Store Today, Where Tomorrow?
June 26, 2008 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Quite a few magazines are published every month. Supermarkets, convenience stores, bookshops, and various other stores sell the current issue. At the month's end, the unsold magazines are packed up and replaced with the new issue. What happens to all the unsold magazines?

I've seen workers in supermarkets swapping bundles of new magazines for equally large piles of 'old' magazines. Where do these magazines go once they have been officially retired from the shelves? Are they sent back to the publishers? Are they destroyed or recycled, or are they still set to be sold elsewhere? Do stores sell back issues to inquiring shoppers? In cases of excessive back issues, do magazines continue to sell for the cover price, or does its value increase or decrease?

Finally, beyond eBay*, is there anywhere online that sells these rounded-up rejects at or below cover price (or, at least, not for more than double cover price)?

[* This question actually is prompted by just missing a British weekly by two weeks. One copy is on eBay, but nothing will ever make me spend $45.00 for a magazine!]
posted by Mael Oui to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
To the best of my knowledge, they're torn up and reported as unsold to the publisher and tossed in the dumpster. That's how we acquired our Playboys and Penthouses back when I was 12.
posted by crapmatic at 12:10 AM on June 26, 2008

there is a store here in portland that sells back issues, for anywhere from $2 and up.
posted by violetk at 12:32 AM on June 26, 2008

Best answer: When I worked at a supermarket, a magazine company rep came each month and swapped out the old ones for new ones. Then she tore all the covers off of the outdated magazines. We got credit for the unsold magazines, the covers being the "proof" that the credits were based on. All the old coverless magazines were then trashed, usually after the employees had picked through the basket a bit. Of course we were not supposed to do that, but those of us who knew the mag rep and her schedule knew when to keep an eye out for the cart full of oldies on the way to the dumpster. It always really upset me that my store did not have recycling for that, as it was a huge amount of magazines. Especially Oprah's - I never knew why they thought we would sell so many.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 12:47 AM on June 26, 2008

My sister-in-law works in a book store. I get copies of just about any magazine I'm interested in, just without the front cover and a month behind... Unless it's really popular and they all sell.

The procedure, at lease in NZ, is that the front covers (or sometimes just the masthead with title and date) are torn/cut from the magazine and returned to the distributor. The store then just deals with the magazine as they would with any paper or card recycling.

Indeed, very often those magazines find their way into the hands of people. It's not uncommon to find coverless magazines in waiting rooms. The takeaway next to my local convenience store (we call them 'dairies') has a huge stack of coverless magazines. Mostly parenting ones, oddly.
posted by sycophant at 1:11 AM on June 26, 2008

Best answer: I actually deal with these magazines for a living.

We get charged for every magazine that is sent to the store, and then rely on selling those magazines to make the money off them. Any that aren't sold have to be accounted for, and then sent back to the supplier either a week or month later. We then get credited for the unsold copies.
posted by Solomon at 1:13 AM on June 26, 2008

Best answer: It all depends on the distributor from whom the store buys the magazines, and the requirements of the individual publishers who deal with the distributors. When I worked in a bookstore, we dealt with several distributors. Some required that the whole copy was returned. Some required that only the cover be returned (and then the remainder pulped, recycled, trashed or otherwise disposed of). Naturally, staff got their pick of coverless magazines; these were mostly foreign publications. In any case, a credit is issued to the retailer for the returned issues.

When a distributor receives returns on (intact) magazines, what happens to them depends on the publisher. Most are pulped. Some are remaindered in secondary markets. A few are repackaged and sold in grab-bags. Fewer still are returned to the publishers; typically, special-interest magazines where consumers would be interested in back issues. You want an old issue of Fine Scale Modeler? They publisher has the copies that didn't sell. An old issue of Entertainment Weekly? Those were pulped.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 2:12 AM on June 26, 2008

Every month there's a different, weird, slightly old selection of magazines free for the taking in the Continental President's Club.
posted by MarkAnd at 5:33 AM on June 26, 2008

Here in the UK, in the couple of markets nearest to me there are stalls that sell old magazines for a quid each or so
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:38 AM on June 26, 2008

Oh and when I mean 'old' I mean a couple of months to a year
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:39 AM on June 26, 2008

Both of the bookstores I've worked at mostly stripped the covers of unsold magazines and sent the covers back. The were then thrown away. The best part is that this would include magazines like Uncut where it would be possible to get a free CD out of the deal.
posted by drezdn at 6:17 AM on June 26, 2008

Dumpster diving behind big box bookstores can be very rewarding if you don't mind reading magazines and books without front covers.
posted by GPF at 6:47 AM on June 26, 2008

Half-priced books usually has a magazine section for old issues.
posted by GPF at 6:48 AM on June 26, 2008

Best answer: Yep, I used to be in charge of the magazine section of a bookstore. Every month I stripped the front covers and had to destroy the magazine itself. Which killed me! I would have loved to take about half of them home but it was against the rules.
posted by sugarfish at 7:13 AM on June 26, 2008

Best answer: I used to order magazines for a record store. Any unsold magazines I ripped the cover off, and sent that back (just the top third, actually) for credit. The insides were then tossed in the recycling bin. I'm sure they all were destroyed then, and no magazines ever were taken out and read. Yup.

Oh, for some glossy magazines (Mondo 2000, as I recall, I forget what others) I had to send back the entire magazine to get the credit.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: Ohh.. I almost wish I didn't ask this question. I wasn't expecting to hear about all the waste! That is extremely painful to find out! Throwing out unread Uncuts?!?

I love the idea of a store or a stall that sells recent, but old magazines (like the UK and Portland ones mentioned). I don't know of Philadelphia having such a place, but it'd be nice if someone collected the poor things to sell online, at least. But, I guess, it might not be profitable enough.. And, I wish I were brave enough to dumpster dive, but I don't know!

I mean this sincerely: Oh, the tragedy! God, this is awful!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:48 PM on June 26, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and thanks for responding everyone. Wow, they're just all thrown out?! Anyway..
posted by Mael Oui at 9:50 PM on June 26, 2008

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