Weighing In on Weighing Packs

by Colin on November 14, 2012

Over the years, I have heard about many different attempts at figuring out what cards are in sealed booster packs. Up until recently, none of these strategies seemed full proof to me. However, many players have realized that you can figure out which Boundaries Crossed packs have holographic cards and which ones do not simply by weighing the sealed product.

There is a huge incentive for buying only the packs that have the correct weight! You will have far better odds of pulling the valuable cards needed for decks. Furthermore, you can probably make a profit by selling some of the cards you pull! I can definitely understand why a lot of players are weighing packs right now.

Before I go further, I want to be very clear about this point: in most cases, I do not think weighing packs is indecent or unethical. However, I do believe there may be some serious consequences if this activity continues into the future and gains popularity (as it surely will if Nintendo does nothing to improve the randomness of booster packs).

The case where I believe weighing packs is indecent and unethical is the case of players or stores opening the good packs and reselling the bad packs online or in stores without informing their customers that their packs have been weighed. This is wrong.

Many players may begin to mistrust retailers because they know that retailers could theoretically weigh their packs. Even if a small card store doesn’t weigh packs, their customers may wrongfully suspect that they do. The simple fact that packs can be successfully weighed could create a lot of mistrust in the market- this is not good for anyone. In such a market, it is very possible for reputable businesses to experience declining sales through no fault of their own. I worry for my favorite gaming stores.

Hopefully players and store owners can continue their relationships with trust and confidence. I am optimistic that most card stores will continue to sell in an ethical manner. Unfortunately, pack weighing will surely cause sales to decline regardless of whether mistrust is in the marketplace or not. Instead of having to buy multiple boxes to get play sets of all the great cards, players can now just buy a handful of packs. In most cases, the player that weighs packs will purchase far fewer packs than the player that does not weigh packs. As weighing packs increases in popularity, sales will most likely decline. Declining Pokemon sales will not send Nintendo a positive signal- that’s for sure. How can we expect additional prize support when the profitability of Pokemon begins to diminish?

Of course, the counter argument is that competitive players (of which only a small portion probably weigh packs) only form a small fraction of the market for Pokemon Cards. What we do has little to no impact on Nintendo’s bottom line. It has always been said that Nintendo makes most of their Pokemon money from the impulsive spending of kids and families that buy a pack here or there as they are leaving a Walmart or Target. If only sales from our small fraction decline, then surely the profits of Nintendo will hardly be affected. Of course this is probably true. However, I am fairly certain that Nintendo will begin to notice the declining trend in our fraction (companies have many ways to monitor their market). This will not bode well for our already decreasing prize support.

Aside from the problems associated with potential mistrust in the market and declining sales, I don’t think pack weighing is that big of a deal. It is relatively analogous to picking the best fruit or vegetables out of the bin at the grocery store or looking for the bread with the best expiration date. I doubt anybody would call those picky shoppers unethical or indecent. Of course the grocery store would rather you buy the crappier produce so there is more “high quality” product left for the other shoppers that may be more picky.

In both cases the grocery store and card seller would prefer the customer not know that their products have been extensively rooted through. Although a grocery store would probably never prevent shoppers from picking through their produce bins (although they put the bread with the soonest expiration date towards the front in an attempt to encourage us to buy those loaves), I can definitely envision retailers prohibiting pack weighing in their stores and I am sure most will prevent this activity.

There may be some gray areas in this comparison. Upon judging two different apples, two people might have differing opinions about which one is the best. Upon judging two packs, the one with the holo-weight will probably be deemed the best pack by two different people. This difference could perhaps lead to a strong counter argument.

In conclusion, I am not thoroughly trained in the philosophy of ethics so my commentary may be next to meaningless. I do not think you should feel guilty for pack weighing (unless you’re a retailer) because I do not think it actually harms anyone. However, it could lead to some serious consequences for our community as a whole. I will not weigh packs because I am concerned about these consequences.

