Saturday, January 06, 2007

Solidarity for Dummies

ComicsPro, the nascent comics retailer organization of nearly 100 members, has come up with a solution to the recent problems with Civil War mis-shipping from the Los Angeles warehouse due to weather difficulties. (If you're unfamiliar with the situation, here's a rundown at CBR.)

The organization has released an open letter, which Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading has reprinted at her site.

Now, I'm one of the managers for a comics shop that was not affected by the delay. And here's my thinking: "Screw this." I'm not entirely sure how my losing out on a weeks' worth of sales (and make no mistake, not getting Civil War would have cost at least half of the customer base on this particular, relatively slow-shipping Thursday) helps anyone on the West Coast out. If I get Civil War in Austin, am I going to undercut sales to someone who usually shops in San Francisco? Or is this just a "We're miserable, we want everyone to be miserable together" kind of thing?

Seriously, I have sympathy. Had things been different, and my shop hadn't gotten Civil War last week, I would have been pissed. But I wouldn't have demanded that everybody pretend like the book wasn't available anywhere. Unless it's shipping to my local competitors and not me, I don't really see a huge problem with uneven shipping. Yes, it's unfair and yes, it sucks for those in the affected region. But requiring Diamond to not ship the books to every region for a week, undercutting everyone's sales? That would be kind of like your buddy cutting his thumb off and so you cut your thumb off in a show of solidarity. It makes you a *great* friend, but kind of an idiot.

But maybe I'm being short-sighted or selfish. Or both. My initial reaction here, though, is that this is that rare comic book screw-up that is actually nobody's fault. You can stretch and say it's Diamond's fault for not having a better contingency plan in place, but beyond being willing to airlift the comics from the trucks caught in bad weather for a huge sum of money, I'm not quite sure what satisfactory contingency there could be. You could stretch really, really far and blame it on Marvel for not having the book on time in the first place... if it had shipped in December, it might not have hit the bad weather. But really, the blame lies with bad weather. Emotionally, I get that retailers who didn't get their books would be steaming... but I would think that intellectually, they would have to realize that this was an unfortunate accident, not one of the many broken things about the direct market that needs fixing.

If ComicsPro needs a cause, how about getting Diamond to ship all accounts (not just the multi-store chains) on Tuesdays so that the books can be prepared Tuesday nights for sale instead of in as rushed a manner possible on Wednesdays? That would also have the benefit of building in more lead-time if a weather delay like this happened again.

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