Common Questions to Expect from Passers-by

You start to see trends after 7 years of running comic book shops in high-volume areas with lots of tourists and commuters. The one I want to talk about today in this short and flippant article is “common questions to expect from passers-by.” This list is certainly not comprehensive, but the top 3 that came to mind.

 

I have to run next door. Can you watch my kids? Man, I hate this one! It’s not that I don’t like kids. And it’s not that we don’t encourage kids in our store (we are a firm believer that a few unsold, ripped kids comics are a small price to pay when you’re trying to instill a love of comics into a new generation of readers).

No, this is simply a liability concern. I won’t let my employees say ‘yes’ to this question. They are to politely point out that we’re a high-volume store – in one of the highest volume train stations in the world – that is staffed by only 1-person at a time and we therefore cannot be responsible for keeping an eye on your child. Unfortunately, this response can – and sometimes is – taken the wrong way. But the alternative is too risky to my employees, my store, and let’s not forget the unattended minor!

…so the clown offering candy from his van wasn’t the boy’s Dad?! Our bad!

What’s the most expensive comic you’ve got? First, a bit of back story: I’m not a retailer that stocks collectibles. We are strictly 80/20 principle at my store: high volume big sellers, and everything’s new. So our reaction to this question would be different than a store that actually carries valuable comics.

My employees have mixed reactions to this question, with some finding it a bit condescending. Having been on the receiving end of this question many times I can see their point, though it’s not the question so much as the way it’s delivered some times, in a mocking sort of way, usually by teenage boys (was I really such a jerk at their age…?). You also have to understand a little context here: nobody that asks this question is actually interested in purchasing said comic book, or in fact any comic book. It’s a time-waster. As a big believer in customer service, and an even bigger believer of dispelling the mean-spirited Comic Book Guy stereotype, no customers in my store are allowed to be treated as time wasters, but that doesn’t mean my employees aren’t aware of it.

There are several ways to answer this question: You can be up front that we don’t carry collectibles due to space constraints (recommended); you can be a bit snarky and say something like “I think we have some for $7.99” (discouraged!); or you can yell at them “F*ck you! You think you’re better than me?! (you’re fired).

Well, I do have this Action Comics #1 I’ve been using as a mouse pad. Any interest?

Wow, they still make (people still buy) comics? Okay, this is probably the trickiest question out there, because on the one hand, being only human, I can get really offended by this comment. Even understanding where they’re coming from, it’s not a fun thing to hear that people consider your livelihood the retail equivalent of Scott Baio. That being said, this question is also a great opportunity. If you can swallow your pride, you can engage this person and open them up not only to a still thriving comic book market, but to comic books like Vertigo and Image titles they probably never knew existed! I have a pretty good sell rate to people that ask this question, and I urge any other retailer out there to take extra time with them, as you’re not only bursting a preconception, and possibly making a sale, but if they leave with a good impression they’re sure to mention their “odd” find to friends and, hey, free advertising, right?

Didn’t he die in a grease fire in the 90s?

 Any other retailers or employees out there with some common questions to add? I’d love to hear them.