Saturday, June 28, 2014

Expensive (Tradecraft)

Expensive means you don't think it's a good value.

Perhaps you don't find its utility high enough to justify the price. Perhaps you can find it cheaper elsewhere.

Expensive does not mean it costs a lot of money. A high price tag has nothing to do with whether something is the value judgment known as expensive. A Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport for a million dollars is not expensive, it's a bargain at half the MSRP. Whether you value it or not is another issue.

Expensive also has nothing to do with whether you can personally afford something, although carrying a high priced item is something a retailer needs to take into account.

From a customer perspective, this "expensive" personal problem nonsense rubs me the wrong way. Too expensive compared to what? How are you measuring that value? From a retailer perspective, we, as a group, tend to avoid high priced items for fear of it being "too expensive."

This is reinforced by the price pressures put upon us by the Internet. My feeling is the higher the price, the more likely a customer will seek it cheaper online. There is a sliding scale in my mind. I see this continually at the low end, as we sell card sleeves to people who have never bought a Magic pack from us, or when I sell far more of a $30 expansion than I sold of the $99 parent game.  This, quite frankly, is soul crushing if you think about it too much.

We should, I think, have a broad range of prices for our broad range of customers, but man, the negative reinforcement is huge. High priced items try my patience, as I deal with customer astonishment. It's one more reason why we can't have nice things.

It's an especially good reason to market your store up market. There will be customers who are not happy shopping "The Gap" of games, which is what we've been called, who would prefer The Android's Dungeon. That's fine, there's a dungeon for them somewhere. You want the other customers. Plus most Dungeon customers will put up with that annoying smell of Pine Sol and smiling staff.  If there is a shrinking middle class, retailers may need to choose sides.


  1. Gary, been seeing this in the sports card market for years now. Ever since the big internet sellers popped up. The customers buy all their unopened product from them for a couple ticks over cost, then come to us to get their penny sleeves and top loads. Ya gotta love it.

    In the gaming part of our business, this doesn't seem to be near as big a problem. I see it with some of the more expensive board games, which for us is anything $50+. Other than that not so much.

    The thing I find really annoying about internet competition is how much joy it seems to bring people to tell you, the store owner, all about how much money they're spending online. What makes people think we want to hear these stories? I've got one guy, spends very little here, who has a new story to tell every time he comes in. He just spent $130+ on singles for his deck, he and some friends know of a site they can apparently buy Conspiracy booster boxes for $80, etc. It can make for a VERY long day if it happens multiple times.

    One of my favorites was a when a guy was standing in front of my counter telling his friend all about the great online deal he got on a box of MTG. I looked at him and said, "That's the same price we sell it for, and you would've got a buy-a-box promo and no wait." He just looked at me while his friend snickered at him. Sometimes you just have to wonder.

  2. Sometimes expensive actually is about affordability.

    If you just cant scrape up the dough, something can be too expensive, even though it's a great value.

    If I can;t work it into my budget, it is too expensive for me - at least right now. Even if I really want it, will get a lot of use out of it, and risk paying a premium to try to get one later.

    The Bugatti is not going to be a "bargain" for me even if you leased it to me for fa dollar a year - because I wouldn't be able to pay for insurance and maintenance on it.

    "Too expensive" is about exceeding what you are willing AND able to pay.

    Willingness to pay should have some relationship to utility and value, but ability to pay is a much less forgiving element.

  3. We find that price matters most to the occasional buyer. For hobbyists, there is a certain amount of pride associated with buying discounted products, thus the bragging that often accompanies such purchases. This is also the reason that those same folks kickstart incessantly, despite the fact that they are paying full price for a game that they will be able to get in a year at a discount.

    For these folks the item matters less than the method of acquiring it, and certain methods tap the brain's reward system more than others. They end up spending large amounts of money on massive amounts of product, and many of those products will never see use. The reward happens upon purchase, not when the product is used.

    Choosing sides is not a bad idea. There are plenty of folks willing to spend money on service and a great experience. They will gladly pay full price for the game they want, rather than spend twice as much online just to get free shipping on the one item they want. And these types of shoppers have lots of friends willing to do the same, and they will share their positive experiences, even to the point of convincing some of them to pay the premium to shop at our store rather than save a few sad dollars online.

    The future of game retail seems to have plenty of room to grow toward the audience that favors a great experience over a cheap price.

  4. I think one of the key ingredients is getting customers to appreciate and support local business. People go gaga over bargains online and in super stores, but forget that those venues drive local economies into the ground, destroying jobs and taking money to international markets, instead of keeping it at home where it's needed to grow the community. Growing up in a small town made that lesson abundantly clear in my youth. When my husband & I lived in the bay area, we tried to support the local game store (BDG) by purchasing our games there, even if it was at a higher price. Sometimes it meant we bought less frequently than we would've liked, but we still participated in events, recommended the store to friends and did the best we could. Having events like Ding & Dent made it so we could hone our collection and make sure we got and kept the things we really enjoyed and still maintained our budget. We were never your biggest spenders, but we felt better spending a few more dollars to keep our money local. Thanks for being a worthy institution!

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  6. Perhaps the pricier the purchase, the more it shifts from being an impulse buy? I know I will pick up an interesting blister of stuff for the change in my pocket, but around the £30+ bracket I find it hard to justify the addition to the horde, so they tend to be purchases based on recommendations, which are nearly all online now and I tend to either get it there and then or forget about it... I think the phrase 'sale' does strange things to my mind though and I am a sucker for board games when I wander into the works in the UK and the game looks interesting.

    I really don't know though of how to get those recommendations into a game shop. How do I know if that copy of mice and mystics in front of me is a good thing or not? The punters and staff can offer their opinion, normally from what they have heard. but beyond that?

  7. Well, that's sales. It's our responsibility to try to match that game with your interests. We're usually helpful, but not always. It depends.