Comic Book Store Blues
Comic Book Store Blues: The Lounge Act
Article at Bleeding Cool by a comic shop owner:
"I have learned over the years there is going to be up and downs. Often many of the ups and downs are out of a store’s hands. The publishers will at times lose touch with what readership would like. The market is heavily pumped up on variants. Marvel currently seems to want a store’s money and no input from the stores that sell their product. Even after Axel Alonso was replaced by C.B. Cebulski, Marvel is staying the course and not changing. That scares me."
The article describes how some competing comic book stores have staff which are annoyed by the presence of customers, exhibiting a huffy attitude for being interrupted while they are busy playing games (emphasis is given in the article on this matter of playing games while running a retail business) and this is probably an experience the comic book buyer who frequents a variety of shops has had happen to them - it certainly has to me, over and over (when I travel I make it a point to go into comic shops across the country and soak up the atmosphere, gauge the selection, buy old back issues).
But there's more to the issue than attitude: a certain shop I'd frequented for 13 years went under new ownership. The previous owners (older folks going into their senior years and retirement) weren't cheerful but they were effective. If you asked them for something they would either find it or exhaust every possible avenue in trying to obtain it. This shop wasn't my "main" shop where I had my subscription list, but despite it being much further from my home than other shops, was my "#2" shop and the one where I usually bought higher-cost books because my main source didn't carry the same selection nor had the same large selection of hardbound collections and trade soft bounds.
When the new owners came in, considerably younger people with cheerful smiles, customer service suddenly warped. Though making sure to greet every customer coming through the door, they were otherwise concerned chiefly with their board and card games from where in a corner of the store they had set up a kind of open-air lounge for themselves, removing several racks and bookcases from the old layout of the store.
The atmosphere of being in a quasi-store-cum-dining-room quickly killed my ability to verbally ask them for help (who wants to interrupt someone in their dining room? It's impolite), and after four visits with the new owners (versus the hundred visits from before) I gave up on the place. In the instances where I did interact with the new owners, they were smiling and exuding the kind of genial attitude I come across in hundreds of other retail establishments. That's all to the good and is the mark of some kind of professionalism, at least in style, though I have no illusion that this is a true interaction with a cheerful person, but rather a person practising good customer interaction skills.
But in the case of this new management, the difference was that, besides the act of running their store from their card-table, they wouldn't actually do more than make a cursory look for the items I would ask about, and then leave me empty-handed as they retired quickly back to their game. Could they order the item? Was the item even available from any distributer? This wasn't offered, they too quickly ejected from the customer to return to their lounge.
It's been two years since my last effort to get this shop to take some of my money, and though sometimes I think I'll drop back in to see if they've changed their ways, as yet I've not had the spark of initiative to try again, even though I've driven directly by their shop many times to park close by as I go into a totally different store (to get donuts. They're not cheerful - or uncheerful - in the donut place but instead are focused on me getting donuts into my hands as fast as possible).
This comic book shop and the experience of near-zero-service is by far not the worst experience I've had in comic book stores, nor was this shop anywhere near the bottom-rung of worst places I'd been in (far from it, the shop was clean and set-up like a retail shop that any potential customer could quickly acclimate to, which is different from many comic shops. Often what I find is a layout that is clogged with a maze of willy-nilly racks, shelves, stacked-boxes and odds and ends that take a little time to understand).
Ultimately, for my former "#2" shop, the real issue wasn't the "lounge," or the not being able to find the thing I was looking. Comic book collectors are inclined toward loyalty and do not adhere or avoid shops lightly, and if anything defines the collector mentality, it is determination. But somehow this shop, with all the things combined together, was cheerfully rebuffing me and wasting my time.
Original Page October 2019