Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Loose Ends Part II: The Matter of the Barcode

As you may recall, the answer to the first Gutter Talk Trivia Challenge involved the fact that back in the 80's and early  90's newstand editions of comic books carried the Universal Product Code while Direct Market editions did not, and I wondered just why this was so. 
Well, no longer do I wonder.
When I posted a link to that post on Facebook, I received an answer to my query from my Facebook and real life friend Ben T. Steckler.  Ben is a talented cartoonist, one of the funniest and most intelligent guys I've ever met, and, most importantly for the purposes of this discussion, a former comics retailer.
Ben wrote that the reason was "probably because not many direct market comic shops were using Point-of-sale scanners until the mid-90s. In 1990 probably only 1 out of 3 comic stores had a computer in the shop.
"In the late 80s, Marvel still had a co-op program aimed at... getting stores to have cash registers.
"The UPC symbols mainly were for the benefit of stores that used scanners. The direct market really had no use for them until more stores upgraded their technology. Also, separate labeling for the Direct Market identified the copies that shipped earlier, since Direct Market had about a two week lead time over newsstand sales.
" Returns would be the real reason for any difference in cover marking, since the covers of unsold newsstand copies could be removed and returned for full credit. (and thus scanned in easily back at the collection point.) Direct Market copies, being unreturnable, would not get a UPC code."
So now you know...and knowing is...well, you know the rest.
Thanks for your help, Ben. I, and I'm sure my readers, appreciate it.

1 comment:

  1. From the "What Have We Become?!" dept.
    Attn: comic historians

    Twenty years ago, only one in three comic stores housed a computer? Nowadays it's all a shopper can do to peel the retailers away from their World of Warcraft M.M.O. campaigns! You know who you are! What have we become?!

    - The Management