TL/DR: If you’re looking to get what you order, and expect great customer service, don’t order from Lone Star Comics (mycomicshop.com / webuycomics.com). They shipped me comics that were damaged and not in the condition I ordered them, and their customer service was virtually non-existent, telling me, essentially: “Just return them. We’ll send you a label.”
I’m a fan of comic books. I always have been. Currently, I own more than 3,000 of them. So when I say I’m a fan, I’m more of a fan, if you know what I mean. Everything from 52 to Young Justice: Our Worlds at War. I tend to prefer DC over Marvel, and the now-defunct Crossgen over both of those. Image is a distant fourth, with various others rounding out the collection.
Comics appeal to me for various reasons, not the least of which is the fantastic (in the traditional definition of that word) stories that they tell. They also appeal to me as-yet-undiagnosed OCD nature by being something I can collect, and moreover, something I can collect all of, since I’m something of a completist, too.
Yes, that’s a made-up word. Just go with it.
So a couple months ago, I went through my collection with a fine-toothed comb, looking for comics that I didn’t want anymore and could sell to raise some funds for the big time- and money-sink that is my company. I figured I could get rid of quite a few, and as it turns out, I wasn’t wrong. I managed to find nearly 1,200 comics that I didn’t want anymore. Since then, I’ve been gradually getting them out of my collection, at places like Trader’s Village and the recent Owlcon.
I’ve also been packing them up and shipping them off to Lone Star Comics, through their site webuycomics.com. And here’s where the saga really starts. In most cases, I’ve taken very good care of my comics. Ones that I intended to keep for a long period of time are bagged and boarded and well-stored. Others… well, not so much. I will admit I’m not an expert grader when it comes to comics. I don’t know all the little idiosyncrasies of what is and isn’t allowed in which grade, but suffice it to say that the better condition a comic is in, the higher the number, on a scale of 0 – a theoretical 10. I’ve never heard of a comic hitting 10; even the best of conditions usually get a 9.8. Most comics that are bagged and boarded get an 8-9.4.
So I was expecting the ones I was getting rid of, most of which weren’t taken fantastic (new definition, this time) care of wouldn’t be as well received by the experts at Lone Star as I hoped. I’ve sent in a total of 8 batches of comics now, roughly 300+ in total. Almost all of them were downgraded from my initial grading, with comments such as “spine stress,” “crease,” “scuffing,” or “slight foxing of corners.”
Okay, sure, I get that. You can’t sell a book at Near Mint (roughly 9+ on the scale) when it’s got some damage to it, so I don’t mind seeing those downgraded to a Very Fine (8+) or lower depending on the damage. I’m sending in these comics for trade credit (since they pay higher for that and I wanted other comics, anyway), so I’ll take what I can get. It takes a while for them to grade my shipments, up to 10 days depending on number of comics, and then once I agree to the inevitable downgrading and accept their offer, it takes about 4-5 days for a payment to be issued.
The upshot of this is that after about a month and 200+ comics sent in, I had a whopping $380+ of trade credit to use. So I ordered 175 comics that were on my personal “want list”, in various grades – some Fine (6+), most Very Fine, and a few Near Mint. I ordered a couple copies of some since I intend to get some bound (more on this in a later post), and hit “checkout” with a smile on my face, waiting the 7 days it took to pull and ship my order of 175 comics with high anticipation.
I should note here that Lone Star has, by far, the biggest selection of comics at the best prices I’ve found. So I was able to get nearly everything on my Want List from them in one fell swoop. This made me happy… until I realized that all was not to be.
I should have known something was wrong when I went to check the status of my order, and found that there were only 152 comics listed. Though I paid for 175, 23 weren’t shown. I put it down to a glitch and thought no more of it. Finally, the comics arrived. Those of you who collect will know my feelings – think of it as new comic book day * 175. THAT was what it was like. Now, I admittedly had high expectations for the books I would be receiving, given the constant and continuous downgrading of the books I had sent in for credit. Surely, if they’re so hard on grading my books, then the grading of theirs must be just as careful.
