Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sad FLGS story....

The other day I happened to be in the neighborhood of one of the older gaming stores in town, and one that I actually assumed had closed a couple of years ago. I was surprised while driving by to see the flashing neon "open" sign in the window, so I popped in to kill the remainder of a lunch break.

The store itself is a pretty stereotypical "down-in-the-dumps" gaming store. Dark, dusty, lined with shelves full of mis-matched random product, but in a good way. I browsed around for awhile, and feeling like I should help support the business, picked up a copy of Hackmaster Basic, which I had been pondering ordering online anyways, a 1st print box set of Gamma World, and a stack of 70's comics (which I love to read... for the ads!), about $60.00 worth of stuff in all.

I approached the man at the counter, who looked like he was obviously the owner and sole employee of the place. He rang me up, and I whipped out my visa to pay...

"Sorry, I don't take credit cards," he says.

Bewildered, I looked out the window (this was not a particularly safe part of town), "do folks carry a lot of cash around here?"

He looked at me, perplexed. Sadly, I had to put back everything but the old comics (not wanting to have to deplete my cash reserves so early on a Friday), and left feeling a bit let down. What if someone wanted to make a really big purchase in his store (he had quite a few boardgames running on average $80, and lots of miniatures which are expensive these days)? That seemed like begging for failure. (While leaving, I heard him turn down yet another sale, some young kids wanting to buy a bunch of dice!)

I mean, we all know what a hard time game stores are having these days. Why make it harder on yourselves, guys? My company takes credit cards, and we're not even a retail business; its something that happens once or twice a year. We use a online service that charges like 1% for the transaction. I thought about going back with the web address for the credit card processing company we use, but honestly don't know whether this guy would take offence. If he really wanted to make big sales, wouldn't he have researched this himself already?

The moderately successful gaming store in my area takes all forms of payment, of course. Anyone else have a store in their area that seems determined to fail?

16 comments:

  1. Oh man, I've been meaning to do an blog entry on just this thing, complete with photo. The whole store was built to look like a mini-castle, so you think "Cool - Might be interesting", but then you walk in and see almost nothing but WotC product, and mostly Magic the Gathering cards. Sort of on the outskirts of town, near a trailer park... I bought a couple of minis and dice for ten bucks or so. Can't remember if he took CC's though!

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  2. Don't feel sorry for these sort of stores, they are begging to fail. No credit cards? Please. The best thing for this guy is to be out of business because he obviously shouldn't be in charge of running one. This is not the first game store I've seen engage in completely suicidal behavior; sadly (in this case) game owners/players don't seem to make the best choice to run a business.

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  3. Oddly, you would think that him being in business for a long time, he would have realized by now that he is losing a lot of business by not taking credit cards ...

    I feel sad for the owner.

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  4. Cash only + dodgy part of town = money laundering scheme/front? ;-)

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  5. We used to have a local FLGS that seemed determined to fail when I lived down south (no city name, no pack drill).

    * Within 2 years they moved location no less then three times.
    * Their old (unsaleable) stock was taking shelf space from known big-selling lines. Sure the old stock was a sunk cost; but it was just sitting there gathering dust!
    * Manual (clack-clack) card transactions when EPOS was already standard.
    * They wouldn't get into online selling as it was coming in.

    The people running it were good folk, but uninspired businessmen. No idea what happened to the place, but we all know how those stories end...

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  6. There's another side to this story. Credit card fees suck the life out of a transaction.

    http://truecostofcredit.com

    If this guy is already on the margins, and he's not going to make much on the sale of an item that he was hoping to get 10% profit on (if he's lucky) and 25% of that goes to credit cards - it's a simple decision. He might also be in debt to his processor and has had his service shut off.

    I feel sad for the owner because he's probably now backed into a corner. He can't afford to take the credit card, and he can't afford not to. I would save the anger for someone who truly deserves anger... go get cash and give this guy a break.

    That's why I'll use the debit option over the credit option any day, merchants don't get screwed as bad.

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  7. There's a lot we don't know about this poor chap's situation. But the fact remains that he was willing to dismiss $80+ in sales, not to mention the possibility of winning a couple of repeat customers. I regret mightily that it turned out that way. But during college I worked for a game store that did everything right, even when it meant a financial pinch from time to time. That paid dividends in the long run.

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  8. @ chgowiz - no anger here at all, what gave you that idea? Mostly I was a bit bewildered. If I had had more time, I would have stayed and chatted with the guy about stuff like mybillingtree.com, but you never know when a shopkeepers going to take offense at some guy off the street telling him how to run his business;)

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  9. Actually, it's the consumer that ultimately pays those transactions fees, since a well-run business simply needs to raise its prices by 2-3% to cover the cost of the transaction fees.

    But don't forget about the "hidden" costs of cash. Retailers have to take the daily deposits to the bank (1/2 hour to 1 hour of time, at $20 per hour) and having cash on site increases the risk of robbery.

    We are all paying those credit cards fees, in exchange for the banks making financial transations easier. Doesn't mean I like it, greedy bankers and lenders caused much of the current financial difficulty, but I do appreciate the convenience of credit and debit.

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  10. I feel sad for the gamers, not for the store owner. I don't know a single FLGS that will not take credit cards. It's how they do a majority of their business. While I might have cash to pick up a comic, I use my card on the games since they're so expensive and I'd rather have another way to track the purchase.

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  11. I ranted about this same issue about a year ago.
    http://www.sevendead.com/comics/local-game-stores/

    Many many people do not carry cash , particularly with check cards, etc.

    @chris Either I live in the same city you are talking about or that is one serious coincidense.

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  12. @Chgowiz: Vendors don't get as screwed by debit transactions, but you certainly can.

    I used to use my debit everywhere a few years ago, and apparently I used it at a gas pump, ATM or other reader with a camera and a skimmer attached. Before I knew it, somebody used a clone of my debit card, complete with pin, to buy a video game console, controllers and some games.

    I had to file a police report to get my bank to cancel the card and (eventually, after several weeks) give me the $500 or so back, which I suspect they didn't necessarily have to do. On top of that, later that day somebody tried to use the same card for over a thousand dollars in transactions at another Wal-Mart. If I didn't check my account religiously every day then I'd probably been broke for some time.

    Since then, the only place I use my debit card is a bank-owned ATMs, and only after I've run my fingers around the edges and tugged on everything to check for loose parts. At least with a credit card my liability is limited to fifty bucks and they're stealing the bank's money, not mine.

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  13. Stores like the one you wrote about make me very sad. There's so much potential there. That store could literally inspire a new generation of gamers, but it doesn't.

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  14. I remember when the CCG boom killed off a bunch of old companies. I was very sad then, but now I think it was way overdue for a bunch of really bad businessmen to get a wake up call. The ones that survived sure are stronger, leaner and stronger in the face of another hit.

    These so sounds like one of those. Turn down two buyers within twenty minutes? Your shop should be dead...

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  15. raise its prices by 2-3% to cover the cost of the transaction fees.

    This isn't always an option. Many (perhaps most) products in a game store have their price printed on the cover. You cannot easily raise the price of pre-marked books. And speaking as a cashier in a bookstore, customers become irate when they find that our sticker is higher than the cover price, whatever the reason.

    PS The reason is usually that the cover price is in a different currency :)

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