This was a series of encounters that stands out in my mind.
The background info:
My comic store is a little different from many itâ€™s size. Weâ€™re brightly lit, organized, clean, kid-friendly, have an abundance of staff to help people, have chairs so people can browse leisurely, and have a shload of product.
As many comic stores do, we offer a Reserve Service, in which we order and hold comics and items for people who sign up for such. We donâ€™t charge for this service, and we do not discount for it either. In all honesty if I could discount for new comics I would, but there are a number of overwhelming business reasons why we donâ€™t. If you are reserving an unspecified amount of material, weâ€™ll supply you with the Diamond Catalog for free each month. We tell everyone these things when they ask or sign up for a Reserve.
One of the unspoken benefits to the Reserve is that anytime we have a sale on anything in the store (back-issues, trade paperbacks (TPBâ€™s), statues, toys, etcâ€¦) the public gets one discount, but our Reservists get a significantly higher one. Example: â€œBack-Issue sale! Walk-In customers get 25% off all back-issues! Reservists get 40% off!â€
Another benefit is that we get a number of our Reservists in to premier comic book movies for free. We have a promotional deal at this time with a local movie theater in which they get to pass out a few thousand comics any time thereâ€™s a new comic movie weekend, and we get a load of free passes for our Reservists. Of late weâ€™ve had showings of Wanted, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Hellboy 2, with upcoming Batman: Dark Knight, the Spirit, Punisher War Zone, and more.
Another benefit is that while we will ask a walk-in customer to put down a deposit on an order for an expensive item (that we have to order for them), we donâ€™t require deposits from our Reservists. Reservists get a more stream-lined ordering process (often with a 2 day turn-around on in-print items) because we already have all the critical info on file.
One big benefit to having a Reserve with us is that every Friday we send out a list of all the new items arriving the next week (generally on Wednesday) thatâ€™s more accurate than many publishers websites. The only way we donâ€™t have something when it arrives is if it shows up damaged (we donâ€™t sell damaged merchandise), or someone didnâ€™t pack it to ship to us after telling us they did.
Thereâ€™s your background info.
A few years ago the gent whoâ€™s the subject of this column started wandering into my store. Iâ€™d seen him in other stores, and even dealt with him a few times when I worked in said other stores. To my mind, he was â€œa problem customer.â€ He wanted a lot of unnecessary concessions, and yet never seemed to part with the money. More than once I saw him wander into a store, grab a copy of Wizard off the rack that was for sale, take off the shrink-wrapping on the magazine, and start using it as a price guide for that places back-issues. Then heâ€™d drop that issue of Wizard wherever he was standing and leave.
He was (and may still be) a notorious ebay â€œflipper.â€ He would bargain for and buy variant covers from stores and then list them on ebay at inflated prices. He would ask people to leave him shill (false) positive feedback on occasion.
This and more things I could tell you about him. Needless to say, he stuck out in my mind and I cringed when I saw him wander into my store. In my mind, he became known as â€œSmiling Two-Faced Weasel-Guy.â€
We have a back issue sale, and Joe Public is getting 25% off on all the back-issues, with the Reservists getting 40% off. I was having a good weekend because Iâ€™d sold a high-condition Incredible Hulk #181 (money!) to a Reservist and made him very, very happy.
Smiley has come in and pulled about $30 dollars worth of back-issues which we would normally sell at cover price. When my Filthy Assistant rang him up and told him his price was some $22 and change, he got upset and argumentative.
He vocalized that it was unfair for him to get charged so much, especially during a 40% off sale, and that his price should be $12. I was called in to deal with the situation, since he wasnâ€™t believing what he was being told by my Filthy Assistant.
I explained that Reservists got the better discount during this sale. He stated that was unfair. I was sympathetic, but firmly stated that this was how it worked.
He threatened to take his business elsewhere. I replied that was fine.
He stated that he should only have to pay $12 for the stack of back-issues he wanted, rather than pay $22, since they were common books. I told him that was even below what I was selling them to Reservists for, which at 40% would have been $18. He told me point blank I was taking advantage of his business and not treating him â€œright.â€ I point blank told him I wasnâ€™t going to give him something I canâ€™t even give people who have been with me for years and undercut their trust.
All the while heâ€™s smiling at me and speaking in low tones. Smooth.
In the end (and this encounter took maybe 2 minutes), I explained that the books would be $22, and if that was unsatisfactory for him, I couldnâ€™t help that. He bought the books and left. Smiling.
Reservists get a discount on high-end variant covers of comics in my store. Generally, if a book is a 1 in 50 variant (meaning I had to order 50 copies of the regular cover to get one of these variants), Iâ€™m going to place a value in dollars equal to the quantity I had to order to get it. 1 for 50 variant? $50. 1 for 25 variant? $25. 1 for 10? $10. I donâ€™t bother pricing up anything smaller than a 1 for 10, which has made a lot of Buffy fans happy.
Reservists get a 20% discount on variant books that have a higher than cover price. A 1 for 50 variant that is normally $50? Reservist gets it for $40. A 1 for 25 variant that is normally $25? Reservist gets it for $20. Most of the popular series variants are taken by Reservists before they even make it to our racks. We often have to play â€œThey got the order in for the variant before you!â€ with some people on things like 1 in 75â€™s to 1 in 200â€™s.
Smiley wanders in and wants some high-end variants. Now, I wasnâ€™t here for this encounter, so bear with me and my secondhand info.
