The #TarHeelYardSale Was An Unmitigated Disaster
I’ve always scoffed at people who stay up all night/wake up early for Black Friday deals.
The demand is ridiculously high, there are only a limited amount of products worth staying overnight for (if you can even get a good spot in line) and the event itself reduces humanity to the lowest rung of ruthless competition that would make even Darwin balk.
Speaking of all of that nonsense, UNC hosted the first-ever #TarHeelYardSale Saturday.
The UNC athletic department hyped the THYS up for nearly a month before unleashing 12,000 athlete-exclusive Nike products to fans on May 14. Game jerseys, player edition Jordans, actual equipment and plenty more pieces of Swoosh-emblazoned merchandise sat upon tables and racks scattered around the Eddie Smith Field House.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! Shoppers could buy the gear at wholesale price, meaning jerseys ranging from $10-40, jackets and sweatpants topping off at $20, t-shirts selling for $5, etc.
On paper, this is a Tar Heel with $100 to spare’s wildest dream. In execution, the THYS was an absolute nightmare for 99% of the people involved.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where things spiralled out of control, so here’s a list of things gone awry:
1. The line set-up: It appeared that UNC officials were going to take every measure to assure nobody camped overnight for the THYS. Every advertisement for the event came with a strict warning that people could start lining up outside of Carmichael Arena at 4 a.m., and overnight campers would be sent away.
So, naturally, people showed up at midnight and nothing was done about it.
Look, props to whoever wants to sit outside for 7 hours to buy some UNC merchandise. Of course, some of those people didn’t have the kindest intentions (we’ll get to that later), but that takes dedication.
What sucks is that people actually stayed up overnight *cough* it me *cough* and didn’t bother showing up until 4 a.m. By that point, the line stretched somewhere between 700-1000 people long, and that’s not an exaggeration.
Security made no attempt to ward off early people, which resulted in the crowd showing up at 4 a.m., when they were told to come, getting shut out of anything remotely worth staying overnight for.
I have no idea how one would enforce these rules, but it’s incredibly frustrating, especially since a lot of the people I talked to had stayed up all night and would have come earlier if they’d known a line was actually forming.
2. The lack of
institutional control item caps: Generally at other mass chaotic shopping events like Black Friday, stores put a cap on how much merchandise you can buy out of fairness to other people in line/avoiding resellers.
LOLNOPE. Outside of the one pair of Jordans/Argyle trainers limit, it was fair game for customers. You want 10 football jerseys? Take em! Every polo in your size? Fair game!
This results in the people at the front of the line (the ones who lined up four hours before they were supposed to) leaving the fieldhouse with trashbags full of shoes, jerseys, pants and whatever else they could get their hands on while everyone sits and waits for their turn in the building.
By the time the 4 a.m. group got in, no basketball gear remained. Most shirts/jerseys were Big and Tar sized. Nothing worth even attempting to stay up for could be found.
Even more insane was the 1,000 person line behind me, all of whom were less likely to walk away with anything more than a wristband. I can’t imagine what kind of post-apocalyptic hell they walked into.
3. Resellers: There’s no way to control it, and this is a fault against humanity rather than UNC itself, but #asexpected, probably 15 or so people walked out with trashbags full of jerseys and immediately dumped them onto eBay and Craigslist. Here are a few examples:
Ah, college athletics and amateurism: Where the players don’t get paid, but fans can walk in and profit hundreds of dollars off their old gear. What a beautiful, unbroken system we have.
Speaking of college athletics and amateurism, one of the kinda important things that UNC left out about the THYS is that this is gear that the athletes themselves had no chance to claim. Oh I’m sorry, former player who balanced class and practice for four years and wanted something to show for it, we’d give you this token of appreciation, but Billy-Bob from Mebane’s got a stack of Hamiltons he’s waiting to turn into Benjamins. Thanks anyway!
And here’s where things completely spiraled out of control: What was created as an event to give fans a chance to buy rare stuff turned into a damning revelation about college sports. Look at some of these tweets and tell me you don’t sympathize with these guys:
— Mike Ingersoll (@Michaelngersoll) May 14, 2016
How can they do that? I would of easily bought my jerseys if I had a chance. But a random person gets first dibs on my jersey I worked for?
— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) May 14, 2016
— Matt Merletti (@MattMerletti) May 14, 2016
It’s okay, though, a few fans on Twitter were SUPER sympathetic to the players:
@jordan_for6 heh? It isn’t about you it’s about the fans. Without them YOU are nothing. Better learn that or you will go nowhere
— robert nealey (@robert_nealey) May 14, 2016
Again, let’s reiterate: Players come to a university, work harder than you or I will ever comprehend for a team that generates millions for said university, UNPAID, players leave university, university sells their gear to entitled fans like Nealey and profits while players are left in the dark.
BRB TAKING 100 SHOWERS TO WASH THE FILTH OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS OFF OF ME.
And there may be some state law that actually prohibits the university from giving the players the first chance to buy or take their old jersey, as implied by UNC social media accounts:
— UNC Tar Heels (@GoHeels) May 14, 2016
FYI–NCAA rules and state laws restrict options for distribution of items at yard sale. #TarHeelYardSale
— Bubba Cunningham (@BubbaUNC) May 14, 2016
You’re gonna be shocked, but either UNC, the NCAA or the N.C. state government did something wrong that results in horrible PR. It’s a really bad look for everyone involved, and it’s another black eye for how back-asswards the economy of college athletics is.
For the sake of disclosure, I came away with a pair of sweatpants, a track jacket, some SWEET argyle wristbands and a #87 football jersey in honor of the greatest walk-on wide receiver in UNC history not named “Mack Hollins” – and my good buddy – Taylor Vippolis.
I feel especially guilty about the whole thing now after learning that players didn’t really get their fair chance at stuff they were entitled to. It’s a common feeling when dealing with the NCAA; the product is fascinating, and we know it’s built on a shameful financial base, but we just can’t separate ourselves from the madness.
Who would have ever thought UNC would create something with genuinely good intentions and it backfire in their face?
Featured image courtesy of Bubba Cunningham (@BubbaUNC).