Friday, June 24, 2005

Where is there a Wal-mart sign over our door?

You know what, I looked, and I'm just not seeing one!

I just had a woman who obviously knew NOTHING about comics and toys bring two very young girls (I'd say maybe 4 and 2 years old) into the store. They were finishing up their breakfast at George Webs restaurant and as they walked by the woman, the girl's aunt apparently, brought them in. I knew they probably wouldn't buy anything as they didn't really fit our usual demographic here, but I didn't know what a scene the aunt would make - thankfully I was the only one who had to put up with it.

For those of you who haven't been inside my store, right inside the door are action figures. Many of them are DC Direct, Marvel Select, McFarlane... the type of toys you might find at a Suncoast or Spencers or other comic stores, but not at the local Wal-Mart or Toys R Us. We also have some Simpsons, which were available at those stores, but most of the ones we have are older and were purchased on the secondary market. We also have some Star Wars figures, the large ones and hard to find ones are $10 and up, but many of the small ones are a great bargain considering their "collectable value in the current market." These are generally not the type of toys you buy for the average 4 and 2 year old girl.

If you haven't shopped for comics in oh, say maybe 40 years, you should be informed right now that comics are no longer 10 cents. Gas isn't either, or payphone calls or candy at the 5 and 10. We don't have a quarter bin here, but we do have a dollar bin and a bunch of other great deals on back issues, as well as plenty of current issues at the cover price. No, they're not 10 cents, but is $2.25 really too much to spend on a cool, colorful book that might be interesting to these two young girls who, more than likely, are not quite old enough to read? We even have Barbie comics priced at $1 each - perfect for these little girls.

And a comic book store, by and large, is a nitch store. Anytime you shop in a nitch store, also referred to as a specialty store, you pay more than you would for similar merchandise in a Wal-Mart. Partly because the quality is better, partly because you get much better service, and partly because...well...they're NOT Wal-Mart--not the same buying and price negotiating power.

OK, now that I've laid out the general context, back to the story. So, this aunt and her girls are looking at the toys. The girls don't really know what they are, but of course because of the bright boxes, want something. The aunt looks at a few things and then says to them, "Hold on a second, I have to ask this lady something," and she marches over to the counter. She then asks me, "is this some kind of collectable store or something, because everything is so expensive here." I explained to her that yes, this is a store that appeals to collectors, and that most of those toys are, as I explained above, not available in a Wal-Mart but are specialty items. As well as explaining that those toys we do have that are available in large stores were bought by us at a much higher price than Wal-Mart gets, because we are only one little store. I tried to show her some less expensive toys we have marked down on clearance as well as some comics, but all she could do is go on about how it all was just too expensive. So, I left her alone. She went back towards the action figures and proceeded to make a HUGE scene in front of the two girls that went something like this:
Pointing to a Marvel Legends Thor figure, "Look at this, this toy is, oh my gosh, it's $18.99!" pointing to a DC Direct Teen Titans Starfire, "Look at this, see this little girl doll, its $15!" (Now she's rounding up) pointing to a Shirow Masamune manga figure, "Girls, look at this little tiny thing, its $7!" and pointing to an early series (1 or 2 I think) Krusty the Clown, "This Simpsons toy is $10! I know we can find Simpsons toys for less than that, this is crazy, girls." She continued to point at a few more toys, making sure the girls were looking, and letting them know what the price was on each one. One of the cute little girls, the younger one, said, "auntie, when we come back here can we please get something?" Our dear auntie pointed at another manga figure, saying, "This little one is $7!" I finally mentioned that "there's a dollar store just down there." Which got me a dirty look from the aunt who then instructed the young girls to head for the car.

I am usually very tolerant, and patient, and really don't like to make a scene. But I was ready to ask this woman to leave. OK, you saw at first glance that this isn't really the type of store for you and your young nieces. There's a dollar store just a few doors down in this same strip mall. They've probably got plenty of cute things you could pick up. There's a K-Mart across the street, look there for cheap toys. But last time I checked, there wasn't a Wal-Mart sign outside my door. Please, just skip the theatrics!

No, we don't discount generally. Sure, $15 might be expensive for something called a "toy" to the average person. But are we the most expensive of our specific type of specialty store? Nope. Some items we might have higher, some items we have lower, many the same prices. Are we more expensive that a Wal-Mart? Not really, because we're a TOTALLY different animal, can't compare them. A tent from REI is more expensive than some "Taiwan made" tent from Wal-Mart, but I bet I've got a much better chance staying dry in the REI tent. Golf clubs from a Golf Center or pro shop cost more than Wal-Mart "made in Hong Kong" clubs, but if I'm a serious golfer who wants clubs that fit and last and are made of quality materials, I wouldn't even consider shopping at a Wal-Mart.

A word of advice for people like this dear lady: If you want cheap, quietly go to Wal-Mart, ok. Take your sweat-shop made junk and break it at home. But don't come into a specialty store and make a scene (a fool of yourself, to be honest) because you don't understand the basic workings of retail and how a capitalist system functions. If you walk into a store and see that the prices are too high for you, quietly leave. It's probably not the store for you, but the whole area doesn't need to know about it.

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