Friday, August 1, 2008

Double Edged Sword

My competitors went out of business, partly because what they were doing was wrong. Maybe they stocked the wrong product, staffed the wrong people, or spent all their product expansion money on fancy carpet. Who knows? They stopped doing business and are gone now, meaning their store wasn't worth continuing with someone else at the helm.

So when their ex-customers come into the store and find it "strange" that I don't carry a wide selection of jigsaw puzzles, bridge score cards, or funky dice, like that other store did, there are two parts of my brain that start to analyze this.

First, I want to please my customers. I often err on the side of pleasing them, even if it means busting my purchasing budget. Pleasing your customers is good, but you can go too far. You can't have everything people want and those most demanding are those less likely to special order. I have a sales track record for the area that says if I buy bridge score cards, I'll sell them once a year. Yet, with new customers comes new opportunity, so I can't just throw my head back and cackle at their misfortune.

Second, it's their own damn fault. That's my inner cackle. They shopped at this other store instead of mine. They play games that will die out in their generation. They're fringe gamers with bad taste. Where were they when the rent was due? Alright, it's wrong to think this way. I admit it, but when you spend years wondering how to get those people into your store, spending thousands of dollars, and they only come because you're the last resort, there's a certain level of, well, conflictedness. I have to step back from my ego and try to conjure up a little Buddhist compassion. It's potential opportunity as well, along with a potential danger of listening to the wrong customers. I've done just fine without those two bridge card sales a year or the funky dice. I don't feel socially responsible for carrying slow selling or bad games, although there are those who expect you to take up some sort of local game store mantle and bite the bullet.


  1. Note that there are customers out there that are worth laughing out loud at. Those are the ones who come in and ask you why you don't have bridge score cards when the other store did, but never actually bought a bridge score card at the other store.

    Maybe they like the idea of there being one available if they ever need one, or maybe they just like browsing through them, but they don't actually buy them, and that's part of why the other store went out of business.

    The only reason not to laugh at these people is because they might just buy something else, although there are those thankfully rare few who will criticize your selection while never actually buying anything.

  2. It's really important to have a customer centric attitude, but it doesn't mean "customers are always right." Some are most definitely wrong, and in a variety of ways. As much as I want to say yes to a customer, one of the better acquired skills from the years I've been doing this is the ability to say no.

    Also, if you've noticed, I dropped Yelp from the sidebar. The problem I have with Yelp is that it's a one way, "customers are always right" site that treats the business as the enemy, while inviting them participate in fleshing out their description. If some douche bag wants to give me a single star because a free event was crowded and he was annoyed by a volunteer, he can do that without the ability for me to respond.

  3. Your other customers can always respond to moronic yelps.

  4. That's true, but it's not a tool for me, it's a tool for them. I did a little research: saying bad things about Yelp gets you bad Yelps. Suggesting people use Yelp gets the angry minority to respond, as unhappy people kvetch about 9 times more often than happy customers. So there we have it, but I do encourage customers, in a low guy, general suggestion kind of way, to post positive reviews, not that I'm trying to influence you or anything.

    Yes, it's dangerous.

  5. Oh yeah, and if you're unhappy with something in the store, please, please let me know.

  6. Why should I let you, the store owner know? Hell, you might be able to change things, and eliminate the problem. I'd rather just bitch about it online. - end snarky imitation