Reading the Returns

Two of my comic shop pet peeves came up in the last few days and are actually closely related to one another: Return policies and Reading policies. It seems that the majority of direct market comic shops fall into one of two completely opposite camps regarding return policies while a much smaller minority try to find a middle ground between the two. Policy #1 is, sorry you're out of luck, all sales are final. The perspective of these store owners is that the customer bought it, didn't like what they bought and want to exchange it for something else that they may or may not like. If customers are allowed to indiscriminately return whatever they want how will we ever sell anything? Policy #2 is, we want our customers to be happy regardless of if it costs us some money. If there's any problem, return it and we'll find something better for you. These store owners believe that keeping the customer happy over the long haul will more than make up for any short term loss. Then there are stores that understand the philosophy behind Policy #2 but have the same fear of such policies being abused that leads to the implementation of Policy #1. These middle ground store owners will accommodate a customer with a pull list but not a casual customer or some other such variation allowing special circumstance returns.

How many of you have walked into a store and seen the "No Reading" signs? Or furtively glanced at the guy behind the counter while wondering if it was okay to flip through as much of the comic as you had. Many stores feel if customers are allowed to indiscriminately read whatever they want how will they ever sell anything? These stores are for the most part the same ones with the "no returns" policies and are bringing the approach that they are selling collectibles, not running a library. I've been told (first and secondhand) that some people think we're nuts for setting up a lounge area and encouraging people to read. But I also know that I've yet to see someone sit down and read a book and leave without buying anything, never to be heard from again.

Clearly these two policies are linked in the sense that some stores are cutting it so close on their cash flow that they're afraid that they won't be able to cover their bills if they allow customers to sample product without paying for it or to return that product for something that they may like more. They have to squeeze as much out of those customers as quickly as possible to keep the doors open. While I understand cash flow problems as well as anyone, policies like these are what keep many stores cutting it so close on their cash flow. Approaching any business with fear and nostalgia leads to dwindling sales in almost every case and those clearly seem to be the two motivating factors behind preventing customers from making the most informed decision.

For more on my feelings about in store reading, go read about our couch.


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