I’d been looking forward to this for months: Force Friday, the big reveal and release of the first toys from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’d previously lined up for toys from Episodes I, II and III—and VII was going to be no different. But this Force Friday was a truly awful experience.
And the scary thing is, I’m not the only one. After I ranted on Twitter, I got dozens of people telling me the same thing. That their Force Friday sucked because retailers severely understocked on the most popular items—action figures. People who waited hours got only a fraction of what was on their wish list, if at all. Lots of people had a great time, make no mistake, but that wasn’t the case for me and lots of others.
So here’s my Force Friday story. Though I live in Los Angeles, I’m spending Labor Day weekend with some friends who live in Walnut Creek, CA, just outside of Oakland. We specifically booked a flight late Thursday night so we could land and head right to Force Friday, which is what we did. We got to the Toys “R” Us in Pleasant Hill, CA at 11 p.m.—later than I wanted, but still okay.
Why Toys “R” Us? Well the Targets in the area weren’t opening at midnight and Toys “R” Us was giving out an exclusive Lego piece, seen above. Not set, piece. One piece. Better than nothing. When we arrived, there were about 30 people in line. That’s a lot, but not crazy.
Time flew by, talking and joking in the brisk northern California evening. The smell of nearby In & Out didn’t hurt either. As we got closer. Toys “R” Us employees came outside and got us pumped up. “Are you ready for Star Wars?” they screamed. “I can’t hear you in the back of the line!” This unbridled enthusiasm surely suggested everyone in line would be leaving happy.
At 11:59 p.m., a person dressed as Geoffrey, the Toys “R” Us giraffe, came out to take photos. He had a lightsaber. Simultaneously, one of the employees handed over our exclusive Lego piece. Then the doors opened. The line, which included several very drunk young men at the front who’d been there most of the day I assume, was actually pretty civil. We were even handed a cool Kylo Ren poster upon entrance.
Then, as the single file line worked their way back to the Star Wars aisle, you started to see the people at the front walk out with huge piles in their hands. A sign said each customer was limited to only 3 of each individual item but still, it was scary. “Are the Legos in there?” asked one gentleman. “No, they’re a few aisles down,” responded another employee. Quickly the line broke in two.
I stayed in the normal line while I told my fiance, who I dragged along with me, to head to the Lego line. I couldn’t buy anything big because I’d have to ship it home, but a small piece couldn’t hurt. She was back with my Rey Speeder before the 25 or so people in front of me made their way through the aisle.
When I turned the corner, it looked like there hadn’t been any toys at all. One or two 3 ¾ inch figures hung on the 20 or so pegs. The 6 inch Black Series pegs, of which there were significantly less, were empty. Lots of other pegs were empty too. The Funko Pops had been decimated, with just a few Finns and Reys remaining. I eyed a Captain Phasma near the back but as I made my way to grab it, someone in front of me got it. I looked around. There were a few larger items, a few smaller items tied to the original trilogy, but almost everything Kylo Ren, Finn, Rey, Poe or Phasma was gone. And all of the figures. I asked the employees if they had more in the back. They said they didn’t. Even if they were uninformed or lying, I’d never know. I did another scope of the aisle and then went over to see the Lego.
There, things were a little less bleak. Several of the high end Lego Millennium Falcons were available, as was Poe Dameron’s X-Wing, but nowhere to be seen was Kylo Ren’s ship or a few other sets. I asked the gentleman who mentioned the Lego before if he was happy. “No—they didn’t have all the sets. How can they not have all the sets?”
I looked at my Rey’s Speeder Lego and debated just putting it down. I had been so excited to geek out with Star Wars fans and now I just felt terrible. I decided to take it just so this wasn’t a total waste. While checking out, one of those drunk kids was next to me. “Tenth in line. Tenth in fucking line, and I got one figure I wanted. How the hell is that possible? I’ve been here all day.” Just as he said that, a man walked by us, on the phone bragging: “I got em all, three Kylo Rens.” The drunk kid yelled, “It’s cause of assholes like that I didn’t get my figures. You really should have handled this better.” The employee just shrugged. I walked out, bitched on Twitter—as we do—and found I wasn’t alone.
And those are just replies to my tweets. A quick search shows many had problems.
Some fans even started a Hashtag, #FarceFriday
I love Star Wars. I love collecting. And I’m not sure who is to blame here. Did Hasbro and the other manufactures not make enough product, hoping to raise demand by cutting supply? Or did Toys “R” Us, Target and others just not order enough, severely underestimating the power of Star Wars? I don’t know. What I do know is that Force Friday was a major let down for some. And while others certainly got what they wanted, and everyone will be able to get all these products in the weeks, months and years ahead, it still sucks for even a few to be left with such a bad taste after so much buildup.
Image credit: Top - @AdamLamping