Sunday, August 21, 2011

Retailing With Ron - Pull List Etiquette

Welcome back to Retailing With Ron. In this edition, I'll discuss the proper ways of maintaining a pull list with a comic book store. As Chief Comic Officer of Fallout Shelter Comics, it's my responsibility to ensure that our pull list subscribers get the books they request. Read on for more on why pull lists are important to comic book stores and the best way to make sure you and your local shop can be on the same page.

What Is A Pull List?

Our pull list boxes. If you see your books here, pick them up! OR ELSE!
Providing a pull list service is an essential part of running a comic book store. Most stores will have pull lists in some form, and they can also be called "Hold Boxes", "Reserve Lists" or "Pulls."

Pull lists work by having customers give the retailer a list of comic book titles that they would like reserved for them each month. A good store will give discounts or other perks in return for signing up as a member. At the Fallout Shelter, we offer a 10% discount when you reserve 10 or more books a month, and every comic comes with a free bag and board. Whenever a pull list member comes to the store, their books are there waiting for them. There's no risk of selling out because pull list subscribers get their books first.

Bags and Boards: Perfect for collectors and people who live with cats
Why Are Pull Lists Important?

Pull lists are important because they allow the retailer to know the lowest amount of copies to order for a title. If there are 15 subscribers to Avengers, the retailer knows that he should order at least 15 copies for the pull lists and however many more for walk-in customers. Pull lists help provide a steady stream of income for retailers if subscribers pick up their books on a regular basis. In addition, pull lists build trust and help establish a sense of community between the customer and the store's employees.

Pull List Etiquette

Stay In Communication

Communicate with your retailer and make sure they know what your schedule will be like. If you're only able to make trips to the comic store every two weeks or once a month, that's something your retailer should be made aware of. Sending an e-mail or making a phone call when you want to make changes to your pull list is a great way of reminding your store that you still exist and intend on picking up your books.

Let your retailer know if you're missing a book from your pull list. Most retailers will do their absolute best to make sure you have every book you ordered, but sometimes books will fall between the cracks and you may miss a title. Let an employee know and they should be able to order you a replacement or find you a copy.

Stay Current

Tell your retailer as soon as possible when you want to make an addition or change to your pull list. Most products are ordered two months in advance, so if you decide that you don't want The Upper West Side Avengers #34, let your retailer know as soon as you can. Most titles from Marvel, DC, Image, and now IDW are adjustable through Diamond's Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) system. FOC allows retailers to adjust orders closer to the actual shipping date. However, not all publishers have their products on FOC, so sometimes it may be too late to cancel or order a specific issue. Letting your retailer know as soon as possible in regards to dropping titles is very important.

This should be common sense, but it happens quite often. Don't disappear for several months and expect your comics to still be on hold if you decide to return to the store. Always inform your retailer if you're going to be away or on vacation. Some smaller stores rely on sales from each week just to keep the lights on, and if you're a big customer who suddenly stops showing up, it can spell trouble. Your books will start to pile up and the retailer has to deal with what will amount to dead product after time. Most modern comics have a limited shelf life unless it's a highly sought after title.

Be Understanding

Sell outs happen these days, so don't assume that your store will have extra copies of a book on the shelf if you decide you want it and don't have it reserved. In the current economic climate, retailers are ordering to reduce risk and maximize profit. If you want a book that's not on your list, coming in early on new comic day or calling ahead can help get you a copy. A good comic shop will go out of their way to get you what you want. I've actually gone to comic book stores in other states just to make sure my customers get titles that we sold out of.

This also seems like common sense, but I can't tell you how many times this has happened. Don't ask for a book to be held and then tell us you don't want it. Most retailers order comics to meet their pull list numbers and then order for walk-in customers. Retailers order what they think they can sell and most products are non-returnable. If you ask us to pre-order an item specifically for you and then decide you don't want it, that's product we may not be able to sell to someone else.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

Don't hide the fact that you stopped picking up a title. Pull lists and reserve policies work under the assumption that you will buy the titles that you have on your pull list. If you decide to put the book you pre-ordered back on the shelf without telling the retailer, you're hurting your reputation and the business. Always be open with your retailer and let them know if you don't want a book reserved anymore. As long as you're up front about it and let them know as early as possible, the best retailers will be understanding and will do their best to accommodate you.

