Geek Speak: the Toys "R" Us "Bump Up Program"

We have something special for you today, readers: a guest post from someone with insider information. We've been trying to rope him into writing something (other than a Figuretoon) for us for a while, so hopefully this will be the first of many.

Hey, guys! For those of you who follow OAFE on twitter, you may have seen my tweets every now and then. If you haven't seen those, then allow me to introduce myself: my name's Will, and I'm a toy collector. Along the way, I've also worked in the comicbook and toy industries. The comic stuff wasn't very glamorous (Diamond Comic Distributors), while toy stuff... still not glamorous (10 years working at Toys Я Us). At the moment, I care most about the toylines that combine those two loves: comics and toys. As a result, I'm a big fan of DC Universe Classics, as well as the various Hasbro Marvel offerings.

Collecting as of late has been a bit difficult, as I've noticed my local Toys Я Us has been driving up the prices on that lines that I follow. What hurt even more, however, was that I realized these increases weren't happening at all locations. I still have a few manager friends who work at TRU, so I had a conversation with one of them about this. Since we're all toy pals here, I thought I'd pass this info along to you, in the hopes that it might help you with your own toy searches.

So, it appears that a few Toys Я Us stores are a part of what's being referred to as a "Bump Up Program." Basically, in somewhat affluent areas, these stores have been nudging the prices up on certain items just to figure out what might be the breaking point. It's generally felt that the people shopping at these stores can afford the extra $2-3, so TRU sees no reason to not make a play for it. This particular program has sent me into semi retirement when it comes to Mattel's DC Universe Classics, as my local TRU has driven their price up to $19.99, as well as on Green Lantern Classics (btw, I, myself, am by no means "affluent", but the store is frequented by trophy wives and nannies). The TRU exclusive Hal Jordan/Sinestro Green Lantern two-pack is warming shelves at $37.99. DC's not the only property experiencing this bump, however, as the recent Marvel Legends two-packs have been listed at $36.99. All is not lost, however, as I just discovered a loophole in the program.

As I mentioned before, I worked at TRU for about 10 years, and one of the things I remember most was the fact that TRU online and TRU brick & mortars were two different entities. Grandmas and dads would come in saying, "Well, I went to the website, and the price was different." That's true - the prices tended to be quite different, but we also didn't honor website prices in stores. Sure, we were given various reasons as to why, but they'd really only get the website price if they caused a scene with a manager. Otherwise, they were left to go back home and finish their purchase from their laptop. That, however, is no longer the case.

Not only is Toys Я Us implementing a "pick up in store" (in some cases) feature to the website, but you can also have a store order an item for you, which will be shipped to your home at no cost. The main point to all of it, however, is that stores are now honoring website pricing. This makes it very important that you do some research before going to stores. For example, I mentioned that Green Lantern Classics are $19.99 at my stores, yet toysrus.com still lists them at $17.99. If you go into one of these "bump up" stores, you just take the item to customer service, they look it up online, and you get an instant price reduction. Some of you may have been doing this already, but it was still nice to hear it all spelled out like that. In fact, my manager pal told me that he doesn't even shop in his store anymore because of the bump up; it's now cheaper, as well as more convenient, for him to just have it shipped to his house.

So, there you have it. There actually is a sinister Toys Я Us conspiracy aimed at getting your hard-earned dollar. All is not lost, toy fans, as this is just a pilot program that can just be thwarted by some simple pre-shopping research. If you already knew this, then carry on as you were. After all, I'm a bit behind on my message board reading. However, if this was all new information to you, then I've done my job. So, happy hunting, and keep your damn hands off my DC Universe Classics!

--Will

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5 Responses to Geek Speak: the Toys "R" Us "Bump Up Program"

  1. MisterPL says:

    Sounds like what you're referring to is a long-time marketing practice called "skimming." New product hits retail and prices start high to take advantage of consumers who have to have it first and are willing to pay for it.

    When TRU first offered the latest Vintage Star Wars figures at $9.99, I thought it was due to a glitch in their system. Obviously someone was confusing this more cost-effective incarnation with the previous, over-packaged version aimed exclusively at collectors. Now I'm wondering if it was simply TRU skimming and that the price will never drop because so many collectors are willing and able to pay that much to guarantee the spot in their collection is filled.

    Personally, I shop around and my patience is generally rewarded with some pretty good deals, even on exclusives.

    Thanks for the info!

  2. Logan says:

    I knew there had to be something going on. I could not believe the recent increases in some of the prices.

  3. Great article. Disturbing but well informed. Hope to see more inside perspectives on the business in the future!

  4. I live just outside of Philadelphia and i've noticed the disparity in pricing at TRU in the surrounding counties. When I saw GL Classics for $19.99 I passed. Even more shameful is the markup on the repackaged Iron Man Armored Avenger 6" line. Hasbro Toy Shop has them for $10.99-$12.99 and TRU is marking up near $17-$18. When they're the only real game in town, who do you have to worry about?

  5. AdamEdg says:

    And unfortunately, that is why Toys R Us is struggling in the modern economy. They point the blame at big boxes and discount stores, but in reality it is their shady pricing schemes. As a specialty retailer, it is a risky endeavor to screw with prices any time, but especially when people are tightening their belts. The fact that shopping around now includes cheaper prices online should be enough to deter this behavior.
    Considering the fondness I'll always have for Toys R Us, this scheme saddens me more than when they switched to the current nonsensical store layouts. My wife and I met while we both worked at TRU. I had the opportunity to be Geoffrey a few times at local functions. And I gained my first management experience when I was appointed head of the Boys Island (layout/division scheme in the mid/late 1990s - included action figures, sports, cars, etc) heading into season my senior year of high school.

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