When I was a poor university student in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and then when I had my first job as an even poorer advertising copywriter in Gateshead, I used to buy my comics from a local comic book buying club rather than the local Forbidden Planet. They advertised at a local comic mart, I went round to Graeme’s house with a bunch of others, once a month, and we’d take our comics, for 20%. Graeme would order at 40%, it was a win win. Apart from the Forbidden Planet, who no longer got my business. Or at least not as much of it as they used to.
But that was then.
Currently Diamond Comic Distributors’ terms forbid such groups from buying comics from them. Their terms and conditions state;
DCD does not sell directly to hobbyists or consumer-buying cooperatives. Orders will not be accepted unless the customer is engaged in a legitimate business activity dealing with product lines carried by DCD and is purchasing products from DCD strictly for retail resale to the ultimate end user from locations it has registered with and have been approved by DCD.
Basically you have to have a comic store, or a website offering a full range of product with full shopping cart and credit card functionality.
The reasons given are that comic stores can expand and extend the comic marketplace, but buying clubs don’t, serving a fixed, small audience and also sucking money away from the stores without having to pay rent, staff or taxes.
There’s also the practice of the owner of a buying club using orders to help them qualify for premium variant covers, or cases of discount hardcovers which then flood the local market with the standard covers, at local flea markets, making it even harder for local comic stores to stay in business.
But it seems the policing of this has not been stellar and there are loopholes. One store discovered that they had received an extra box by mistake, addressed to another local store that had gone out of business, the forwarding address being an apartment number.
The suspicion was that after the store had closed, the account had been kept open by the previous owner for him and his friends to continue ordering comics at massive discounts.
When the store, which had been in business for over twenty years, contacted Diamond to express their misgivings, they suddenly found themselves under investigation by Diamond, demanding that they supply;
-A copy of your most recent Schedule C tax form
-A copy of your lease
-Catalogs and/or advertisements promoting your business
-Receipts from exhibiting at conventions
-A website that has shopping cart technology and accepts credit cards
As they said, it’s like reporting a robbery to find yourself being interrogated as the thief. I’ve received dozens of reports of stores over the year frustrated at buying clubs taking business away and unable to get Diamond to do anything about it. But they’ve not wanted to talk about it, for fear that they would give said clubs added publicity. But for some, it seems, enough is enough.
So who are these buying clubs? Are we sure they don’t have a retail address or website? Well, here’s a few that are plaguing one store who talked to Bleeding Cool, all with a different mode of operation.
ULTIMATE TREASURES 11240 VILLAGE LN CLINTON, MI 49236-9595
This is the guy who has sold at least 13 Amazing Spider-Man #700 Ditko variants on eBay, all he does is eBay and amazon sales. He dumps everything and has killed more books then I care to remember. Diamond has been notified about him numerous times, and has even been discussed at the top levels of Diamond, but his sales volume is so high they don’t want to loose a cash cow, even though it hurts retailers and he is in 100% violation of TOS and Account guidelines. When a book is short or allocated, it is usually this guy (Dan) that has ordered a ton of them after FOC to corner the market on them.
They had a store 20 years ago, but folded and now work out of their garage or basement. This is the one that my friend gets his books from, not many details, but they get them at their house and everyone shows up to their house to pick up their books. They rarely know how to order, as my friend has to come in every other month to pick up a clearly hot book when it comes out. They set up at area flea markets and local conventions only. They are my definition of a “dirt mall” retailer…but they have a diamond account…No website, No Brick and mortar (Diamond says they are borderline, even though they are in violation of TOS and guidelines for having an account)
Gambler Comics, 9087 Celestine Dr Belleville, MI 48111
They don’t exist, yet they do. Over 20 mentions on Google about them, but no store, website etc… and Diamond has no account to link them to. They sell locally, His name is Chris, and Diamond thinks he is piggy backing off another store’s account but they aren’t sure.
So, a few fans getting a good deal, or the devil itself? Have you used buying clubs? Are you affected by them? What are the implications if Diamond doesn’t enforce its terms and conditions – or indeed turns against retailers who do report them?
The word, as ever, is “developing”…