Strong Misdeed Allegations Against Panini America

Collectors have long complained that Panini takes its sweet time fulfilling redemptions. Well, now the problem is official. The Better Business Bureau has come out with a warning regarding the company and its policies. In addition, there is also a related lawsuit hanging over the heads of Panini America. Let’s get things in order and examine all the misdeed Allegations Against Panini America

We have broken down all of the allegations and complaints against Panini. Hopefully, it will help keep the card giant accountable to the people that really matter: you, the consumers.

What Is The Better Business Bureau?   

The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit organization formed in 1912. Their mission is to protect consumers from bad business practices and, by doing so, advance trust in the marketplace and economy.

While headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, the Better Business Bureau consists of 106 regional locally incorporated branches. The branches are scattered throughout the United States and Canada.

The Better Business Bureau accredits businesses they judge to have good practices towards consumers. In return for living up to the standard, companies get to display the Better Business Bureau trademark on marketing materials.

The Better Business Bureau works per its eight standards for trust:

  • Build trust (“maintain a positive track record in the marketplace”)
  • Advertise honestly
  • Tell the truth
  • Be transparent
  • Honor promises
  • Be responsive (address marketplace disputes)
  • Safeguard privacy (protect consumer data)
  • Embody integrity
This is the accredited business mark the BBB gives. Panini America did not get one.

How Does The Better Business Bureau Rate Panini?     

The Better Business Bureau gives businesses grades on a scale from A+ to F. Yup, just like in school. The grade is determined through an analysis of 17 criteria. Until 2008, they offered a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating only. But the Better Business Bureau decided that scale did not allow them enough nuance.

What did they give Panini? An F. That is as bad as it sounds. The Better Business Bureau accredits businesses that conform to its standards. However, with an F, Panini is (obviously) not accredited.

Out of fairness, we must add a caveat. The Better Business Bureau has received a significant amount of criticism for its rating system. In particular, well-backed accusations are more likely to give good grades to companies that pay accreditation and mediation fees to the Better Business Bureau.

Why Did The Better Business Bureau Give Panini An F Rating?

The Better Business Bureau first began to look into Panini in 2017. That year, according to the Better Business Bureau website:

“BBB notified Panini America, Inc. that BBB has identified concerning patterns in consumer complaints alleging Panini America, Inc. fails to honor the promised fulfillment and delivery of products after receiving redemption cards from its customers. Consumers also allege Panini America, Inc. fails to communicate redemption order status and fails to respond to emails and telephone calls.”

To make matters worse, Panini has failed to respond to the Better Business Bureau regarding its concerns. After failing to receive responses, the watchdog organization reexamined the file in 2019 “and determined that the pattern of complaints remained unresolved.” According to the BBB, there is no shortage of misdeed allegations against Panini America.

The Recent Escalation Of Misdeed Allegations Against Panini America 

In October of this year, the North Central Texas Better Business Bureau reacted to alleged Panini malfeasance with its most substantial allegations. The organization published an article provocatively titled “Don’t get taken during the “Fall Classic” by baseball card maker Panini America Inc.

The watchdog organization noted claimed they have been forced to act due to a significant increase in complaints. As they put it:

“BBB has seen a recent spike in complaints of this nature. To date, BBB has processed 237 complaints in the last three years. There has been an additional 20 received this month that are currently pending closure.”

The article ended with a final quote from a Better Business Bureau official. “When the BBB is evaluating the trustworthiness of a company, being responsive and honoring promises is critical. Addressing disputes quickly, professionally, and in good faith is necessary for consumers to trust a business, and in this case, the company is not responsive.” The quote was attributed to Monica Horton of the North Central Texas branch.

The BBB is not happy with Panini America.

The Class Action Lawsuits Citing Misdeed Allegations Against Panini America

As you can see, Panini’s problems have been long-standing and seemingly insoluble. However, one hobbyist was displeased with the lack of response from the company and filed a lawsuit.

