By which I mean “who wouldn’t want ME to make more money?”

§ January 3rd, 2018 § Filed under retailing § 3 Comments

So there’s been a lot of talk of late (particularly on Twitter) about comic shops struggling, about how folks with pull lists at their shops should drop in before the end of the year and pick up their stuff (especially if it’s been a while), and about how some shops are getting stiffed on pulls that aren’t picked up.

Now, to the first part, on a personal level, my shop is doing fine. Sure, I’d like to make more money, but who wouldn’t? However, I’m paying bills, I’m paying myself, I’m socking a little away, so I think I’m good. And I haven’t nailed down all the numbers yet, but I’m pretty sure business has increased for me over this past year. It was hard going, particularly given certain publishing “events” and relaunches and whathaveyous didn’t take off as everyone was hoping, but overall, I watched my order numbers and expenses and I think I did okay. Plus, I’m a new store and am hopefully still in the “upswing” part of the sales curve. Nowhere to go but up! …Unless it goes down, of course, but not so far!

What makes it rough is the latter part of the first paragraph here, and that’s the comic pulls. Like I said, there have been a number of Twitter reminders to people to go get their comic savers, which I dutifully retweeted because I’d like that to happen at my shop, too, but this one in particular sorta set me off. No particular reason why that one got me going, but I did a little mini-Twitter rant in response and support of that person’s tweet.

It’s nothing I haven’t said here before, I’m pretty sure. Basically, “pick up your pulls, or keep in contact to let them know you’ll pick up your pulls, or let them know if can’t get your pulls and you need to stop.” …Pithy and catchy, right? Really, all it takes is a call or an email, particularly if I’m calling/emailing you and trying to get you to come in for your stash.

As I noted in my Tweeterings, I had a couple of recent comic saver accounts that I had to cut off. One person I managed to reach a couple of times, got promises that he’d be in to pick up his stuff, and then…nothin’. Another person I could only get the answering machine, and never got a single call back from any messages I left. I wasn’t mean about it, just giving friendly reminders at first, and then the friendly “if you need to cut down your pull or stop entirely, just drop me a line, no problem!” But still, nothing.

These were two regulars, by the way…folks that had been with me since just about the time I opened my shop. Dutifully came in on a regular basis until they didn’t, which is why I maybe let their pulls go a little longer than I should have. (I’ve had a few other pulls that went south right quick over the last few years, but I caught on early enough on most of those that it wasn’t much of a problem.) In these two cases I’m talking about, a lot of the comics involved were Star Wars titles, which thankfully I still have a pretty good market for, so mostly I can reabsorb the stock on these without much difficulty. But, of course, there’s always the stuff in the pulls that have now missed their sales opportunity window, so that’s lost income for me.

Now, I don’t know what occurred in these customers’ lives. I know crap happens, and suddenly your income is cut in half or lost entirely, or you’re going through (shall we say) domestic changes, or there’s some emergency, or something. And as I said in my Twitter thread, calling your local comic dude is probably very low priority if you’re dealing with some serious crud. But at the same time…I’m not asking for much. If I’m contacting you repeatedly (not nagging, but, like, a phone call once every couple of weeks or so) at the very least spend 30 seconds on the phone or the email program of your choice and talk to me. I’ve got my own life (and business) to lead, and don’t want to put a dent in my income, and also don’t want to screw you over if you genuinely are eventually coming in for your books.

So anyway, be nice to your local comic book person, especially if it’s me. You need to cut the list down, or cut it entirely, or put it on hold so you can catch up, or need to make arrangements to pick it up a bit a time…I swear, I will work with you! Just don’t vanish and leave me pulling books for you each week that you’ll never buy and then I’ll never be able to sell.

• • •

Your reminder that I’m still taking your comic industry predictions for 2018 right in this post here, so post ’em if you got ’em! (Remember to follow the rules I have in the main body of my post, please!) I’m going to start going over your 2017 predictions next week, so let that be a warning to you all.

3 Responses to “By which I mean “who wouldn’t want ME to make more money?””

  • When I worked at CHAOS IN PRINT in the early 90s–before it was murdered by Turok and Deathmate–I could honestly say that five customers kept us in the black. One guy, the owner of a huge restaurant chain, wanted five of every first issue, be it Ultraverse, Valiant, whatever, each bagged and boarded. Every annual that came out. He’d never call, but he would be in once a month. After he left, we would dance. Another guy would come in on Sundays, when I was the only one there, and pick up those comics that were bios of music bands (remember those?), and any type of old music magazine we could find through trading with stores on the north side, etc. So the money we got when he showed up was more than the money we got from the Mortal Kombat video game.

    There were quite a few young kids who let their files pile up. They’d show up and only wanted to buy the newest issues. In most cases, we worked it out that for every “old” issue, he’d get a current issue. And be told he was off the list. In one case I remember well, this teenager was told the policy, he just looked resigned and literally whipped out a role of bills and ponied up the dough for maybe 40 comics.

    By the way, a young Jenny McCarthy worked at the Polish bakery down the block (pre-Playboy) and would come in to buy Donald Duck comics for her younger brother.

  • David Alexander McDonald says:

    Oh good, the 2017 predictions get the going over next week.

    I promise I will take my beating like a man’s man, sirrah. Honestly, I keep committing to the idea of three predictions, three lines. Then my brain gets in the way.

  • Thom H. says:

    Back in 1999, I had the good fortune of landing a job at my favorite comic shop in Louisville, KY: The Great Escape. The manager was scary, so I wasn’t there for long, but it was a lot of fun for about a year.

    In any case, one of the things I was tasked with was revamping the holds policy because we had drawers full of unclaimed comics that customers weren’t picking up. Like months and months of multiple titles without a word from the customer. Not good.

    Fixing that mess was a painful process, especially when eating a stack of back stock, but I whipped those holds accounts into shape with firm (but polite) phone calls and uncompromising (but fair) rules.

    One holds customer in particular was incensed that his account had been cancelled after months of not showing up. When asked if he had received our weekly phone messages over the past month and a half, he said, “Yeah…but I didn’t think you were serious.” Good times.

    In any case, I hear what you’re saying, Mike — it’s a difficult balance of not wanting to piss off regular customers and not wanting to get stuck with unsellable merchandise. And all the while wondering why some people are incapable of communicating in the most basic and courteous manner. Ah, retail.