Friday, July 31, 2009

Comic Speculators

When I was younger, I liked the idea that the comics I bought at the time could potentially be worth something down the road. I was always excited when I could afford some sort of 1st appearance of a character, and always had a list of books to look for. Keep in mind, affordable for me as a 11 year old was like the first appearance of Hydro-Man or Cloak & Dagger.
And man. I loved the hell out of that Hydro-Man issue. I would show it to my mom or brother and go "Look! 1st appearance of Hydro-Man!" and they would go "......who?" And I would reply "HE'S TOTALLY MADE OUT OF WATER. HE'S LIKE SANDMAN. BUT NOT. AND WHEN THEY RUN INTO EACH OTHER THEY MAKE THIS MUD MONSTER THING."
......sad, really.

As time went on, I could afford stuff like the first Alpha Flight or Black Cat, or maybe something like a beat up copy with the first Ocean Master. The thing is, while I always thought, "Wow, these things are worth money.", my mind never made the next leap which was "And then I will sell it." Because I loved just collecting and reading the damn things. I think a lot of us go on to value the read more as we become adults, as well as the collecting aspect.

In general I think most people would like their copies to be nice copies. If your book has a big tear or printing error, you usually will switch it out. On the flip side of that, many readers just want the content and don't care at all. Personally I'm in the middle, because while I would like to buy a nice copy, I'll take what I can take. If I damage the book at home, oh well, sucks but I read it and I don't really need to waste more money.

Then you have the pure speculators.

The reason I bring this up is that I had this one customer who really really really embodies the worse aspects of this hobby. It wasn't because of just one thing he did either, but of a super combo attack that was just......utterly breathtaking in it's dickery, is the only way I can describe it.

We start off with the detail that during his last visit, he was in a rush and asked my female coworker to pull down a variant copy of Captain America Reborn #1 from one of our walls. The specific request was "Only put it in my box if it's in perfect shape." The guy left right after asking that, so he wanted us to hold it for him. Ok, no biggie. My coworker pulls it down, and noticed it had the tiniest of tiny tiny spine dents. Tiny. I told her to go ahead and put it in his subscription box so he can judge by himself.

So the dude comes in when it's just me. I grab his books, and he pulls that one out. Angrily, he proclaims, "I told her to ONLY pull this if it was perfect." Tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny dent. Ever so tiny. I just tell him, well it's alright you don't have to buy it. We just weren't sure because everyone has a different concept on grading. To which he replied, "The guys at CGC would give me so much crap for sending this in!"

That's a superstrike right there for me, because I'm not a big fan of slabbing books. For those unfamilair, you can send your comics to a grading company that appraises your comic, seals it in an airtight container, and sends it back to you with a grade on a scale of 1-10. We've done it as a store before, I completely understand the benefits for online purchasing, it's all cool if you want to for your own collection. I will never slab a book though, and I'm not crazy when people brag about that crap. Simply because CGC slabbing is kind of the opposite of the entire damn point of enjoying a comic.

So, we move on from this and I take the book back. The next push in the combo of stupidity was when he complained about how my coworker 'handled' the comics. Apparently sometimes she grabs the pile by the spine. Seriously. Look, if a worker just grabbed a pile and tossed it hard at the counter then I would be pissed. My coworker does not do that. I mean I grab piles by the spine. I grab them by two hands. I grab them by the top. I friggin' grab them however the hell I grab them because I am just getting your comics. It's not an art form. There is no definitive way of grabbing a comic other than not stabbing the things and spitting on it as you hand it to the customer.

After narrowly escaping my desire to bash his head in with a random Batman statue, he then felt the need to brag more about what he just sent to be graded and slabbed. This is what I would refer to as the air juggling session of the dickery combo, right before continuing with the actual attack.

