Only been doing this for 33 years, what do I know.

§ May 5th, 2021 § Filed under retailing § 13 Comments

Well, I was going to answer a question about variants someone left in the comments to Monday’s post that I thought would be simple, but it started turning into a book and I’m not even sure I was close to being done, so…let’s put that on hold ’til Friday, after I’ve thought about it for a bit.

As for your latest Batman/Fortnite comic book news: yes, #2 is out this week, Yes it’s still in demand. Yes, still don’t have enough to go around, though from the sounds of it I was one of the few stores around here to actually have any kind of significant quantity of them ordered. Not nearly as many as it turns out I could have used, but I guess I was better off than most. Adding more customers to preorder lists, and will need to start calling a few folks to remind them that, yes, I am holding copies of #2 for them and they should come pick them up.

What’s nice is that at least a few of the Fortnite customers are buying other comics, so it’s not just kids ripping open their copies to get the codes and then setting fire to what remains. I mean, sure, most of them are doing that, which, y’know, fine, but if even a couple of new readers result, I ain’t gonna say “no.”

I was recently turned off of a podcast from a noted professional sporadic comics generator, which I’d been enjoying despite (or maybe because of) the not-always-justified self-aggrandizement and some…glossing over of certain points of the ’90s comics industry. But his enthusiasm was entertaining, and hearing his side of what was happening was educational…and, y’know, fans have been shitting on the guy for decades, if he wants to put out a podcast talking about how great he is, hey, more power to him.

But a recent episode discussing the Batman/Fortnite phenomenon and how some of his retailer buddies were dealing with it really left an unpleasant taste. While talking about all the new customers coming in the doors, he’s also saying how these retailers are charging $20, $30 or whatever a pop and essentially giving his approval of this.

I get that everyone was caught short on this comic, and that sellers are making a killing on eBay with these, but…the one thing the industry has desperately wanted is kids putting down Those Darn Vidya Gabes and buying comics again, and when they do…we start gouging them for as much cash as we can grab? Or, rather, their parents? What’s that going to leave them thinking about comic stores? Or with the comics industry in general? It’s…well, it’s gross, is what it is. I know, “supply and demand” an’ all that, but maybe a little long term planning over short term profits would be the preferable strategy.

I limited copies to one per customer, and took down lots of names for future issues. Or for reprints of already released issues if the first prints weren’t available, because the best part about all the Fortnite kids is that they don’t care what printing they get. The codes are the same in all of them. And I will sell them all these issues at cover price. End result: happy customers who’ll come back. Haven’t had a single person mad at me about the whole Fortnite situation. Maybe I’m just in a laid-back part of the country, but talking to folks who come in looking for the comic, explaining the situation, and offering to save issues as they come in seems to have a mollifying effect.

Anyway, I know this has all turned into something of a mess, but starting within an issue or two, once we start getting in the installments we were able to order once we realized how much demand existed for the book, there should be plenty to go around. In fact, I’m expecting a glut, as retailers probably went to far in the other direction ordering more than they could possibly sell. In addition, the buyers who are picking copies up out of pure speculation right now will drop off then, as only the relative scarcity drove those purchases.

So I always hear about it when I criticize retailer behavior (remember “not buy?” Sheesh, that was stupid) but since nobody reads blogs anymore, I guess, maybe I can get away with it this time. But honestly, the next time we get a huge influx of new potential customers, hopefully we can all put our best foot forward, y’know?

13 Responses to “Only been doing this for 33 years, what do I know.”

  • Matt says:

    Charging a kid $30 for a comic because you (not you, obviously, you’re not an asshole) didn’t order enough is wild to me.
    Those are the same kind of guys that quintuple the price of bottled water after a natural disaster.

  • David Hernandez says:

    I don’t think anyone looking for the Fortnite comic who sees it selling for $30 at a comics store is going to have an opinion about comics stores at all. If Fortnite is the only thing pulling them in then I doubt the vast majority of them are going to become regular customers. You said you saw a lot of new faces when the first one came out. Please let us know 6 months from now how many of them you still see.

    Also, do you know how much hard to get video game items sell for on the secondary market in general? $30 could be seen as a bargain.

  • Ray Cornwall says:

    Any comic store owner that gouges kids looking for the comic is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

    Fortnite doesn’t need comics to survive. But Fortnite might be looking for new outlets to sell their gift cards. Perhaps they’re worried about the long-term viability of selling cards at GameStops. If Fortnite can sell cards in comic stores, so much the better.

    If a store treats a Fortnite customer fairly, that kid will come back for the cards. And hopefully, that kid will also try a few comics. This is a gateway product for new customers; why screw with them now?

  • Mikester says:

    David – I get what you’re saying, but this is a familiar if misguided argument and I’ll explain why in Friday’s post.

  • Chris V says:

    If there are special codes included in these comics, I have to ask, how many of these kids actually care about reading this comic?
    Are they solely buying a comic so they can get this code and throwing the comic away?

  • Adam Farrar says:

    Chris V, it doesn’t really matter does it?

    If anyone buys a comic, gets what they want from it and throws it away, that’s their prerogative. They could instead keep them, give them away or resell them. But if they wind up in the recycling bin, that’s the buyer’s right.

