Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Part 1: How Yugioh Made Me a Con-Artist

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If you hadn't known already, the game of Yu-Gi-Oh acts like a black market. Cards can go on sale for as high as $200 and it all depends on the value of the cards (similar to the value of the dollar) and the supply and demand of these cards (similar to other real life situations). 
In this picture, the 11 cards that I was holding was worth roughly $1500 at the time.
Yu-Gi-Oh made me greedy and I turned into a Con-Artist whenever I had the chance to make a quick buck. When I was 13, my parents enrolled me in a summer program called Math Enrichment which included kids of all ages and I found a way to make solid money. Before I share my experience on that, I do have to clarify a few things before diving into my story.

A Yu-Gi-Oh booster box contained 24 booster packs and within each booster box, there is a guaranteed number of certain rare cards. Booster packs are worth around $3 and sold for $4-5 individually at local stores so I thought, what if I bought the packs in bulk and sold them? Not only that, I would bring the business to the customers instead of them having to come into the stores which made life a lot more convenient. But I also wanted the rare cards that were in the booster packs so my friends and I had a brilliant and evil strategy. 

Plan 1 

There are different rarities when it came to Yu-Gi-Oh but the Ultra, Ultimate, and Secret Rare's are usually the cards that are highest in demand which therefore are the cards that are valued higher. These cards are unique because they have a unique holographic glow as their design, which caused them to be just a hair thicker and heavier than the other common cards (non-halo). This meant that the booster packs that weighed more had a higher chance of containing an Ultra, Ultimate or Secret Rare card. My friends and I invested in a scale which could calculate the micro differences in the weight of the booster packs. Although this plan was not fool proof, it made the odds much better in our favor because we had a higher probability of finding the rarer cards. We opened the heavier packs in hope to obtain the rare cards and sold the lighter packs for $4 just like in the stores. Although we cannot accurately measure this procedure (Although I thought it was a success), we found a different plan and things got even worse.
This is a picture of the main Booster box I bought and sold for a profit.

My friend found an effective way to seal booster packs back together and make it look like it was unopened which took our scheme to a whole new level. Our new plan was to buy a booster box, open all 24 packs very carefully and lay the cards out on a table. We extracted the Ultra, Ultimate, and Secret cards out of these piles of cards and replaced them with cards of lower rarity. After this process, we sealed the booster packs together so it looked brand new and unopened. On average, we invested around $100 for a booster box, obtained all of the best cards, replaced the rare cards with cards of lower rarity, resealed all of the booster packs, and sold them for a cheaper price of $3. Not only are the consumers obtaining the booster packs at a lower value, the sales are coming to them so that buying booster packs was easier than ever. But who would fall for this trap?

The booster pack's seal wasn't foolproof. Any knowledgeable adult who took a 2nd or 3rd glance at the sealing would be suspicious and I was not trying to get kicked out of the local shops selling to other people my age or other adults. We took it upon ourselves to sell it to kids at an annual summer program called Math Enrichment. 

Kids LOVED Yu-Gi-Oh cards and everything about it. They loved trading cards, opening booster packs, dueling against each other and having fun. During one week of Math Enrichment, my friend and I had a great plan. We did a small investment in two booster boxes full of booster packs (48 packs total) and played out an acting scene so well, I'm surprised we aren't in Hollywood right now. 
In this picture, the Spell cards on the top row are all Pot of Duality's which are Secret Rares. The trap cards on the bottom row are all Solemn Judgments, the first and last 2 trap cards are Ultimate Rare while the middle 2 trap cards are Ultra Rare.

"WHOA TAM, HOW DO YOU HAVE SO MANY BOOSTER PACKS?!?", my friend screamed out.

"I bought them when I was at Top Deck (local card shop) last weekend and I'm trying to sell some packs. Do you want one?"

This conversation caught all of the kids' attention as they quickly circled around my friends and I. I purposely kept a few packs with Ultra, Ultimate and Secret Rare cards hidden so that I could "sell" this act as I told my friend to open one. My first friend opened it and he started jumping up and down screaming, 

"INFERNITY BARRIER INFERNITY BARRIER, I JUST DREW THE SECRET RARE INFERNITY BARRIER!!"

The kids gazed at my crazy friend with wide eyes, stunned at how lucky he was to open a Secret Rare card on his first booster pack. One of them courageously stepped up to buy a booster pack to test his luck. I gave him one of the secret packs that I purposely made and he opened his pack to find an ultra rare card, one of the few available in the booster box. The kids surrounded him, asking him to see his cards, and were completely engaged in his success as well. Soon, my business took off and although the rest of the kids didn't open anything extremely valuable, I made a HELL of a lot of profit.

