Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pull and Hold

As a convenience to our customers, and as an ordering aid for us, we offer people the ability to subscribe to titles.  Basically, someone  says I want Super Duper Dude, and every time Super Duper Dude comes out, we set one aside for him or her.  It is easy for us to do, and a nice service to offer. That way, if he/she can’t get into the store one week, he/she doesn’t have to worry about us selling out of Super Duper Dude before he/she can get in to pick it up.  Or, if Super Duper Dude is a comic book we don’t usually order, he/she can make sure that we do get it, and it will go directly to him/her.  And it helps us because we can see how many people are interested in Super Duper Dude and we know we need to get at least that many, plus a few more in case others out there have been looking for Super Duper Dude but haven’t asked for us to hold it for them.

Unfortunately, the subscription service is far from perfect.  We have had people sign up for books and then never come to pick them up.  After a couple of months and unreturned phone calls, we put them back on the shelf with a sigh.  Once we even had someone not pick up their books for over 3 months. We had stopped pulling his comics after month 2, and when month 3 came, we called him up. His phone was disconnected, so we figured he either had money problems or moved, and we put all his comics out on the racks.  Then, a couple of weeks later, he calls and wants to know what we have held for him.  Now, if someone is going to be gone or has some kind of issue where they can’t pick up their comics for a long time, we try to be understanding and hold onto the books, as long as they let us know what’s going on.  But, if we don’t hear from them, we assume they have moved on, which is what we did with this guy.  Well, he was quite disappointed to find out we put his books back.  I told him they were only put back for a couple of weeks, and if he knew what he needed, I could probably pick them back up, as long as he would be able to stop in and buy at least some of them.  Apparently this was quite a project to figure out, because he took another month to call back and let us know where he left off.  By then, some of the books had been purchased by other customers, and some had gone into the back room or the front back issue bin, so chasing them down was tricky, and again he was disappointed when he called back the next day and Craig had to tell him that we couldn’t find a few of the issues he was looking for.  But, thankfully he did send his wife out to buy what we were able to find.  We have to pay for our weekly comic shipment right away, or UPS won’t let us have it.  So, having to sit on large amounts of comic books is costly, especially if they end up being unclaimed, because after a couple of months the chance of selling them becomes pretty low.  By far, the worst thing you can do if you have an in-store subscription, is decide not to pick up your comics and not let the store owner know.

Another problem with subscriptions is the constant updates. Most people are very good at letting us know their changes month to month. But, other people let the list slide. Even people who get a monthly catalog will let month after month go by without updating their lists. This is usually worse for us than them, because it can lead to us under ordering, thinking that few people asked for it, so they must not want it.  But then, when we do under order and they come in after the book is sold out, and they wanted it, everyone is hurt, especially if the book is now sold out at the publisher – which is often the case.  When a comic book is sold out the first day, we’ve lost money.  And when we don’t have a book for a regular customer, we try our best to track it down, which can often mean an extra investment of time and money, and even then, sometimes we just can’t get that comic book – and we could have, if only he/she let us know that he/she wanted it.

There are stores that don’t offer subscriptions at all, for a variety of reasons.  Some because they’d rather have the money right away than have to hold onto comics for someone for weeks.  Others because they don’t have a system in place that would let them do it.  And still others don’t offer it because they want to get people to come in every week instead of relying on a subscription safety net.  I am sure there are more reasons too, but those are some of the more common ones.  While it isn’t a perfect system, we like to offer it to people, and we think they appreciate the convenience.  We just hope they appreciate it enough to pick up books and update their list regularly.

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