It’s time for Pokémon to give fans a better shopping experience

Pokémon fans should be able to enjoy ordering official goods through the franchise’s own online store,, but the experience we have gotten falls far short of reasonable expectations. And that is not withstanding that it only serves three countries: the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The recent merchandise launch for the Van Gogh Museum collaboration items only served to highlight the issues the website faces and why it doesn’t live up to what Pokémon fans should be able to expect from one of the world’s top-grossing franchises. It even lead to an apology from the company via Twitter.

Let’s get into the underlying problems with store and what could change to better accommodate Pokémon enthusiasts.

Merchandise can be bought by bots before actual fans

Following the reveal of the Van Gogh Museum collaboration, fans were excited to not only potentially get a special promotional TCG card, but to also pick up some truly unique merchandise that paid homage to Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.

Unfortunately, actually purchasing anything from the collection seemed impossible. Before availability of the items was announced by the online store or Pokémon’s website or social media accounts, much of the memorabilia was going in and out of stock on URLs that had been discovered by bots that scraped the website’s structure. These links slowly filtered down to fans and were publicized by accounts, such as mine, so fans could try to buy what they were after, but many were met with out-of-stock messages.

This is actually typical of the store. Often the United Kingdom version of the site will update first and, even though not listed on the New Releases page for the US and Canada, people can change the URL to their local store and purchase new items before they’re publicly promoted. I have never seen any other online store add merchandise in this fashion because it does not make for an ideal shopping experience. Shoppers shouldn’t need an understanding of a site’s convoluted update system to make sure they can buy what they want as soon as it’s available.

Haphazard bot detection that seems to catch many fans

If you have shopped at the Pokémon Center, you may have encountered a message like the one above. I don’t want to say that everyone has, but it has happened to myself and many other fans who have complained about the issue on Twitter. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to be given a challenge to pass instead of getting an outright block immediately.

The system may be mitigating a fair amount of automated traffic but the amount of complaints I read on social media (and have experienced myself) tells me it needs a lot more tuning. During big merchandise releases, getting caught by this system may mean missing out on the items you want while you try to access the site on another device.

Getting an order in doesn’t mean you’ll get those items

As fans are now discovering this week with the Van Gogh merchandise, the Pokémon Center store routinely oversells their stock for items and will cancel them from your orders. The image above? My own order of an Eevee figure that was ultimately canceled. For me, that was luckily just something that I thought would be cool to have and not a “holy grail” item I had my heart set on as a collector, but I can imagine the disappointment for fans who were very excited to have an order placed only to see that one of their most important items had been removed.

Pokémon fans should feel confident that they will be able to receive the items they’ve put an order in for. There are many ways to prevent this issue, such as staggering quantities of new items that are being sold at once, having a queue system or even producing the most popular items to order. This is Pokémon‘s own store, not a retailer who may not have the option to buy more stock of something. I think many fans would rather wait for an item to be produced, even if it took months, than miss out entirely.

The problems for fans are a boon for unscrupulous resellers

The Pikachu plushie originally sold for $24.99

The problems above mean that some fans are going to miss out on the merchandise releases that they’re after and only have online marketplaces to turn to. Price gougers, resellers that are looking to make huge profits on these items, are able to take advantage of this and sell the goods they’ve bought on eBay and other marketplaces with big markups. Because Pokémon sells some of these items in small quantities, like those in the collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum, these sellers know that fans can only turn to them once an item has gone out of stock.

The potential money to be made means that fans are competing with people who don’t even care about the franchise itself. Whether its cards or merchandise, the scarcity of some Pokémon items has become a business opportunity that hurts actual enthusiasts.

The Pokémon Center still doesn’t serve many markets

As tough as it is for fans who have issues with the site, some cannot even order from their countries outside of the three the official online store serves. Europe, Africa, Oceania and South America have many fans who would like to be able to buy Pokémon Center items too!

With such a global presence, Pokémon should try to improve their merchandise availability to more fans.

Some final issues

I don’t want to end before touching on a few other issues that shoppers experience when using Pokémon’s official online store:

  • The payment page can sometimes never fully load (I periodically get this when using PayPal)
  • Support does not always have suitable answers for the queries submitted by customers and refunds or replacements can sometimes be hard to get
  • Packaging of items is not always well thought out and their shipping partner will sometimes deliver boxes that have large dents
  • Merchandise restocks are rare and, if they do happen, are poorly publicized
  • Many of the Japanese Pokémon Center merchandise sets never get released to Western fans through our own Pokémon Center
  • The store uses advertising like pay-per-click but does not offer any sort of affiliate program for creators who promote their goods (ok, maybe that’s a very personal gripe)

What fans can do

If you’ve experienced issues while using the Pokémon Center and want Pokémon fans to have an easier online shopping experience that is more similar to other consumer brands, please use the hashtag #FixThePokemonCenter on social media.

It helps to share your story and frustrations in a respectful way to show Pokémon that we would really appreciate modern upgrades to their website platform and merchandise production that favors fans instead of price gougers.

Please realize that no individual Pokémon employees are responsible for the Pokémon Center’s shortcomings and harassment of anyone directly because of shopping frustrations is unethical and wrong.

If you have additional concerns or suggestions for the store, please share them in the comments below and on social media with the hashtag #FixThePokemonCenter! Our criticisms and suggestions ultimately come from the passion we have for the franchise and we hope that this type of communication can improve things for both the brand and the fans.