It's mid-year and you can't find anything new in the action figure toy aisle. You're tired of seeing scalpers clean the shelves and it's maddening to try and collect action figures when someone always beats you to it. Did I just read your mind? Nah, we've all been there. If you're tired of it then why not join the elite team of midnight-walmart-case-openers? Usually between 9 and 12 the trucks unload pallets on to the floors at Walmart. They sit there in the center of the main walkways (or awkwardly blocking them) and are loaded with the new product the night stockers will be putting up. But if you don't want to wait for morning you'll have to open that case of action figures all by yourself before the next guy does. Wait! Before you rush out the door read on a bit further.
Is it legal to open a case of new product? Of course, you're there to buy toys and Walmart is there to sell them to you. You're not damaging the product or stealing it. Opening a case of figures by yourself at midnight may sound a little silly at first and even a little forward. There are stockers that do that but they won't get around to it until 3am. If you are going to do their job for them here are some rules to follow.
Act normal. You're not doing anything wrong just out of the ordinary. Don't sneak around the store, hide in an aisle until the coast is clear, or keep looking around. That just makes you look suspicious like you're there to steal something. Remember you're at a store around midnight. Walk right up to the pallet and inspect it.
Where is it? Action figure pallets will generally be in front of the action figures or sometimes by the bikes. The cases will say [Action Figures] and you can recognize them by the purple band that says [Toys] on it.
What is it? Determining what a case has in it is important. Know what you're looking for. Don't just open every case that says Transformers, look for the wave number, class (voyager/deluxe/leader) by reading the information on the side. The case is often abbreviated but should have the brand name (such as Hasbro/Mattel) and the series on it.
Where do I open it? You can open the case right there on the pallet and that's what I usually do. But if you don't feel comfortable exposed in the main walkway take the case into the aisle it belongs in. Take a shopping cart with you and set case by the handlebar for easy access. When you're done picking through it you can return the case to the pallet or if there's a space for the figures stock the pegs yourself because you're a nice person.
Don't make a mess. If you carelessly rip open a case and leave unwanted figures lying around, packing paper hanging out, or anything of the like it's bad form. This will piss off late night employees and possibly have them on watch for the next evening. All you want to do is cut the tape across and sides at the top of the box so you can open it up. Peel back any protective paper/plastic and peek inside.
Be polite if approached. Sometimes an employee will ask you what you're doing or even ask you to stop. They're not there to harass you, they just don't want those other boxes falling on your head. It's a safety thing. So if you're approached don't run away, smile and ask how their night is going. If asked to stop do so, but ask them to please finish opening the case so you can purchase what's inside. RARELY will an employee object to this. I've never had someone just tell me no, I can't buy something just because it's on a pallet.
Success! You have your figures! Almost...
Street dates on cases
Sometimes cases of new action figures will have something printed on them like [DO NOT STOCK UNTIL SUCH-AND-SUCH DATE]. Those dates are on there for various reasons and I won't go into them all. The bottom line is anything you find at Walmart already has pictures of it on the internet, someone has already bought one loose from china and there's already a review of the figure on Youtube. These are not super-secret-spy-documents. Is it fair you're getting the figures first? As long as you're not reselling them on Ebay to one-up the competition I don't feel it's a terrible thing. The decision to break a street date is of course up to you.
PRICE CHECK ON AISLE 8! When you snag a figure before a street date there's a chance it's not in Walmart's point-of-sale system. This can present a problem such as not being able to purchase it and looking pretty silly at the register with a cart full of figures. So scan it first with one of the price scanners. If it says 'See an associate' head over to the electronics section and see if there's someone there. For some reason electronics can often sell you something the front registers can't. I don't know why but on more than one occasion electronics was able to ring up the price and bypass the street date the front registers caught. Otherwise you'll have to take your chances at the front register. Don't argue with the employee over a street date if it comes up as do-not-sell. If the price simply doesn't come up ask them to get a CSM to check it.
Tool of the trade
Common sense and safety
You are going to be driving around late at night and walking to and from your car. You know that Walmart in the bad part of town with the armed guard inside the door, dim parking lot lights, and the graffiti all over the garden department walls? Uh, pick another Walmart. People can and often approach late night shoppers out in the parking lot with, "Hey man, heeeey bro...like, I just broke down and stuff...yeah." and suddenly you have an altercation. At midnight all sorts of weirdos come out. Know your area.
Boxes are heavy. When you see a case of figures it's usually under one or two others. Walmart pallets aren't usually stacked more than chest high but that depends on how good a job the guys dragging it out onto the floor do. Sometimes they stack them over your head, a big no-no. This is why an employee may ask you not to dig around in the unopened boxes, they're concerned for your safety. So don't take chances! You don't want a tidal wave of possibly heavy boxes crashing down on your head. I've asked the unloaders to help me get a case from a pallet before and they've been cool about it.
So there you go. Remember that some Walmarts are not Superstores and close at midnight (or earlier) so get there an hour to half hour before closing for those. The 24 hour Walmart Superstores stock all during the night but a night stocker may take cases that are street dated to the back shortly after they're taken from the truck. Any time before 1am is good in this case. Remember you are responsible for going out at night, knowing your area, and not having boxes fall on your head. Got it? This guide is just how I and others go about it and should only be used as a reference, not instructions. Now get to hunting and may the luck of the truck be with you!
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