Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Where Do They All Come From 

Yesterday was the day that all the, well, "high maintenance" customers decided to come into the shop. These are the people who eat away at your time, who who need to have their hands held through every step of their shopping period.

The worst of these are the people who need supplies for something other than comics. Now, I always feel vaguely bad about letting people get to me about the supplies, because they are a surprisingly arcane subject. Mylar, propylene, My-Lite...and that's not even getting into arbitrary distinctions like "current", "regular" and "standard" sizes. But there are some things about the supplies that should be obvious. Such as realizing that every single supply package has the size it is intended for printed on it, and that you presumably know what size the item you need a bag for is. In other words, when you bring in a vintage paperback, and I explain to you the differences in size between the three different types of paperback bags we carry, don't ask me if the "thick magazine" boards are the right size for the paperback bags. They're not.

On a related note are the customers who want some strange, off-brand type of supply, and don't seem to understand why we don't have hundreds of that particular type of supply on hand. These are usually people, I've noticed, who never come right out with what they want to ask you, but build up to it slowly. My favorite example was this gentleman:
"Do you have mylar bags?"
Absolutely. What size did you need and how many?
"Do you have mylar bags for magazines?"
Yes, here you go.
"What size are these?"
These are about 11" by 12".
"Oh no, I need bags for magazines that are 15" by 15"."
Well, I don't actually have any in that size, but I can see what some of our supply distributors carry and get back to you.
"And I need them to have some kind of lockable flap on the top that's at least 3" long."
"And they need to have a 2" wide strip along the left hand side that's five-hole punched in an elliptical pattern for use in a D-Ring binder. And the backs must be opaque, not clear. And come for sale in packets of 35, rather than 50."

Usually there's an element of the terminally clueless to the "high maintenance" customers. This is especially true of people who want to sell comics. This little scene gets played out in the store on a daily basis:
"Do you buy comics?"
If they're ones in sellable condition that we could use, yes. The person who does the buying, however, isn't here right now, but will be here tomorrow when we open.
"Oh, well, let me take a bunch of badly torn up and water-damaged comics from this moldy box and pile them up on your counter and tell you about how I bought each one and how much it is worth because I bought a copy of Wizard from you last week and I know that these are worth thousands of dollars and you better not try to cheat me on them, because I know guys, or something."
NO. The person who buys them is not here. You have to take these away and come back tomorrow.
"Oh. Well, what about baseball cards, do you buy baseball cards?"
No. We don't buy sports cards of any kind.
"What about basketball cards then?"

The other daily occurrence with comic sales is the person who calls us up on the phone, either to sell comics or to try to get us to tell them how much their comics are worth (always someone hard to get off the phone, always someone who calls when we're really busy), and lets us know that all the comics they have are "still in the original bag."
One of these days, Mike or I are going to blow off one of these "still in the original bag" people, only to have them come into the store with a bunch of Whitmans...

The negotiators are fairly distracting as well. These are people who usually want to get a discount because they're buying "so many" comics. And while they may be buying a good number of comics, when the average price of those comics is between $1-$1.50, a discount doesn't really seem warranted. I've noted in the past that they people who really do spend a lot of money in the store almost never ask for a discount. Wanting a discount seem to be inversely proportional to the amount of money you actually spend.

We also get negotiators who want discounts on new books. This is our own fault, I suppose, for offering a discount to customers with in-store subscriptions. I think we've got a very fair system, where you get a 20% discount on items on your subscription, for a very modest deposit, usually $20, which you get refunded to you if you ever end your subscription. Most of our customers end up saving at least the cost of their deposit within two weeks of setting up a subscription, but that's still not enough for some people.
"I want a 30% discount."
Well, the most we offer is 20%.
"I'll pay more for the deposit if you give me a 30% discount."
That would be a significant exception to the rules, and you'd have to talk to the owner about that.
"And by 'pay more' what I really mean is, pay no more than $15 for my total deposit."
No, that's definitely not going to work, because the $20 deposit is the starting price of the deposit, not the end-point.
"And I want free bags, boards and comic boxes with all my purchases."
We barely make any money on those as it is...
"And I want a discount on all the items I buy that aren't part of my subscription, and I want a discount on the purchases I make at the game store and the computer store on either side of you, and I want magical pixies to carry my subscription comics to me the moment I enter the store."

Lastly, we get to the people who apparently have an inability to listen to any information that might contradict the preconceived views they have about the world. Most frequently these are parents of small children. Such as the woman who got a mite snippy with me because I refused to sell her precious little darling a Sin City paper-back on the grounds that it was a "mature readers" title. Surely not, because her precious little angel would never want something that wasn't age appropriate for him, so clearly Sin City is appropriate reading material for an eight year old without the ability to understand context, irony or the history of the genre Miller is aping.

Most frequently however, it is someone who just refuses to listen to what I'm trying to say:
"What is the difference between this book that says New X-Men on it, and these New X-Men comics?"
Well, the book is simply a reprinting of these six issues of the comic.
"So it's an all new story?"
No, it's just a reprint of these six issues.
"So it's a story that wasn't in the comics?"
No, it's just a reprint of these six issues.
"So it's like back-ground information on the characters?"
No, it's just a reprint of these six issues.
"So, it's the story of what happened before these six issues?"
No, it's just a reprint of these six issues.
"So, it's a story of what all the other characters were doing during these six issues?"
Everybody's dead, Dave. Dave, everybody's dead. Is dead, everybody, Dave...


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