As the customer was looking through his pile, he complained that he got number 3 of an issue and not numbers 1 & 2. Then he found a number 2 in his pile and complained he didn't get a number 1. Keep in mind he was very agitated and really wanted to express his concern over the missing issues. Then he complained he was missing an issue of something else, but got the issue after it. Then he found the copy of #1 of the three issue series on the bottom of his pile. Then he found the other book he was complaining about under that. They were there in his hands the entire time.

Then I think the finisher move was him trying to pass on something he preordered, and then pouting about it whe I said no. It was that or his complaining that comics aren't well produced enough because it's hard to find 9.8 or above copies to send in to be graded and slabbed.
Either way, you should all be very glad I never finished my doomsday device because you would all be crispy fried at this point. Or frozen in a glacier, I never decided just what kind of device it was going to be.

Here's the really sad thing. This customer is just one of many who act the same way. Many many many. There's a fine line between collector and speculator. I have plenty of customers who are concerned about condition in their vintage books, but of those customers I know that they actually do open and read those books. They enjoy, and they collect. People who just collect for the sake of monetary gain are doing it wrong. In general, customers of this type seem to all have that hint of greediness behind their character. It's very interesting to actually see it in action and how it shapes their interactions and their attitude about the industry. And by interesting, I mean soul crushingly painful.

That was kind of a long rant there, sorry. I'll try to post something more positive soon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Comic Shop Etiquette War Journal: Helping People is Good

So one of the tricky things to do is figure out how helpful is too helpful. Often times people don't like to be asked if they need help, but then customers might also complain that they were either ignored or couldn't get any help when they needed it. So you need to develop an eye for seeking or offering help.


-What I like to do is after greeting a customer, I go back to what I was doing and then after the customer has had the time to look around you offer them help. Give it a minimum of five minutes, but often times more is better. If a customer needs it right off the bat they will come to you, and you need to drop what you are doing (unless you were already helping a customer) because helping the customer does take precedence over all other jobs.

-Why the hell would you ignore a customer, even if you were in a bad mood? Seriously, customers equals business. No customer service equals no money and that equals no job for you. Your moodiness and anti-social qualities need to be tossed right out the window.

-If a customer looks suspicious, zoom in with an offer for help earlier than later. Sometimes you need to get a handle on people early otherwise they have too much time to case the store. If it looks like they are looking for something but can't find it and then they turn down your help, little mental red flags need to start going up. If they are twitchy they will hopefully get nervous that your paying attention to them and ideally drop the entire plan. If they aren't casing the place, then no damage done since you were just asking if they needed help.

-Don't keep asking the same customer if they need help. That's annoying. You should have other jobs to do. Go.
-Don't single out a customer if they are a woman. I've had guys crowd ladies and it's just embarrassing. Also, walking out onto the street and yelling at women to buy comics IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.


-Don't be afraid to ask for help. You need to measure the store staff as well, so nothing does that better than politely asking for help.

-Depending on the size of the store, the staff might be large enough that there are different specialties. Keep in kind that if you wish to get a handle on the store, you should also get a handle on the workers. While it would be nice if everyone knew everything about anything, that just won't be the case in general. Keep in mind we are just like you and we all have different tastes. I have one guy who specializes in Silver Age and Underground, one guy who likes just mainstream, a couple people who like a bit of everything, and so on and so on. Try to find the person who does the ordering, if you can. Ideally their brain should be some sort of nexus of comic reality since they have to know what the hell they are ordering.

-All stores order from the same distributor (Diamond), with additional smaller distributors to the side as well. If you want to find out if something is available, ask if it's available from Diamond. Any retailer should be able to look it up real quick like, and most of us will have the same access to items. There are slight differences depending on what coast you are on, and some retailers may have extra tricks up their sleeves. I just usually find it interesting when it seems some retailers won't place orders for customers and then I look up the same item and I do have access to it.

-Watch the clerk if he is already helping people and he is the only one around. Sometimes we have single shifts with no backup and then we get swarmed with a dozen people and the phone starts ringing. When you see an opening, by all means go ask for help. Just don't try to tackle us when we look like an aneurysm is imminent.

