Let me warn you in advance that this is a long and convoluted tale of anger and misery rained down upon me by folks laughingly claiming to provide some kind of retail ‘service’.
A bit of background: I worked in retail for years and for many of them I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, if the pay hadn’t been so bad I’d probably still be doing it now. I know retail.
Much of the time I didn’t have to do the bit I despised – the soul destroying till monkey nonsense, where you’re just smiling and pressing buttons all day. I normally managed to noodle my way into ordering for or running a section, or customer orders. Here I could really feel I was offering an actual service to customers, while often being in a situation where I was dealing with high expectations but low guarantees of release dates, prices etc. I think I know a bit about customer service.
Ruining a good browse
So, fast forward to the second Wednesday in September. On my lunch break I wandered innocently down to my local game store (formerly known as my friendly local game store, or FLGS) for a browse. I’d looked forward to it on the way there (it’s a 20+ minute walk) but just 10 minutes after arriving I was back outside in a thoroughly bad mood. I doubt I’ll visit the store again.
I’ll get to the meat of why (and the blog post’s title) in a minute, but before the knock-out punch the store had already landed some unpleasant body blows. But before the before (are you still following this?) I should say this: most of my previous dealings with the store had been a pleasure, as I’d dealt mainly with a lovely lady who often works there. But whenever she wasn’t working, as on this day, it really sucked.
I arrived to see four Magic: The Gathering players packing up. This always puts a smile on my face, as having gaming space available is a great resource for a gaming store. It’s a bit of a shame the tables are in the middle and quite as front and centre – especially as young Magic players tend to reflect the stereotype many of would like the hobby to get away from – but that said, even then, I reckon these tables are doing more good than harm.
How to get a game store WRONG
However, the greeting I got as I came in immediately ruined the mood; the frumpy teen behind the counter gave a disinterested nod, while the older member of staff (wearing a pretty inappropriate Spurs football shirt – something I never did when working in a store) aimed what can only be described as a scowl in my direction. I clearly wasn’t one of the ‘in’ crowd (thank god).
So, now on the back foot, I set my eyes directly on the game shelves to avoid further service dissatisfaction.But it was actually pretty hard to do this with the two male staff getting all alpha male over the girl that was with them (I presume she wasn’t working – three staff would’ve been overkill – to be honest, two was). Once again, throwing things at each other across the store while shouting isn’t the best way to get away from the poor image many outsiders give the industry.
But back to the games. The selection was actually pretty impressive at first glance – lots of titles that had been the darlings of the recent GenCon gaming convention in the US, including Seasons and Rolling Freight. However, the shine soon came off when I saw some of the laughable prices; Rolling Freight at £65, Core Worlds at £45 – simply completely out of touch with reality. This is a store that is relying on customers being as uneducated as the staff if they’re going to sell anything.
Failing on so many levels
Then there was the copy of Cities that had sat on the shelf so long that the box side had literally lost all of its colour – it was white, rather than yellow. So of course it had been discounted, right? Ha! no chance. No one had even noticed, despite the fact it must’ve been there for months. It just summed up the staff’s attitude towards both the stock and the customers (beyond the Magic in crowd, of course).
So no care for customers, or the stock, which is massively overpriced (by £20 in the case of Core Worlds) – while the staff are acting like five-year-olds. It’s such a shame. But the worst was yet to come… and herein lies the second half of the tale (which will segue with the first half perfectly later on, honest). I’ll post that up later on and link it here.