There’s an old Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson with a large room, nearly empty except for a checkout stand and two shelves of products on the wall about 30 feet up, captioned simply “Inconvenience stores”. I’ve yet to encounter a store like that, but the other day I found a local store that fits the label in another way.
Customers are made to feel as though they are an inconvenience.
I play a wargame that uses miniature soldiers. More importantly, my children have begun playing it, too, so it has suddenly become much more important in my life. I haven’t bought any new miniatures in probably ten years. But with the sudden resurgence of interest at my house, not just in playing but in painting the miniatures, I decided I should see if there are any local stores we can pick up models or supplies from if needed.
I found one not far from my house, relatively speaking. We drive past it regularly on our way to various sports events with the kids. The other day traffic cooperated as I was driving from work to my boys’ baseball game and I found myself in that area fifteen minutes earlier than expected. I decided to stop in, check out the store, and see if they have the particular line of miniatures we’re looking for. They do. They also have a serious customer service problem.
One person was running the store by himself. I say “running the store” lightly, because he was actually painting miniatures in the back room behind a glass window where he could watch the store. The front door beeped as I entered. He looked up and saw me…and went back to painting without so much as a word. I was there ten minutes before he said anything at all, and that was just to let me know to holler if I had questions.
I had questions alright, but I didn’t feel like asking them at that point, because it could have been so easy for him to answer: he could have put price tags on his merchandise. Not a single item had a price sticker except for a few items overlooked on a single display stand. Like I’m going to interrupt the man’s painting to ask prices on a dozen different miniatures. He clearly didn’t want to sell me anything anyway.
I left the store convinced that I had stumbled into a hobbyist’s workshop that attempted to pay for itself by also selling stuff to those who knew the hobby as well as he did and therefore didn’t need to ask prices. I felt about as unwelcome in that store as I’ve ever felt. Considering his website it seems he prefers to do business online–and probably does quite well there, as he’s very specialized.
But I’m going to look around town some more in hopes that anyone else sells the same line of miniatures. If they so much as smile at me and have price tags I’ll shop there. I’ll drive farther to do it. I prefer to support local businesses, which is why I was looking in the first place rather than just buying things at a discount on Amazon, but they have to at least make an effort. They have to at least pretend to want my business.
So for now I’m still looking.