Sunday, January 8, 2006

Looking To The Stars - The "Friendly" Local Comic Shop

The New Year is firmly begun and I am finally free of the duties of the comic book shop. Not that the job was ever truly unpleasant (though some of the company was) but there comes a time in life when you need to change things and move on. For me, that time is well past. And while a part of me will miss being the friendly neighborhood comic guy, I'm looking forward to the opportunities before me as a professional librarian.

Considering all this has gotten me to thinking about something I've been hearing and reading a lot of people talking about lately; The Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop. Or the Friendly Local Game Store. Or the Friendly General Hobbyist Emporium. Or whichever little name the hipsters are using as they wax philosophical upon the small shop for a niche market that is usually just barely scrapping by.

Most of those who write upon this subject tend to emphasize the Local part of this equation. They say that if you just buy everything off the Internet then you hurt the people down the street. Usually, this invokes images of the art teacher who loves comics or the ex-soldier who loved war games and how they took their savings in order to give something of their hobby to the next generation. You don't want them to starve in their old age, do you?

This is all well and good, except for one small problem. At what point does Local become more important than Friendly?

This distinction seems to be lost on many who proclaim the holiness of the Friendly Local Comic/Game Store/Shop. I expect to take some hits for the statement that follows. But having shopped at six different local comic/games shops in the decade I've been reading comics and playing RPGs and having worked for one for over three years, I feel I have some capacity to speak on this subject. So taking into account my experience, my advice to all of you is this...

There is no shame in supporting a Friendly On-line Comic Shop.

Consider this: most of the On-Line Comic Shops are, to someone, a Friendly Local Comic Shop. And isn't it better in the long run to support the people who, though a great distance away, do their best to make sure that you get what you want in good condition at a reasonable speed than to continue throwing money at the guy down the street who acts like it is a personal insult anytime you make him get off his butt to practice his own unique brand of "customer service"?

I'm lucky. I have a good shop in my city. Up until a few days ago, I helped run it. But a lot of us don't.

Some of us have to deal with salesmen who, dollar signs in their eyes, begin trying to fast-talk us into investing in some $100 board game when we just came in to get the new Superman book.

Some of us have to deal with people who haven't showered in three days, standing a foot away from you, blathering on and on about what's going on in the new X-Men book while trying to hand you things you should be reading, oblivious to the fact that you want to shop in peace.

Some of us have to deal clerks who look at us glassy-eyed as we ask what's going on in the Marvel Universe.

"Uh... I only read independent titles."

(This is just an example, incidentally. I personally read a lot of independent titles and know some comic stores where asking about Strangers In Paradise will get you nothing but blank stares from some guy in a Wolverine shirt)

And we're expected to put up with this? And for what? The feeling that somehow, we're striking a blow against Corporate America? The idea that we should support the little guy instead of big business?

Sorry. I'm not buying it. There are plenty of small companies with a website that can handle my business just as well on the rare occasions I can't get something at my local shop. It would do the rest of you good to remember that as well. Remember, if they keep getting your money, they aren't going to see any reason to change. So if the shop stinks (and I mean that in terms other than olfactory), just stop shopping there!

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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