Thursday, May 19, 2011

Open Letter to the Local Shop...

After a fairly long running series of problems with my mobile phone provider I was struck how, as hobbyists, we put up with rubbish that we would never deal with reasonably outside of the toy soldier world. If “normal” companies that we deal with regularly tried the tactics often employed by businesses in our hobby we would be voting with our feet and either going elsewhere or rage quitting. Let me give you a few examples.

My personal bane… Low stock levels. If you walked into your local grocery store and they were out of milk, eggs, and all meats except for a small section of beef and pigs feet you would probably not go shopping there again. Why? Because it is a waste of your time. We expect businesses to sell what they advertise. If I had a dollar for every game/ hobby shop I have been in that has a minimal stock of EVERYTHING (not just GW products) I would be a rich dude. It is a worldwide phenomenon. I like to think that I am fairly well travelled and from Boston to Bermuda to Tokyo to Paris to… you name it… you will find poorly stocked shops everywhere. What is also universal is that they all tell me that if I don’t mind waiting two weeks they can get me what I need. WTF? Video game shops (similar market) don’t make people wait to buy hot sellers.

I am not talking about obscure Wood Elf character models either. My base line for years has been two boxed sets. Space Marine Tactical Squad and the Rhino Tanks. Stores should a stock of at least basic essential products of popular ranges. I have often travelled an hour away to a decent retailer avoiding closer crappier stock levels even though they may have what I need. I would rather support people that regularly have what I need.

Now lots of these retails have been bemoaning the internet and discount sellers there. I would say that is a conversation for another day except for the following. I have been doing this for years before the internet was even publically used and accessible. Crappy “stock listers” existed then too in the same numbers. Do you know what has driven me to internet shops (and I have only ever used them two or three times in my life)? The fact that they have what I want when the local shop does not. As I have stated in the past: I HATE TO WAIT. I want to walk into a shop with money burning a hole in my pocket and get what I came for. I do not want to walk out of that shop with that same “hot” money in my pocket disappointed. If you make me wait I might just go to where I will also wait but get what I want for a better price and/or where the customer service is better. Notorious internet discounter in the US, The Warstore, is popular for obviously reasons (price) BUT also because even though they are an internet business their staff are always friendly and knowledgeable about amazing amounts of the product in a variety of games.

Which brings me to my next gripe… Customer Service. GW retail staff have for years been saddled with the reputation of being overzealous. I know of a few friends who make a game of timing how long it takes the GW employee to come and say “howdy.” I’ll admit it… I kinda like this. The same questions are boring BUT they actually ask and interact with you depending on your answers. They generally know their product range and generally give a crap about how to help you with your hobby needs. GW has changed its retail policies in recent years, especially down here in Australia, to ensure that customers have positive experiences when they enter GW retail shops. I prefer this sort of behaviour all day compared to the alternative. The stereotype of the fat lazy game store employee is a stereotype for a good reason. They are everywhere! In many shops I feel like lighting a flare and running around the store, screaming like a banshee to get the “dude” behind the counter to even mumble something at me or heaven forbid look up from whatever computer screen/ paper/ game book/ sci-fi novel that is so damned important-that-I don’t-get-a-shred-of-help-finding-anything-on-their-poorly-organized-shelves… Grrrr…. I am an attention seeking kid. I know this… I have been that way since I was little… GIVE ME SOME ATTENTION DARN IT!!!

Bringing me to my final thought. Maybe it is because I am married to a librarian… BUT… Looking for a blister should not be like looking for the city of gold. Customers do not want to engage in an almost literal easter egg hunt to find the product that they want to purchase. I feel like saying “Give me a break. Take the morning off looking at the sci-fi novel and put your 35 blisters in order. You don’t have many because you do not stock the product in any depth!” Bitter much? Yes, I am. While I am at it… Vacuum the shop and air it out a bit. Game stores really do not need to smell of goats to get street cred. Trust me.

Anyway… Everyone is talking about global pricing. I thought I would shift the attention a little closer to home. I would recommend that shop keepers actually treat their businesses like businesses with customers who want to be happy. It will take a little work and sometimes a little money but it will pay dividends in the long run.

See you on the flip side…



  1. This is a bit of a gripe of mine too. There are some retailers who have a lot of space, but seem disinclined to keep decent levels of stock. I understand that the stock may not be moving because the local prices are not competitive, but you're not going to sell anything if you don't have it.

    And another thing - last time I looked, at least 2 of the local retailers had online stores which were down. Either get your acts into gear and get your stores up and running, or get rid of them altogether and stop pretending. As it is, you look like a disorganised and incomplete store.

    Out of interest, I am quite happy with staff not rugby tackling me as I walk into the store. So long as they will talk to me when I look like I want to ask something, that is ideal for me.

  2. The big thing with stock levels is many owners don't understand that if something is selling fast...get more of it! For retail, something that's turning over fast is gold. I do understand them not wanting one of everything and then having lots languish on the shelf for years. But when something's either the new hotness or a regular seller, keep it in stock!

    I agree that a friendly staff is a big plus. Running your store is a sales job; you need some personal contact. It's not a game vending machine.

  3. I laughed a lot at that post, you got it bang on with the GW vs local game store customer service. The goat smell seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. What the hell is it with that? I used to get great entertainment in the Dublin GW by dragging a non-gamer mate of mine in there every now and then when we were walking past in order to chuckle quietly as he was accosted by the staff, allowing me to browse unmolested. The funk in there was ungodly, though, in fairness, is not as bad these days.

  4. Good Rant.

    I hear this loud and clear. I am sick of this also. I travel all around the state that I live in, and stop at the wargame stores and they are all hobby stores, and sell comics and pool cues and other such stuff in addition to war gaming, and with the exception of one store, that I am no longer located near, what they have in stock is simply pitiful. And they do give you that line, “Well if you do not see what you want, we can order it and get it to you in two weeks.” My response is almost always the same, “Really?”, then I walk out, purchasing nothing, sit down on the computer and bring up The Warstore or FRP Games or Battleroad Games or whatever here in the states, and get the item in 4 to 5 days, and still pay less even though I’m paying for shipping.

    Growing up my parents ran a specialty business, inventory was very expensive to maintain. But, if you did not maintain it, and have the items there when someone wanted to buy it, they would walk out and you most likely would not see that customer again for years.