Robot 6

Quote of the Day | What’s the point of comic shops?

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” she said, “but we’ve had people read whole issues before and not buy them.”

OF COURSE YOU HAVE. YOU’RE A COMIC BOOK SHOP.

Chris Schweizer, sharing why he quit patronizing a particular comics shop

Tom Spurgeon has a weekly feature on The Comics Reporter called “This Isn’t a Library: Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market.” Because of the cantankerous, old shopkeeper it creates in my head, it makes me smile every time I read it. I wouldn’t want to meet that person in real life, though, and I especially wouldn’t want to shop in his store.

The place I shop is awesome, and one of the many reasons is that they’re okay with customers giving books the old flip-through. Schweizer’s right that in the age of easy and cheap online retailers, one of the few advantages brick-and-mortar shops have is the ability to check out a book before you buy it. Well, that and the joy of interacting face to face with friendly, knowledgeable employees. You know: the kind that don’t make you feel bad for enjoying some comics with your daughter in the store.

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18 Comments

i can understand the retailer’s point of view here, especially if children are involved. customers reading books in the store without buying can sometimes damage the books. i remember when comics were sold on spinners in bookstores and convenience stores, and the spines were often bent where people had bent them forward to see what was behind them. bent comics are harder to sell than pristine ones. less of an issue back in the 75 cents days, but at 3.99 each, noone wants to buy/sell damaged books.

also, we all know the comic market has been shrinking for some time, so i am sure retailers need to sell every issue possible, so again, any damage hurts their sales. people who run comic book stores aren’t usually rich people who can blow off sales. in the age of digital comics and collected trade paperbacks, the only reasons to buy comics are collectibility and getting the story first. allowing folks to read the books in the store hurts collectibility.

personally, i’d like to own a comic shop and have a cafe area, like a barnes and nobles, where people could sit down and read, and perhaps even an internet cafe.

Ive gotten many a deal on trades or Absolute Editions that a kids knocked off a shelf and its landed on a corner or gotten banged up.

I understand, and am totally fine with, retailers that won’t let people read entire comics in the store and not buy anything. On the other end of the spectrum, I am 100% against retailers who bag and board all of their comics so you can’t even flip through them. Considering 90% of the Big Two’s output has interiors drawn by a different person than who drew the cover, there is no way in hell I would consider buying anything I’m not already following without being able to flip through it to see if I like the art. I actually drive about 10 miles out of my way to go to a shop that doesn’t bag and board all of their books, that’s how strongly I feel about it.

My LCS is great. They even let you pull back issues out of the bag (boarded as well, of course) and look at it to make sure that you either don’t have it or definitely want to buy it.

@Percane
I live in an area where there are some really good improvements being made to most comic shops. One place has a really clean look, wood paneling and all. Another also offers various Bronze Age comics for pretty decent prices, in addition to the more modern fare, and I like it. Thanks to that, I managed to get both the first and last issues of Blue Devil, the final issue of The Savage She-Hulk, the first issue of Gerry Conway’s Steel, and the issue of All-Star Squadron that debuted Infinity Inc. There’s a new one that’s just opened up that a friend of mine has really taken a shine to–and after seeing their Ebay store, NOW I really want to see this for myself. Apparently they don’t price their stuff the way most comic shops usually do.

I think comic shops should tolerate kids reading comics in the store. Everyone involved in comics should be trying their best to keep kids engaged with comics. (Remember most kids can’t afford to buy everything that that they want and comics are competing against video games and a lot of other stuff for kids’ attention.) If kids don’t get alienated from comics then they’ll become comics buying adults who have a lot more disposable income to spend on comics.

I try hard not to read a whole comic in the shop. Not because the owner will object but because it really is not a library. I feel like I am stealing if I don’t pay in the shop.

I had a bad experience recently where I walked into a shop and started skimming (not even reading fully, just flipping through) several issues of comics and the teen working the shop that day (who had been loudly watching a movie with who I can only assume was his girlfriend in the middle of the shop the entire time) comes up to me and says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t really have you standing there reading comics.” I was SO ANNOYED! He would’ve been too young to remember the good old days of when I was able to stand in a comic book store browsing for over an hour, just enjoying looking at everything. It’s called “try before you buy” and it has, many times, led to me making a purchase I normally wouldn’t have, judged solely on a quick glance at the book’s cover. I hate it. Comic book stores used to be places for fun — I wish I could find one that actually encourages me to visit, because they have to realize the (few) people who aren’t buying digitally, buying from eBay, or sitting there downloading full digital comics illegally are the people you want to ENCOURAGE to visit your store. Because they won’t be buying from you unless you at least get them in the store first, ugh. I’ve never read an ENTIRE comic in the store before; the most I’ve ever done is read a few pages, flip through the rest, and then decide whether to buy it or not. Virtually every store that exists lets you window shop, so why not comic book shops? I wish I lived in an area with more comic book stores, so that I had a choice. Now I just flip through things super-quick, not really enough to really enjoy myself. I do hope comic book shops are more tolerant of kids reading in shops, though — they’re future loyal customers, if cultivated correctly.

Wait, so he spends a lot of time at the beginning of the post talking about all of the great attributes that this store has but then he put all of his comics back on the shelf and promised never to go back to that place all because one employee was vaguely inconsiderate to him, once?

