Thursday, July 19, 2007

Coke Adds Strife

Black Diamond Games is probably in the top 10% nationwide when it comes to game store revenue. This is partly a sad commentary on game stores but it's also because of our location in the San Francisco Bay Area. Revenue does not equal profits, in case you think I'm bragging. The high price of running a business in California is astonishing. I know of stores in the Midwest with similar revenues who have multiple employees, giant stores and time and money to take vacations.

The kind of money we spend generally means we get listened to in the industry, at least where there's competition, such as with distributors. They court us, generally treat us well, offer us special deals like secret discounts and free stuff. In other words, they show a little respect, much as game stores do their valued customers. It's just common sense.

So it still blows my mind when a vendor won't give me the time of day. Landlords are notorious for this. My current landlord made me go through an interview process to prove to him I knew what I was doing. His property manager confided in me last month that they really didn't expect us to make it to the end of our lease. Our original move location was in Pleasant Hill. After calls to the landlord over many months, they still haven't called us back. Luckily we're moving to a new place where the landlord is as eager to have us as we are to move in.

My current problem is with the purveyors of corn based fizzy drinks. With a large game center, we need to stock a large selection of snacks and drinks. Our arcane vending machine, with its constant user support and ability to be disabled with a nickel, just won't cut it anymore. So we need to talk with the big boys, Coke and Pepsi.

Pepsi won't return my calls. What can I say. I've called them repeatedly and their sales people won't call me back.

My Coke rep finally showed up today, kinda. I called them four times over six weeks. They completely blew off one appointment, not even calling to apologize. Then this morning they blew me off again. My rep called hours later to tell me that, basically, he was busy with a more important client. He showed up this afternoon (5 hours late).

The conversation went something like this:

Coke guy: We've never really dealt with a business like yours before. How exactly does this whole thing work?

Me: Thirsty gamers in large game room here (pointing to the map) must be hydrated and they prefer your products, located in the cooler here (pointing to the map). Would you please let me have some? I sell X amount now and anticipate 4X later.

Coke guy: Hmmm, ok.

Me: Also, Mountain Dew is my top selling drink now. I know it's from Pepsi, but can I stock it in your cooler?

Coke guy: Absolutely not. It's not allowed. Besides, we have Hyper Cola and Red Hyper Cola, just as good as Mountain Dew.

Me: Err, what? Never heard of them. Hmmm, let me explain it a different way. As you can see on this diagram, next to your cooler is the Pepsi cooler. I'm only getting Pepsi for the Mountain Dew and I would hate to have to sell all the other Pepsi products too.

Coke guy: Ok, you can do it. Just Mountain Dew. But if anyone asks, you didn't know.

Me: Excelllllent.

Anyway, he says it will take a week to get back to me with a simple quote. Still ridiculous and I'm sure I'll have to stay on top of him just to get that.

Meanwhile Pepsi can bite me.


  1. Sad part about this is that even after you get the quote, who knows if they'll execute correctly on delivery of product.

    I too HATE chasing vendors. Please take my money. Really take it.


  2. "offer us special deals like secret discounts"

    Secret discounts? Fnord I say! ...but secretly.

    - shorb

  3. Well, if Coke didn't wanna play ball, there's always RC : )

    Does anybody actually drink that stuff?


  4. Does anybody actually drink RC Cola or Coke? I sell tons of Coke but more Mountain Dew. I haven't even heard from RC Cola in forever.

  5. Just a thought: We had a coke account for a year or more. They were hard to deal with, would short us in favor of the big box store when low on stock, and had an abysmal selection in general. You can get a very good, and large used cooler for about $900. Considering you will be spending _a lot_ per can/bottle through coke, compared to stocking through Costco or Smart and can easily make the money back over time, and you will have no restrictions placed upon your selection. Stocking cheaper name brand drinks through a wholesale store (Sam's Club is kinda close to you, so is Costco) your volume will increase along with your selection. We were making very little money per beverage through coke just to keep the drinks reasonable. This all changed when we went to self stocking. Allowed us to get Frapp's, Rock Star, and Snapple too.

    I was thrilled the day coke took their cooler away. I hated thems, I did.

  6. Thanks Chris,

    It's good to know you tried it and it didn't work as expected. I'll check into the cooler. I was hoping to avoid the regular treks to Costco (probably Food4Less for me), but it sounds like it's worth it.

  7. No worries.

    I was _all_ excited about getting the drinks brought to me, until they would miss deliveries, etc. And if they miss you, you get to wait until the next week on your assigned day, even if they were at fault....leaving your cool empty and irritating.

    The drink runs suck...but at least I get to drink what I like ;)

  8. I was probably going to have to stock-pile drinks with Coke anyway. I suppose I can just buy more to make fewer trips.

    I found this 20 cubic foot new cooler new for $1150.

    Where did you find your used model?

  9. Side note on stocking up:

    It's bank. It takes a LOT of your stock room space, and ultimately for a low profit (albeit high turn) item, I would not dedicate that much space to it.

    We got ours from a dude on Craigslist. His contact info was lost in a laptop stealage.

  10. Thanks. I found one on Craigslist for $400. Hopefully it's as good as it looks.

  11. 1) If at all possible get it from a company that resells re-firbs. Generally they will guarantee it.
    2) if you can't, get it inspected by a refrig tech before buying and hauling.


  12. If you go the self-stocking route you should remember that Sam's Club is practically just around the corner from your new location.

    My conscious rebels at suggesting them, but they are probably the most financially sound option.