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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bolt Action - An Open Letter to Some Local Game Shops

After a fairly long running series of problems with my mobile phone provider I was struck how, as hobbyists, we put up with rubbish that we would never deal with reasonably outside of the toy soldier world. If “normal” companies that we deal with regularly tried the tactics often employed by businesses in our hobby, we would be voting with our feet and either going elsewhere or rage quitting. Let me give you a few examples.

My personal bane: Low stock levels. If you walked into your local grocery store and they were out of milk, eggs, and all meats except for a small section of beef and pigs feet, you would probably not go shopping there again. Why? Because it is a waste of your time. We expect businesses to sell what they advertise. If I had a dollar for every game/hobby shop I have been in that has a minimal stock of EVERYTHING (not just GW or Warlord products) I would be a rich dude. It is a worldwide phenomenon. I'd like to think that I am fairly well travelled and from Boston to Bermuda to Tokyo to Paris to… you name it… I have found poorly stocked shops everywhere. What is also universal is that they all tell me that, if I don’t mind waiting two weeks, they can get me what I need. What? Video game shops (similar market) don’t make people wait to buy hot sellers.

I am not talking about obscure Russian Naval character models either. If you claim to sell Bolt Action, you should sell the rules and at least a few boxes of basic troopers. Stores should maintain a stock of at least basic essential products of popular ranges. I have often travelled an hour away to a decent retailer, avoiding closer, crappier stock levels, even though they may have what I need. I would rather support people that regularly have what I need.

Now, lots of these retailers have been bemoaning the internet and discount sellers there. I would say that is a conversation for another day, except for the following. I have been shopping for toy soldiers for years before the internet was even publicly used and accessible. Crappy “stock listers” existed then, too, in the same numbers. Do you know what has driven me to internet shops? The fact that they have what I want, when the local shop does not. As I have stated in the past: I HATE TO WAIT. I want to walk into a shop with money burning a hole in my pocket and get what I came for. I do not want to walk out of that shop with that same “hot” money in my pocket, disappointed. If you make me wait, I might just go to where I will also wait, but get what I want, for a better price and/or where the customer service is better. As much as I like to support brick and mortar stores, my first port of call these days with Bolt Action is War and Peace Games for very good reasons; 1) they have GREAT customer service, 2) they HAVE what I want, and 3) they get me what I want in record time! On top of that, the staff is always knowledgeable about amazing amounts of the product they carry for a variety of games.

Which brings me to my next gripe: Customer Service. GW retail staff have for years been saddled with the reputation of being overzealous. I know of a few friends who make a game of timing how long it takes the GW employee to come and say “howdy,” but I’ll admit it - I kinda like this. The same questions are boring BUT they actually ask and interact with you, depending on your answers. They generally know their product range, and generally give a crap about how to help you with your hobby needs. GW has changed its retail policies in recent years, especially down here in Australia, to ensure that customers have positive experiences when they enter GW retail shops. I prefer this sort of behaviour all day compared to the alternative. The stereotype of the fat, lazy, game store employee is a stereotype for a good reason. They are everywhere! In many shops, I feel like lighting a flare and running around the store, screaming like a banshee to get the “dude” behind the counter to even mumble something at me, or heaven forbid, look up from whatever computer screen/ paper/ game book/ sci-fi novel that is so damned important-that-I don’t-get-a-shred-of-help-finding-anything-on-their-poorly-organized-shelves… Grrrr…. I am an attention seeking kid. I know this. I have been that way since I was little… GIVE ME SOME ATTENTION DAMN IT!!!

This brings me to my final thought. Organisation: Looking for a blister should not be like looking for the lost city of gold. Customers do not want to engage in an almost literal easter egg hunt to find the product that they want to purchase. I feel like saying, “Give me a break. Take the morning off of reading that obscure historical/ sci-fi novel and put your 35 blisters in order. You don’t have many, because you do not stock the product in any depth in the first place!” Bitter much? Yes, I am. While I am at it, vacuum the shop and air it out a bit! Game stores really do not need to smell of goats to get street cred. Trust me.

With lots of folks talking about global price hikes across a variety of game systems, I thought I would shift the attention a little closer to what I think is important. I would recommend that shop keepers actually treat their businesses like businesses, with customers who want to be happy. It will take a little work and sometimes a little money, but it will pay dividends in the long run.

See you on the flip side…

Old Man Morin

(The best places, those that survive, aren't like this at all, I believe. Have any horror stories? Know shops that deserve credit? Tell us about it on the forum. - Judson)


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