Upper Deck Proves Company is Making Major Strides to Improve Redemption Process for CollectorsBy
I remember early in my career with Upper Deck working in the Customer Care team where I was talking with a very irate collector about delays on his Ken Griffey Jr. redemption card. He shared, “If you don’t have the card, don’t put a redemption in the pack in the first place!”
I thought to myself, “That makes a lot of sense.” What I didn’t fully grasp at the time was how could you not include someone the caliber of Ken Griffey Jr. in a pack? He’s too important to just leave out. Also, if Upper Deck was to just completely pull some of these cards, they wouldn’t hit the insert ratios published on the packs. On top of that, as many of these cards are numbered as part of a set, there would be obvious holes which collectors really tend to despise.
But that collector had a point and as we heard others share the same sentiment, the company made a variety of fundamental changes to improve the way Upper Deck handles redemption programs. These changes were not really things that collectors have noticed, but they have most certainly had an impact. All of these changes are designed to give collectors the best pack opening experience in the industry by eliminating the total amount of redemptions in new UD products.
- Increase signing time: Wherever we can we are giving athletes more time to sign and return items to UD for inclusion in new trading card sets.
- Strong network of witnesses: Upper Deck has developed an incredibly comprehensive database of witnesses to assist with signing sessions not only in North America, but throughout the world.
- Paying on time: Athletes are more apt to participate in signing programs if they are paid in a timely fashion and Upper Deck has really improved how quickly the company pays partners.
- Avoiding use of slower signers: Athletes who have a track record of being a problem signer are not receiving new trading card deals from Upper Deck. There are some exceptions of course; those superstar athletes who have so much on their plate and only do a couple signing sessions a year still are used in sets. These athletes always sign, but we hate making our collectors wait too long there so we typically limit their use when long wait times are expected.
- Delaying product launches: Shop owners are not big fans of this one, but if we can push the release of a product back and get a couple thousand more autograph cards live in packs, we can provide collectors with a better pack opening experience.
- Pulling redemptions from new products: Much to the collectors delight in my early example, we have been following his advice over the last couple years in particular. If the cards we are waiting on are of fringe players, more often than not we will pull them from packs. Now that means we will have to produce less product and ultimately make less money, but it is for the good of the product and the brand as a whole. If including redemptions for sub-par players who are going to take forever to sign is going to make the company a few extra bucks today, it will ultimately lose the company money as collectors have a bad experience with the product and don’t come back. We want to avoid that whenever possible.
- Mystery redemptions: Most collectors I speak to tend to have mixed feelings on these programs, usually their feeling on it is tied directly to the random player they ultimately receive. Having some groups of redemptions listed as a “mystery” helps us by producing less redemption cards than we have cards outstanding for and then seeing who returns the cards back first. Once we have enough in we can begin fulfilling to fans and cut ties with the others who haven’t signed yet. This reduces situations where a collector is waiting over six months for a redemption card to be fulfilled.
- Autograph labels: A lot of manufactures use label cards because they are just really easy to execute, but we have heard loud and clear collectors do not like them. While they do help in reducing the potential for redemptions, they give the feel of a less quality product. Upper Deck avoids using autograph labels on higher-end products, but they do have a use in more mainstream releases and products with lower price points.
- Seasoned athlete relations team: Upper Deck has ramped up the company’s athlete relations team over the last year in particular and has some of the most seasoned employees in the industry running point at working with the company’s stable of athletes. We have cultivated good relationships that are paying dividends with getting cards back from signers.
- Improved turnaround time on items in house: If we have a card available in house, it is our goal to get those cards to customers as quickly as possible. Where that process used to take months, it is now just taking a matter of weeks and at times just days from when a customer redeems as card.
Have these changes really made any difference? They have indeed. Check out these stats on products Upper Deck has released with zero autograph redemptions redeemable online over the last four years and see the different these changes have made in the last two years in particular.
Year % of products with 0 auto redemptions
2009 17 of 64 products – 27%
2010 6 of 30 products – 20 %
2011 16 of 30 products – 53%
2012 15 of 31 products – 48%
Worthy of note, in 2011 and again in 2012 six of the products that had redemptions had less than 3% total in the product. So the total amount of redemptions that can be found in those products is incredibly low.
Now does this mean everything is perfect with the company’s redemption programs? Certainly not. There are a myriad of situations that can arise when you handle sending and receiving hundreds of thousands of cards from players all over the world throughout the year. We understand it can be frustrating waiting for your favorite athlete to sign and we will continue to put the pressure on our signers to get their cards back in an expeditious fashion. We also believe there is still room to get better at redemption fulfillment even though huge strides have been made. We felt inclined to share the company has made a drastic improvement however with regard to these programs and fans should expect to see more of that.
For reference, here is a list of the products going back to 2009 that packed out with zero autograph redemptions redeemable online.
|UD Product Name with Zero Auto Redemptions||Release|
|2008-09 NHL Upper Deck Series 2||2009|
|2008-09 NBA Skybox||2009|
|2009 MLB First Edition||2009|
|2009 Upper Deck Soccer||2009|
|2008-09 NHL O-Pee-Chee Update||2009|
|2008-09 NHL Be-A-Player||2009|
|2009 MLB UDx||2009|
|2009-10 NHL Victory||2009|
|2009-10 NHL Fleer Ultra||2009|
|2009 NFL Upper Deck||2009|
|2009-10 NBA First Edition||2009|
|2009 NFL First Edition||2009|
|2009-10 NHL Artifacts||2009|
|2009-10 NHL Upper Deck Series 1||2009|
|2009 NFL UD Black||2009|
|2009-10 NHL MVP||2009|
|2009-10 NHL Black Diamond||2009|
|2009 USA Baseball Box Set||2010|
|2009 Iron Man 2||2010|
|2010 Upper Deck Soccer||2010|
|2010 Sweet Spot Football||2010|
|2010 SPX Football||2010|
|2010-11 NHL O-Pee-Chee||2010|
|2011 Upper Deck World of Sports||2011|
|2010-11 NHL Upper Deck Series 2||2011|
|2011 Upper Deck UNC Basketball||2011|
|2011 Upper Deck Soccer||2011|
|2011 Marvel Beginnings I||2011|
|2011 SP Legendary Cuts Baseball||2011|
|2011 Captain America||2011|
|2011 Marvel Kree Skrull||2011|
|2011-12 NHL Victory||2011|
|2011-12 NHL Artifacts||2011|
|2011112 NHL O-Pee-Chee||2011|
|2011 Upper Deck Oklahoma Football||2011|
|2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series 1||2011|
|2011 UpperDeckUniversity of Texas Football||2011|
|2011 SP Game-Used Soccer||2011|
|2011-12 NHL Black Diamond||2012|
|2012 Upper Deck World of Sports||2012|
|2011-12 NHL Upper Deck Series 2||2012|
|2012 Upper Deck Football||2012|
|2012 SP Signature Baseball||2012|
|2011 USA Football Box Set||2012|
|2012 Marvel Beginnings II||2012|
|2012-13 NHL O-Pee-Chee||2012|
|2012 Upper Deck Alabama Football||2012|
|2012-13 NHL Upper Deck Series 1||2012|
|2012 All-Time Greats Multi-Sport||2012|
|2012-13 NHL Black Diamond||2012|
|2012 Marvel Beginnings III||2012|
|2012 USA Football Box Set||2012|