Of the 175 I ordered, 1 never made it (which, all things considered, is probably understandable, given the size of the order), and 54 had to be returned due to damage. That’s right, one-third of the order was not received in the condition they were ordered in. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I sorted the books. I double- and triple-checked the outer box for damage (there wasn’t any), and looked again and again at the packing in disbelief.
There’s another check in the Win column for Lone Star I should mention here: their packing of books is without equal, in my experience. They take the books and stack them flat, with half the books in each “pack” facing up and half facing down. This protects the spine from rolling and stress during shipping and saves space. They then put a thick cardboard divider on top and bottom, put the whole stack in a thick plastic bag, then seal it with more tape than I have ever seen before when it wasn’t on a roll. Seriously, I could’ve done all my Christmas wrapping for three years with this amount of tape. Thus tightly packed, the comics go in the outer box surrounded by paper and packing materials.
What I’m trying to say is, there seems to be little chance that these books were damaged during the time it took to get from Lone Star to my house. Unfortunately, something happened, because almost all of the books had crushed or creased corners. Some had serious spine roll, humidity/water damage, and/or creased covers, soiling and, in one case, a date stamp across the title of the comic.
Really? I couldn’t believe they would ship comics like this. My current theory is that someone in their shipping department dropped one or more of the ‘packs’ on their corners, and didn’t bother to look for damage to the comic before putting it in the box and sending it on its way. You can see from the gallery below (Miscellaneous 1 & 2) that entire packs had problems with corners, including the backing boards.
Okay, so a third of my $300+ order was damaged. I think it was permissible for me to be a bit upset at this. I sent them an email saying, in essence, “I think it’s very uncool for you to have sent me these damaged books, what do we do now?” I even included a link to a gallery of images I took to show them I wasn’t just yanking their chain about the damage (what would become this post, which was previously password-protected).
Their response, in turn, was “Yeah, just return them. Here’s a link for a label.”
Seriously? That’s it? That is how you handle an upset customer? The entirety of the rest of this saga could have been avoided with one simple phrase: “I’m sorry you didn’t get what you ordered. Let’s work together to make this right.”
How hard is that?
Apparently, it’s not a part of the customer service training at Lone Star. I even called and asked to speak to a manager, hoping to hear someone say “Woops, our bad, how can we help?” Again, nothing. Though the guy I spoke with (who was just a guy answering the phone) was pleasant and helpful, he couldn’t do anything for me but take a message and tell me the same thing they’d told me by email.
For someone who has been in customer service in one form or another for nearly twenty years, this was not acceptable.
So I took down the email of the owner, and at the same time boxed up the comics I’d decided to return (in the same way and even the same packaging as they’d sent them to me, naturally) and sent them on their way with what turned out to be the last batch of comics I’d be selling, as well. I sent the books off and wrote an email saying I found it hard to believe that the same guys who were so careful in grading my incoming comics could let customers receive books that were so obviously mis-graded. I asked for a reason to continue shopping with their store, and pleaded as one business owner to another for better customer service.
What did I receive? No response from the owner, but from the customer service person I originally received the email from, I got this:
After speaking with the owner in regards to your email, we do not feel we will be able to meet your needs in terms of grading. Anyone who questions our standards and integrity regarding how we grade in terms of buying and selling, is not someone we feel we should continue to do business with.
So, let me see if I get this straight: You down-grade nearly every comic I send you (meaning you pay me less for them, in credit or cash). I accept this, and order comics from you at or above the grade of the comics I sent in for the trade credit. I get the comics at a condition below which I ordered them. I ask how we can insure I get replacement comics at the level I ordered, and I’m told that I’m “question
Now, they’ve deleted my account on their site. So I have no way of seeing the status of my current transactions, either orders or “selling” batches.
I guess that’s one way to lose a customer. They’ve apparently decided that since I had this crazy notion of expecting to receive what I paid for and expecting someone to take responsibility for the damaged comics, I don’t deserve to continue purchasing comics from them.
Okaaaay. I’m sure Mile High Comics will take my money, instead.
Feel free to take a look at the photos below. I’ve titled each image with the name of the comic, issue number, and condition(s) in which I ordered them. Let me know if you think my objections were erroneous. Not that it ultimately matters now.