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Retailing: You Fucking Asshole Cunts!

As everyone probably knows by now, the latest issue of ALL-STAR BATMAN had a unfortunate printing error where the black bars over numerous swear words printed too light, letting you see the swears underneath.

DC caught this only after the books were printed, in hand at Diamond, and already in the process of being distributed. They attempted to get the distribution ceased, but because of the mechanics of distribution, some copies (largely, but not exclusively, to those who get “early” delivery) made it to stores on the East Coast and Midwest and South. No one on the West Coast got any copies whatsoever.

Some percentage of stores who received these copies decided that, rather than destroy the copies, as DC comics asked (but could not, at least within the terms of their TOS, DEMAND — there may be some other legal principle I am unaware of that they may have done so, I do not know), that they would sell them instead. Whether that percentage is 1% or 10% or 98% we have no way of knowing, though I imagine DC and Diamond will be able to come to a pretty fair estimation.

Some percentage of THAT group further decided, since we now have nationwide and international tools to sell material, to put these on the internet in places like eBay, and were therefore handed a free pile of fifty dollar bills.

I have to say that I think that the PEOPLE who bought those copies for, in some cases, over $100, are extremely foolish. A year for now, no one will care or remember, and you’ll be lucky to get even $5 for them, but there you go.

This is going to be very costly for DC, in reprinting the book, and what I imagine is a few frenzied hours at Diamond as they tried to “unpull” as many copies as they could, but it has several pernicious effects on retailers as well. First off the “bad actors” (those who have no LEGAL reason to comply, decide they also have no MORAL one to do so) are all REWARDED for being such.

One such retailer is Mitch Cutler of St. Marks in New York. I’m not singling Mitch out because of any animus — I actually quite like the man, and I shopped at his stores in the Summers as a teenager (My Mom lived across from Washington Square park) — but because he was quoted in the New York Post:

“We’ve sold a lot,” said store owner Mitch Cutler.

“We didn’t destroy it because we couldn’t know everyone would destroy it,” Cutler said.

The comic is currently doing “Dark Knight”-like business on eBay, with copies selling for between $20 and $250.

Cutler was selling copies at his store for cover price, $2.99. “There’s no need to inflate the price,” he said. “It’s wrong and evil and slimy.”

The funny thing is that Mitch is trying to take the moral high ground, apparently thinking since he isn’t hyper-inflating them he is the “good guy” in this.

The problem is that the “good actors” (that is, the ones who respect their trading partner’s wishes, even though they have no compelling LEGAL reason to do so) then get screwed.

How?

1) Some percentage of customers, when faced with a store that has one of these, and one that does NOT have one of these will choose to take that week’s custom to the “bad actor”. Not JUST that issue, but, well, they’re there already so why not pick up ALL of that week’s comics? The stores that complied with DC’s wishes are out of pocket not just on the mistake, but on a whole host of other comics. DM retailers, as always, buy non-returnable, so that’s 100% out-of-pocket.

2) Some percentage of customers, when told either “Sorry, we never received it” or “Sorry, we’ve destroyed them as we were asked” will assume that the retailer is LYING, and will become angry. Angry customers are not good for business, either near- or long-term. Entire buying relationships can be disrupted over something like this, I’ve seen it happen many times before.

3) Our partners, both at the publishers and at Diamond, who many retailers have been working on for years, if not DECADES, in trying to make to-store distribution a little more sane, now have fresh ammunition to completely dismiss us. As one DC executive said on the CBIA this morning (and I paraphrase to stay within CBIA rules), “This is why we don’t have street dates”

Well, fuck.

One of the most incredibly fucked up things about New Comics distribution is that we don’t have a Street Date. Most stores in most places get Wednesday delivery, for Wednesday sale, wholly dependent on their shipping option. This means most stores are waiting around for a UPS truck, and that many stores are OPEN and full of customers clamoring for the comics while they’re trying to count them in, pick and pull subs, merchandise the store, etc. This sucks, this really really really really sucks, and it’s a huge waste of manpower and frustration levels. A massive pointless waste, with no upside.

It also means that if your shipping option FUCKS UP (rare, but not especially unique), and, say, loses your shipment, or delivers it 6 hours late, you’re not 100% hosed on New Comics Day’s sales.

A very small number of stores have Tuesday delivery — most of these are chains who need the extra processing time to move product from a central hub to client stores. But due to a series of strange and unusual incidents in the Bay Area involving multiple distributors competing (pre-exclusives), many single-stores in the Area are “grandfathered in” for Tuesday shipments. I’m one of them.

I would never EVER EVER go back to Wednesday receipt. Seriously, I’d close my store rather than go back to that. It was hell, and I’m a decade older and a decade more out of shape, and shipment sizes in terms of line-items have done nothing but increase. I’m too old for that shit.

I’ve been a tireless advocate for Street Dates for, like, ever, and I think it would have nothing but benefit for the overwhelming majority of real comic book stores in running smooth and professional operations.

So, to Mitch Cutler, and every other retailer out that there that decided they should sell these copies of ALL-STAR BATMAN: Fuck You Very Much. Hurray, you’ve just pushed EVERY OTHER RETAILER IN THE COUNTRY back (at least) another five years! Great job! Thinking of yourself before the wishes of your partners or the rest of your industry (“We didn’t destroy it because we couldn’t know everyone would destroy it”) means you’ve just painted EVERY OTHER RETAILER IN THE COUNTRY as an irresponsible fuckwit too. There’s no doubt that any retailer who decided to mark those copies up is a far greater douchebag asshole, but you don’t get any points for selling something you were asked not to for fucking cover price!

So thanks to you, one and all, who just had to go fuck it up for the rest of the retailers.

Cunts.

-B

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