Friday, August 21, 2009

UPC Codes...AND YOU!

As comics have more or less lost their space on spinner racks in grocery stores and gas stations, the need for UPC codes have lessened; comics have since found more homes in smaller specialty shops with no capabilities or desires for electronic scanning devices.

If you pick up a back issue from one of the large companies published in the 1980s, it's easy to see which of them were originally sold in comic shops (i.e. the "direct market") and which were sold at, say, a Walden Books at the mall - direct market editions would still have the box on the cover where the barcode would have been printed, but instead of the zebra-stripe lines, companies would put logos or artwork in their place.

Until I figured this out, I would wonder why Marvel decided to put a picture of Spider-Man's head in the bottom left corner of all my Fantastic Four issues. Did they think I just wanted to see it? Was it a marketing tactic to get me to pick up issues of Web of Spider-Man? No (well, maybe on some level), it was because stores selling this version didn't need to scan a barcode to keep an inventory of what they were selling like they would at, say, a hardware store. They sold one thing and almost exclusively one thing - comics. If comics cost a dollar and you bought 16 of them...well, I'll bet adding all the books up wasn't the most difficult thing, either.

This, apparently, is changing, as I found out when I listed the first issue of Teddy and the Yeti in Diamond's Previews publication. It seems that anyone listing a book in Previews is now required to have a unique, scannable barcode on the cover.

I'm honestly not sure that I've yet been to a comic shop equipped with a scanner. The one here in Wilmington is a fairly up-to-date shop; it's a decent size with lots of different products - comics, shirts, posters, action figures, games - to choose from. They write down what you're buying on a piece of notebook paper and add the total up with a calculator. This is how they do it! And it's never once struck me as odd.

But I suppose that it was bound to happen, and, I thought, now I could have my own shiny barcode that I could flaunt around school to all of my friends. It seems that most barcodes are bought in bulk, and it was suggested that someone like me, who needed to buy...well, one...go to a website where they resell barcodes. I'm curious as to why there are barcodes available to sell again. The one you had wasn't working out for you? Found a newer one and decided to replace the older model?

At any rate, I ended up buying three from One UPC code cost $85 and the total for three was $ now I have two codes just lying around, taking up space in my house. Maybe I'll take one and slap it on my pants...just so I can walk around scanning my pants when I go out shopping. Maybe there will be guards who will try and stop me as I walk out of Target or some place, and I will have to explain that this has all been a big misunderstanding, because you see, these pants are mine, and the barcode is mine. And then we will laugh.

So Teddy and the Yeti #1 is appropriately tagged and coded. I had to move a few things around on the cover to make sure nothing was obstructed, but it worked out just fine. Now the three comic shops with scanners can all breathe sighs of relief.

No comments: