Stiffed by Quimby's

Quimby's is a famous zine store in Chicago. Never been to Chicago, but Quimby's was the first store to carry Pathetic Life, so I love 'em, or at least I want to.

They reached out to me last summer, and explained their invoice system and forms, used by all the zinesters whose work Quimby's sells, so I play by their invoicing rules.

They only sent two of their invoice blanks, though, and my zine comes out monthly, so with the second shipment I enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope and asked for more of their invoices. There was no reply, so my third mailing to Quimby's included my own half-assed invoice form, another SASE, and another note asking nicely for more invoices. Also I asked real friendly like whether anyone was buying the zine off the shelves. Still, no reply.

It's a big store (I've seen pictures) and dealing with a thousand of do-it-yourself publishers must be a lot of work. Balls get dropped through cracks thin and wide, and things get forgotten, and I try not to get too impatient but… they owe me $165, money which I'll love to spend on cat food though I don't have a cat. That's how poor I am.

Almost a year, and I haven't been paid, and my questions haven't been answered.

Today, Quimby's Spring catalog came in the mail, and Pathetic Life is listed — so whatdoyaknow, it is for sale at Quimby's. Early issues are sold out, so that answers my question on whether anyone's buying it. But I was slowly simmered by this blurb toward the back of the book:

"Communication — Because we deal with so many small publishers individually, we ask that you keep in touch. Haven't heard from us in a while? Our phone number is (312) 342-0910."

Wait a minute. I understand forms and letters, and postal problems, and a busy office, lousy cash flow, or lost paperwork. I've worked in offices, and understand all the things that can go wrong. If they're too busy to bother with me, I won't lie awake nights, and if they never pay me I'll chalk it up to my own stupidity for trusting people I've never met at a store I've never seen. I don't think they're ignoring me on purpose, but yeah, "Haven't heard from you in a while."

So I'm supposed to call? Long distance? During business hours? That's expensive. I still have wet dreams about Sarah-Katherine, but I've never called her long distance, even on the weekends when rates go down — that's how cheap I am. And I'll be damned if I'll make a long distance call to a zine shop that's ignored me for almost a year.

So if you live in Chicago, please subscribe. The zine no longer has a sales outlet there.

From Pathetic Life #22
Tuesday, March 5, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2023: Reading this entry surprised me. I'd forgotten all about being stiffed by Quimby's, but I am a world-class grudge-holder — if they'd never paid me I'd never forget, so they must've paid me eventually.

The store is still there, and to this day I often buy zines from Quimby's.


  1. Doug, I just imagine how your 14-hour days end, even with a decent employer on an all-white island (now that Bill Russell is gone). I can almost hear you singing both parts of this "duet". jtb


    1. They're not 14 hour days, only eleven or so, counting the commute. Still way too long, of course, but what the hell.

      Love that song. Kinda what I needed tonight, too. :) Mr Reed's solo version is on my forever playlist.

      Oh, and former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkins still lives there, so Mercer Island isn't *entirely* white.

  2. If I remember correctly, I got stiffed by Quimby's also one time. I had some zines on consignment, and I was supposed to check in once a year or something to see how the consignment was doing, which I dutifully did. Then they got a bee in their bonnet one year and went through a bunch of consigned zines, including mine, and mailed the zinesters to see if we wanted the zines back or wanted them still left on consignment or something. They mailed my postcard or whatnot to an old address of mine or something (or maybe even hallucinated they had mailed me), and then disposed of the remaining zines when they didn't hear back from me (which wasn't possible since I never got the mailing). I think they donated the zines to a zine library, so it wasn't a huge deal. I finally found out about the whole situation when I did my dutiful yearly checkin and discovered I had no need to check in again because they had disposed of the zines. Sigh, I wish they had stuck to the original agreement instead of changing it on a whim one day, but I didn't hold a major grudge. I just didn't put anything else on consignment with them, but I still bought stuff there when I was in Chicago and even did a reading there when those zines were collected as a book (I let the publisher deal with supplying Quimby's copies of the book). It's a cool store. I had a couple of other bad experiences with consignment (the kind of places that sell zines are not renowned for their competence, just their enthusiasm), so after a point I only did consignment locally. Now I don't do consignment at all. If a store thinks they can sell something, they can buy it and have some skin in the game.

    1. It's been so long, I can't remember the details or maybe even the big picture. Was it really a consignment deal? I remember it as just a very long delay before they paid — like, it was supposed to be six months but they'd tend to forget if you didn't nag 'em.

      I still think they paid me eventually, but I didn't keep books even then.


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