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Me vs. The Angry Mob #4: LCS Etiquette Tips

Do you think that I'm funny?

The other day, a crazy person threatened to stab one of my customers in the heart. This, after the crazy person had shown the customer a comic he had pitched to Image – a pitch they did not approve – and the customer offered him some honest critique. The situation was brought to an end when I threatened to call the cops, and the crazy person left. After this, the customer looked at me and went, “You must get this a lot at a place like this.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, “Not… really? I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Like the people who come in here,” he said, “They have to be a bit crazier than normal, right?”

It’s a refrain I hear often from people – usually when one of our more eccentric customers says or does something a little… off center. The “weird” person will leave, and another person will walk up to the till and say, “You must get that a lot.”

But we don’t. We really don’t. We just get in your random, everyday assortment of people – and some people? Are crazy. That’s just science.

Now, recently it’s come to my attention that it’s not just customers that think comic shop inhabitants are social reprobates. There’s another group of people who seem to think that comic store customers are stupid and weird and should never, ever leave their homes: the people who work at comic stores. And honestly? These people should know better than to assume that from their customers – but more and more, I’ve been finding content on retailer sites that accuse all of their customers of being stupid and weird. Which… seriously? SERIOUSLY??! You’re going to openly berate your customers on your store’s website for being less than perfect? That’s not only a stupid, terrible thing to do, but it’s poor business sense.

I think the absolute worst thing a proprietor can do is openly yell at their customers on their store’s website. But hey, that doesn’t really seem to be stopping anyone. In fact, over the past two weeks, one retailer has been providing his customers (and the internet) with a list of things they should do to make sure their comic shop feels appreciated – as if their customers owe the store anything for providing them with guaranteed weekly business. The bullet points of the list itself are pretty harmless, telling people that they should probably let the shop know if they are moving, and to shut down their file when they do so – but the bile that spews forth in the “commentary” section below each point is… something.

And so, in the interest of helping this retailer (and the internet) I am going to fix his list by providing the real text that should go below each of those bullet points.

As always, you’re welcome.

 

Me vs. The Angry Mob: Issue #4

LCS Etiquette Tips

#1: If you’re going to move, (please) let your shop know beforehand so your store doesn’t order stuff you can’t buy.

You get busy when you move, and that’s cool. I’ve moved before, and I know how it is. And if you forget, hey, no big deal. It’s really my fault for not asking you how you’re doing and what’s been happening in your life. Because you come here every week, right? Or at least frequently enough that I’ve noticed your absence. And hey, you know, we’re sad that you can’t make it in anymore, but if you ever move back or visit, stop on by! We’d love to see you again.

#2: If you have “financial difficulties”, close your file or significantly reduce the number of comics on your list so the store you liked doesn’t order stuff you can’t buy.

Ah, sorry. That bullet point sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? We should’ve probably typed something to the effect of, “if you’re a little short on cash, let us know! We can help you out by shaving a few titles from your list, or even transitioning you to some trades as story arcs wrap up”. Because we’ve all been there. The first time I moved away from home was an epic failure. I was just scraping by, my car had blown a tire, and I just couldn’t afford life in general, let alone my comics. And man, my comic shop guy was so nice to me. He got a hold of me, asked what was up, and when I told him all about what was going on, he helped me get back on track – even let me pick up a bunch of my stuff at cost just so I could re-align myself and get back on track. After that point, he talked to me about cutting back a few of my titles into something more manageable, and even gave me some tips on, you know, the whole “finally off on your own” thing. Man, that dude was rad – and he’s pretty much the basis of how we try to treat our customers here – with respect, and understanding.

#3: If you call on Thursday, and ask your shop to hold something for you, you don’t need to call on Friday to ask again.

You won’t need to call again, because we’ll let you know exactly how our holds policy works. And hey, if you can’t make it in before the deadline, no worries! I’m sure we can work something out.

#4: It’s not really a big deal that there’s a female in the shop. Leave her alone, and don’t stare. This goes DOUBLE for female store employees. Don’t stare at people

It’s a little creepy. But look, you already know this, why am I even bringing it up?

#5: If there’s only a few left,  ask before you grab more than one of something (we’ll let you know if there’s a limitation). Sharing is a basic skill.

Unless it’s a special promotion, you can pretty much grab whatever you want – and if we have limits on anything, they will be clearly posted – because, you know, common courtesy.

#6: Use only the kind of language that you would use in a job interview. Foul language is not necessary, and bothers some other people.

Yeah, salty language can be fun – but we’re also hanging out in public. I know you’re a person of intelligence – you read comics and you frequent our store! – so, you know, be cool, and everything will be awesome.

#7: If you hate the latest issue of something and want to drop it, (please) let your shop know RIGHT AWAY.

#8: If you love the latest issue of something and want to add it, (please) let your shop know RIGHT AWAY.

But really, we know what’s on your file. We hand it to you, we talk to you frequently about the books you’re buying, about what you’re enjoying, what you’re not enjoying, and we try to recommend things that we know you’re going to like, so… we should pretty much be on top of this ourselves. But hey, we love hearing your opinions, and if you think something hasn’t been up to snuff lately, we’ll take that puppy off your file for you. Or if you’ve been enjoying that thing you’ve been grabbing off the shelf, we’ll add it! Really it’s no skin off our nose, just so long as you’re enjoying the books that you read!

#9: You may love talking to your shop owner/employees, and they to you, but if there’s a line behind you, walk away.

Hey, don’t worry about this point at all. We’re all adults here, and when there’s a line, that’s where our focus will be. It’s not up to you to let us do our job, that’s why we get paid the big bucks!

#10: All discussions about who will beat who in a fight have the same one answer: Whomever the writer wants to win.

