Broad-brush policy is lacking in fine details.

Gotcha is a store in downtown Osaka that deals primarily in Pokémon cards, and to a lesser extent Yu-Gi-Oh! ones too. Like a lot of collectibles shops, Gotcha operates as a buyer and a seller, both offering its stock for purchase to customers and also appraising and buying cards brought in by individuals.

However, as of August 5, Gotcha has installed a new policy, and says it will not purchase any cards or items from people of Vietnamese nationality. The statement, posted here through Gotcha’s official Twitter account, reads:

Announcement of refusal of purchase from one portion of customers

Going forward, we will refuse to purchase any items from customers of Vietnamese nationality. This is a comprehensive decision by our store, and we will not be answering any [questions] related to the detailed reason.

Going forward, we will continue to aim for a safe, secure way of business.

Thank you for your understanding.

It’s a bold move to thank people for their understanding while offering no details for the drastic policy change, and saying in advance that you have nothing more to say obviously invites speculation, which leads us to a few likely possibilities.

In recent years, there’s been a sharp rise in reseller activity for collectible and hard-to-find hobby items in Japan, such as Gundam plastic models PlayStation 5 hardware, and collectible trading card game cards. Launch/restock days for such items now often see long lines of not just fans, but speculators looking to buy as many as they can in order to flip them for a profit as prices rise due to stock-outs (which speculators’ bulk-buying itself contributes to), frustrating ordinary shoppers. While both Japanese and foreign resellers are involved in such bulk-buying, it’s often the foreign resellers who get the most attention in online discourse, perhaps out of pure prejudice or perhaps because those doing the grumbling find it easier to give Japanese bulk-buyers the benefit of the doubt that they’re buying so much simply because they’re picking up spares for friends or family who are fellow fans. The surge in the bulk-buying-to-reselling cycle has even caused one Tokyo Pokémon card shop to enact a policy of reserving sales of certain items to kids only, in an attempt to make sure that younger fans can still enjoy the hobby.

However, Gotcha doesn’t seem to be at all opposed to the speculative profiteering nature of collectible cards. In the store’s most recent tweet, posted two days after the no-buying-from-Vietnamese people one, Gotcha lets everyone know that it has unopened Yokohama Memorial Pikachu Decks in stock. These special decks, produced for the 2023 Pokémon World Championships that start this week, were released on July 28 with an official price of 3,500 yen (US$25) and sold out almost immediately. So how much is Gotcha selling theirs for? 35,000 yen, 10 times the original price, so clearly they’re OK with people making money off of card scarcity.

▼ The Yokohama Memorial Pikachu deck

So maybe Gotcha’s concern about buying from Vietnamese sellers isn’t about reselling cards at a mark-up, but the cards themselves? Another issue that’s been popping up in the collectible card scene in Japan these days is an increase in card shop thefts and burglaries. If a shop has reason to believe that the cards someone is offering for sale are stolen, or maybe counterfeit, than it makes sense that they’d refuse to buy them. What makes less sense, though, would be an assumption that all of the 400,000-plus Vietnamese people living in Japan are involved in some sort of criminal card activity.

It’s also worth noting that it’s unclear whether its policy is actually legal, or has simply been flying under the radar due to the recentness of the announcement and the store’s low-profile on a national scale. With Gotcha itself offering no explanation, its broad-brush policy feels hypocritical, discriminatory, or both, and hopefully a more appropriate way to address whatever problems prompted the store’s decision will be enacted.

Source: Twitter/@cardshop_gotcha (1, 2), Pokémon Card Game official website, Immigration Services Agency
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Insert images: Pokémon Card Game official website
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