Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Undervalued Gem

As you probably know, I own a comic shop. We sell lots of comics--and that means that we spent lots of money with Diamond Comics Distribution, the exclusive distributor for the largest publishers of American comics.

I think it's common in every industry for some people to begrudge the big guys they have to deal with--but I've been with Diamond since 1984 or 1985, when I switched to them from Glenwood, then the 800-pound gorilla in the comics distribution biz, and I am more impressed with the company and its people every year. Glenwood went out of business a year ot two later, making me glad I had made the switch. It wasn't great foresight on my part that led me to switch, though; it was Steve Geppi, the owner of the company, who impressed me as an honest, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable guy who had the drive to make his company a success. His earnestness and acumen made me want to do business with him; judging from Diamond's growth over the years, I wasn't alone.

Every week, I see comments from retailers about problems they've had with the current week's comic book shipments; many of those comments use scornful, derisive, and sometimes abusive language to describe Diamond. I have to admit that such vitriol mystifies me; Diamond has always struck me as one of the most professional distributors with whom I deal every week, and they have repeatedly come through when I needed them.

Don't think for a second that means that I never have a problem; every week, I have a few items that arrive damaged... or don't arrive at all. Some weeks, such as this one, I have an entire box missing, affecting lots of items. Is this problematic for me? Of course--but I have to put it into perspective. Percentage-wise, Diamond comes through with greater accuracy than any other vendor with whom I deal. And when things do go wrong, no one acts more immediately than Diamond to remedy the situation.

I've seen how poorly the big guys like Ingram or Baker & Taylor respond to shortages and damages; I've never felt like they had much concern for my business. But I believe, absolutely sincerely, the the folks I deal with at Diamond--Glenn and John and Amanda and Cindy and Natacha and Heather and Steve and Phan and a lot of others--really do care. They've worked with me to make my business better, and they talk to me as an equal, not an inferior. And when I need 'em, they've always come through.

It's easy to take someone for granted when everything's going right--sometimes things have to go wrong before you can really come to appreciate the commitment they show in making things right.

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