That seems like a wild overreaction to me, and at the VERY least something you should be able to talk to the store’s owner about if you think the place is great otherwise. Completely dropping your business from somewhere you like over a single instance of one employee’s mild rudeness strikes me as kind of outrageous.

“in the age of easy and cheap online retailers, one of the few advantages brick-and-mortar shops have is the ability to check out a book before you buy it. ” That’s what piracy is for.

while I can understand where the retailer is coming from, it’s stuff like this that really hurts small businesses like comic shops. The fact is that Schweizer could’ve done this same exact thing at a big box book store and not raised an eyebrow. Hell, if anything, employees/customers would just notice how cute it was, and that’d be that.

And when the small bookstores start offering a shittier customer experience than the big box chains, well….they’ve just lost a huge part of what’s supposed to be their appeal.

@sandwich

The comic companies aren’t keeping kids engaged in comics

And, this article puts the focus where it does not need to be. It’s not the ambiance of a comic shop that attracts or repels kids – it’s the product that will make them interested. That consists of 2 primary things – the comic book covers (which have become ugly splash pages instead of indicators of what is happening in that issue), and the quality of the content – which has become decompressed, “edgy and dark”, and increasingly poorly-written

A focus on “meanie-head” shop clerks is a complete aside to the real problem with comic book accessibility

hey
one thing that should be mentioned is the fact that comic shops are not the same as going to barnes and noble or powells you cant just grab a book and sit down and read it, as far as thumbing thru it or checking out the art at a slow glance that cool, however grabbing the thing reading it and putting it back is just bad for business.
the comic store as it is need to try and sell thier stock on a weekly basis, and for the most part people who buy thier comic would like it to still be fresh, alot of us customers like our books in mint condition, and if jim bob or sally decided to give it the good ol read before us, chances are we are going to go somewhere else where the books are still mint.

i agree dude, i mean im starting to see this more and more often at my local shop where i spend hours every week checking out all the new stuff going thru the previews books making my orders updating my list and going thru the back issue.
the other day a guy was going thru the variant cover rack and opening the sealed bags and flipping thru the books and doing the same thing with the back issue, when the owner told him that he would not be able to do so, the guy freaked out and stormed out of the store after ranting about being a customer and not believing the way he is treated.
the fact is, when you use the “good ol days” or “how thing uses to be” your living in the past, in the “good ol days” people died of the flu as well, also we hardly had an option between dc or marvel.
on another note, i read about 20 trades every week from teh library and read about the same on my kindle (pirated yes!) and guess what, all it does is increase my order total, when i read a good book i buy it, simple as that! however i am not going to use my comic shop to do the whole trial and error thing, somebody might actually want to buy that superman comic i just skimmed thru with pity!
to sum it all up, if you think you are the best customer at your shop chances are you are not, also the comic shop is not taco bell so please dont think that the customer is always right!

I order at least 25 comics on a monthly basis, as well as buy a number of tradepaperbacks on a semi-regular basis. Every week I’ll peruse titles that I haven’t ordered, but might be interested in. That means I’ll have a quick flick though to check out the art, some of the dialogue etc in the first few pages (never the end ’cause that’d ruin the story.) At least half of the time I’ll buy the title. If the employees ever came up to me and scolded me for doing so, I would politely ask to see the manager. If he agreed with the employees then they would lose my patronage immediately. I wouldn’t see it as outrageous behaviour on my part – I won’t spend my money in a store that treats its customers in that manner. Luckily my LCS is a lot nicer than that.

However, I have an eight year old son. When he comes with me we have one rule – he can look at the action figures, he can look at the posters on the poster rack, he can skim through the 50c back issue bin with me and pick out however many comics he wants. But he is never, EVER allowed to touch the comics on the shelf. I’m not as anal retentive as many comic collectors (the new ones are not worth anything anyway – you’re dreaming if you think so) but I’d hate to buy a comic, get it home and find ripped or sticky pages.

So IMO you should be able to peruse, but anyone under 12 should be supervised by a considerate parent.

Anyone who thinks this is just about keeping books “mint” has never bought a manga from a Borders or B&N with a chocolate stain in it. God, I *hope* that was chocolate…

@jason
dude thats gross, i really hope it was chocolate, and i hope you took that $#!* back for a refund lol.
@jamie
i give you credit for your parental guidance regarding this matter, i do not have kids however i want the comic shop to be where i bond with my kids one day. seeing so many parents come in with thier kids to the shop and not paying attention to what the little ones are doing and letting them treat the place like a sand box just jaded me towards the issue, reading your post reignites hope.
i dont buy my books in mint condition because i want to sell them ( also to mention i did get waling dead#1, chew#1, goon#1…etc, from the rack in mint condition and they are worth a nice amt at this point) however i do like to go home and bag and board my books and look at them and see that they are prestine for years to come.

While I do want to point out that I still disagree with that as a policy in other stores (I certainly understand it, I just don’t agree with it), I was entirely erroneous at this one. The store’s owner noted that this was simply a case of a new employee trying to do her best (and though it wasn’t expressly mentioned in the post, that employee was very courteous and professional in her manner), and not store policy. They actually have a table up front for people to sit at to look at books.

I have a bad habit of turning my back on things that I otherwise love because of one bad experience (the number of restaurants I don’t eat at is staggering). This instance has shown me that this is an immature deficiency of my own character, and it’s one that I will work hard to not fall prey to in the future.

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