Any customer who reserved "Uncanny X-Men" received X-Men Schism #1 in their pull box.
Sometimes your retailer may put a book that you didn't reserve in your pull box. You shouldn't feel obligated to buy it but they probably put it there for a reason. Maybe they think that you'll enjoy the comic based on the other books you're reading or it's a tie-in that's essential to the storyline you're following. A big part of my job is figuring out what my customers like and recommending other books to them that suit their tastes. If you don't want your retailer to put any books you don't want in your pull, let them know.

What Do You Want?

I put this list together because I've seen plenty of customers who don't seem to understand exactly how a pull list works. I'm hoping that anyone who has read this understands a little bit more about how pull lists work for retailers and customers. 

Pull lists exist to make sure the most dedicated customers get the products they want and also to reward them for their continued support of the store. With that said, starting a pull list may seem like a daunting task and it can be tedious to keep up with at times. If you're not prepared to maintain a pull list and keep up with your books, it might be a good idea to start small or just hold off all together. 


Have you ever had a pull list at a comic shop? What do you like about having your books pulled for you every week? If you've never done it, why not? What's keeping you from taking the next step in comic buying? Let me know in the comments!

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CombatSpoon86 said...

Definitely love a pull list. My Lcs, Bedrock City Comics in Houston, urged me to get a pull list way back when I started comics again. Definitely love the perks. The discounts and knowing that a book you want is in there waiting for you and not rushing to get it bc you know it might sell out. I pull about 20 titles right now. I had to add to my pull list Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to my pull list since this week is the new #1. Had to make sure I wasn't one without a copy.

For people who goes to their lcs on a regular basis, a pull list box is definitely a must.

Carl Walker said...

Kinda glad this came up, because I recently opened up a pull list at a local store, and I've been wondering about dropping titles, mostly because I'm adding a lot of the New 52 next month. Is it poor pull-list ettiquete for me to drop, say, 1-5 disappointing titles from the relaunch the day after, considering that he already placed his orders for the #2s and maybe #3s (I'm a little vague on the dates). Sounds like FOC might help him out, but I'm still curious what your exact stance would be.

Hopefully there won't be any dogs, but this is DC after all... (and this is from a DC fan, sigh).

BDS said...

For me I live about 30 minutes or so away from my LCS. Pull List help me to make sure my books I want are in place and waiting when I get there. I try and be a responsible customer and tell them about changes, let them know when I will be longer between visits. I try to get there at least twice in a month.

I hated watching people in college come to the LCS and have huge stacks that were held over the summer and then they would go through and whittle the stack away and get less that a quarter of what they asked to hold. I always try and not buy things I have reserved. I think that stinks. I do know the college shop owner would keep track of those deadbeats and if someone came in looking for a hard to find sold out comic, well, sometimes those would find there way into a paying customers hands.


Zach said...

A pull list is a dream of mine. I would love to go to my LCS every week and have what I want waiting for me.

Ed C said...

used to have one but stopped recently as became too difficult to handle. was putting new titles on that looked like they were going to sell out and then cancelling them as weren't my thing and so felt bad about that.

tbh the whole etiquette thing made me feel bad and not enough titles are regularly strong enough at the moment to guarentee i want them evry month.

maybetoby said...

I had an awesome comic shop from high school to finishing college. I received excellent customer service for the better part of 10 years. Then the management changed, and I ended up deploying to Iraq. The only way they would continue to keep my pull list was if I had a friend or family member pick up my books at least every three months. Sounded reasonable, but it was hard finding someone to consistently do it, so they dropped me. And it hurt for a while, especially tracking down a year's worth of 10+ titles, but I was able to find another store that was able to work with my hectic schedule. I understand that they can't hold my titles indefinitely, but it hurt and I guess I took it a little personally that they dropped me while I was overseas, even though they knew what my situation was.

Ivan said...

Yep, I have one and am pretty confortable with it. I follow all the etiquette rules pretty closely.

Ron Cacace said...


As long as you let him know what you plan to do, I think that would be okay. Maybe just ask for the first issues to be held instead of monthly.

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