Comic Store In Your Future – When A Secret Shopper Reports On Your Store

[Editor’s Note: Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. You can find previous contributions here.]

I received the secret shopper report quickly this time. The previous one was emailed to me months after the secret shopper visit from last year. These are very “important” reports, not. I have received numerous reports for other stores instead of my own and when I email stating I received the wrong one I do not even receive the correct one.

In a previous column, I wrote about how the secret shopper this year showed up on the day my comic shipment went to Kansas City, Kansas instead of to my store which is in Iowa and I had to explain to her repeatedly that the comics simply were not in. That even if I wanted to break street date by selling to her on a Tuesday comics that were due out Wednesday I could not do it because they were not in the state the store is in. Even my employees were wondering how many times I would need to explain it to her. The secret shopper was so obvious  one of my employees wrote “secret shopper” down while she was here. The secret shoppers need to get new material. For years it has been the exact same script. Asking for two comics that do not come out until the next day. If a person asks any follow up questions such as “Oh, have you been enjoying the storyline that one of issues you asked about has been having?” Then there is a scramble to lie about something they have no knowledge about.


The location was in an old red brick strip mall. It was dark, but I did not see any trash. I had seen this building in the daylight and it looked rather dilapidated and could use a facelift.

1. Were you greeted when you entered the location?


1a. If YES, please specify what was said.

The associate said,

“Hello. Can I help you?”

1 b. Please specify how long it took to be greeted (from the time you entered the location). 0-10 seconds

2. Was it easy to figure out where the new releases for the week are located? No

3. Please specify the titles of the comic books you were to find. Amazing Spider Man #15, Savage Sword Of Conan #1

4. Please specify the issue numbers of the comic books you were to find. Amazing Spider Man #15, Savage Sword Of Conan #1

5. Were these specific title(s) and issue(s) available on the shelves? No

5a. If NO, was an employee able to find a copy for you? No


The associate said that they would not arrive until Thursday because Diamond was not on time. He mentioned something about them being sent to Kansas City. A female associate about his age working in the store said new releases usually were there by that time, but that they could not be sold until Wednesday mornings.

6. If applicable, please specify where it was located. N/A: It was unavailable



7. Was the employee who assisted you friendly? No

8. Was the employee who assisted you helpful and focused on you? No

She is correct. After repeatedly answering the same questions over and over and once again wasting time on a non customer, a person who is lying to me, and one that has no intention of buying anything I was not focused on her.

…Name: Unknown

…Sex: Male

…Height range: 6’0″

…Age range: 55-60

Wow, she added over a decade to my age.

…Other distinguishing characteristics:light thinning hair

I think this was just an attempt to get back at me.

9. Did the employee wear a uniform or a name tag? Neither


After I inquired about the two new release comic books, his words were rather clipped. He sounded annoyed when he said that Diamond was not on time and they would sent their new releases to Kansas City and they would not be there until Thursday. He added they were usually there by that time. A associate about his age working in the store was pleasant and told me that, at any rate, the new releases could not be sold until Wednesday mornings. I asked if the wall behind the woman had the new releases and he said something like, “But they are hard to find now.” No idea what she is talking about with this last sentence.

She is right I am fine repeating myself once but badgering me for a different answer does not go over well.  The comics simply were not there. I could not sell them even if I wanted to because they were shipped to another state. Continually  asking to buy something I do not have because I do not have it does not mean I will suddenly have it.

10. Did this location use a POS system (cash drawer with computer monitor) or a standalone cash register?

POS (cash drawer with computer monitor)

12. Were you thanked and/or given a sincere parting comment? No

I did say goodbye to her though at that point after lying to me and wasting more time than the typical secret shopper I was happy to see her go.


I did not make a purchase. There was a POS system in use. When I left the store, he did not make a sincere parting comment. I said, “Thank you” and did not hear him say anything.

She did not say anything when she left.  If she did not hear me when she was at the door then she is hard of hearing.


The store was like one big square living room. There were shelves on the left and right opposite walls as I walked in. The left wall had figurines and the right had new releases. There were some bins that occupy the entire middle of the store. I asked where the gaming tables were and were told they put boards on top of the bins for gaming on Friday nights and week-ends. There were a couple of display cases with many figurines in the back of the store. The POS was in the back on the left and middle as I entered the store. There was no TV visible.

Yes, she asked repeatedly about the gaming. She lied and said her grandson was into gaming but lived in Ames though was interested in gaming at my store. Which made no sense due to the fact her “grandson” would have drove by multiple other gaming places far closer to him to get to my store.

1. Was there at least one TV in the store? No

Diamond, I have not had a TV in the store and I never will. I want people buying not watching TV for free.

2. Was the floor clean and free of debris? Yes

3. Were the shelves orderly and well stocked? Yes

4. Was the store free of boxes on the floor and/or stacked against the wall? No

5. Was the store well lit? Yes

6. Was exterior signage visible? No

7. Was the exterior of the store clean and free of debris? (If in mall, refer to the immediate entrance of the store.) Yes

8. Were the employees clean and neat in appearance? No

Again, most likely bitter about being called out.

