I need to be careful, because this can easily turn into a rant. It took me quite awhile to finally find the game cards I was looking for, and it shouldn't be this hard to willingly spend money on something you want. By the way, if you want the "final answer" instead of reading my struggle to get these cards, scroll to the bottom!
This all started with the Wizard101 Pagoda Gauntlet game card. A year ago, I had decided I didn't just want to run the Pagoda Gauntlet dungeon, I wanted to own it and host other people... as many people as wanted to run the dungeon. I thought, I'll just go to the Wizard101 site and buy it straight from them.
That was my first problem. At the time, Wizard101 didn't offer it. You needed to buy it from the game card that was only available at Walmart. I wrote their customer support asking if it would be possible to buy it directly from them, but they declined. I needed to get it from Walmart. Perhaps it has to do with licensing agreements (you can't sell stuff to a vendor and then turn around and undercut them on your own online store). This I could understand, but no such information was relayed to me.
Now, personally, I'm not much of a fan of Walmart. They offer a lot of stuff at a low price, but they do so utilizing business practices I find discouraging (such as refusing to pay reasonable wages to their employees, and offering few full time hours so they won't be required by law to offer them health insurance benefits, etc.). So though I like Kingsisle and support their business practices (flexible and opt-in payment structures and a firm stance on making a safe play environment for children), I would be forced to deal with Walmart before I could get my Kingsisle in-game item. And it wasn't easy. Walmart's game card aisles are constantly in disarray and their employees are utterly unhelpful. I'm sure it's because they're beleaguered with long hours, forced to answer endless questions, and don't get reasonable pay or benefits from it. But from my end, I get almost no help from Walmart employees (if I can even find one on the floor).
Eventually, I got it. I've ran the dungeon, used the gear on my lower level guys for faster leveling, and I'm happy with the purchase.
Now, one year later, I decided to try and find the Winterbane Gauntlet. I looked at the Wizard101 site for information on it and... available through game card only available at Walmart and this time also Target. Wizard101 also helpfully provides a link to both Walmart's and Target's online stores. However, if you search either, you won't find the card. Well, what does that mean? Is it not available, even though Wizard101 says it is? I physically went into several Target and Walmart stores, looking through their game card selections. Target's game card racks, by the way, are well organized. Walmart's? Not so much. But not only could I not find the Winterbane Gauntlet game card, I couldn't even find a slot for it, no product label or anything. I got frustrated after several searches and went home. I went back online, searching both Target.com and Walmart.com, but the product isn't even listed there. Is it no longer available at the stores? Would Wizard101 start offering it online at that point? I had to find out.
Once again, I emailed Wizard101 customer service. They got back to me and informed me that it won't be available on their website at this time, but maybe in the future. They don't deal with the game cards themselves. That's taken care of by a third party distributor who deals with various stores (like Walmart and Target). They suggested I just keep looking for it at various stores until it gets back in stock. I asked why I couldn't even find the product at all (not that it was out of stock, but simply didn't exist) on either website. They didn't know.
Next, I called Target (actually Target.com, which is an important distinction I was yet to discover). That was hellish. It took forever and a lot of back and forth, but finally I got this answer from Target.com... "We searched for the name and it doesn't exist in our system. That means we no longer offer it. It's been discontinued."
I called the third party distributor, which they found to be HIGHLY unusual for a consumer to do, but they gave me honest (and quick answers). They have the game card products. They haven't been told the product has been discontinued, but they won't ship it out to the stores until more are ordered from them. I knew better than to ask if I could buy it from them (you can't, unless you want to purchase a high volume of cards... like in the thousands). Until the stores say so, a product isn't discontinued. All "discontinued" means is that a store no longer intends to purchase a product and resell it to consumers. "Out of stock" means that the consumers have bought all the product at a particular store, and until the store decides to order more, you won't be able find the product there.
I knew what my next move would have to be. I would have to go into a store, ask for a manager, ask them to look up the game card and tell me if it was in stock, in stock at a different location, discontinued, or if they too would have no record of the game card. Well, I got lucky. I went to a different Target, and it was there, along with the new Spiral Cup Gauntlet. I bought them both today. But as happy as I was about this, I was still frustrated that it took me so long to be able to find them, and no one could give me a straight answer yet as to why. So I asked the department manager. I told him that I couldn't find the product online, like it didn't even exist, and it didn't exist at other stores, and here's the kicker... the Winterbane Gauntlet game card didn't even have a product slot label for the product at the store I found it. His answer? "Well, the game card is probably discontinued at this point, and some stores are selling through their remaining stock." But why couldn't I find it online? TARGET.COM AND TARGET THE STORE USE SEPARATE PRODUCT INVENTORY AND TRACKING SYSTEMS. You can consider Target.com and Target stores to be two separate sister stores. They aren't actually the same store, even though the parent Target company owns both. This is incredibly frustrating, as I like to find a product online and find at what locations it is available. But you cannot do that at Target (and I guess Walmart as well).
In closing (last paragraph), you will need to do as I suggest up above. Go into a store, look through their game cards, and if you don't find it, ask the video game department manager (or store manager) to look it up in their system. Currently, Pagoda Gauntlet card... buy it from Wizard101 online, or Walmart online (for the time being). Winterbane Gauntlet game card or Spiral Cup Gauntlet game card... go into an actual Target or Walmart store, look through their game cards, and if you don't find it, ask a manager to locate it in their system. If they cannot, escalate it to their boss, until you can find it (but be nice about it, ask politely). They should be able to track what stores still have it available. Inventory is tracked electronically, and there are absolute records of this stuff. I would suggest looking at Target first for the Spiral Cup Gauntlet, as that's where I eventually found it, plus they are more organized and a "nicer" business than Walmart. Don't resort to buying it from private online resellers that are basically "scalping"... they are charging at a minimum 20 dollars more for the card, and in some cases are offering "used" cards (which means they've been scratched off). That's just asking for trouble, with no way to get reimbursed.