What do you think?

~Colin

Image Credits go to everdream for the image of Burgh and Leavanny.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitchell S November 14, 2012 at 7:50 PM

Pack weighing has and will continue to gain popularity as more persons in our community hear about it. Opening booster packs is for all intensive purposes gambling. People who open packs are paying money for a chance at pulling cards greater than or equal to what they pay for a pack. Lets continue along the analogy train, weighing packs is similar to counting cards in blackjack. It is not illegal, but it is frowned upon by the house. Your odds of winning increase drastically, and it for all intensive purposes the only real way to gamble effectively. Weighing packs is extremely similar. It isn’t illegal or wrong. I’m sure TPCI/Nintendo disdains those of us who weigh packs, but their is nothing they can do about it. They created a flawed system that allows for positive returns in an otherwise complete crapshoot. They can and should feel the losses caused by this flawed system until they rectify it.

Pack weighing isn’t immoral. People shouldn’t feel bad about doing it. It is the only real and right way to “play”. Still it goes without saying you shouldn’t screw other people over. Back to my analogy train(choo choo), when playing blackjack you shouldn’t tell someone else at the table to bet heavy when you know the cards are going to be poor b/c you are counting. In the same respect don’t sell non holo packs as if they have a shot at containing holo’s. It’s really that simple. Considering how great the pokemon community is I don’t really see this aspect being a big problem.

As far as the negative repercussions, I don’t know if there will be any ? I think pack weighing actually increases sales. There are many members of the community that would never buy boosters without the use of pack weighing, myself included. I think retail stores will see an increase of first and second day sales of pokemon cards that would normally not occur without weighing.

I’m open to differing opinions on the matter, but I haven’t heard a valid argument to support the immorality of pack weighing.

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Colin November 14, 2012 at 11:52 PM

I think pack weighing encourages the purchasing of loose packs..but discourages the purchasing of boxes/cases. People have told me that they stopped buying boxes because they can just buy ridiculously good loose packs.

Like I said, there is nothing inherently wrong with pack weighing. Just like there is nothing wrong with gluttonously using electricity, gasoline, water, etc. My point is that there might be some negative externalities somewhere down the road.

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Riley November 15, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Poor analogy with regard to overconsumption, Colin. You might not want to go down a “sensitive” (I hate having to use that word just because of Americans) path like that, when it’s got a fairly clear negative outcome.

Does weighing packs at walmart lead to an increase in force for north atlantic hurricanes? Not that I know of…

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Colin November 15, 2012 at 6:56 PM

My point is that pack weighing may have some unintended consequences. I’m not sure where you got overconsumption from or weighing packs => hurricanes?

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David Reichenberger November 14, 2012 at 9:30 PM

I love that you used original concept art in the article. I wish Pokemon were still designed like that.

In regard to the topic, I largely agree. The topic is so hotly debated, but neither side can provide an argument to which the other side agrees. Personally, I see very little wrong with it, but I still feel like a scumbag at times, especially when I did it a lot.

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Mark November 15, 2012 at 2:30 AM

“It is relatively analogous to picking the best fruit or vegetables out of the bin at the grocery store or looking for the bread with the best expiration date. I doubt anybody would call those picky shoppers unethical or indecent.”

No… it’s directly analogous to selecting only the Scratch and Win lotto tickets that guarantee a cash prize. When weighing packs, you can’t discern between holo rares and EX packs with reliable certainty (I know, I’ve tried out of curiousity).

But that’s like saying “I can’t discern between the $50 cash prizes and the $1 cash prizes.” You’re still rigging the system, and leaving behind illegitimate odds for the remaining customers.

The point of randomness is to be random. Just because you can abuse a system doesn’t mean you should. In the case of packs, it is directly analogous to the lottery, and is a clear and unethical abuse as it leaves the remaining customers with worse odds than they would otherwise have. If we were talking the Video Game, and abusing the RNG, then that does not harm another’s play experience, and would not be unethical.

