Grotesque Anatomy
Friday, November 07, 2003
  Dearest Comics Retailer...
More bloggers are sharing their experiences with different comic shops:  Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag (who points out that I was probably being overly generous in referring to Golden Age Collectables as a "comics store" rather than a "tourist trap") writes fondly about her local comic shop, Corner Comics (which gets a short little write-up from the local newspaper); David Allen Jones likes his shop so much that he doesn't even mind the 35-mile drive (although it helps that there's a place to buy beer nearby); and Kevin Melrose bemoans the fact that he can't buy his own published comic work at his local shop, even when he offers to order twenty copies.

After reading all of these good and bad accounts of various comic shops, I felt moved to chime in with some words about my own comics retailer, Mailordercomics.  (Yes, as you can probably guess from the name, Mailordercomics (MOC for short) is a mail-order service.  I like the convenience and the savings (in terms of both money and time), OK?)  As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I stumbled across MOC at a time when I was truly burned out on comics (not just the general, good-natured grumbling I've been expressing lately).  Even though I had stopped buying comics, I was still following the main comics news sites and lurking in various message boards.  Someone (I don't remember who or where) mentioned that you could buy comics online at a sizable discount.  I checked out the various sites and settled on MOC.  Well, "settled on" is putting it mildly.  I was seduced by the generous discounts (35% off most "mainstream" books—even more than Amazon's standard 30%!!) and one-time offer of "Free Shipping!" on your first order (something I'm not sure MOC still offers, but it certainly got my attention at the time, which I think was before Amazon offered free shipping on orders over $25).

Now one objection that some people might raise is that ordering online is so impersonal.  On the one hand, this is true:  I'm certainly not interacting with any clerks or other customers in order to get my comics (which could be a Very Good Thing, depending on your feelings/experiences with comic store clerks and customers).  On the other hand, it's not completely impersonal.  I've found other MOC customers online, and we share our experiences (and orders and pull lists).  And I've gotten to know MOC's owner, Michael Robinson, pretty well—mainly because I email him so often with suggestions, but also because (partial disclosure time) I used to review comics for MOC (something I eventually bowed out of because I was so bad at meeting my deadlines).  Michael is always prompt in returning my emails, even when I look back at my original emails and think, "Geez, how annoying am I?  I don't think I would have addressed my comments if I were Michael."  But Michael is so committed to customer service that he even takes the time to respond to my long-winded pestering.

But maybe that's not the best example to prove Michael's commitment to great service.  Heck, for all I know, MOC uses an automated response system and I simply trigger the "Verbose Nitpicker" replies:  "Dear JOHN, thank you for your wonderful suggestion(s)..."  (Just kidding, Michael; I still believe you really write the emails yourself.)  So here's another example.

Michael sent out an email today outlining some upcoming improvements in MOC.  The one that probably got most people excited was the news about EVEN BIGGER DISCOUNTS!!  OK, yeah, that got me excited too, but what really grabbed my attention was this info:
Each month we have a small number of customers that are either shipped a book that didn't belong to them or didn't get something that was listed on their packing list.  With the hiring of some new employees, this is to be expected until they can become acclimated to the new job.  However, in an attempt to reduce these mis-sorts even further, we hired a consultant to come out and spend a few days with us on our methods of pulling.  I think you're going to find that the changes we have made in our pulling system will guarantee you 100% accurate results in your monthly shipping....Next is our packaging.  I actually had a packaging manager from a major catalog company come out to our warehouse and examine our current packing methods and materials.  He made some very good recommendations in both how we pack and the items we use in our void fill.
It might seem like a small thing, but the fact that MOC is willing to hire two consultants to analyze their processes really impressed me.  Part of it is that I'm a QA in my day job, so process stuff like that resonates with me.  But mainly I'm impressed because MOC is making a focused effort to improve its service, service that (from my perspective anyway) didn't even need tweaking.  (I do know of one case where a friend on the Broken Frontier boards had a shipment stolen, but that was a failure on UPS's part, not MOC's.  Still, MOC addressed that situation by replacing all the comics that it could (as you can guess, replacing the missing Marvel comics was a chore) and by switching to Fed Ex as its carrier.)  Maybe part of the reason I'm so impressed is because I've heard stories in the past of readers not getting something in their pull box that they preordered, but being brushed off by their retailers when they brought it up.  I'm impressed MOC is taking the steps to correct the problem rather than just shrugging and saying, "What do you want us to do about it?"

OK, love letter to my retailer over.  I'll try to be in a grumpier mood next week.  If I stick to my plan of reviewing Avengers/JLA #2 and Amazing Spider-Man #500, a grumpier mood can pretty much be guaranteed.

(And because Dictator-For-Life Sean Collins doesn't have a comments section on his blog:  Sean, how am I the man who started it all when I was inspired in part by two threads other bloggers linked to?  I call entrapment!!  (But I still want credit for the Derek Kirk Kim masturbation webcomic link, even though Mr. Bacardi whines that he's had a link to Kim's site forever and I actually got the link from the Termite Terrace blog (which linked to it way back on Oct. 15th).  And did you get the Tomie books yet?))
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by John Jakala

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