The law firm Martzell, Bickford & Centola filed a class-action suit on behalf of Kevin Brashear. The lawsuit alleges that Panini has repeatedly failed to fulfill redemptions for its customers.

Who is Kevin Brashear? Kevin is a collector who pulled an Odell Beckham Jr. /5 auto in 2017. Unfortunately, his redemption was never fulfilled, and despite his constant attempts to get answers from Panini, he was stonewalled by Panini America.

The lawyers behind the lawsuit estimate that hundreds of thousands of consumers have had issues with Panini redemptions. The problem is that Panini will lose its license to produce NFL and NBA cards in 2025. Therefore, there are concerns that the plan is to stall on the case for long enough to render all Panini redemptions void.

Panini has used some alarming defense tactics in this lawsuit. For example, their lawyers argued that redemptions are not legally binding contracts.

The Content Of The Misdeed Allegations Against Panini America

There are over 200 official complaints to the Better Business Bureau. If you scour the collector forums, you can easily find hundreds more. Not surprisingly, the complaints are all over the place. They regard all facets of Panini America Inc.

Serious Problems With Redemptions

The Better Business Bureau states that Panini America has a severe problem in this regard. They claim Panini America “received payment for purchases of multi-card packs of sports trading cards containing redemptions for “high-value” player cards that Panini America had failed to honor.”

Redemption is a card with a promise to deliver a specific autograph at a later date. As we all know, signature redemptions are a complex problem for card companies like Panini. The more desirable an athlete’s signature, the more precious their time.

Panini has offered redemptions since 2008. However, within 2-3 years, serious problems began to appear.

Redemptions Are Always Difficult To Fulfill

Panini’s competitors at Topps have also had problems fulfilling redemptions promptly. However, Panini America seems to have a more severe problem. Indeed, some of their failures to complete redemptions seem to include an element of disdain for the consumer.

Nonetheless, when you fill a redemption for a Panini America autographed card, the company guarantees collectors. They ask to allow 4-8 months for delivery of the card. In addition, Panini states that if they cannot fulfill the redemption, they will provide the customer with a “comparable card.”

Inexcusable Complaints Regarding Redemptions

Let’s look at some examples of complaints.

One user on Blowout Forums wrote (in June 2020): “I’ve had a Bill Russell National Treasures as a redeemed redemption since 2013. Russell has signed PLENTY of on-card autographs since 2013. Why are 2020 cards getting priority over 2013 cards? Don’t even get me started on Kobe redemptions; Panini has just been letting them sit as redemptions for 7+ months. It is 100% understandable that they can’t redeem them, but how about some sort of replacement? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”

This was in no way an exceptional case. Several other users sympathized. One wrote, “Waiting since 2012 on Ken Anderson football redemptions. Not as valuable, but I feel your pain.” Another user replied, “Ron Harper redemption going on 7 years now…. despite 1000s of autos since that time.”

Another had a similar and highly frustrating experience, claiming, “I have 3(!) kawhi leonard 2012 national treasures RPAs that I redeemed well before expiration back in 2013 that I never received! I’ve totally given up hope of getting them, but I’ve also emailed Panini with no response at all about discussing replacements. Believe me; I know your pain too…I don’t know what to do when they just stonewall you.”

One irate Panini customer concluded pessimistically, “This is actually part of their business model; they throw in these redemptions and then “hope” that people eventually forget about them when they go unfulfilled for months/years. If even 10% of the people that redeem give up, then that is a huge cost savings for them. It’s really one of the bigger scams going right now, but the masses don’t seem to care.”

When you get a Panini redemption, you don’t know if and when the company will fulfill it.

Serious Long-standing Problems With Customer Service

If you go to the Panini America customer service page, it says, “Panini America Customer Service! Our customers are important to us. “But whether or not they live up to this slogan is an open question.

Problems with Panini customer service are long-standing. Way back in 2012, complaints piled up those customer complaints were ignored or inadequately addressed.