-If you come up to the counter and are ready to be helped and the clerk is somewhere else working (or even slacking off), don't be afraid to find us and say you are ready to go. You need to actually let us know if you are in a rush and not just assume we will magically pop up when your ready to go. If you are a customer I trust, I am probably not watching you like a hawk since I'm usually busy with other work.
-Parents, don't be afraid to ask if a comic is appropriate for children. If we intercept you because you are buying Johnny the Homicidal Maniac for a 6 year old, please just hear us out.
-Please please please have some sort of vague idea about what you need help on.
"I'm looking for a book. It's blue. People do stuff in it."
That is not acceptable. You think I'm joking. I am not.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Comic Shop Etiquette War Journal: Say Hello for God's Sake

Let's see here. I was wondering if I should do these in some sort of order, but I decided it might work just fine if I do what comes to mind. We'll see if it turns into a train wreck or not.

One of the most common complaints I read/hear about is that when a customer enters a comic shop they are not always greeted with a friendly welcome. Sometimes they are ignored, grunted at, or watched like a hawk. So, lets hit the store staff first.


-It's understandable that maybe you aren't having a good day. Well, here's some more bad news; suck that shit up crybaby. You work retail even if this is a different type of retail. Regardless of if your a clerk, manager, or owner you better greet those god damned customers.

First of all, it's just the polite thing to do as a human being. Second, if you want your business to actually have business you better get used to being socially acceptable to some degree. Again, I know sometimes it's tough when your tired or have had a bad start. Sometimes I go into work low on gas or with the yearning to crush someones skull with a rock. The moment someone walks in though, I say hi. I don't make a big hoopla about it and I don't make it sound like I'm the happiest guy on the planet. You say 'Hi, how ya doing?' or 'How's the day treating you?'. When they ask you back, you don't have to lie but you shouldn't make a spectacle of yourself. There is no need to tell them why you got a problem, that's not why they came in. If you know the customer well, you can get into it maybe. The best thing to do though, if you can't honestly answer back positively is to answer back with a joke or just say 'Hangin' in there'.

People like it if your genuine. In fact, people can relate if you're just the guy doing his job and helping them out. You don't need to be a glorified car salesman and be their buddy. Just don't treat them like they are a burden the moment they walk in. Even the people you hate, you should just be polite and keep your distance if you know they will set you off. I do my best loathing from a distance.

-Now here's a tricky one. I've often heard the complaint of the clerk watching the customer like a hawk from the moment the customer enters the store. Now, ideally the clerk isn't a douche and isn't leering at you because you're a woman. I've worked with people who wouldn't leave women alone and well, the experience was soul sucking. That's behavior that needs to be weeded out as fast as possible.

The one thing I don't think customers take into account though is the very very very high shoplifting rate comic stores have to deal with. Some stores can't afford cameras or any type of real security besides an alarm, so it's up to us to watch the store. As sad as it sounds, unless we really know and trust a customer, almost everyone can be suspect. It's pretty much impossible to tell who is going to rip you off. So customers, if that sounds paranoid at all, well you just have to suck it up as well cause it's the truth. Parents will use their children to steal. That is the world we have to live in.

A few months back, another comic store called and warned us of a shoplifter who they were able to identify as stealing numerous hard covers. The general description was incredibly vague, an average height and build Caucasian male. Only one thing really stood out and that was the detail that the man had a limp. The very next day, a very generic Caucasian male walks in with a limp. I felt like a douche, but I watched him the entire time. Was he the guy? I'll never really know. Haven't seen him in a while, maybe I made him feel uncomfortable. Sucks either way.

-Hopefully, you enter a store and the clerk greets you. You know what you should do? GREET THEM BACK. Today alone I was ignored by 3 customers both on their way in and on their way out. Everyday it happens so it can be a little disheartening.