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Colin November 15, 2012 at 7:15 PM

You make a good point! However, there does seem to be a difference or two between lotto tickets and packs. If you win $50 from the lottery than the utility you gain is the utility gained from an extra $50 in your budget.

However, the utility gained from opening a pack is a bit grayer. If you open a pack and each card is worth say $2.00 in total, that doesn’t imply you gain only $2.00 worth of utility. You could really, really like that rare Black Kyurem EX- it could provide you with $4.00 worth of utility. If the pack costs $3.00, you clearly gain something.

If you could weigh scratchers, the bad scratchers left behind would obviously cause negative fluctuations in utility for the next customers who buy scrathers (unless they get a lot of utility from scratching those cards). However, the “bad packs” left behind may not be bad for someone else- although most people would probably consider them bad. Regardless, my point is that there can exist a positive utility gain from opening a left behind pack.

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JeffC November 15, 2012 at 10:08 AM

I’m just curious how people weigh packs when they are in the store??… Can you really tell a pack weighs more than another one just by holding them in your hands and comparing them?

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Colin November 15, 2012 at 6:57 PM

You have to have a some kind of scale. Apparently Walmart, Target and such are ok with you bringing in your scale and weighing the packs in their aisles.

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Mitchell S November 15, 2012 at 7:15 PM

You use something like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0012LOQUQ/ref=oh_details_o09_s00_i02

Its small, cheap, and works.

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Michael November 19, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Colin I don’t understand your logic…its wrong if a store weighs it packs and sells them to customers, but its not wrong if people come in weigh packs and only buy the good ones leaving the rest for unsuspecting customers…don’t in both cases unsuspecting buyers get screwed?

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Colin November 20, 2012 at 12:15 AM

The difference is that there is a special relationship between seller and buyer..there is no such relationship between buyer and buyer. Selling weighed packs is not conducive to maintaining a positive relationship between seller and buyer.

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David May 4, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Little late to the party, as I have just gotten back into collecting Pokémon cards.

I agree with your blog up until your attempt at justifying weighing packs in stores, etc.

At no point is it justifiable.

From an ethical standpoint:

The people weighing cards are taking the crème de la crème cards off the shelves when the intent of the booster packs is random and based off of luck. Just because some dude turns a profit doesn’t mean that he is going to return that profit to the store. Or even see a profit as maybe he is going to either trade or keep it in a collection for years to come.

By weighing packs, it severely reduces the odds for unsuspecting customers. And that is totally, 100% bull honkey no matter how you slice it.

Just because some of the packs that get left behind have some ‘nice’ or ‘decent’ holos that someone needs doesn’t mean that ‘scalers’ can come and take the super rare full art EX’s. I’ve seen scalers attempt to justify what they do by saying, ‘Mostly kids get booster packs at big stores. They don’t know how to appreciate them so were taking them before they do.’

I’d ask scalers to have a little empathy. Imagine you didn’t know that weighing cards existed. Imagine you kept getting bad pulls because some dude knew how to take the good stuff off the shelf. It sucks, and it is never justifiable.

From a business perspective:

When I first collected Pokémon cards back in 1999, I would get very disappointed when I didn’t get a rare holo. So much so that I would go a week or so without buying any. But when finally got a holo, I was so excited. Thinking I’m a lucky SOB and from the high if getting a really nice card, I then went out and used all my allowance on booster packs. So, think about this now; Scalers are taking super rares off shelves. After shelves have been cleaned out of the supers, customers buy packs and get discouraged at their loses. Customer doesn’t buy a pack again for awhile. Nintendo lost additional revenue. If the customer had gotten an FA EX and knew that it was a really high value card, he then would have nabbed maybe a couple more. I would know about the high and I am sure you all do too. But scalers are depriving it from happening.

So disappointing though. I hope Nintendo does something to even out the weights. Because I can only see this method gaining more popularity.

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