Online Ordering and a Charity Offer

More retailers are exploring online stores as a way of expanding sales and reaching different audiences. With Amazon.com out there, though, the question becomes how to attract and keep customers?

Some long-time outlets do it based on service. Others do it with discounts, but that’s tricky. Although online purchases can be cheaper to handle, cutting prices can quickly become a race to the bottom, and while customers may temporarily benefit (until the outlets go out of business), many established retailers reject that approach as cutting their profits too drastically.

As an alternative, one is now using an appeal to altruism. ComicBookShelf, run by Dan Shahin of Hijinx Comics in San Jose, CA, charges full list price (but with free shipping, a definite plus). For the month of October, 20% of every sale goes to the CBLDF and the Hero Initiative (10% to each charity).

I’m curious as to whether that will attract customers. Readers, would that offer affect your choice as to where to purchase graphic novels online?

Something to think about when ordering online, by the way, is where the books are shipping from. East Coasters may want to order from their side of the country or the Midwest to minimize shipping time. Aside from books getting to you faster, the less time product spends in the shipper’s hands, the less change of damage. (Although everyone I’ve ordered from has packed well to avoid that problem.)


10 Responses to “Online Ordering and a Charity Offer”

  1. James Schee Says:

    I think its an interesting gesture, but is one I don’t feel will be very successful. I can’t speak for everyone, but I buy online because of the discount.

    It isn’t that I’m buying stuff because I have the money, and am just using that rout to save a few bucks. It is because the discounts I can find online that I can buy most of the stuff I want. So paying full price, even for the money to go to worth while charities wouldn’t interest me.

    I can donate to charities on my own if I so choose after all.

  2. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I use mailordercomics.com for a few reasons:

    1. Great discounts, beating Amazon on the Big Four (Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, Image) and competitive with other publishers.
    2. Fantastic service. In the few times I’ve needed help, I’ve gotten it quickly. They really value you as a customer.
    3. Packing. I’m not a “must be mint” freak, but I do want my books in nice shape. MOC packs books better than anyone I’ve ever dealt with. Books are covered in plastic, wrapped in protective cardboard, and loaded in shipping peanuts. Theonly drawback is the cleanup process.

    I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  3. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, I notice the current Target commercials are emphasizing their corporate giving to local charities. So it must bring some people in the door.

  4. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I suspect the Target charities are as much about separating themselves from Walmart as much as possible. Target’s business model has always been to use the same high-volume low-cost business model as Walmart, but with goods that appeal to a richer, more stylish customer. Even though Target and Walmart can have the same effects on a community’s economy, Walmart always comes off as “the bad guy”, while Target appears to be a friendly part of the community.

  5. Dave Says:

    Ditto to what Ray said about mailordercomics.com. I’ve been using them for about 4 years and the service has been stellar – on TOP of a terrific discount. Sometimes I feel guilty about not regularly supporting a local store but my lifestyle just does not gel with regular weekly (or even monthly) pilgrimages any more. Ordering online once a month helps me stay within a reasonable budget which I know would be really hard visiting a shop, and the discount, as James pointed out, allows me to stretch my limited dollars the farthest. Also, mailordercomics.com allows me to specify whether I want my stuff shipped monthly, weekly or bi-weekly, there is a flat charge for shipping per month depending on the frequency of shipments, and I receive an e-mail shipping confirmation that includes a UPS tracking #. Receiving that e-mail and knowing the box is on it’s way is almost like the anticipation I used to feel waiting for Wednesday to roll around. And on those occasions where an item has been damaged or missing (very rare!) they’ve always taken care of me quickly, no questions asked.

  6. Scott Bieser Says:

    I wonder if people who buy from mail-order for the discounts take the shipping costs into consideration?

    Sure, I might save $3 on a graphic novel by ordering from Amazon or whomever, but if it costs $4 to ship the book to me, what am I gaining?

  7. Dave Says:

    Scott, in the example you cite, you are paying an extra buck for the convenience of having it delivered to your door. And that’s only if you are paying sales tax, which you probably are not.

    Amazon offers free shipping on orders $25 or more. When I order from them, I just make sure it’s at least that much. It gets better on stuff that is pre-ordered. For instance, at one point I pre-ordered every volume of The Complete Peanuts that was available to do so (gr?). Each volume, at the discounted was about $18, I think, but because the order was over $25, shipping was free and they are shipping them to me as they become available – and only charging me at that time.

    And I don’t pay sales tax, which in my area is 6.75%. So that’s an additional savings.

    From mailordercomics.com, I can’t remember the exact shipping charges, but I think it’s $10 per month for monthly shipping, $16 per month for bi-weekly, and $22 per month for weekly – regardless of the size of the particular shipment. And again, no sales tax. My monthly order with them is usually $120-140 and I have them shipped monthly, so the shipping charges are roughly what I would pay in sales tax were I buying them locally, more or less. And discounts vary but on average, I get about 35% off cover price with them.

    As I said above, sometimes I feel a little guilty not supporting a local store but I’m a busy guy, I have a family and, frankly, charity begins at home.

  8. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I order a LOT of books a month- rarely do I have a month where I’m not spending $4-500. My orders can be 40-50 pounds. My shipping usually runs $15-16 for UPS ground shipping that gets to my house within a week of the books being shipped.

    Given that the discounts mean I save at least $150 a month (better than Amazon on the Big 4 publishers and slightly worse on other items), and that Mail Order Comics’s shipping practices are light years above Amazon, I’m perfectly happy with giving my business to MOC. I save a lot of money, get books in perfect shape delivered to my door, and can work with a great staff at MOC any time I have a problem. (Their service really is that good. I’ve gotten emails from the owner at 4 am.)

  9. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    Mailorder Comics is very nice. You should try living just down I-80 from them. sometimes I get my box before i get the shipping data. I do have to point out that on many books (non big-4) Amazon does beat MOC’s discounts, however. But that has more to do with Diamond’s discounts on non-Big 4 publishers than anything else, i suspect.

    I actually bought the Amazon Prime membership for $79 (I had some surprise funds come available and thought “why not try it”). This gets you free two-day shipping. Even when we had a full-scale comic shop in my town, it often took more than two days before I could work my schedule out to get to the store, and this is delivered to my doorstep. I’ve ordered enough stuff from Amazon now that I’ve paid between 1.25 and 1.50 per shipment for shipping (and that’s two-day shipping). Add in that Johanna lets us know when Amazon has a surprise sale on comics, and it works really well.

    What we have in my town now is a used bookstore that rents out space to a gaming store and carries a small selection of comics (mainly for pull-service customers). it’s working quite well for them, as they’ve seen several full-scale comic shops fail in this area for lack of enough customers. I order many floppies from them, mainly the ones that i want to support at least symbolically by purchasing them through the “official” channels. But as the individual costs rise to more than $3 an issue for many series, that gets harder and harder to justify, especially when they’re written to be read as a trade.

  10. Scott Bieser Says:

    Well, as it turns out I do live just down I-80 from them (in Cheyenne). I’ve looked over the site and find the service very interesting. And since there is no comics store in Cheyenne I will likely end up getting an account with them.

    But I’ll still stop by Gryphon’s in Fort Collins once in a while — as a small publisher, it’s good for me to network.

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