So I was talking with a friend the other day and asked him if he’d picked up a copy of Mixtape yet. He had not, and was quite frustrated by the experience. His conversation with the clerk went something like this:
Him: I’m looking for a new title called Mixtape.
Comic store clerk: All the new titles are this shelf.
Him: I checked, it’s not there.
Comic store clerk: Then we don’t have it. I’ve never heard of it.
Him: Can I order it?
Comic store clerk: You have to talk to the owner. He’s here until 5pm during the week.
Him: You can’t take an order for me?
Comic store clerk: No. Only the owner takes comic orders.
Him: Can I phone him and give him my order request?
Comic store clerk: No. The owner only takes orders in person.
The owner only takes orders in person, Monday to Friday, 9-5.
Which is great, if you live and work in the area and you can find the time out of your work schedule (which, for most people, ends at 5 – right when the store owner in this case heads home for the day) to present yourself on bended knee before this Lord of Graphic Arts, and ask him if he could be so kind as to order a book you wish to purchase with money. You may even ask for several copies, because others would like a copy as well.
If you can’t, however. If you, say, commute to your job from your town, are out the door at 7 and back home at, well, 7, then you’re pretty much fucked.
This isn’t an isolated case either. A friend on the west coast who lives in something approximating isolation (yet still has mail delivery) called one of the big stores and asked if he could order a copy of Mixtape and have it shipped to him. He was told in no uncertain terms to “find a store on your island” because apparently it wasn’t worth the effort to charge his credit card and stick the book in the mail.
Yes, there are other avenues available. Copies of Mixtape are showing up on eBay and Amazon, and while those are certainly avenues to follow if you want to get a copy of the book and can’t find it anywhere, I still prefer you to buy Mixtape from your local shop. It supports them, and it also supports their decision to carry the book in the first place (and to continue carrying it).
That said … if the shop in question isn’t interested in carrying the book despite people asking them to order it, if that shop makes the customer leap through hoops to make an order in the age of the internet, and Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone-machine, and mail delivery, then that shop clearly doesn’t need your business that badly.
[UPDATE: that friend who couldn't order Mixtape from his local store ended up getting his copy from a shop in Texas. He lives in Newmarket Ontario. Do the math]
To reiterate; I’m a big supporter of local comic shops. They’re the backbone and lifeblood of this business. But, frankly, a lot of them are run by (for lack of a better word) assholes. I say this not as a creator pissed because stores aren’t stocking Mixtape, but as a fan who has been patronizing comic book stores since I was 10. No matter where I lived, no matter where I moved to, no matter who I was visiting, finding a reliable local comic book store was a priority. Hell, I travelled to Toronto specifically so I could visit the comic stores there. And even back then, a lot of those stores didn’t deserve the business they got. Know why?
Because they didn’t need my business. Because they were the only deal in town.
For a creator it’s agony because, more than anything, you want people to read your work. People who want to read your work want to be able to find it. If they can’t read it, what’s the point? It’s something every creative person will tell you happens, and ask any of them what they’d rather have; their work be seen, or just get paid and who cares what happens to it, 99% will pick having it seen (the other 1% are, as we know, assholes. Who run shitty comic book shops).
“But, Brad,” they’ll say. “Running a store is hard work, and we can’t carry everything. A lot of us are in a small, and shrinking market. We’ve had to diversify, selling sports memorabilia and toys and other collector’s items because the single-issue market is drying up. Our margins are razor thin and, honestly, our audience has specific tastes we need to fill if we’re going to stay afloat.”
To which I reply; I understand the argument – what I don’t understand is why so many of you are indifferent to the point of hostile to refuse to order copies of something that someone, with money, wants to buy. How many of those toys or sports jerseys sit on the racks for months without a buyer? Contrast that with an item someone wants you to get for them? A definite sale?
Not only that, but who’s to say the person interested in Mixtape isn’t going to be interested in books like it? Books like Local or The Waiting Place or Box Office Poison? Someone purchases Mixtape from you, you can always point them to other books they might enjoy. There’s another sale. A sale you wouldn’t get otherwise, because a number of the people buying Mixtape haven’t set foot in a comic shop in years, if they ever have. People you want to attract to the medium.
As one who used to work retail, we mostly carried items we knew our customers were interested in buying. However, if someone wanted a rare item, we made damn sure to get it, lest the person who wanted it decide “they obviously don’t want my business enough I’ll try someone else.” We didn’t want that customer to defect to one of our competitors. We wanted them to know we valued their business.
Fact: nothing happens in a vacuum. The guy who comes in and orders Mixtape comes back to pick it up, and brings his 6 year old son with him. Said son is a Star Wars nut. He sees the Star Wars paraphernalia (which I know does sell) on display and his mind is blown. Dad picks up his copy of Mixtape, and grabs something for his son, and they come back again in a month for Mixtape #2, and more Star Wars . Maybe this six year old discovers Batman and Spider-Man on one of these trips and next thing you know, you’ve just gained another loyal customer, and one who will keep coming back.
Not every retailer is an asshole – I must clarify that. Other people have had success in ordering and receiving their copies. My favorite comic shop – The Beguiling – is getting a fresh batch of Mixtape in stock this week. Most stores are only too happy to place that order and collect your payment for it. They understand that in the internet age, every customer is worth their weight in gold. Friends in towns big and small have had nothing but pleasant experiences dealing with their local store (in several cases, their first time buying a comic book ever).
And that is why this retailer, who shall remain nameless (because why direct business his way when he clearly doesn’t need it?), is now the proud recipient of the first ever Mixtape “Go Fuck Yourself Award”.
You can’t see it, but it looks something like this: