The following is an excerpt of a comic strip that has been making the rounds on Tumblr by Noelle Stevenson. The strip accounts her bad experiences with comic book retail, especially being a female visiting one particular store. Sadly, her experiences are not an isolated case. While the vast majority of comic store staff are friendly and helpful, there is still a loud minority that have attitudes like the ones presented in Noelle’s strip. For new readers these attitudes can be alienating and could even turn them off the medium. This is a shame as your local comic book store should be a home base for everyone’s comic book passion where you can talk to like minded people and feel included in a community.
In this article I will identify the different kinds of comic store rudeness there are as well as what can be done if you experience such attitudes.
The Different Kind of Comic Store Rudeness
Before I go into to detail I should stress that this occurs at a small percentage of stores. Most comic retailers are friendly and love to see new customers as it helps their business, and the industry, stay grow. I should also note that there is a difference between comic store rudeness and grumpiness you might receive in retail when someone has had a bad day.
So what kinds of comic store rudeness are there?
This is an exclusionary rudeness, generally pointed towards those new to comics or who may not be as knowledgeable about certain comic companies/properties. They will usually use their vast comic knowledge in a way that makes themselves feel more important, when it should really be used to help you find great comics. This importance then generates a gate-keeping mentality which gives them the illusion that they are part of an exclusive club that no one else is allowed to join. A fictional example of someone who display’s this behaviour is Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. While you might think that someone like him could not be possible, Matt Groening actually based the character off experiences he had with comic book retailers.
This gate-keeping is present in large quantities in on the internet in many forms of nerd culture, but in a retail experience it can be very alienating and is not on.
Assumptions Based On Gender
This is when the comic store staff make assumptions of your comic book taste purely on your gender. While there are comics marketed towards certain genders, a retailer should never make assumptions of a customers taste purely on that. Many comics are written with the intention of both genders so it is rude to assume that one gender will read only read certain stories.
It is also the way that these attitudes are presented that make these assumptions quite rude. A prime example of this is the image at the top of this article. Not only is it rude it also shows that the retailer doesn’t want to get to know the customer, who could potentially be spending money in their store on a weekly or monthly basis.
These kinds of assumptions are generally aimed towards female readers. Which is a shame as the the female demographic is one of the largest growing market in the comic book industry. Assuming that they only want to read My Little Pony or romance comics would be a big mistake. Each person’s taste is different and the only way they will know what comics they like is if they talk with the customer.
On occasion men will also have this kind of comic store rudeness directed at them, although in a different manner. Some male customers are made to feel ashamed or overly awkward about their purchases that may be marketed towards a female audience or even comics starring a female lead. Again, this is not on as a man should be able to feel comfortable reading these kinds of comics if they want to.
Extreme Disinterest to Help a Customer
This comes in the form of your traditional bad service such as ignoring customers and not wanting to help customers when they need it. Sometimes they will see you waiting at the counter and they will take their time before serving you. Other times a customer will receive a poor attitude when they ask staff for help. And in worst cases they will ignore you altogether.
In most retail sectors if staff did this they would be fired, although in comics retail this can happen more than it should.
Rudeness Based On Your Purchases
This is when a staff member looks down on a customer based on their purchases. Often this will happen when a customer is purchasing a comic that the staff member personally doesn’t like. Based on this they will assume that you have poor taste in comics and treat you differently, in a manner of ways that have been described in this article.
As a customer you should be able to purchase any comic you want without being looked down upon. While the staff may not like the particular comics a customer is purchasing they shouldn’t treat you any differently. Just like music, not everyone is going to like the same thing.
So What Can be Done to Combat Comic Store Rudeness?
Here are a variety of tips that can help you if you experience comic store rudeness. Keep in mind that certain tips will work better in certain circumstances. It is best to choose one based on the context of your situation.
Ask to see the Manager
If you are experiencing rudeness from a staff member I would advise that you talk to the store manager and/or owner and complain. They may not be aware that their staff member is acting the way and it may solve the problem.
Even threatening to complain to the manager could help. It might make them worry about their job safety and improve their general attitude.
Find a New Store
If you are the subject of comic store rudeness that store doesn’t deserve your money. I’d suggest never going back to that store and finding a new one that is more accommodating to everyone. Going to a store that is much friendlier and helpful is a much better option and they are much more deserving of your money. If you need help finding a new store the Comic Store Locator is a great tool.
If you haven’t got the option of another comic book store to go to digital comics might be an suitable option for you. Most comics are available the same day as print and you have the convenience of purchasing them from your preferred reading device.
Also, many of the elitist gate-keep stores hate digital comics as they believe that it is destroying their business – even if there is no evidence to prove that.
Another option if you do not have another comic book store near you is to buy your comics online. There are plenty of great online comic stores like Things From Another World and Midtown Comics just to name a few.
Share Your Experiences
If you are a victim of comic store rudeness, you should share your experiences. This may stop someone from going through what you have been through.
A great blog to get in contact with is Hater Free Wednesdays, who act as a good platform to shame comic store rudeness and spotlight stores that you should shop at. If your experience is quite severe it might be worth getting in contact Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool. While he may not liked by some, he is still quite influential and it is a quick way to get your story to a large amount of people. Although, I would only recommend this if your rudeness was quite severe.
Also if you find a great new store, you should share that too as I am sure they are worth the plug.
If you have been a victim of comic store rudeness I recommend you try one of the solutions listed above. Don’t let a few bad experiences turn you away from the medium. There are so many great stores out there, who are welcoming to all, friendly, respectful and more deserving of your money. These are the stores that are worth supporting as they are the ones who are expanding the comic industry one new reader at a time.
Have Your Say
Have you experienced comic store rudeness? Let us know in the comments below. Also, what stores do you believe go well beyond what they need to for a great customer experience?
Trevor Van As
Trevor Van As is the founder of How to Love Comics and has loved comics all his life. When he's not reading or talking about comics he can be found eating frozen yogurt and dancing like no one is watching.