First off I want it on the record that I support the concept of the local comic shop. I think that they are a vital part of the industry. However, the majority of comic books stores are awful, nerd-filled gulags that I wouldn’t frequent if you paid me.
I live in Toronto (a city that is not lacking in comic book stores) and the other day I decided to visit one of the many shops in the Big Smoke. It was a horrible experience. I entered into the store and the Rubenesque customer service agent behind the counter didn’t so much as grunt a hello in my general direction. The apes at the Toronto Zoo give me a better greeting.
The store is filled with random boxes of semi-unpacked product and I need to wade through a myriad of Japanese t-shirts, Hello Kitty purses, and Bi-Beast mini-busts to even make it to the comic books. I am looking for a few key Warlock issues for an early Thanos run, so I head to the back issue bins.
The bins are filthy. And I don’t mean that they haven’t been dusted in a while, I mean actually dirty. As in: encrusted in dirt. However, I am more shocked at the sticker price of some comic books. They are easily 10 times the going rate (i.e. Overstreet Guide), and some issues obviously have not been re-priced in 20 years (for example there were some great holofoil cover issues that were around $20 each, it was like travelling back in time to 1991).
So let me recap: I got no service; the place was filthy, and the prices were outrageous. Yet this is a shop (it will remain nameless) that does excellent business because it can draw from a large population of nerds.
Sadly this describes the majority of comic book stores. Most are horrible places run by ignorant, overweight Comic Book Guys who have no concept of business models or customer retention strategies. They give the good stores a bad name by association and they need to be eliminated. Fanboys, if I just described your local shop, I implore you: don’t support your local comic book store.
If your store is a sweat filled hobbit cave stop going. If you store doesn’t employ at least one woman stop going. And if your store doesn’t provide you with the basic level of customer service that you could get at a McDonalds definitely stop going. Put these dinosaurs of the comic book world out of business and only frequent the good shops.
These are the shops that are clean, sales associates are friendly, and they cater to families and women readers. They are far and few between, but the payoff for visiting such a great facility is well worth it. My “local” shop is 60 kilometres away from my house. I travel (although not every Wednesday) because I get great service, and it is a pleasant experience.
You might ask what can you do if you can’t travel far to a good comic book shop? I understand that this can be a problem in many places, but especially small towns. For years small towns have needlessly suffered the Dr. Doom type stranglehold that a crappy store has on remote nerds. Thankfully there is a magical invention called the internet and you can order books right to your front door. Any store worth its weight in adamantium will have a mail order option.
Brick and mortar stores are dying, and most of them should die. Why would I go to a WOW dungeon of detritus and high prices when I can visit Chapters or order from Amazon? The ipad doesn’t smell like nachos or have chronic flatulence. Comic book stores need to do better.
There is a movement in the industry to recognize good stores. The Joe Shuster Awards (like the Canadian Oscar’s of comic books) give out the Harry Kremer Award every year to the shop that is most opposite to the hell-hole I described at the beginning of this article.
If you are a bad store (and you know who you are) you should get better. Read a book on retail, hire sales staff that want to be there, and for the love of God, clean up your store. As for the rest of us, we need to stop buying things from these disgusting shops. Run them out of business. How else will they learn?
Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. If you have need of his services you can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view his elegant words of prose at The Nerd Alert.