Yes, only one day late does make a difference.

§ August 16th, 2009 § Filed under retailing Comments Off on Yes, only one day late does make a difference.

A couple of conversations with customers:

  • Customer 1: “I’m looking for a certain comic. It’s a really dark comic so I’m pretty sure you don’t have it….”

    Me (thinking to myself): “‘Yes, we have Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.'”

    Customer 1: “…But do you carry Johnny the Homicidal Maniac?”

    Come to think of it, sales on Johnny and Lenore and related titles have dipped a bit in recent months, and some attempting to follow the same darkity-dark path, like Emily the Strange, have been non-starters. A saturation of the local market, perhaps, or the fact that new material in these, or related, lines comes out so infrequently that some of the clientele looking specifically for this stuff have given up waiting for it. Or they just get it at Hot Topic.

  • Customer 2: “Hey, you want to buy this comic?”

    Me (sees it’s a common issue of Wolverine, in so-so condition): “No, I’m sorry, we can’t use that particular issue right now. We’ve got plenty in stock.”

    Customer 2: “You can’t give me anything for it?”

    Me: “No, sorry.”

    Customer 2: “What do you sell this comic for?”

    Me: “Mint condition copies go for about three or four dollars.”

    Customer 2: “Well, I paid two dollars for this at the swap meet. Could you give me two dollars for it?”

    Me: “I’m sorry, but we really don’t need it.”

    Customer 2: “Okay. Any other stores I can take this to?”

    Me: “Well, there’s a store over in the next town, but I don’t know if they’d buy it, and I don’t think it’d be worth the drive for the money you’d get even if they did buy it.”

    Customer 2: [pauses for a moment] “Okay, fine.” [throws comic on counter] “You can have it.” [walks out door]

    Me: [sighs] “Hey, [employee] Timmy, throw that in the bargain box up front, would you?”

    Okay, I wasn’t deliberately trying to talk him into giving us the comic for free. Believe me, the last thing I want in the shop is yet another collection we don’t need dumped on us, even if it is just one comic book. As it is, we’ve got too many collections we’re processing at the moment, and those are books we can actually use, without having to absorb the castoffs, too.

    Ah, well…those castoffs help us feed the bargain boxes, anyway.

I received an e-mail the other day from someone whose local shop ran into a bit of an inconvenience: turned out that the shop’s copies of Blackest Night #2, which came out last Wednesday, had been shorted from their New Comics Day shipment. One of the hottest comics in recent memory — one that, if that shop’s experience was anything like ours, was generating an enormous amount of interest among the customers — and they didn’t get it for what is presumably the busiest day of the week for sellers of the funnybooks.

As you might imagine, they had some disappointing, if not outright irritated, customers that day, who had been looking forward to the new installment of this series. The distributor had shipped out replacement copies via next day air, so the store would have Blackest Night #2 the next day, but that likely didn’t mollify everyone who was hoping for the book right then. Sure, most folks would be understanding, but some, especially those for whom the trip to the shop was out-of-the-way or some other kind of inconvenience, might be a bit miffed.

Now, that by itself is a pain in the ass for everyone, sure. But adding to the problem was the fact that there were two other comic shops in close proximity, and they got their copies of Blackest Night #2.

The person who wrote the e-mail asked what could be done in this situation, and, unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do. It’s not as if the distributor can magically redo the day and have those books in the retailer’s hands for Wednesday sales this time. Even the most loyal clientele will have a percentage of folks who’ll stop by the other shops on the way home to get, you know, just the one comic, what harm will it do to my regular store?

The end result is, of course, that first shop selling fewer copies than expected, since those sales have been lost to other shops. Maybe only a small number, but still, especially in this marketplace and in this economy, every little bit hurts or helps accordingly. My suggestion to the writer was that his shop somehow get the distributor to accept returns on this issue, due to losing its main sale day. Also, that the shop maintain a high level of customer service to encourage customer loyalty, to make your clientele not want to shop at other stores, even if the current “hot” comic is a day late. Or (and this just occurred to me now), maybe offer some kind of “paid up in advance” raincheck. That’s extra paperwork, sure, but you’d have the money for certain instead of hoping everyone would come back for that one comic.

Luckily for us we’ve not had this problem, at least not with a title that was the big “gotta have it NOW” flavor of the moment. Closest I can think of in recent memory was an issue of Civil War that was initially only available in short supply, but everyone else, at least in our area, was hit with the same shortage. We’ve had other smaller titles get missed in our shipment, but those usually aren’t a big deal: even if sales dip a copy or two on those, it can’t easily be determined if that’s just normal issue to issue variance or if it’s due to a customer getting a copy of that book elsewhere.

But I just picture myself in that store’s situation, having to tell the dozens and dozens of people who came in expecting Blackest Night #2 that I’m terribly sorry, it’ll be here tomorrow, no, honestly. Not something I’d enjoy dealing with, that’s for sure.

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