I saw a thread on ENWorlds discussing how much you would pay at a hobby shop vs. how much you pay online. I thought about that for a quite a while and I think I’d pay a lot. Let’s give some examples and thoughts that go with that.
I don’t expect my store to just be a store. The store is a place I hang out. I’ve mentioned a few times that I want to make gaming happen. Gaming is a major part of my life. I spend lots of money buying games, lots of my time reading/learning games, and lots of my life running games at stores and cons. My store is a part of my home. I expect a friendly place where people know who I am, who care that I’m doing well gaming and in my life, and a place that wants me to be there running games. I know that the store manager/owner is there because on some level he/she has to make money to eat and pay rent, but I also want him/her to be there because they love comics and gaming. I want that person to want to make games happen too.
I need that store person to need gaming in their life too. If you are just in the comics/gaming world to make a buck, leave. That’s not insulting, it’s an economic reality! There are much better ways to make a buck in this world that requires much less energy. Franchising out McDonald’s are a much better investment. Game stores die within the first year all the time, and you can’t just run that store 9 to 5. I don’t know about you, but 9 to 5 is when I’m working. So, any place that will give me time to play has to have their store open from 6 to 10. So the shop keep is looking at a 13 hour day to deal with my crap!
I realize all of this. I realize that these men and women are working their asses off. Sure, running a store isn’t as physically exhausting as, say, 13 hours of manual labor like heavy construction of houses. But it’s at least mentally draining since these people have to dance a hard dance to make all the bills happen while keeping the lights on and dealing with entitled gamers/comic fans all day.
Online shopping is great, but I have NO loyalty to anyone out there. Sure, I’ll sign up for your discount program. Yeah, give me your newsletter. Fine, I’ll friend you on Facebook. But I do not care about you. You are a means to an end. If my only interaction with you is to check a few boxes and have PayPal hand my money to you, then you are no better than any other http place to me. I don’t feel you care. You’re just a means to an end. Amazon, you, any other of the dozens of sites I know, you’re all the same. You may be much more, but if I’m not helping someone I know needs help in the gaming industry, it’s hard to know if you do or don’t care.
Cons are no better. I’ll see some con vendors two times a year. I’ll make some small talk, but I don’t owe any loyalty to you either. You’re at this con to make some money. Cons are high profile places where lots of geeks gather. And you can make a ton of money fast if you know what you’re doing, and you brought the right stuff. However, I will haggle with you. Honestly, I will walk up to vendors with my cell phone in one hand and my debit card in the other. If my local guy/gal can’t get an item, then any con seller is as good as Amazon. So, if you, the con vendor, can’t meet Amazon’s price, that item can be at my house in two days (prime shipping is awesome!). Same goes for some companies. If you are big enough to have a giant booth at GenCon, I have no problems haggling with you. The smaller companies get a pass, generally, but I have no problems haggling with the semi-large ones unless you’ve earned my loyalty. If a company has proven time and time again that they are great to their customers, like Fantasy Flight with its rock solid customer support or Wizards of the Coast with its FREE open play programs, then I will not try to fight them on price. In either case, I expect a deal at a con. At a con you’re cutting out all the middle men. If you want to get more money from cutting out those people, then I expect to get a break too. If you sell for 80% at a con, your still ~40% more then you normally get. I know this, you know this, now let’s make a deal!
But, when I find a local store that gives me its time/play space, friendship, and a passion for gaming, they get my money. If you treat me with respect, I’ll put quite a number of hours into making your store the best store I can find. I’ll run my games there, post about it on Facebook, tweet upon my Twitter, and overall make you a part of my life. And, for the feelings I get from your store, I’ll pay full price. I won’t screw around asking for discounts (but giving them to me does help keep me loyal!). I won’t be an ass and haggle over small things. I’ll show up every week, pay for my orders, even though I know I’m losing money vs. online shopping, and I will do that with a smile on my face. That is the price of admission to these places and the feelings and support we gamers get there.