This was probably the most unethical things I have ever done in my life but I was 13 at the time and didn't really think much about my morals as I constantly do today. I've dramatically changed since this experience and can never imagine myself scamming little kids like this again. I just thought this was a pivotal time in my life that I constantly reflect back on and would like to share. 

Leave your thoughts below on what you think! 

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Interact: Anger, Bitterness, & Success

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Interact is a leadership and community service based club in high school that had a indescribable impact on my life. In Interact, I helped the community, built my leadership skills, and met some of the greatest people in the world through Interact. Aside from the position I once possessed, there is an unwritten side of my Interact adventure that I would like to share. This is my story.

In my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I was in Interact... but not really. I guess you can say I was "active" but that was just the club's requirements I managed to fulfill. I knew for sure that I wasn't truly "active." Many people admired my charismatic personality and encouraged me to apply for a leadership position. When I went in for the interview, I had the worst experience of my life.
They asked me questions about the organization and I had no knowledge what our district number was, what area my school was a part of, what our International project was, and many other basic information one needs to know before entering the interview. I was an active member in a club and district in which I knew nothing about except that we would use schoolloop to register and volunteer . You can probably guess by now that I didn't get accepted onto the Interact Board that year.
In my junior year of high school, my high school opened up new positions called Board Members in addition to the previous leadership roles. These Board Members would assist the Interact Officers in finding events for the members to volunteer. This time, I planned to apply and felt much more prepared. I believed in the organization and I believed in myself that I would be a great fit into growing the home club. Since getting on the team as a Board Member would be much easier than applying to be an officer, I came into the interview proud and confident. During the next meeting, they announced out loud all of the new board members that got accepted onto the team. I sat patiently in the bleachers, anxious for the results.
At the beginning of the meeting, the president called out a couple of names, names that were not Tam Pham, and ended it with...

"Last but not least, Tony Tran!"

I could remember that single moment when the selected board members stood up and were applauded by the rest of the club for their accomplishments. My heart ached because I felt that I had much more potential than most of the students that were selected. I clapped silently because rejection stung like a bee sting: painful but not permanent. I sat with my head down throughout the rest of the meeting, droning out the latest updates the officers were preaching, and replayed that single moment in my head. Tony Tran, Tony Tran, Tony Tran...

I envied the officers for not choosing me. I envied the new board members. A wild rush of emotions came upon me that spelled out anger and bitterness. A feeling of cynicism burned within my stomach because I began doubting my skills and abilities. I wasn't "good enough" for Interact, how could I be good for anything else? 
But I remained "active" in Interact and despite the rejection, I became a lot more involved. This reminds me of David Kang's favorite quote by Donald H. McGannon, "Leadership is action, not position." I knew I could continue to grow the organization and grow as an individual if I kept progressing with my work. I started going to more socials, more volunteer events, and continued meeting a handful of awesome people. I bonded with the current officers and board members after meetings and I was happy. After x amount of weeks, I finally felt happy.

One board member dropped out of Interact completely midway through the semester and the president reached out to me. She offered me a spot on the team and I accepted it. That 2nd half of the school year made me feel a lot more at ease. I was able to build stronger relationships and be more involved facilitating the Interact club.
In the summer transitioning into my final year of high school, my friend encouraged me to apply for District Council (Main representatives of Interact District 5170). I had no idea on what it was and during my interview, I still didn't really know what it was. All I knew was that this role was a major leadership position, it was with Interact (my favorite organization), this seemed challenging, and Digital Media was something I really enjoyed.

I applied on a whim. In fact, I submitted my email at 11:59PM the day right before it was due. My application turned out to be 10 pages long and in this highly competitive race for the positions, I earned myself an interview with the Governors in downtown San Jose.

Everything happened so fast.

During that summer, I was at San Diego for a week long Venturing Scout camping trip when I received the call. I was accepted to be on Interact District Council and I didn't believe what I just heard. I ran around screaming at the top of my lungs like a little kid playing tag because everything felt so unreal. I doubted myself consistently and I remember at our first District Council retreat where we all met the team for the first time, I was laying next to the governor and asked, "Why me?"

I finally started to believe in myself which was a problem that I have constantly struggled with throughout my life. My experience on District Council was phenomenal and my DC experience put the icing on the cake for my senior year.

For those reading until the end, I strongly encourage you to apply for these leadership roles and to believe in yourself. You never really know where life can take you.
I want to give a special thank you for everyone that affected my life, especially those I have met through Interact. You guys are awesome. 

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