501st Legion Merchandise Rules and Procedures
Per Article VIII of the 501st Charter, the following rules apply to all 501st Legion merchandise (including Garrison, Squad, Outpost and Detachment material):
1 - Any items bearing the words "501st Legion", "Fighting 501st", "Vader's Fist" or the 501st Logo are considered representative of the 501st Legion club. Such proposed items are to be submitted to the Legion Commander and administrative staff before being produced. The Legion CO, Legion XO, and administrative staff have final word on approval. [Note: In practice, the Legion CO has granted approval powers to the Legion Merchandise Officer]
2 - 501st items must be free of vulgarity.
3 - 501st items must be as free of copyrighted material as possible.
4 - 501st items must be sold only to club members and at cost.
5 - 501st items must not be advertised openly on eBay or other forums to the general public.
6 - 501st items must not be tied to any outside commercial entity or venture.
7 - 501st items must not misrepresent or misidentify its user/wearer in any role other than as a member or supporter of the 501st Legion fan club. No shirt will bear the label 'Security' or 'Staff' unless created with the full permission of an event organizer and labeled specifically for that event only.
8 - 501st items specifying a sub-unit of the club are allowed and encouraged. Such examples would be items promoting 501st Garrisons, Squads, and Detachments. Out of the above eight rules, the one that deserves special note is #4. 501st material should never be sold to non-members of the 501st Legion. The exception to this rule is members of the Rebel Legion, whose status as sister club to the 501st permits sales to those members. The price on any and all merchandise should not exceed the cost of production, distribution, and any transaction fees incurred during the sale of merchandise.
Definition of Merchandise
501st merchandise is defined as any item bearing the name and/or logo of a 501st entity produced for consumption by the Legion membership in quantities of two or more. An individual producing their own business cards, for example, would not be required to seek the approval of the Legion Merchandise Officer. However, if an individual was doing a run of business cards for members of their Garrison, approval should be sought.
Before any merchandise is offered for sale or put into production, approval must first be obtained. This ensures that the charter rules are being followed as well as makes sure a merchandise project does not conflict with another project already under way.
All merchandise must be approved by the Legion Merchandise Officer. To obtain approval, simply email a description of the project, price, time table, and sample artwork. Also indicate if approval has been obtained by other necessary parties, if applicable. If merchandise is related to a Garrison, Squad, Outpost or Detachment, the leaders of the respective group also needs to approve the material. For Squad merchandise, approval should be made by both the Squad Leader and Garrison CO.
Sales of 501st Legion merchandise should only take place in non-public forums and email lists operated by the Legion. Merchandise should not be sold via online public stores, such as Cafe Press, or in any area of a website accessible to the public.
All members of the Legion in good standing are permitted to produce 501st Legion merchandise with the following exceptions:
- Members on disciplinary probation.
- Garrisons, Outposts, Squads and Detachments during their first six months of existence (including any probationary period).
501st Merchandise should not include:
- Copyrighted material that we are not authorized to use.
- References to alcohol or drugs.
- Obscene images or references.
Expectations and Responsibilities
Certain expectations and responsibilities are required of any member producing 501st Legion merchandise. These are:
- Sell merchandise at your cost. Rounding up a little to ensure your expenses are covered is fine, but adding $2 per piece for your time is not permitted. Time is donated when you choose to engage in a merchandise project.
- Don't spend the money before you pay for the merchandise. In the event that a project falls through, you should have the funds on hand to make immediate refunds.
- Communicate regularly with buyers on their order status.
- Deliver a product that is identical to what you offered the membership. If a change needs to be made, notify the members and allow for refunds if anyone does not agree.
- Keep good records of your orders so mistakes are not made. Always double check sizes and quantities before you place a final order.
- Submit a final photo of the product the 501st webmaster for inclusion in the Memorabilia Archive.
Merchandise for Fundraising
The trend of using 501st merchandise to raise money for charity is becoming more and more common. While commendable, we need to remember that we have rules set forth by LFL about how much we can charge for items. The simple rule is that items need to be sold at cost. They didn't give us any exceptions for charity, so adding $5 to the price of a patch isn't an option available to us, nor any other amount. There seems to be confusion over this, since I regularly get requests for merch approval with added charity money to the price. So I wanted to take this opportunity to remind all the Merch Officers.
Not only do we need to keep things at cost to comply with LFL rules, I personally believe we need to keep merchandise accessible to as many members as possible by keeping prices down, too. If we allowed price increases for charity, I could see the a large portion of merchandise being used as fundraisers of some kind. We're a group of enthusiastic fundraisers, for certain, but we need to remember that many people are on tight budgets, so we need to keep merchandise affordable to all for the sake of club enjoyment.
How we've been working charity sales for the Legion the past few years is by selling items at cost and then requesting an optional donation in any amount. If a person chooses to not make a donation, they can still purhase the item. We don't want to shame anyone for not contributing, as it's not our place to judge. I usually describe the donation aspect like, "Donation: XYZ Garrison is raising money to support ABC chairty, so pleaese consider adding an optional donation to your order to help with the cause. $2, $5, $8...any amount will help!"
