Don’t Support Your Local Comic Shop article JSA criticisms: Falcone disagrees – I respond

Robert will respond on his own if he wants to.

Mr. Falcone responds:

Kevin notes that he doesn’t advocate stopping to shop at a store altogether, but that customers should work with retailers to keep business going. No. I am sorry but you are wrong Kevin. It is not the customer’s duty to mention that a store is dirty, prices too high, and customer-service poor. It is solely on the shoulders of the retailer to provide a good experience for the customer. The customer should not have to ask for basic common-sense treatment.

Actually what I wrote was: I’m certainly not advocating that people stop shopping with comic book retailers, but retailers are providing you with a service and they should be willing to work with customers (within reason) to keep existing business and hopefully attract more customers in the process.

Is that not a less sensational way of saying that I pretty much agree with the point at hand that retailers should be working to provide an inviting environment for customers to shop at their store.  I can’t fault the logic that customers shouldn’t have to ask for basic treatment, but I didn’t say they had to. I would hope that the customer might have a lick of common sense and not wrap everything up in assumptions based on visuals such as overweight people working at the cash register though.

Maybe the cleaning lady was sick or on vacation? Maybe there’s only the owner and he’s busy working on other aspects of the business and he let the dusting of his bins slip or hadn’t repriced his inventory in some time? Maybe you were in on a Tuesday as the store was making space for the new product to arrive the following day? I guess I’m advocating a “give them the benefit of the doubt” approach as no retailer wants to actively alienate new customers in this climate.

Having shopped at a few comic shops over the years, I have come to the opinion that a lot of retailers are lazy in some areas, proactive in others. I’m the same way in my own life. There’s a lot of work involved in being a small business owner. From the ordering with Diamond and other distributors, the accounting, the customer service elements (answering the phone, sales), buying back issues and pricing of new stock. Some stores are involved in the community, supporting external organizations, etc. I’m a busy guy myself, and I regret that my apartment has a tendency to get cluttered fast with the amount of stuff coming in each week and trying to get all of my own work done for my day job, the JSA’s, Fan Expo. Running a vacuum sometimes becomes a low priority over clearing off the work space for the next delivery.

I’m not defending overpriced merchandise and dirty stores or poor customer service, but if it’s overpriced it’s not going to sell. If it’s dirty people won’t want to dig. If there’s poor customer service you probably won’t come back. If a retailer can afford to take those hits then they have to be doing something else really well or they’ll be out of business soon enough.

This is perhaps where I don’t understand the point of the article. There has to be a reason why some stores keep rolling along year after year – the unnamed stores that you are advocating people walk away from if they don’t meet the shopping list of requirements. If they were dirty, overpriced and had poor customer service, why would anyone with common sense be shopping there regularly?

If you say to the owner I can’t shop here, your prices are too high and your store is too cluttered and dirty – watch and see what kind of customer service you get. It’s feedback and they’ll either respond apologetically and work on the problems or they’ll shrug their shoulders and tell you to take it or leave it. I’d probably leave it when given the take it or leave it response but at least I gave the owner the benefit of the doubt…

At one retail store I used to shop at, I would often ask the owner about his pricing (which I thought was high) and he told me his reasoning for back issue pricing and it made sense to him that he would rather wait for quarterly sales to make money on his back issues when they were heavily discounted than have reasonable pricing for regular walk-up traffic. But he also said if there was anything I wanted he would work on the price with me and I ended up getting some great books at some very reasonable prices. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have bought anything further from him.

When you have thousands of books priced in your bins you can’t constantly reprice them unless you can afford to pay a ton of staff to do all of the other work. Comic bags deteriorate with age and should be switched out every few years – most retailers don’t have the time to do that. Most of these stores have one, maybe two additional employees at best.

That’s what I mean by working WITH the retailer instead of just assuming he’s a greedy lazy slob who doesn’t seem to care about getting your business and walking away based on appearance, which is what was being advocated. Heck, I know a number of retailers who would probably not make the cut based on first pass on appearance alone, but these guys turn out to be some of the best comics retailers I know – knowledgeable, friendly, etc. They run some of my personal favourite local shops. They may never be considered for retailer of the year, but they have a loyal and supportive clientele for SOME reason.

As for the nerd culture stuff. I personally don’t use the terms nerd or geek when describing any aspect of the comics community. A nerd is an intellectual loner lacking in social skills, while a geek is a circus performer that does extreme things like putting nails through parts of his body or biting the heads of chickens. While both types of people are perfectly capable of being comic book fans and supporters… I’d say they are in the minority….

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