For Christmas I wanted to just say thank you, but today I want to dig into something I find particularly annoying, so you get another two-blog week. There's a story going around one of the retailer groups that goes something like this. I'm paraphrasing, and not naming names, but here goes nothing. Customer approaches counter carrying Xanathar's Guide to Everything, the exclusive hobby cover. At the counter an employee who is not the store owner tells him that product is out of print and collectible, and that it costs $75.00, not the $50.00 cover price, but that he can get the regular cover for $50.00. Unhappy customer makes a comment about how he can get the regular cover much cheaper online, and that the price on this hobby cover is $50, not $75. Apparently, as the story goes, there is no other sticker on the hobby cover, and there is no sign in the RPG department that states this book is actually $75 and not $50. An unhappy customer purchased nothing, and if he leaves this store and writes a one-star review on every available social media review site, I don't blame him.
In some states this sales tactic is illegal, and the bait and switch can get you in trouble. Honestly, I don't even want to talk about the illegal, I want to talk about the unprofessional. If you have not put a price tag on something that has a printed MSRP on it, you're selling it for that price. I mean, you can surprise someone at the counter and say "This is on sale today" but I can't for the life of me figure out why you would. They picked up a book, saw a printed MSRP on it, and carried it to your counter, so why would you take less money for the darn thing? I don't even have a problem with you selling things above MSRP if it's collectible, rare, or difficult to find, but gosh darn it, you should really put that on a price tag and attach that price tag to the darn item! You can buy removable labels for your Dymo label maker that makes beautiful, professional-looking, REMOVABLE, labels for products, so you're not even going to damage the book! The fact is that it's possible my irritation is out-sized in this case, because it's possible that this incident has no effect on my business. Except, in some crazy tertiary world where the Butterfly Effect is real, I do believe this has an effect on my business. Maybe not this specific case, but it's part of a larger problem of gross unprofessional behavior that does have an effect on my business. I believe that we, retailers in the hobby gaming market, are part of this giant symbiosis where the things you do can affect my business. We are part of a large network of people engaged in the literal act of selling fun. I don't know if this was a case where that player walks away from games forever, I don't think it was, but these instances can stack up to make a gamer think "Why bother with brick & mortar stores" and take all of their shopping into the wonderful world of the internet. Then, when that player leaves whatever city they live in and moves to the Denver metro area, they've been trained by someone to ignore brick and mortar stores. I will now have to work twice as hard to get them to find me, and three times as hard to earn and keep their business. When retailers break street dates, or complain about problems without offering solutions, or violate MAP policies, they put pressure on all retailers from the other tiers of the industry. When publishing doesn't think they can trust us to be good stewards of their property they will find new stewards for that property. Worse, when we treat customers poorly we will lose those customers. Most reports this year place online sales at about 15% of the total retail market. When we are already losing on price frequently to the online market, why would we also go out of our way to provide worse customer service than even the worst of the online entities. There's this poorly formed adage I like to think about in regards to customers. Many Magic players are loyal to the game, but will go from store to store for the events they want to play in, or the cards the need to buy. While they may like your store, their loyalty is to the game. Many board game players play at home, with their friends. They don't care about your game tables, they come to you for product knowledge and selection. Because their group of two to eight people play all their games together, you're not going to often sell the same group multiple copies of a game. While they may like your store, their loyalty is to selection and product knowledge. Many roleplayers have a group of six to eight friends they partake in this activity with often. They don't want to share Player's Handbooks, or any player-facing books or cards. These people come to you for selection and product knowledge much like the board game community does, but they are an opportunity to sell multiple copies of the same book to the same group. While members of the group may like your store, their loyalty is to their group of friends, and all it takes is one bad service experience for one member of the group to turn them all off from your store.
If we want to succeed, and I mean we as in a group of retailers who are dealing with price pressure, increased rental rates, and rapidly climbing wages, we have to remember that we sell luxury brands and we have to treat our businesses and our customers as if we sell luxury brands. When you approach a customer to offer them services think of yourself as Apple, or as Tiffany & Co. We want to be respectful and knowledgeable, and treat each person we encounter as if they are the most important person in the room. That's how we earn repeat business, and repeat business is how we grow our stores.