A Large Helping of Crow, Please

Each year, we get shown a lot of new products by eager sales representatives, proud inventors, and enthusiastic importers. Each of these products is, of course, touted as being the next big thing, the best idea ever, the one that’s going to be the next “pet rock”.

Yeah, sure, we think, and roll our eyes in disbelief. An unproven product — no track record, no feedback — with a minimum order quantity of a dozen, and no other items in the company catalogue to flesh out the order? No, thanks. I’ve got a few “sure winners” from years past languishing in the back room already.

And that was my reaction to Ruk-shuk, a game from a small Canadian startup called Zabazoo. I got a telephone call from the company in the autumn of 2006, suggesting that I buy 12 of the games. I listened to the spiel and felt vaguely sorry for the guy, imagining him sitting in a whole warehouse full of games, all destined to remain unsold. His family and friends would be getting these as gifts for the next decade, I reckoned, just to get rid of them.

“Look, I’m sorry,” I said gently, when he had ground to a halt. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this story before. I’ve had it to here with new products, and with companies with one product only. I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.” And I hung up, feeling that glow that comes with finally having asserted oneself.

And then the phone calls started, from customers who had somehow heard of this game. The first couple of calls I put down to fluke. I didn’t feel too bad about saying that no, we didn’t have Ruk-Shuk in stock, how about trying something else? The next few, however, engendered some anxiety, and I quietly ordered three copies of the game from my favourite games distributor, at a higher price than had been offered by the manufacturer itself. I figured that with only three copies, if I got stuck with two it wouldn’t be too bad.

As soon as they came into stock, the three copies sold out. Boom. Out of the packing case — they didn’t even make it to the shelf. I ordered three more; same thing.

So, I called Zabazoo and ordered a dozen. I must say, they were very gracious about it. They didn’t gloat or anything (they were probably just too busy filling orders.) And as soon as these came into stock, they sold out.

I ordered, and ordered, and ordered. By dozens, and then two dozens, at a time. By the end, I was keeping the games under the counter, as special order items only, in order to keep people from buying four or six at a time. This was a phenomenon. Ruk-Shuk became one of our best-sellers, within the space of two or three weeks of its introduction.

What did I learn from this? Well, even after twenty years in the toy business, I can be wrong. Sometimes one can be too cautious. Sometimes you have to take a chance on something, even though it may turn out to be a dud, because who knows? The thing you pass up may just be the best thing to come along in years ….

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