Geeks are children of the internet, and we spend a lot of our lives online. It’s only natural that when we spend so many hours surfing the web, we end up doing a little bit of shopping. It’s hard to resist the lure of glossy online stores, with discounts and codes for free shipping, nearly limitless stock, and no line to wait in to check out. I rather like it myself.
But yet, when it comes to gaming books and supplies, I go to my friendly local gaming stores – Kelly’s Komix here in Great Falls, MT, Good Games in Butte, and Good Turn Games in Missoula – as often as I can, even when I can get it cheaper online, even when I’m so poor I can’t afford to pay attention. And you should do the same, wherever you are. Why bother putting on real clothes to go to your FLGS when you could be shopping in your jammies online? Here’s why.
Use It Or Lose It
This seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be stated. Businesses that can’t keep afloat close their doors. If you do all your hobby shopping online, you may not miss that FLGS at first – maybe not at all, if you were never a big patron. But other gamers in town who frequented the store will miss it, and if they’re not comfortable shopping online, they may leave the hobby, which will affect your chances of finding new gamers to fill your table. Or imagine going to another city for a small con or game day, and realizing (to your horror!) that you forgot your dice. No problem, you’ll just pop down to the FLGS and pick up a cheap set…except the FLGS has gone out of business. OK, well, the dealers’ hall at the con, then! Except there are no FLGSs left within a distance that would have made the con cost-effective to come to, so there’s no one selling dice at the con. Sobering thought, isn’t it?
(And before you say that last example is far-fetched, consider the wide open spaces of the Great Plains and Midwest, where cities of any size are many miles apart, and not all of them have gaming stores. On the last day of MisCon this year, one of the local game stores – the only dealer selling sets of dice at the con – packed up their booth and didn’t come back for the final day. Guess who was a dummy and hadn’t bought new dice yet? Grrr. And I wasn’t the only one.)
The Power of Browsing
You can browse online – anyone who has suddenly realized they just lost an hour reading board game reviews on Amazon can attest to that. One thing you can’t do when shopping online is physically touch a product. If you’ve ever ordered something and been disappointed in its appearance, size, or quality once you got it in your hands, you’ve probably wished you could have gotten a better look at it first. Head down to your FLGS to see what those minis actually look like. The picture you saw online might be misleading, for the good or the bad. Some things don’t photograph well, and if you went strictly off what you saw online, you might pass them up, when they’re actually really cool.
And regardless of how many hours you spend online (and if you’re like me, emphasis on the many), you’re never going to reach the end of the internet. The brick and mortar store may have a game, manga, or action figure you had never heard of before. You just may find something awesome that you’d never have known about if you hadn’t gone shopping.
My day job is in retail, and I’ve seen the power of testimonials. When I can tell a customer, “Yes, these are excellent shoes if you’re on your feet all day – look, I’m wearing them myself,” or one customer tells another how happy they’ve been with their high-end hiking boots and that they’re worth the higher price, the prospective buyer feels more confident that they’re purchasing the right thing. If I go into a FLGS and the employees there tell me that they’ve played a board game and that it’s a lot of fun – and can answer my questions about it so I know they’re not just blowing smoke up my ass – you can bet my interest will be piqued. Likewise, if I see a few people sitting at a table painting minis, and they’re discussing how disappointed they are in the pricey new paints that just came out, I’ll be more likely to stick to the tried and true instead of automatically buying the latest and (supposedly) greatest.
When you have your heart set on buying something, you usually want it yesterday. Pop into the FLGS and you can be back home with your new treasure within the hour. Instead of waiting 2-5 business days for an online order to ship halfway across the country (and then just sit for a day in the next town over – thank you UPS and USPS tracking for letting me see this happening so I have another thing to get annoyed over), you could be playing that game, reading that graphic novel, or painting those minis.
What happens if the FLGS doesn’t have your coveted item in stock? Could have just as well ordered online, right? Not necessarily. Many game stores will gladly order in whatever you want. At our FLGS, so long as you let Brooks know what you want before he places his orders on Monday, you’ll usually have your special order by that Friday. That’s just as quick, if not quicker, than you would have received anything you ordered online, you didn’t have to pay shipping, and you supported a local business. Plus, if enough people come in wanting to special order the same thing, the store will eventually add it to their stock. Winning!
You can meet lots of people online. The fact that I have this writing gig at all is proof of that. Meeting people in real life can be a lot more difficult. So why not make it easier on yourself by going to a place where your chances of meeting others with similar interests are high?
The guy you see in the Warhammer aisle might be looking for a new group, just like you. Or the girl picking up the latest issue of the obscure comic you love would probably be thrilled to find another fan of the series. Even if you don’t have luck mingling with the other customers, don’t forget to make friends with the owner/employees. Those folks are in the know about gamers in the area and can get you in touch. It’s thanks to Brooks at Kelly’s Komix that my husband and I learned about the Sandbaggers Game Club – and that’s where we finally made a family, after living in this town for years.
If you are lucky enough to have a FLGS in your area, please consider going to them first for your geek product needs. There are certain deals on the internet that just can’t be beat – and when money is tight, who can say no to half off cover price plus free shipping? – but for many purchases, the savings you’ll find online are offset by the convenience and other bonuses of shopping locally. Give your FLGS some love, and they’ll love you right back.
What’s your favorite FLGS? What do they do that keeps you coming back for more?