Have I Got A Dealer's Room For You!
Written By: Randy Hall
Published: Issue 21
Every Star Trek or science-fiction convention I've ever attended has had a place usually known as the "dealer's room." This is where, after you've paid your hard-earned money to attend the con and maybe shelled out more to stay at the hotel where it's being held, you have the opportunity to spend even more of your quatloos to buy merchandise featuring your favorite shows or characters.
Other than the main auditorium where actors and other guests speak to the fans, this is where most people are sure to go at least once during the con. A lot of things available in the dealer's room can't be found anywhere else, and you can either get terrific deals or blow your budget big-time on everything from posters to coasters with the Enterprise or members of its crew on them. But how can you avoid the hollow feeling that comes on Monday morning with an empty wallet and a maxed-out credit card?
Let's start with an undeniable truth: Most of the prices in a convention dealer's room are higher than you'll find in other places. Remember that each dealer has to pay for a table or booth from which to sell merchandise, and that cost is usually added to the price you pay for stuff. Also, some folks travel great distances to sell their wares at cons, and that also drives up the cost of doing business there.
With these things in mind, I started a new habit a few years back. During the week before a convention I plan to attend, I make a trip to local stores to see if they have any new Trek stuff. I visit my area Waldenbooks or B. Dalton bookstores to see if any new novels, other books or related magazines have come out, and if I find something nifty, I get it there instead of paying more at the convention. When Playmates was cranking out Star Trek toys left and right, I also made the rounds of local Toys 'R' Us, Target, and Wal-Mart outlets beforehand, though this hasn't been necessary since that company stopped making Trek figures, props, and ships. (By the way, we used to call action figures "dolls' back in those carefree and politically incorrect days when I was a kid. That seems SO long ago.)
Now, I realize this may sound unsupportive of convention dealers, but let's keep three important things in mind. First, if I can get some things locally at lower prices, then I have more dough-re-mi to spend at a con. Second, there will always be some things that can only be found at conventions, and I'm better able to purchase them if I'm careful with my money beforehand. And finally, there will always be people who don't have the time to go to stores before they get to the convention and will be willing to pay higher prices to get their goodies.
Here's another tip I've found helpful: When you arrive at the con (as early as you can, of course), take the time to look through the entire dealer's room before you buy anything. This gives you the chance to see what's available and lets you make an informed decision as to what things you really want and what others you would like but can survive without. I even get so bold as to ask dealers how much certain things are if there are no prices in sight. After doing that, I can support the booths with the lowest prices while still getting what I'm after.
(At one con, I had just bought a Playmates Classic Trek Tricorder. As I wandered from one table to another, I'd turn on the scanning sound. When the sound stopped, I sighed, said "Too expensive," and went on to the next table.)
I wish I could say that I follow my own advice all the time. No, there are times when I see something really cool and instantly reach for my wallet without checking to see if the item is available elsewhere in the dealer's room at a lower price. And usually, I do find the item on sale for less money at another table. When that happens, I console myself as best I can by saying I thought the item was worth what I paid for it. And I determine that I won't do the same thing at the next convention ... I hope.
Let me share one last suggestion: When you find a dealer who always charges reasonable prices and has good merchandise, support him or her as much as you can. A good dealer will understand that you want to get your money's worth and will wait for you to find out he or she has the lowest cost. Then, after you become a regular "customer," you can usually trust the dealer to give you a good deal at a good price.
Having gotten this far, the question remains: What do you buy? And can you support the Bring Back Kirk campaign while purchasing cool stuff?
The answer is a big YES. One thing The Powers That Be at Paramount can clearly hear is the "cha-ching, cha-ching" of cash registers or the "swipe" of credit cards being used to buy Classic Trek items. If you like to read, look over the novels or reference works based on original Trek and pick one up if it looks interesting. If you collect "action figures," there are plenty of Kirk dolls around. I recently bought a set of smaller Kirk and Spock figures from "Amok Time," complete with the slash across Kirk's chest, in honor of my favorite Classic Trek episode.
And you have to wear something terrific while at the con, right? What could be better than one of the many T-shirts featuring Kirk on them? Also, with Trek's 35th anniversary just over the horizon, there are bound to be many new shirts with our favorite captain on them, too.
Does anyone out there have any other tips about saving money in dealer's rooms at cons? If so, send them to me at RandyHall@aol.com, and I'll be glad to share them with your fellow BBKers.
Slanted Fedora is having a convention next weekend in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, and the BIG guest is none other than Leonard Nimoy! Is anyone planning to attend this event, and if you are, are you taking plenty of BBK flyers to be distributed there? Please let me know as soon as you can by sending e-mail to RandyHall@aol.com.