9. Were there gaming tables in use and/or were customers playing games while you were at the location? No


There was no TV visible in the store. While the shelves were well-stocked and orderly, they looked crowded and cluttered at the same time. There were a couple boxes on the floor and many stacked against the wall. The exterior ‘Rodman Comics’ sign was only visible once I got up close. It was not visible from the street on even as I entered the parking lot. It looked like it was painted white, but not illuminated. The associates were dressed casually, in jeans and T-shirts. It was hard to judge whether they were clean, but they did not look neat. There were no gaming tables. I was told that the bins that take up the entire middle of the store were the base, that they put boards on top of these bins for gaming on the gaming days.

The Rodman Comics sign is easily seen by people across the street. One would have to be legally blind to only be able to see it “up close”.

1. Have you been to this location before? No

2. Did you feel comfortable in this location during your visit today? No


The associate was not friendly. He began by complaining about not having the new releases and that Diamond had sent them to Kansas City and dropped the ball. He actually continued complaining, but I began looking around the store. I briefly spoke to the older woman about new releases. It was the female associate who explained that the new releases typically arrive on Tuesdays and that they could not be sold until Wednesdays. I had on a monogrammed scarf and she commented on my name on my scarf and said she liked it. I tried to walk around, but there was only one small aisle in which to walk as the two associates were stocking on the other side and the male associate was behind the display counter. There was little space for me to explore. When I asked where the gaming tables were, the answer was very curt. I tried to be friendly as I was observing, but it was uncomfortable. I took out my phone to take the required interior photos, but he told me he did not want me taking photos of the interior of the store. He said, “Go outside and try to take whatever you want from out there.” I said I wanted to show my son, but he did not come around. I browsed for another 30 seconds or so and was able to take just one photo when they had their backs turned. I then left and thanked them. One of the associates said, “Good bye.”

She said grandson, not son. Minor point. There was no “thank you.” Left out is when I flat out asked her how much being a secret shopper pays and was lied to again by her saying she was not a secret shopper. Then some weird comment by her about secret shoppers only go to beach resorts.


I did not purchase them, but I know that they are popular and some are very valuable. I am also aware that there is a certain demographic that is very interested in them. They have something like a cult following. I do not know how often any given new releases come out or what the most popular now was.

“Cult following.” Ouch.


The store was small, crowded, and cluttered. It could use some updating. It appeared that the articles were organized by category. The male associate was not friendly at all. He was hostile toward Diamond and did not put in any effort toward assisting me. The females associate seemed more pleasant, but they were busy stocking and did not speak above the man. He did not like it one bit that I was going to take a photo of the bins and told me no. It was challenging to complete my observations, be natural when I browsed and not be conspicuous as I was the only customer and there were three associates.


Not much to update here at the store. The carpet was replaced and the walls painted. Again, totally left out I knew she was a secret shopper. I was less than thrilled dealing with someone who repeatedly lied to me and was wasting my time by asking the same questions multiple times and on top of that Diamond takes my money and makes me pay for this service. I was not happy when she asked to take a picture of the inside of the store and I said no and she did anyway. If someone tells me no and I do it anyway what does that say? That I don’t care what the person says which is disrespectful. My employees were stocking? Stocking what? The shipment that was in Kansas City? The worse sales Wednesday that I can remember happened that week. Everyone else received their comics and our store did not. Diamond does not care. Diamond blamed UPS and UPS blamed Diamond. From what little I could find out it looked like it was both their fault. Diamond shipped my shipment out later in the week than normal and then UPS mis-routed it. I was even informed that UPS doesn’t guarantee the shipments anymore so no refund for shipping. I wanted her out so I could get actual work done. She was not a customer, she had no intention of buying anything. Diamond had not even gotten back to me on Tuesday about my missing shipment and then the secret shopper showed up that day. I was hoping she would remember what I said and report it back to Diamond and maybe some good would finally come out of having a Secret Shopper. I would have better luck hitting a lotto jackpot. Secret shoppers are not customers. They are time killers and a way for Diamond to waste our money.

The secret shoppers are so clueless about comics, a store employee could easily sell the secret shopper two comics in the place of the ones they asked for and they would not know. Seriously, I could have sold her a previous issue of Amazing Spider-Man and a Dark Horse Conan comic instead of the ones she was asked for and she would have thought she got me and gleefully reported me to Diamond and then I could scan the receipt and say no this is what she bought.

I am not worried about other stores selling two comics a day early for multiple reasons. One, if a store is hurting that badly for $8 worth of sales then that store most likely will not be around for much longer. Two, if a store is going to break street date they will sell to who they know and they aren’t going to get caught. It is just the way it goes.

Walmart breaks release dates all the time. Be it with their current exclusive comics or Magic The Gathering products. Nothing is done about it. When DC starts selling what used to be Walmart exclusives to comic stores along with Walmarts in the future is any effort going to be done to make sure Walmart does not sell comics before comic stores are able to? Will Diamond send secret shoppers to Walmarts?

Diamond took a good idea about getting comics to comic stores a day earlier that wasn’t even their idea (thanks Bob Wayne) and came up with a bogus $4 a week charge for each comic store and uses the secret shopper as the an excuse to keep charging it. UPS does not charge more for shipping a day earlier, it is Diamond.

If Diamond had competition again, how fast would the secret shopper program be dropped?

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

twitter   facebook square   globe