A post from my vintage Marvel blog about the selling behaviors of certain comic book shops.
Let me start off by making it perfectly clear that what I’m about to talk about doesn’t apply to all comic book retailers, or even most of them. Most of them are reasonably sharp guys, and know how to run their businesses, and a few of them are downright brilliant at it. But what I’m about to discuss concerns the couple that are not.
This was all brought to mind by an anecdote I read somewhere online. The poster in question had witnessed the following behavior at his local comic shop: a customer was buying an issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and the guy behind the counter openly mocked him for it, telling him that he’d given himself AIDS simply by looking at it, so terrible was it.
Now, I certainly don’t have a problem with somebody expressing their opinion. But in this case, I really have to question the logic of it. The store in question bought their copies of AMAZING on a non-returnable basis; they paid for them, and that money is still going to be gone whether or not the books fly off the shelves. So actively berating a customer for buying a item that you’ve already sunk money into is just shooting yourself in the foot.
Every store should be free to carry or not carry whatever titles it likes. And if a customer asks for your opinion about an item, I think you should be honest about it. But this sort of behavior is just bad business. I know that I don’t want to buy a car from a dealership who’s going to make fun of my tastes, or purchase furniture from a derisive sales clerk. And in this case, the store has already paid for the books! Who on Earth would do this?
Now, maybe in this case, the guy working the counter was just an employee. But if that’s the case, then he’s somebody who should be instructed in the ins-and-outs of customer service, and where to draw the line. And this isn’t an isolated incident. There’s a store here in Manhattan that frustrates me in exactly the same way every time I happen to go into it. This shop, which is otherwise neat, organized and well-run, posts their weekly picks on signs displayed in front of that week’s new books. And in certain cases, these things read like warning signs, actively steering consumers away from buying that particular title. It would be much simpler for them to just light their cash on fire and watch it burn–the books are right there, they’ve been paid for already! Why would you not want to sell them? And why would you want to make your customers who like them feel poorly about it? It boggles my mind.
I don’t think you have to actively push a book you don’t care for, and I don’t think you should ever actively steer a customer wrong. But there’s a point at which it’s not about the consumer’s experience so much as displaying your own know-it-all-ism. At that point, you fall right into the Simpsons Comic Book Guy stereotype–and he’s funny as hell when he’s animated, but kind of creepy and off-putting in three dimensions.
Okay, rant over.