I think this method works pretty well, and there's no breaking the rules. I've heard from some sellers that they ended up raising more money than if they had just added $2 to the price like they had planned, too.
How I Handle Merchandise
The following is a great article by Scott Will - TK/TD/TS/TB/TI/TA/BH-408
Over the years I've shipped thousands of t-shirts, patches, trading cards boxes and one or two action figures. In that time, only 2 or 3 shipments have gone missing. That's a pretty good average, I think. That's why I scratch my head when I read about other projects where large numbers of shipments go missing. So I thought about sharing exactly how I manage a merch project for those who were interested.
There's no single "right" way to do it, of course. The right way is whatever works for you. This way works for me. My main concerns when handling a project are 1) accuracy and 2) speed. Accuracy comes first, of course, so my method must ensure that people get what they paid for first and foremost. After that, I want to do it as fast as possible, and as simply as possible. I have too much going on to be complicated.
As a result, I can usually knock out a 100-200 t-shirt project in one evening, after work. Patches take maybe an hour while I'm watching TV. And everyone gets their stuff, which is always nice.
All the orders I get are through Paypal. To track the orders I use Paypal's "Download Report" feature. The emails that come from Paypal get deleted outright. I pay them no attention at all. The reports I download give me all the information I need.
During the ordering period, I download a new report each day, using the "download since last report" feature. I paste the report into a main Excel spreadsheet. The report will include the buyer's name and address (plus way more information than I'll need). I manually add a column for the order detail and entering that by hand. So in the end, I'll have a spreadsheet with one row per buyer that gives me everything I need to know.
Preparing the orders for shipping is the largest part of the job. First, I get the Excel spreadsheet ready. I usually sort the information into U.S. and international sections so I can keep them separate (they need different postage, and t-shirt packages will need custom forms). I then create mailing labels in Word by doing a mail merge with the Excel data.
Here's where the speed and simplicity come into play. Instead of having three different elements -- order summary paper, return address label, and buyer address label, I combine them all into a single 2" x 4" label. I have my return address small at the top. Below that, I have a separater line. Just below the line, in small print, I have the order summary. If it's patches, then simply just a number so I know how many to put in the envelope. If it's t-shirts, then a size, color and quantity. For example, if someone ordered one black XL t-shirt, it would have "XL BK". No number since I know this is just one shirt. If someone ordered one large navy blue shirt and two medium green shirts, it would have "L NB, M GR 2". And so on. Finally, below this in larger text, I have the buyer's mailing address.
Okay, so now I have sheets of mailing lables that not only have the buyer's address and my return address on them, but they tell me exactly what I need to put in the envelope. No paper reports to cross reference and potentially screw up. I don't put an order summary in the envelope as I see no need for adding the extra work. You know what you ordered, so you don't need that. And I don't need it, since the details are right on the label! So save a tree and your time while you're at it.
From here, I just slap the labels on envelopes before I ever pack them. For t-shirts, I use self-sealing polystyrene shipping envelopes, usually 12" x 15" in size. I buy them in bulk on ebay, around $55 for 500 envelopes (11-cents each). These are great since they are water proof and the strong. I've jammed six t-shirts in on envelope and they hold tight. After I label them, I'll take the already segregated international orders and apply the custom forms. I figured out how to do a mail merge with the small forms so I don't have to hand fill these in. I only do that if there are a lot of them, though.
Once I have my stack of labeled envelopes ready, I start packing. Again, patches are simple. I can do those just sitting on my couch. Just look at the number on the envelope, count out the patches, stick them in and seal them up. Done. With t-shirts, I go into my living room where I have two couches. I lay stacks of shirts out according to size and color all over the couches. When I did the 10th Anniversay shirts, I had red shirts, white shirts, hoodies, babydolls, and children's shirts. These were all over the couches, the dining room table, and extra tables set up for the job. It was quite the project and thankfully I had help! But usually I just need the two couches to get the job done. I grab an envelope, look at the label for the size and color, grab the shirt, do a quick fold and pack it. If I have multiple shirts, I'll grab the first, lay it on the second and grab that, then fold them together. I always double check the tags to make sure I'm getting the right size. Sometimes I can go into a "shirt trance" and not pay close enough attention, so looking at the tag ensures I'm hitting the right stack.
That's pretty much the "hardest" part of the job. So I try to streamline it and finish it in as few steps as possible.
With patches, I count up how many of each "quantity" envelope I have. Those with 1 patch, those with 2 patches, and so on. Then I take them to the post office and figure out how many stamps each need. Instead of having each envelope weighed, I just have one per "quantity type" weighed so I know how many stamps they take, then buy enough stamps. I apply the stamps off to the side and hand them over the counter when I'm done. Pretty fast process.
With t-shirts, I may be a bit lucky here. I have one post office that lets me drop off my boxes full of packages with my credit card and leave. I come back the next day to get my card and the receipt. No hanging around while they get invidivually stamped. Not every office will let you do this, so you may want to check around. If I didn't have this luxury, I'll probably come up with an system of weighing them and stamping them at home.
That's the basics. Again, I can stuff 200 shirts in about 2-3 hours this way, while the TV is on. And in all this time, only a few packages have gone missing. If I can help with any advice, just ask!