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Distributor Working in a Vacuum

Sorry, but I can’t get that line out of my head that we discussed here last month; the customer service rep at Send the Light who told me, “Our buyers don’t talk to retailers.”

In some distribution models, where everything from a particular vendor is at least listed exhaustively — i.e. nothing in the catalogs is not in the distributor database — it’s some irrelevant; but with a distributor like STL, where the inclusion of titles from publishers is totally hit-and-miss, and where vendors are set up to accommodate one-time special orders but there is no follow-through for more recent releases; to not have dealer input to better exploit those existing vendor relationships is foolhardy.

Frankly, I think the underlying spirit of this situation is going to someday be their undoing; and I say that not because I wish them ill, but because I simply want to be able to look back on this post and remind them they were warned.

Send The Light is simply not as “on top of” what’s taking place with their suppliers as Ingram/Spring Arbor, who, it should be noted, have an option on each product page for dealers to provide corrections to every element of information on that page. And I can tell you from much firsthand experience, Ingram makes corrections to bibliographic details within 24 hours; and inquires forwarded to buyers through customer service reps produce either written or phone responses each time.

When prices are wrong, when three out of four titles in a series are listed but one is missing, when wrong author attribution is given, when an obscure title is having breakout success; that’s the kind of input distributors should crave, not automatically reject.

The problem for Send the Light is that if they don’t list it, they’re losing the sale; or worse, inexperienced bookstore frontliners are telling customers that the product is completely unavailable, which isn’t true.

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