Less Redemption Cards and Quicker Turnaround Are a Welcome Change

Upper Deck President and Founder Richard McWilliam made a bold statement at the sports card industry’s annual trade conference in Ft. Lauderdale in April. Most attendees who listened to the hobby innovator speak felt his goals may have been too lofty. McWilliam said, “Redemption cards are ludicrous. We as a company and as an industry should eliminate redemptions. We shouldn’t be putting out a product that doesn’t have 100 percent of what is stated to be in the product.”

Autograph redemption cards are used when athletes do not sign in a timely fashion, so these cards are used as a way to reserve the card for collectors so manufacturers can fulfill them once they are signed and returned. According to McWilliam, he believes this process is, “very frustrating for the consumer.” Upper Deck developed a plan and set out to improve the autograph acquisition and autograph redemption fulfillment process this year.

Within six months from speaking those words to the hobby community, McWilliam is proving he spoke with conviction and truth. Hockey is traditionally the most difficult sport to acquire autographs for as most players live all over the world. Upper Deck has made such great strides in reducing autograph redemptions they are about to launch six products in a row with zero autograph redemption cards. The following products will be released with 100% autograph content in them:

2007/2008 Fleer Ultra Hockey
2007/2008 Upper Deck Ovation Hockey
2007/2008 Upper Deck MVP Hockey
2007/2008 Upper Deck Artifacts Hockey
2007/2008 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey
2007/2008 Black Diamond Hockey

There are three main ways Upper Deck has been able to improve the process. Product and Brand Managers are factoring in more time for autograph acquisition for starters. Additionally UD has been impressing upon athletes, agents and leagues the importance of signing in a timely fashion. Lastly, the company has been pulling redemption cards from products as they are packing out in many cases to reduce/eliminate the amount of redemptions in the market.

“Collectors have told us loud and clear they do not like finding autograph redemption cards in place of live autograph cards,” said Chris Carlin, Hobby Marketing Manager for Upper Deck. “If they don’t want it, we will do everything we can to avoid it. It certainly is not easy, but the owner of our company is passionate about improving this process as he knows it is the key to enhancing the customer experience. Everyone in our organization understands that reducing the amount of autograph redemption cards in our products is a top priority.”

The company has made huge strides with regard to reducing the total amount of autograph redemptions outstanding and the turnaround time on fulfillment once a customer redeems their cards.

“Since February we have reduced the amount of outstanding redemptions by over 75 percent,” said Chad Capone, Redemption Manager for Upper Deck. “For cards we knew would either not get signed or that would continue to be delinquent, we moved to exchange these out for comparable cards. It is a very difficult process as every collector is different, but our Customer Service team has been assisting with the process. Additionally, now that numbers are down on new autograph redemption cards, we are able to fulfill new redemptions customers register within two weeks in most cases.”

Upper Deck’s Customer Service team has been seeing the difference as well. Calls and e-mails regarding redemptions are down significantly over the last two months in particular. As Customer Service agents are speaking to collectors they are hearing praise for how quickly cards are being sent out, especially to Preferred Redemption Centers. With new procedures in place, autograph redemption cards are becoming rare in Upper Deck packs and collectors believe that is a good thing.