, work, women, and life. Then the Taxi came and off we went to the Marriot. Landing here, we got our room, got our internet connection, and we are now enjoying the cool air conditioning. It's 11:00 here, but there is a famouse place down the road called the Steak & Shake. Not the best food in the world, BUT... it's open 24 hours! And when I say it's not the best food in the world, I can't emphasize that enough. But when you come here, you got to eat there, and that's just the way it is.

So it's off for Asher and I to the Steak and Shake! Last year he ordered a shake and took it back to the room to eat later, where he let it melt, and never ate it. I do NOT plan on letting him make that mistake again. Oh, for the second year in a row, Asher allowed bellman to help us, thus insuring that we had to pay him. I made Asher pay him this time, after teaching him not to let that happen LAST year!

So it is 9:11 SLC time, but 11:11 Indiana time. I'm going to go eat at the Steak And Shake, then read THREE Nascrag Modules (which I'll explain in more detail later) and get some sleep. I will call Jennie and see how the kids are as well.

Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back.


Gen Con Blog

Gen Con Blog
August 11, 2009, Tuesday, 3:50 PM
So begins Gen Con 2009! And you all get to hear about it and how it goes straight from me, Jason, your faithful Dogstargames servant! Right now, at this very moment, as I type this, we are at the airport, waiting for our Delta fight to go through.
Back at the store, things are in the capable hands of my son Riley. He will be sitting their doing orders and answering questions. If you need anything, contact him! Of course… I’ll be sure to pay attention to emails once I get there and I’ll be available.
Of course the big topic is Wizards of the Coast and what they are doing with Magic the Gathering and Dogstar Games. I have yet to tell you about that, but I will on this trip. So look ahead a few posts and we will describe what this wonderful company is doing to your humble game store. It’s a crime, that’s all I can tell you right now.
So this year it will be me and Asher going to Gen Con, along with Parker. The rest of gang couldn’t make it. Too much recession going on, too much budgeting to allow for it. So we will certainly miss Ben, Sheridan, Kelly, and Erin. It would be nice if we could all come. But maybe next year.
So… sitting in my backpack are the three NASCRAG modules that I will be DMing while attending the Con for the NASCRAG tournament. Have I read them? You even have to ask? Good question. No I haven’t. Except for the first one, I am woefully ignorant of the modules. I’ve heard they are excellent, but I have no idea what is going on. Why? Well I didn’t get a chance to playtest them like normal, and I’ve been so busy I simply can’t see straight. Plus with this WOC problem hanging over us all like a hammer, there has not been much I can do.
BTW, a great shout out to Jennie for watching Ame and Riley while me and Asher go on our yearly business trip. I hope to convince her to come next time along with Ame, and maybe even Riley, though who would run the shop if he came?
We usually plan on playing some Magic the Gathering drafts while we are there, but I think I will avoid those due to Wizards of the Coast. We don’t want to help them at this point in time when they threaten to shut our entire business down for no good reason. ( I know, you are wondering what those reasons are, but you will have to be patient.)
So I think we will do some Warhammer, checking out the tables and seeing what we can see. We also have a couple movies to watch on the plane. We brought the Matrix Trilogy, because it seemed like a good idea after Brandon and Jeanine on So you Think You Can Dance did a dance in the finale to one of the Matrix songs. J
Okay, that’s enough for an initial post. We are here in Salt Lake City. Bye!