Or Batman. But seriously, go nuts. That’s the fun of being at the shop! Just don’t insult each other personally, and we’ll have no problems.

#11: Don’t put items from your hold file back on the shelf. Hand them to the employees and have them take it off your file.

But again, we do hand you your file, and we do talk with you about it. We’ll be able to catch most things, this way, but sometimes, things slip through. Never, ever feel bad about cutting a book from your file, and always feel free to let us know when you’re no longer interested in a book. We’d much rather you enjoy comics, rather than have you treat it like a chore, you know?

#12: Cash is better than debit or credit. If you write a check, make sure it’s good before you write it.

Hey, whatever is most convenient for you, go nuts! Though, we usually don’t accept cheques, using any form of debit or credit is openly welcomed. Because why would we want to inconvenience you?

————————-

There. Fixed! Now apparently, the shop will be posting more of these on Monday. Which, hey, good for them. But seriously, whoever is writing them should take a good hard look at them, and decide how it makes them look.

Never treat your customers as if they are stupid, or remedial – because they aren’t. They are people, and people are flawed. Hell, you are flawed, as evidenced by your willingness to yell at the people who are giving you money. And yes, while there are some people who might be a little more infuriating than your more typical customer, by no means does it give you the right to punish them all.

You’re an adult now. You run a business. Grow up, and deal with it like a grown up – and maybe if you start treating your customers with the smallest bit of respect, you’ll be afforded the same level of respect.

 

BACK MATTER

Point seven and eight of this list details protocol for books you either want to pick up, or don’t want to pick up. Sometimes, customers find it difficult to add or drop titles for various reasons. Usually, the adding thing is problematic because… well, they’re already getting so many titles already – and the dropping thing is hard because… well, what if it gets good once they stop? They’ll have a gap!

There isn’t a fool proof way to get customers to add books they enjoy or drop books that they don’t, but there are ways to make that process easier. Recently, I’ve devised a program that helps massage the process.

STEP ONE: Talk to your customers about the books they are getting. Get a sense of what books they are loving and what books they are just getting.

STEP TWO: If you keep hearing negative things about a book month in and month out, flag it. The next time that book comes out, make a note of it. Put a sticky note in their file reminding you of this point

STEP THREE: Find a book that they will enjoy, but is not on their list. If you’ve been talking to them about their comics, this should be easy to do. Take a look at their pull list, and dig through your memory banks, and come up with a title. Grab an issue of that book (a jumping on point is best, of course, but work with what you have) and put that book at the bottom of their file.

STEP FOUR: When the customer walks through the doors, hand them their file. Make a point to mention the fact that another issue of that book they’re not enjoying is out again, and when they complain again, offer them a deal: you’ll sell them this new comic, that you know they’re going to like this week, and you’ll keep the issue of the thing they don’t like in their file. Tell them they can go home and read the book, and the next time they’re in, they can tell you what they thought. If they love the book, you can add it to their file and drop the book they’re not enjoying. If they don’t like it, tell them to bring back that new comic, and you’ll exchange it for the book in their file, straight across. They get to try a new comic, and you get to sell more of a new, great series – and if it doesn’t work? No one is losing any money.

This system has worked quite well for me. It’s a bit of logistical work, but in the end, it’s well worth it, because I know my customers are enjoying the comics that they are reading – or at the very least, I know they are happier with the list that they currently have. It’s win-win.

5 Comments

  1. Brandon, thanks for the tips.

    Although you meant a lot of your comments in a snarky way, I appreciate that you took the time to read mine over and write something about it.

    Your “edit” of my list is interesting in the way you made every tip I wrote for the consumer into a behavior for the LCS personnel to follow. My customers already know I’ll react to all of the items on my list with above-average respect and grace. I liked your “Back Matter” area especially. All four steps are excellent ways for LCS personnel to communicate with their customers, and I use them all. Frankly, the list of things that LCS employees and owners could do (in general) along those lines that don’t get done is long indeed, in some places. But, that’s not what my columns are about.

    The Tips I’ve written are just that, tips. They’re not RULES THAT SHALL BE OBEYED, or even RULES FOR *MY* CUSTOMERS. They’re behaviors that, if people observed, could possibly make everyone’s experiences in their LCS easier.

    I don’t think my customers (or comics customers in general) are “stupid, or remedial”, and I have yet to yell at a customer, either in person or virtually. I treat every single one with respect, from every little kid looking for Bella Sara cards to every Stinky McHomelessman just looking to come in out of the heat.

    Oh crap, I forgot my torch and pitchfork. Well, maybe next time! Keep blogging!

    • Hey Brian! Thanks for responding. A lot of my column is predicated on my belief that customers owe a shop nothing more than business for the books they enjoy – and it’s up to the store to make sure that is happening. Your column – while I agreed with the general bullet points, for the most part, seemed a little like scolding a general populous for the crimes of a small few. And unfortunately, with this being the internet, your audience isn’t just your customers who know you, and know that you wouldn’t ACTUALLY scold them for such things – it’s larger, and it includes folks like me who read this and get an impression that’s not informed by knowing you or your business.

      But hey, thanks for taking the time to read this, and for your candor. I’ll keep this interaction in mind for if/when we interact in the future!

  2. Another reason I miss your wonderful shop: nice and understanding that customers have lives other than comic books.

    I had a store where the owner called if books weren’t pick up within a week. Not out of curiosity as to why I haven’t picked them up, since I normally went weekly, but because he didn’t want them sitting there, in my file, for more than a week. I left them for a month due to moving out on my own. He was downright angry. I would have understood if there was not room for my books but he had tons of room in my file. So I picked up my books and cancelled the my file and told him flat out I was changing shops.

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