Comic Store in Your Future: Wanting Customers More Like The Flash, Less Like Then Turtles

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

Time is the one thing I seem to lack. We have been getting ready for our 9th anniversary this month and, of course, trying to make it the biggest sales day of the year. I'm also hoping to make all the time put into this worth it.

I often talk and have written about that time is not on a store owner's side when it comes to sales. The longer a sale takes the more likely it will not happen. I have written about pull boxes before. About what happens when people abandon their pull boxes without returning any calls or even worse continuing to say that they will be in to get their pull box. That is part of the reason I am not keen on pull boxes. At times people keep putting off getting their pulls and then realize how much money worth of material they have in their pull boxes and think it is too much for them to get so they abandon them. The employees and I waste a lot of time calling people about their pull boxes never hearing back from them.

On August 11th, I emailed Diamond about opening up a second store. I remember reading that Diamond has programs (or at least had) to assist existing stores in opening up another store. I read that Diamond even preferred stores expanding locations over brand new stores. As I type this it is now September 10th and I have not heard back. I did email a second time and was told "someone" would get in contact with me. This, of course, makes me want to open a second store less. If I am unable to get Diamond to contact me back within a few weeks how well do they have my back? The weeks of waiting have placed doubt in my mind. It is also part of the reason I would like to see a competitor for Diamond. A competitor of Diamond would sure the heck be less likely to drag their feet helping their customers. Currently, a comic store's options when dealing with Diamond are to quit selling comics or grit it and take it.

As I have stated before when dealing with sales, it is best to wrap up the transaction as soon as possible. Time is not on a seller's side. The more time goes by before the transaction is finished the more likely something can come up or the customer decides they simply do not want an item anymore. I no longer allow people to put things other than comics on hold so they can buy them on the next Rod Deals for twenty percent off. At times a statue would go on hold, not be available for sale before Rod Deals and then they would not show up to buy it. Some would let me know afterwards they no longer wanted the item and some would just disappear and ignore my calls. I need to come up with a name for dead beat pull box customers and people who ignore our calls or lie to us that they will still pick up comics. I came up with prize sharks for the people who just play games at a store to take them for as much as they can. What about people that abandon their pull boxes and people that request material and then leave a store hanging with it? We can have a contest, what is a good nickname for people who order things and stick a comic store with them? Anti-comic collectors?

For me here at Rodman Comics, the best customers are the ones that come in every Wednesday and buy everything they want. They do not leave anything behind on hold. That is quick cash flow. Too often a Magic the Gathering card player who had a pull box will just leave the comics on hold to buy the latest Magic release instead. In the years we have been open, I have not had a single Magic player that had a pull box that I have not had to tell to pick up their comics due to waiting over a month to get what they have in the pull box. It is just a weird fact here. Dungeon & Dragons players who had pull boxes were too used to hanging out and not spending money and they too abandoned their pull boxes. Heroclix players are often pretty good about picking up their pull boxes. We have had Heroclix players in the past stick us with product though the current ones have been great.

When we first opened, we had to pay C.O.D. to Diamond. (Cash on Delivery). As time went on, we got a week after receiving our shipment from Diamond to pay. Then as more time went on, we got another week. The older a store, the more likely to have more time to pay their Diamond invoice. Those comic days are a vital cash rush. Customers that show up every week are important and golden with us. They create fast cash flow. Now we know not everyone will make the effort or can (for instance they may be in the military) though it is more than reasonable that an able person can stop in at least once a month and pick up their comics. I know some people will say they are too busy to stop in once a month though, which often is bunk. I see these same people across the street getting fast food and then just drive by the store. I even run into some of these people who claim they are too busy at the gas station that is within five minutes walking distance from the store. My employees and I explain the rule of at least stopping in once a month to get their pull boxes. Many stores have to pay their comic invoices within a month. So, when people take longer than a month to pick up their requested material, it ties up money. Meaning it has been paid for by the store and is just sitting in a pull box unsold. If just one person did this it would not be so bad. Though the more that do, the more of a store's money is tied up. Think of it as if someone bought something, paid and they do not get it for a month or it never shows up, they are simply out the money. That is what is happening with pull boxes.

Businesses do better with quick cash flow. Just like most everyone, a business has bills. The bills have to be paid by a certain date. I have learned to make a sale as quickly as possible. Get that transaction wrapped up as fast as possible.

A lot of the vendors I deal with are slow on getting a transaction done which still surprises me. It feels like I am trying to throw money at them and they just keep knocking it back at me. My thousands of dollars spent with them may indeed be small potatoes to them. However, people that only buy one comic a month from me, still receive good customer service. That one comic purchase may one day turn into fifty comic books purchased or more.

As for me at this point, I have lost a lot of interest in opening a second store. What do I need to do, beg someone to at least get back to me? How much time do I need to use up just to get someone to get back to me from Diamond? If I did this to a customer, odds are I would lose them. I went from nervous excitement to "do I really want to" and now I am at "I think I am fine with the way things are". I am now busier and focused on other things.

At times I feel like I am trying to be the Flash and wondering how so many can be the opposite.

Comic Store in Your Future: Wanting Customers More Like The Flash Than Turtles

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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