Ever wonder where all your money’s been going? I’m not talking about the cash you spend on liquor, hookers, and McNuggets, but rather the coin you’ve been forking over on a regular basis to Scott Hards’ HobbyLink Japan. “New Jack City” style, I penetrated his operation in an undercover sting.
Posing as a dim-witted toy journalist (a major stretch), I made contact with Hards on an overcast afternoon in chilly Tatebayashi, an hour north of downtown Tokyo. I convinced the man I was on the level. I even managed to convince him to treat me to lunch. After that, I was in.
That’s right — I saw it all. The HLJ campus and control tower where Hards issues his dastardly wholesale orders. The server farm where illicit toy-purchases are handled. The warehouse floor where the orders are processed. The attack dog. The Hardsmobile (a.k.a. the HobbyLoader). The war room where industrious coders craft & care for the web site addicts love so well. The dolly full of orders ready going out (including a suspiciously adult-male-sized schoolgirl outfit being delivered to a Roger Harkavy of Morristown, New Jersey. Not a word, Rog — I promise!) The Air Lady that poops out those air-pillows that so lovingly cradle your orders in transit. The cases upon cases of expertly built-up models, most at the sinister hand of Hards himself. Like Wug! Wug! Wug! Even a few vintage surprises lurking in the back (alas, not for sale, chumps!) And did I mention Wug?
Total sensory overload. My mission complete I hailed a taxi and got the hell out of there. It had been a close call — I had barely escaped with my wallet intact. And my stomach was acting up from those damned liver treats.