Menachem Luchins‘ new MEANWHILE … AT THE COMICS SHOP column looks at the deceptively simple ingredient that too many stores lack.
By MENACHEM LUCHINS, owner, Escape Pod Comics, Huntington, L.I.
So, it looks like this dern column of mine has got an official name and everything now. I guess that means we should sort of figure out what the hell the point of the whole thing is. You know, its niche, it’s raison d’etre.
I’ve raged about selling practices, I’ve broken down variant ordering. Thinking about it, pretty much everything here has had something to do with the retailer perspective. I like to think, though, that I am providing information, not pontificating, as such.
In fact, in opening Escape Pod Comics, one of the points on my mission statement was transparency: making sure customers knew why things came as they did and cost what they did. It’s a major goal of mine to remove the gatekeeper mentality of comic-shop ownership. Running a store may give you the ability to push and stock the books you prefer (to a degree) but it doesn’t mean you are the be-all-and-end-all, the arbitrator of taste.
So maybe that’s a good core principle for this column: Transparency.
So what are the practices that I use to create transparency at my shop?
One of the things that always burned me up as a customer was when the people in the shop seemed to have no idea when a book was coming out, why it was delayed, or even what it was. I understand it’s impossible to be up to date on every book out on the shelf and to have a knowledge of every book that ever was — especially when the person trying to find it can only remember:, “It was like, he was the Hulk, but not the hulk, and it was all the time and he was gray and had long hair?”
But that’s why we have the Internet! I refuse to believe that the four seconds it takes to look on Diamond’s website for a shipping date could be utilized more usefully by store employees. I will always do my best to find the date/origin/changes/creative team on any book, time permitted.
Another important aspect of my shop’s transparency is explaining why we stock what we do. I think I’ve covered this topic more than once in my recent columns but I find that it’s still one of the most often-discussed things here.
Customers are always interested in the fact that I am down to order them anything we don’t stock and explain why we don’t stock it. We can only carry so much, so we do our best to be quick to get you anything we don’t have on the shelves. I think people appreciate knowing why a particular item or comic doesn’t fit into our plans, and that’s something that may not be too easy to translate into a column, but I think I can do it.
Lastly, one of the most important things about Escape Pod Comics is, to me, customer service. This starts from a very simple premise that comics are for everyone and that my shop should go out of its way to stock a wide enough array of books for everyone to find one. We then move forward to crazy ideas like “treating every customer with respect” and “not making assumptions about people’s interests based on gender” and all sorts of madness grows out of that!
This is an aspect of the shop that I feel I was doing a good job conveying with my Hot Picks. To bring that back, I am going to try to spotlight books here occasionally, when I’m not raging about something in the industry. And, when I am raging, I will do my best to see everything from every angle, not just my own privileged perspective.
So what can you look forward to from Meanwhile? Honestly, I don’t know. I know how I want to run my comic shop and the things in the industry that excite me and upset me. My plan is to do my darnedest to translate all those things into columns for your reading pleasure.
If people enjoy Meanwhile half as much as they (claim to) enjoy my store, I think we can count this whole thing a success.