-YOU HAD BETTER TAKE OFF YOUR DAMN EARPHONES OR TURN THE MUSIC OFF. I swear, that is one of the rudest things and instantly earns you my hatred. You may listen to your music after you have said hello and acknowledged you have entered into a place of business and the nice clerk has said hello. Just be sure you can hear them say hello.

-Do not enter the store yelling. Just, please. Please don't.

-Do not enter the store while very audibly judging us. Please. It's kind of mean :(
-Store staff does zoom in on certain things when looking out for shoplifters. These include:
A) You are wearing a hoody 3 times your size
B) Your outfit is practically made of pockets
C) You do not instantly volunteer to leave your backpack at the door
D) You won't stop twitching and your hands are covered in dried blood (I am not making that up).
E) You ask us what is the most expensive item in the store
F) 3 or more teenagers enter the store at once. Seriously, I don't want to sound like an old fart but that shit just makes us nervous.
G) You enter a circle pattern across the entire store, arcing more than twice with yet nothing in your hands to buy. One loop means you found nothing. Two loops means your maybe killing time. Three loops is trouble.

-That's pretty much it, you really don't have much etiquette to worry about on this one.
A lot of this stuff seems common sense, on both sides. Sadly, not the case. If I do seem like I'm just stating the obvious, please let me know so I can refine my focus a bit though. I don't want to just pointlessly, no wait, that's the entire point of this blog. Never mind.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thinking is hard

Blarg, I am pretty tired.
Something that I have been planning on doing soon is compiling an etiquette/survival guide for comic book stores. Now I'm fairly sure this has been done before and by finer people than myself, which is actually part of the point that I will get to later. Most of the time when I read anything about 'how to run a friendly comic book store', it usually makes a lot of sense but focuses on a lot of things that to me are a given. For example, don't be a douchbag. Make it a friendly and inviting environment for kids and women. Clean the damn place. Y'know, basic stuff.

What I feel tends to be missing is a sense of actually understanding what kind of work goes behind the scenes in this type of industry and the people who are on the front lines. I'm kind of hoping of going into a lot of different topics and addressing them from both a retailer's point of view as well as a customer's. For example, I may choose something as store presentation and examine what a customer might perceive as a good store and then examine what priorities a retailer might have versus the actual ability of that retailer to achieve them (via funding, time, management, available workforce).

Now anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time might be familiar with a few details about myself; I get pissed off a lot. I'm kind of cranky. I get touchy about the way people judge comic book stores without allowing for a discussion. My life goal is to destroy this planet. I like monkeys.

Those fundamental aspects of my personality might help you to understand the following basic stance I have about how a retailer should operate in this industry:
As a retailer, you should do everything in your ability to create a healthy, polite, and inviting atmosphere so as to promote this medium and your own business for the sake of its survival. HOWEVER. You need to keep in mind that an alarmingly large portion of your customer base are A) ignorant of how your business and this industry work, and are generally B) greedy, rude, selfish, socially maladjusted dumb asses who need to be savagely beaten from time to time.

Unfortunately, you are not legally allowed to administer said beatings. So you have to realize one all important facts otherwise you will have a mental breakdown at some point. You can't make everyone happy all of the time, so screw it. Let's go get a drink.

Some stores have the funds to look awesome and are cool with awesome customer service. Some have the funds to look cool and are operated by complete assholes. Some are huge messes run by nice guys. Some are huge messes run by creepy hippies. I work in a store that while not really pretty it is not a huge honkin' mess either. We have to balance the aesthetics with the quality of service and find a nice middle ground where you don't really mind the concrete floor and just care about dealing with friendly people who will help you find some comics.

We are by no stretch perfect, but then neither are you.

That's pretty much all the context you'll really need for the future. Let me give you two short examples just to illustrate the way I'll be doing this guide thingy.

Example one: Mistakes are made often times by both parties.

