I was recently at my Friendly Local Game Shop (FLGS) and another patron was complaining about what was literally the pettiest thing you could think of. As emotionally unhealthy people are wont to do, he was taking his frustrations out on the store employee who, to his credit, was remaining very patient and polite.
I mean, the Baloney-Meter was going off hard-core on this guy, which is not to be confused with Nerds on Earth’s Bologna-Meter, the former detects entitled phony-baloney nonsense, while the latter detects processed meats. Both are handy.
A board game was delayed, myyyyy gaaaaaawd, so thanks for NOTHING, Pope Gregory XIII. A delayed board game is an event that the patient game store employee obviously has zero control over, yet you should have heard the sighs and moans come off of Baloney Bro. It’s like someone put a Kroger Value-brand maraschino cherry in his expensive bourbon cocktail and he was having none of it.
He then started spouting a bunch of off-the-shelf anti-establishment jargon like “cash grab,” “and this place doesn’t care about its customers.” That’s right, a small business that sells dice and plastic elf miniatures is too corporate for Baloney Bro!
Listen, I don’t know the employees of your Friendly Local Game Shop (FLGS). But I like to think the best of people, so I’m assuming he or she is aligned at least chaotic neutral and likely falls in the good domain. And the employee who had to put up with the above-mentioned chucklehead? He’s a lawful good hero.
What is the Value of Your FLGS?
There are a lot of vectors in play here. In short, a local game shop is indeed very valuable and I hope us nerds see them as such. As GI Joe taught us, knowing these things is half the battle, so my hope for this is to educate us nerds by pulling off the bushel basket and shining a light on the good things that a FLGS provides to you, the gaming community, and to nerd culture.
But, being that it’s a complicated issue with a lot of moving levers, I’m going to first talk about the brand value of a FLGS, then in a separate article, I’ll talk specifically about the value of play space, because that’s a topic unto itself.
Cool? Let’s go!
A FLGS provides you value as a SHOWROOM
Don’t underestimate the value provided in having nerdy stuff on display. An FLGS allows us nerds to put our bologna hands on games. We can pick them up, flip the box around to read the back, feel the weight of it, and generally get a sense on if the game captures our attention.
If it’s a comic, we can flip through, noting the art and capture the big idea of the story. We can glance at what other titles are like it. What’s more, we have the opportunity to look at the product to the left and right, often discovering new nerdy things we hadn’t known about before.
A FLGS operates as a showroom and that has value. Alas, those shelves don’t dust themselves and games don’t magically fly themselves to the shelves. Electric bills and rent are due. Salaries need to be paid. These are the costs that a game shop incur in operating as a showroom of nerdy things.
Alas, some nerds will find something they like on the shelves, then immediately look it up online and purchase it there in order to get a $5 discount.
A FLGS provides you value by giving you a bridge loan
What else is a comic box pull box than a layaway plan? Your shop has paid for those titles that they collect for you in a little box in order to provide you the convenience of being able to come in later and pay for them.
This is not nothing. A game/comics shop us nerds to be able to say, “Hey, pay for this thing for me, will ya? Hold on to it for me and I’ll swing by when I feel like it to pick it up.”
Alas, it’s not uncommon for a nerd to skip out on a box of comics, never coming in to pick them up. That means the shop has paid for merchandise that they’ll never receive payment for.
A FLGS provides you value by being a curator
A FLGS staffed with knowledgeable staff provides you advice about what’s hot and new. Further, as you get to know one another, those recommendations become tailored to your interests. It’s like having a personal shopper and I’ve always wanted one of those.
When I visit my FLGS, I make a loop around the store, swinging first by the comics then working over to the kiosk of the new release board games. But I never get more than two or three steps before an employee greets me.
But it goes beyond that greeting. I’m able to interact with the employees, ask questions, share interests, then get recommendations based upon my interests. Sure, Amazon’s algorithm can replicate that for the most part but an FLGS does that plus all of the above and below to boot.
A FLGS provides you value via special orders
Let’s remember that hobby board game companies are shockingly small, many operating as a one-person shop on evenings and weekends as they also hold down a day job. Hobby companies simply don’t have the resources for mass-market distribution or marketing. They cater to our nerdy niche, and as niche businesses, it’s extremely valuable to have a middle-man help broker a sale.
Listen, I know the term “middle-man” is deemed a dirty word by guys like Baloney Bro, but my game shop has special ordered something for me dozens of times. I’m talking about odd, off-the-wall items where the shop had to call a half dozen distributors to track down the last copy.
I’m not saying there are no inefficiencies in the hoppy distribution chain: there are. I’m just saying that a FLGS provides real value in helping customers get to hard to find products, and for that, I’m thankful.
A FLGS provides you value as a personal assistant
I’m a busy guy with a lot of responsibilities, so I can’t run to the shop each Wednesday. So, my FLGS holds a few titles for me, plus as mentioned, they’ll special order an item for me.
With every item I get a call from Justin, one of the shop employees, and he reminds me what I have on hold. That’s not nothing. It’s a real value that shops offer for us nerds.
So, should you shop at a FLGS over Amazon? I’m not your dad. And it’s more complicated than that. Although online sales still only constitute 11% of all U.S. commerce, there is no question that retail has seen and will continue to see disruption.
This isn’t a post about what you should or shouldn’t do. Again, I just wanted to shine a little light on what might have been overlooked. It’s up to you to decide if it’s of value. All I can ask is that you don’t behave like Baloney Bro.