It’s now 2018, and sneakers have been steadily growing in popularity for years. As brands continue to push the boundaries with insane collaborative releases and produce increasingly limited amounts of their most coveted shoes, shops are left with thousands of people vying for a select number of available pairs. The two primary release procedures that have been adopted by a large percentage of big-name retailers is raffle/lottery systems, or the classic first-come-first-served method (will be referred to as FCFS for the remainder of this article).
My inspiration for this article was drawn from the occurrences at 306 Yonge for the release of the Air Jordan 4 “Levis” collaboration. Jumpman is notorious for their FCFS release procedures, and they are one of the few remaining retailers in the city who still allow customers to line up overnight in front of their store for sneakers. However, after hearing what happened at this release, I was compelled to say my piece on the whole FCFS vs. raffle argument. The idea was that Jumpman would not allow anyone to line up in front of the store until midnight on the eve of the release. I’m assuming the intent was to prevent people from plopping their chairs down at noon and waiting the entire day on Yonge Street. However, as anyone would’ve guessed, a makeshift line up formed around the corner before midnight on Edward Street, and of course, pushing, arguments, and fist fights ensued.
The whole question of which is more fair is honestly an unanswerable question; it comes down to personal opinion. The argument for raffles is that it gives those who aren’t able to spend hours or days waiting for a sneaker a fair opportunity to secure a drop. The argument against raffles is that stores have been caught on numerous occasions rigging these raffles, and backdooring pairs to friends, or even to themselves. Raffles are, indeed, a super fair way to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to obtain hyped releases – when done fairly of course. But even raffles, such as the one at Adidas Originals last year for the Zebra Yeezy 350, can draw huge crowds, and long waits. No one wants to wait two hours to fill out a raffle ticket at a chance at winning a shoe.
On the other hand, those who argue in favour of FCFS are generally individuals who have an outrageous amount of time on their hands. The idea is that if you really want the shoe, you’ll be out there for as long as it takes to make that happen. The argument against FCFS is that people, especially in Toronto, are notorious for leaving “ghost chairs” in front of stores, cutting in line, and bullying their way to the front. I can’t count how many stories I’ve heard that held the exact same fate as the disaster that went down at 306 Yonge for the Levis Jordan 4’s. Coming from someone who has taken-part in their fair share of sneaker campouts, I can confirm emphatically that there is an infinite amount of bullsh*t that you need to put up with when waiting overnight for a pair of shoes.
So we’re left at a stalemate; both sides have valid points for, and against. As I said previously, there is no right answer, but my question is, why don’t we change the options? Why do we need this binary where there’s only two possibilities for launch procedures? People are going to continue to get hurt, people are going to continue to rig raffles, and the everyday sneakerhead is left salty because they’ve missed out on 12 releases in a row. I want to see some creativity from these multi-million dollar companies, man. The market isn’t going anywhere, it will continue to grow, and I’m wondering what needs to happen for these stores to actually make a change.
When I’m asked what I prefer, I always think of one example that I love to use. A few years ago, Exclucity created a stipulation for people who wanted to line up for releases at their store. They would allow FCFS, but their was a specific requirement that needed to be met if you wanted to wait in line. For the release of the Yeezy 2, the night before the release, they posted on their Instagram and told customers that anyone who wanted to camp out needed to bring a Kanye West album with them; and only then would they be allowed to wait in front of the store. This prevented people from showing up days in advance and it created a queue that could be controlled, because an employee would be present to verify that the stated requirement was met. For the release of the South Beach LeBron 9, you could only line up if you were wearing a pair of LeBrons – and they didn’t announce that information until the night before the drop as well.
Now I’m not saying this is the perfect launch procedure either; I’m sure people could poke holes in this one as well. All I’m saying is that Exclucity did what others are not – they tried something different. I want to see other stores trying to improve a process that is clearly broken. I want to see more stores removing ghost chairs, having transparent raffles and quit trying to pretend like there aren’t issues that need to be fixed.
If you have an idea for new launch procedures, or have a preference between raffles and FCFS, let us know in the comments below.