  • Robcat says:

    Selling is about a transaction. I give you something (money) and you give me something (product or service). However, it also goes beyond that. I had two comics stores near me 30 years ago. I went to the one that was less convenient to get to. Why? 1- Good store: back issues in bins, easy to look at. Bad store: comics piled in boxes (no bags) and I had to ask for each title. Prices penciled in on first page: inconvenient and ugh! 2- Good store: Friendly owner. Bad store: I was usually ignored and had to interrupt the owner’s reading to get service. In other words, my store gave me something besides just a comic book. I want a store to show me that they want my business. (Side point: bad store only lasted a few years but the good one is still going strong.)

    Part of that is the transaction expectation that if I want to buy a product, it will be sold at a reasonable price. I always buy soda at Walmart and never Safeway. I know that on any random day, if I walk into Walmart it will be cheaper.

    So, yeah. A comic book store should sell the comic for cover price at least for the first month. It’s part of the customer/merchant expectation. The give and take. The deal.

    Now, regarding the natural disaster water argument, that’s a whole other story. Guy on the street corner selling water? Free to charge whatever you want, or give it away. However, I would argue that the seller doesn’t want all his water to go to one person who then can drink it, use it to flush the toilet, and wash his dog, while others have zero water. (Unless he really is just looking for a quick buck.) He’s got two choices that I can see to limit bottles per customer: limit per person or raise prices which will force customers to self-limit. Plus, he has to take into account how much it will cost to get more water to replace what he sells or gives away. He might only break even at $10 a bottle. In order to assure people have water, he may have to charge a higher amount and look like a jerk.

    Am I buying the water from a store during a natural disaster? Now the store has to balance: customer goodwill vs. replacement cost. If the store is part of a chain, goodwill should win out. If it’s a mom and pop store, they may have to consider replacement cost if they want to continue to have water available. No easy solution. They may look like opportunists while actually trying to help the community.

    Comics, are similar, except substitute “shortage” for “natural disaster”. People still have customer expectations. The deal was “I am able to buy a comic at cover price for at least the first month”. Stores violate this at their peril.

    You may never be able to get more Batman/Fortnite comics. So what do you do if you want to spread the love? Either raise prices or limit per customer. I would argue that limiting per customer is the only way to not violate customer trust and keep to “the deal”.

    Plus, if the comic store owner is “out”, that is disappointing. It doesn’t matter if they were shorted, under-ordered, or ordered near perfect and I am the 30th and last person to want a comic they only ordered 29 of. I am disappointed. I am likely to blame traffic (I was late), the other customers (dang them!), or the gods. But if that same comic is available but at $30, I am blaming the store owner for violating the deal, and that’s not good for business.

  • I still don’t know what Fortnite is past it being a video game–Mike knows I have cerebral palsy and so am lucky if I can play Frogger–or whatever code things are inside or what they do.

    I will add something funny you all will enjoy. I’m in Chicago,it is still a mess, so my comic shop is only buying DC or Marvel because things, mostly him barely getting by. I heard about this comic DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH and so I called this guy Mike Sterling who even went through his back issues bin and found me every issue but #3. Well, the the trade came out for the first five issues. Cheap and I could read #3 and I have friends who’ll gladly take comics I pass along.

    So. That was long-winded. But my point would be this: does a retailer know when the first trade will be released? If, say, someone came in on Batman/Fortnite#3, and it was known that you could get all those code things, would a shop owner suggest waiting on the trade, since DC throws them out there within weeks these days?

    I assume the buyers want the code things. Quite possibly, the trade will screw everyone over and not have any. But say this book is someone literally wants just because of the COMIC, not the CODES. Would the shop owner bring up trades considering that one buyer might not know about trades and therefore the owner might now get a repeat customer?

    By no means am I saying not knowing about DoT, it was 5 issues, and the 3rd was by far being worth it, plus thanks to Mike Sterling, the Clock King of Camarillo, I have two additional issues past said trade. (I should add that I never asked if there was a trade out yet, which there wasn’t.)

    After reading all the answers here, I’m just curious as to 1/if anybody could care less about anything but the comic, like if there was a Batman/The Walking Dead book and 2/would they be aware that they could wait a few months and get a trade that starts with #1?

    As always, good luck in figuring out what I am talking about.

  • John Lancaster says:

    Mike, In my 30-ish years retailing (since I’m out now, you’ve surpassed my reign – damn you!), visiting other stores and meeting many shop owners, the words “long term planning over short term profits” is the antithesis of about 80% of the way those shops were run. Notice I used past tense. The two main shops I worked at lasted nearly 30 years each. The only reason they don’t exist anymore is that the owners retired and nobody bought them out. The others that existed in my area didn’t last long because of the same reasons Robcat mentions in his message. In retail, as in life, it’s a simple rule – Don’t Be A Dick.

  • Chris V says:

    Adam-I think you missed my point.
    It’s a question as to whether these young buyers who are interested in this comic are actually “leaving video games to read some comics”, or if they solely care about the video game codes and have zero interest in a comic book.

  • Eric says:

    I cant wait for the post -some twenty years from now – waxing about the premium you can get for a Batman/Fortnite #1 with the code intact! :)

  • Jack says:

    Never mind gouging kids for money, gouging ANYONE for money is a pretty awful business model. Doing it to kids just means you’re going to the special level of hell.

  • […] well, and not taking advantage of them when their need is great and you hold all the cards. As reader John said, “Don’t Be A Dick,” because folks will remember if you are […]