The company acknowledged the problem and released the following statement:

“It’s not acceptable for anyone at Panini to not be responsive to our consumers. We recognize that because we are not in the business of trying to [anger] collectors.  Believe it or not we do listen and care about what collectors have to say. That goes for incorporating elements into our products, refining what we do — all the way to customer service. Every component is touched with interaction/feedback from customers. It’s fair to say you see this on the blog as just one example in how we communicate and interact with collectors.

As for Customer Service, we recognize it’s a process and we at Panini are committed to fixing it. We wish it could happen overnight, unfortunately we recognize it can’t — although we are doing our best to expedite the process and do what we can right now as we undergo this restructuring. We would ask all of you to be patient but recognize that you have already been patient, and it is on us to fix the situation. In the coming weeks, we will hire a new Customer Service Manager that will help lead this group in a meaningful way.”

Customer Service Problems Persist

That statement was released ten years ago, and some improvements were made in the interim. However, by all accounts, things seem worse now than in 2021. Unfortunately, however, today, the company does not bother releasing responses or promising improvement.

Problems with customer service are a consistent complaint from Panini America consumers. The Better Business Bureau alleges that “Panini America has ignored customer service requests for refunds without further redress to customers.”

It appears that the problem with customer service is a relatively new development. Many customers report having good experiences up to and including 2019. Many in the hobby had good relations with customer service representatives and mid-level executives in Panini America.

However, something happened during the pandemic card boom period.

Serious Problem With Returning And Compensating For Damaged Goods

The Better Business Bureau alleges that “customers who have sent in damaged trading cards or other sports memorabilia to Panini America for replacing and/or appraisal have not been returned to said customers.”

Even when Panini has tried to make good on the damage, they have not always done so adequately. One Blowout forum user reported, “I sent in a 2019-20 Ja Morant RPA which was damaged in the encased holder for replacement. Panini sent me a 2018-19 Ben Simmons Revolution Galactic in return. There is about ab$1,100 difference in market value. I emailed them and Twitter them with no response yet. No one answers their phone number. What can I do? This is really not a fair exchange. Not a rookie, autographed, relic, numbered, and low value set. This is crazy!! Any advice would be much appreciated.”

Serious Problems With Delivering Promised Goods

The Better Business Bureau claims “that orders for purchases have gone unfulfilled and undelivered for months or years to date.” This does seem to be a genuine problem for consumers. However, we don’t see evidence that this has occurred more often for Panini consumers than other businesses.

My Attempts To Get Answers From Panini

I tried to contact Panini to receive a response. However, what happened was not comforting. First, their query submission form repeatedly told me that my (very standard and often used Gmail account) email was invalid. Then, when I tried another address, the question would not go through for no particular reason.

They do not provide an email for journalistic queries. Panini did not answer my call either. You cannot send them messages on Twitter like most companies. None of this assuaged my concerns regarding their consumer service.

Panini customer support can be very hard to reach.

The Bottomline On Misdeed Allegations Against Panini America

The trouble with this hobby is that consumers do not seem to care about malfeasance in its ranks. Collectors did not hold the company accountable. That is probably because they hold a monopoly on NBA and NFL cards. Therefore, customers do business with Panini no matter how problematic their services are.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem with monopolies. But, unfortunately, Panini has shown little interest in addressing concerns, at least in recent years. Instead, it appears to be running out the clock and using its lawyers to protect its assets rather than fulfill promises made to its customers.

Fanatics will take over the licenses currently held by Panini for NBA and NFL cards in 2025. In addition, they will snatch up the MLB from Topps. And indeed, they will come in with good intentions. They have a vast customer service network, which will doubtless be an improvement over Panini. But will the problem with redemptions disappear? Not likely.

If you ask me (and no one has), the root of the problem is in exclusive deals between leagues and card manufacturers. There are anti-trust laws on the books in the United States for a reason. However, our institutions refuse to hold businesses accountable and break up exploitative monopolies.

 

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is a former history and political science professor at UCLA. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary. Shai also worked as a diplomat and journalist on three continents.


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