As it was explained to me after the fact, a Reservist had gotten their books from where we hold them and laid them on a table we supply for customers, and then gone looking for more books. In his stack of books was a bagged and boarded variant that he had reserved from us some two months prior and was labeled with his discount on it. Smiley walked by, saw the variant he was looking for (a much-sought after 1 in 75 variant by a recently passed artist of some notable fame), and grabbed it. From the middle of the pile. And wandered off into the store.
Smiley was found near the back of the store by the Reservist who had ordered the book. The Reservist found Smiley standing in a corner with the book out of its bag and board, reading it. With a smile. And his name on a post-it on the bag-n-board that used to contain the variant comic book on the floor.
The discussion of â€œHey, thatâ€™s mine.â€ ensues. As I understand it, Smiley claims the book was simply sitting out for sale on the table. The Reservist stated otherwise, pointing at his name on the covering for the variant. Some verbal fencing happened. Smiley ended up placing the variant down on the shelf and walking away, whereupon the Reservist re-bagged his prize, then purchased it, and left.
I found out about all this through a phone call maybe an hour later. I wasnâ€™t happy.
Smiley came into my store to try and sell us a number of variant comic books. He came in with a short-box full of variants from the mid 1990â€™s. I wasnâ€™t interested in purchasing them, and told him so.
Smiley changed to trying to trade with me for some current books, notably some now out-of-print hardcover TPBâ€™s. I still wasnâ€™t interested, probably because I found it very distasteful dealing with this person.
He sweetens the deal a couple of times (including a trip to his car to get â€œthe good stuff.â€), but Iâ€™m just not interested. All the while heâ€™s smiling and speaking very pleasantly. No deal happens.
Smiley then asks if itâ€™s okay if he sells the books to some people in my store, either by commission, or him just walking up to people and selling to them there. I tell him very flatly â€œNo.â€, even though Iâ€™ve allowed Reservists to sell books through me by commission before.
An hour later heâ€™s standing outside my store with his variants and trying to sell to my customers as they pass in and out of my store. I communicate to him that if he continues, Iâ€™ll have to call the police. He calmly states that heâ€™s not hurting anyone, and that this is public property (the sidewalk). Not caring to debate, I simply walk into my store and pick up the phone which he can see me do through the display window. Smiley leaves.
Encounter #4 (kinda)
I run into Smiley at a local Big Chain Bookstore. Heâ€™s sitting in a chair drinking coffee from another store (not the coffee that the Big Chain serves), with a hard cover TPB in his lap, with the shrink-wrap covering on the floor beside his chair. He never looked up and saw me as I passed by.
I donâ€™t speak to him at all, merely mentally note the encounter and continue on my way to find a book for my wife.
Encounter #5 (sorta)
A friend who works at a local Big Chain Retail outlet tells me about Smiley opening packaged toys and switching out figures. I canâ€™t do anything about this, but I note it.
Smiley wants to buy some action figures (AFâ€™s) from my store.
My Filthy Assistant pokes her head into my office as Iâ€™m mired in paperwork and says that Smiley is here and has some AFâ€™s thatâ€™s pulled off the shelf that he wants a discount on.
â€œNo.â€ I flatly state. Thereâ€™s no sales going on at that moment, our AFâ€™s are low-priced anyway, and itâ€™s Smiley. Iâ€™ve decided I donâ€™t like him.
â€œThe cards the AFâ€™s are on are bent at the corners, and thatâ€™s why he wants a discount.â€ the Filthy Assistant tells me. â€œCardsâ€ is the packaging on some AFâ€™s.
â€œNo.â€ I state again.
Then a thought occurs to me. â€œWait,â€ I say. â€œWere the cards bent before? We donâ€™t sell damaged stuff.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think soâ€¦â€ says my Filthy Assistant.
â€œNo, no discount.â€ I state as I put my head back down into my paperwork.
â€œCool.â€ Says the Filthy Assistant as she goes off to face Smiley.
Smiley bought the AFâ€™s at normal price.
Encounter #7 (Final battle! Fight!)
Smiley calls my store and asks to speak to me personally. Weâ€™ve just announced that weâ€™re going to be giving out passes to see Iron Man on premier night.
â€œCan I get two passes for Iron Man?â€ asks Smiley of me.
Knowing the answer, I still ask â€œAre you a Reservist? These passes are only for them.â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m not a reservist. I shop where I can get a discount, with XXXXXXX. But I spend a lot of money in your store.â€ Smiley tells me.
I mean it. I really heard a little >snap< in my head and had a heat sensation run down my neck and up my ears.
â€œWell,â€ I start in with, â€œXXXXXXX isnâ€™t around anymore and hasnâ€™t been around for quite a while now.â€
â€œI shop with them online.â€ he tells me.
â€œIron Man passes are only for our Reservists.â€ I state with what Iâ€™m certain is some venom creeping into my voice.
â€œWell, I thought that since I spend so much money with you, youâ€™d want to make me happy.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry?â€ I state, not ask. I figure heâ€™s maybe spent $50 dollars with me over the past 3 years, and the grief heâ€™s cost me canâ€™t have a dollar value placed on it.
â€œI just want a couple of passes to see Iron Man. I spend money in your store, and I will probably spend more there if you keep me happy.â€
â€œNo. You ainâ€™t worth it. I know you, and I have dealt with you too often. No passes, no giving you anything. Do NOT come into my store again! Understand?!â€ I finally loose my cool.
â€œHey, I just think thatâ€¦â€ he starts back with.
â€œ~click~ mrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrâ€ is what he hears as I hang up.
Lesson: You canâ€™t haggle if youâ€™ve nothing to haggle with.
To discuss, go here, monsieur and madam.
Posted originally: 2008-07-13 17:46:59