How To Combat Comic Store Rudeness

How To Combat Comic Store Rudeness

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Comic Store Rudness Noelle Stevenson

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.

Comic Book Guy. Comic Store Rudeness.
Sadly, people like Comic Book Guy exist.

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?

Elitist Gate-keeping

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.

Comic Store Rudness Noelle Stevenson

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.

Comic Book Guy. Comic Book Rudeness

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.

Comixology Logo. Digital Comics is a place you can go if you experience comic store rudeness.

Buy Digitally

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.

Buy Online

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.

Don’t forget there are also alternatives like Amazon and eBay as well.

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?


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Comments (5)

  • So, I’m 27 and new to comics (I already feel too old, but comic book culture just didn’t exist when I was a teenager, especially in rural England). I’m not into superheroes (sure, I enjoy *some* of the films, but not enough to care much more beyond the contents of the films, and I definitely have superhero fatigue) and I’m not a stereotypical nerd (make of that what you like – I’m just me). My hometown has a comic book store that I’ve never been in. I pass it regularly and it’s always empty. It’s been there for years, so clearly it’s making money from somewhere, but I’ve never had the confidence to walk in.

    It’s strange that I found myself googling ‘how to get into comics’ and stumble across this website. I’ve never googled anything like that before. I read conventional literature too. I’ve never had to google ‘how to read Charles Dickens’. I’ve never been steadfastly worried about walking into a shop before. I’m sure the owners are just fine, but there’s something about the whole thing that makes it inherently intimidating. I mean to go in every time I walk past, but never do.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for this article and the website. Next time I’m in town I’ll be sure to walk in and have a chat with the owners to get some recommendations on what I should read.

  • I recall a few years back when I was initially getting into comics with DC’s run of New 52 (yeah I know a lot don’t like it, but for me it was a great entry point). I had setup a standing order with my local comic book store. It seems the manager was always present on new release Wednesday’s and was almost always the one to serve me. He would always give looks that implied he didn’t want me in his store, but I tolerated those. Then one day while looking on the net for new DC 52 releases for the upcoming month, I noticed on the official DC Comics website and blog, they would be releasing ‘annual editions’ of all the New 52 titles. Now those in the know realise these *weren’t* the mass marketed hardback books marketed to mainstream 7yr olds. The type akin to heavily dumbed down, kidified comic versions, of the tv shows.

    I went into the store and asked the manager if he knew anything more about when they’d be released and if he would be getting them in. He then said he knew nothing about them and suggested I try WH Smiths (a mass market books and magazine retailer) or somewhere like Toys R Us… At the very moment he made this comment, I knew exactly what kind of comics consumer he thought I was… Some kind of 33yr old with mental age of 7, reading the comics purely because of the character and not being able to comprehend the deeper literary plots going on within.

    On a slightly more positive note, all of the staff that worked for him, were more knowledgable and way more respectful towards me. If I picked up a title that wasn’t necessarily popular for them, they’d first engage in a discussion about it and how other people felt about it. Then they would suggest reasons based on their memory of my previous purchases, of why I might still enjoy it despite their and others opinions of the series. NEVER did they make derogatory statements based on the fact I enjoyed a hated series.

    As such, I stopped visiting on new release Wednesday to avoid the manager as best I could. Although this didn’t really work out and eventually I stopped my standing order with the store, in protest and have since begun buying digital editions instead.

    • Hi Darren,

      It’s a shame that one person can ruin the entire experience. Luckily the others who worked there were pretty good and that you were able to enjoy the books you like digitally. Hopefully you can find a new store who who doesn’t have an owner like the one described in your area.

      To me it seems strange that he would act that way as the early days of the New 52 was bringing in lots of money and new customers for stores. While you don’t have to agree with what DC did you think he would have put his best retailer service in to keep as much of that extra money coming in.

  • i always thought comic book collecting/reading is a very subversive environment that’s allows the reader to be in there own world alone. But when there are rude and arrogant people like this in comic book shops or conventions its really a killjoy. So my best advice for anyone whose subjected to this form of oppression would be to hold you’re head up high continue what your collecting or reading and tell the to F~~K OF!

  • Also, you can always tell him that he’s being a dick. You don’t have to be super in his face about it. just let him know that the way his acting is going to drive off customers. Just because someone is an ass doesn’t mean they need to get fired over it and it sure as hell doesn’t meen that the owner should lose money. comics shops are hard to come by. I don’t want to see them get any harder.

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