A) We accidentally gave you Angel instead of Amazing Spider-Man in your subscription one week since they are right next to each other in the pull boxes. We switch it out, or worse case scenario is we are out of Amazing Spider-Man and we have to reorder it for you. Sorry about that, we screwed up.

B) This customer keeps telling me he's been missing books every single visit for the better part of 2 months . He gets a number of titles that always have variant covers or reprints, as well as any and all Ender's Game titles which can be a bit confusing at times. Each time I help him find what he thinks is missing, but he seems kind of agitated. After a month though I have to question the situation because seriously, we can not suck at this that bad. Sure there is human error but for this level of mistakes we would really have to suck.

So he comes in again, and says 'can I tell you something?' I go sure. He proceeds to tell me that he just worked through his comic boxes after moving for the past few months, and he has duplicates of every single book he complained about. We filled the subscription right, but because he wasn't checking the variants and actual issue numbers (because seriously, every cover to Ender's Game looks the same) he assumed the worst and doubled up.

Most guides are pretty much one sided and just tell a retailer how they should behave. They never seem to actually prep you for the sheer stupidity you have waiting ahead of you. So what I was hoping for in the longterm was that I can touch on a great number of subjects and try to give both examples of how not to be a douchbag as a retailer and as a customer.


Monday, July 6, 2009

A Day In My Life as Told with Gorillas

This is exactly how I look most of the time on new comic day while dealing with our customers. Well, except when I'm like this. But then I go get some drinks and then I'm all
Then I go read the last issue of All Star Superman and I'm like
But then I pick up something by Mark Millar, which results in Then someone randomly feels the need to tell me Joe Quesada is the greatest thing to happen to comics ever
After that I rip their limbs off and go look for a banana.
The end.

At least one of those pictures I know is via

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No' the wee dug! No!

Sorry, that was just one of the better moments from comics this week and I couldn't think of a better subject title.

Anywho, just mentally recovering at the moment. Finished the bulk of data entry on a new point-of-sale system, which pretty much required transfering about 400 subscriptions one by one and title by title. Still a little while before the complete launch, but it has taken a major leap forward. After clocking in a crapload of overtime to do that I wasn't much for updates, so I'm just wondering what I can cram in here.

A question for anyone who has been reading the Green Lantern titles: How are you enjoying it? Or are you tired of the build up and Blackest Night hullabaloo?

I ask because while our sales have been storng and growing, a few customers have dropped the titles because they A) Don't feel it is going anywhere worthwhile, B) Has been taking too long for the build up, and C) Feel it requires them to read too many different titles.

I'm pretty much the opposite on all of the above myself. Especially the too many different titles part, since it's only two different books. I actually prefer Corp over GL because Tomasi is doing a fantastic job of balancing numerous sub-plots with a huge cast. Regardless, sure, when Blackest Night actually starts there are a few minis besides the main title but I'm a little more confident they won't be as mandatory as say Superman Beyond was to Final Crisis.
I actually really enjoyed the Agent Orange stuff as well, so all in all I'm having trouble really understanding some of the complaints.

Let's see, what else is interesting:
-So, on Saturdays we close at 8pm. This past Sat a few minutes after 8 and before we could get the doors closed, a group of customers walk in. I politly let them know that we will be closing in a few minutes. So they look around the center of the store for a sec, turn around and head out, and one of them snidly says "That's customer service for you."

I feel that I would have been found innocent if I actually had bashed his skull in, but I was tired and just let it go. That guy is probably gunna be the one dude who goes online and starts to bitch about us though >_<

-No one seems to be buying the extra copies of Captain America: Reborn that I ordered so far
We upped the order an extra 60 over normal Cap numbers as well, so yay.

Also, didn't Captain Sisko suffer basically the same type of problem once that Steve Rogers seems to be experiencing here?

-Damn it's a good week for apes
That's about all I have for now.
Oh, and this: