If you don’t have a lot of time, here are the bullet points I’m hoping to cover here:

  1. The FLGSs around here are wonderful, but do things that aggravate me.  Am I just being too bitchy?  Should I just feel lucky to have a FLGS?  Does your FLGS do little things to annoy you too, or is every FLGS outside of Houston as wonderful as the ones I read about online?
  2. If a game store doesn’t have something in stock, they inevitably offer to order it.  Why would a patron do that, and not just order it online?  I get the idea of supporting brick & mortar stores – and I do, more often than not – but then one runs the risk of the item being forgotten.  Why is it better for a gamer at that point to order from a store, and not the web?  What am I missing?
  3. In today’s day and age – do we really need game stores?  Or are they an anachronism?

I live in a suburb of Houston, and I’m fortunate enough to have two Friendly Local Gaming Stores close to me.  As in “roughly 10 minutes away, and on my way home from work” close.  I guess I should point out that Houston’s a spread-out monstrosity of a town.  No real city planning – things just sprang up where ever oil was found, and sprawl connected everything, so its too large for any effective public transportation.  You have to drive to get pretty much anywhere – our average commute is 30 minutes.  So I realize how fortunate I am to have two game stores next to me.  The next-closest one is about 45 minutes away.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not comfortable with either one of the stores close to me.

One store sells stuff over MSRP.  Not everything, mind you – and I understand the reasoning: it depends on which distributor they get stuff from.  But this angers me greatly – and I’ll admit, irrationally.  If I notice something’s over MSRP, I just shouldn’t buy it – and I haven’t when I catch it…  but the very idea just rubs me the wrong way, as though “hope the customers don’t notice” is part of the sales plan.  They’re a very well-stocked store, but I’m just not cool with the overcharging..  Even when factoring in gas to go to another store 45-minutes away, or shipping costs from ordering online, its cheaper to go local… yet, I’m bothered enough to not do that.  I think.  This is a new discovery for me.  We’ll see if I hold to this principle.

UPDATE on this… between the time I started this draft and the time I hit publish, one of the employees there expressed my concern to the owner.  I’ve been asked to come in and TELL THEM WHAT I’VE NOTICED THAT’S OVER MSRP.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  Why am I expected to keep up the charade that overcharging is an accident?  I’ve been sitting on this blog for about five days before hitting publish.  I’ve given it enough time, I’m not being rash.  That’s bullshit.

Okay, so go to the other store, right?  Well, I would – but they have very little on their shelves that I want to buy.  They’re nice guys, but they’re a hardcore war-minis and Magic: The Gathering Store.  When I’ve tried to plan or participate in RP gaming over there, its… not welcoming.   To their credit, there is a 2nd ed D&D game that’s going on there, and they did purchase the Free RPG Day package, but they don’t have the Pathfinder Core Rulebook on their shelves (and haven’t for many months) and to my knowledge, they’ve never had either of the Heroes of books necessary for D&D 4.5 – so running those games, only to get players interested in a product they can’t purchase at that store – seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?  Jason tried running the Dungeon Command event there, and they didn’t want him doing it that Saturday because they had wargaming “tournaments” on Saturdays.  PROTIP: If you do it every week, its not a tournament – its a Saturday.  I’ll let Jason talk about that if he wants.

Their board game supply is quite low, and even those are placed way-up high where they’re difficult to see.  Attempts to do board gaming there are met with mixed results.  In fact, they just published their monthly “tabletop” calendar, and nowhere on there is a single RPG or board game – its all magic and war-minis.  RPGs and board games aren’t even an afterthought.  To be fair, the guys have been nothing but nice to me, but as a RPG/board gamer, I don’t feel welcome there… and I’d really really like to.  I’d love to frequent the bigger, better-lit store that doesn’t try to nickle-and-dime its customers – but I keep looking, and there ain’t nothing there for me.  When I try to play stuff I want to play there, it feels forced.  I’ll admit that this is my perception, and to others that place feels like home – and I’m very happy for them.

Point being: there’s all kinds of little issues, from both stores.  I’m trying to keep the whining to a minimum (and failing, I realize).  I’m just wondering: how much of this is “familiarity breeds contempt”?  I was going to post this to reddit or /tg/, but I figured I’d ask anybody that happens by here instead:

“What does your FLGS do to irritate you?”

I’m not going to bother asking one of the questions up top – “Am I Being Too Whiny?” because I’m reading/editing as I’m going here and … just ugh.  This post belongs on a “Gamer Girls” blog (ducks).  But I have a point here.  This has been brewing for a while, and Jason heard me repeat this rant AGAIN after our game night tonight.  So fine, I’m posting it and getting it off my chest so I can instead bitch about D&D Next instead (btw, how pissed off do you suppose the developers of the Neverwinter video game are that they’re about to release a video game for an abandoned ruleset?).

Anyway, question 2: Both stores have dropped the ball on ordering stuff.  I’ll ask the owner of one store if they have something and he’ll tell me he can’t get it from his distributor.  So I get it elsewhere.  Then next time I’m in, he’s like “hey, I got that thing you ordered.” – as if I’ve done something wrong by going elsewhere when he told me he can’t get the item I’ve asked for.  This is a constant.  That, and I’ll tell him I need something by X date for a con or game day… he doesn’t get it in (or doesn’t get enough in), I get it elsewhere, then after I needed it I hear “hey, I got that thing you ordered.”  I’ve learned not to ask about products for that very reason – but sometimes I’ll forget that self-imposed rule.

And the other store… I wanted to get the Beginner Box when it came out.  This was well-communicated.  Release comes, and its not on the shelves.  Okay, wait a few days… still not on the shelves.  Fine, I’ll get it elsewhere.  Come to find out, they got it in – it was just in the storeroom and not on the shelves.  Wtf?

So okay – there’s apparently a risk to ordering stuff from a store – when you add another person into the equation, you run a risk of an issue… which I suppose is true of anything.  So why then order from a store, and not online?  I know, I know – support the local brick and mortar store – until you plan a game day based on a new product and its not in your hands.  What am I missing here?

…and I already know the answer to question #3 – Game stores are good.  I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while – I don’t want to upset/hurt either of the stores.  They’re good people.  I don’t believe “the customer is always right” – nor does anybody that’s ever worked in retail, ever.  Sometimes the customer is a whiny douche.  However, there’s a reason I pose the question in the first place:

I’m pretty happy with my playgroup.  Its grown – not from the game stores – but from  Meetup’s great, because players seek you out – instead of posting a flyer in a store and hoping for the best.  We play in our homes – ever try to play at a game store on a Friday night?  Isn’t it fun trying trying to hear the GM amongst the Friday Night Magic crowd?  We also have weekly board gaming at a local restaurant… because dinner and gaming is pretty sweet.

Doing a cursory analysis of my gaming habits – the game store itself isn’t a big part of that anymore.  If I were to switch my buying to online, it would be even less.  I would miss either of the local stores if they were to go away – just like I miss the record stores of not-that-long-ago-because-I-don’t-want-to-admit-I’m-that-old… but its not like I stopped listening to music.

I probably give too much of a shit about this.  A simpleton would look at this and say “well, if you don’t like it – just don’t go” but that overlooks wanting to build a strong gaming community – and by that, I mean “RP and board gaming community” – the magic and war-gaming communities are evidently just fine.  That, and I’m generally curious to what over people’s game store experiences are like worldwide.

Also: and this hasn’t been communicated very well up to this point – I have genuine love for both stores.  I want to find reasons to either A) spend more time at either place or B) not avoid either place.

So, let me hear it.  What’s your FLGS like?  If you don’t have a FLGS, what do you do?


About Matt Savage

Matt Savage once had a torrid affair with a gelatinous cube.
This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Game Stores, Magic: The Gathering, Matt Being a Douche, Minis & Wargames, Pathfinder. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Progress

  1. eudemonist says:

    Lawlzillating at the tags.

    I still buy books in stores, on the random occasion that I’m in one (no FLGS), because I’m an impulse buyer who pays cash for the vast majority of my daily transactions. If it ain’t in stock, though, I’m not ordering it. I, however, don’t check against MSRP, or look for deals online, or any of that. Basically, I’m a stupid shopper, which is, apparently, the target audience.

    As far as where to game, you already know. People’s homes are generally more conducive to roleplaying games than stores. D&D in the basement has been the trope since inception, no? Making funny voices at each other is often more comfortable with a like-minded group, and outside disruptions disturb both the storyteller and the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Homes aren’t the only option for RPGs, though; I really enjoyed running in the nook at the Starbucks in Kroger off Buffalo Speedway. Upstairs, kinda around the corner from most of the tables, couches and comfy chairs, with a low coffee table. Primo spot, for real.

    Wargaming fits better in a store environment–having two 4’x8′ tables is much harder to host at one’s home, and, really, you WANT to show off your bad-ass paint job to everybody in the room.
    An ideal setup RPG-wise for a game store is a broken-up layout or a couple of side rooms. Open walls, or even rows of merch, can also be used to break up the acoustic profile of a room, but work contrary to the rows of tables, large or small, that wargamers and Magic players utilize. Every square foot is a tradeoff.

    A lot of it comes down to marketing and advertising. Magic is a cash cow, I think, and the minis pull their weight in semi-precious metals as well. As much as it seems like books are retarded expensive, the amount of money that gets spent on that stuff dwarfs RPG sales by an order of magnitude, I’ll wager. As more people move away from dead-tree books, I imagine that gap will continue to grow.

  2. Matt Savage says:

    I don’t typically check MSRP either, but when there’s a price tag for $40 next to a printing on the box that says MSRP $34.99 – that’s noticeable.

    Homes are definitely the place to game – but if you’re isolated you’re not building up a playgroup. I’d really like to feel comfortable playing at one of the stores occasionally to have a visual presence to attract more players.

    I absolutely get why minis and Magic are attractive for the game stores. I just wish the one store would make a little room (they certainly have the table space) for RPGs and board games.

  3. Jason says:

    Hopefully, I’m not totally missing the point here with my comment. But there’s yet another dimension to supporting your FLGS- and that’s having a place to go hang out.
    Back in my youth, my family had a chain of department stores. One of those, late in the life of the family business, we turned one of those stores into a western wear store with an on premises beer license — so it was a store by day and beer joint by night. I was just 12 or so at the time but some of my fondest memories were spending time there watching the regulars come in, night after night, and having those social interactions that can only take place at that place “where everybody knows your name”. So- what it boils down to is, now that I’m in my early 40s, I’m longing for that place where I can go where people welcome me by name when I walk in. I’m looking for a place that is themed after my interests, where the topic of discussion is centered around my hobbies and where the other conversations that happen are also usually “other pastime”-centric. So I’m looking for a place where I can go talk about D&D, games, comics, cool sci-fi movies, crappy sci-fi movies… you get the idea.
    An FLGS fits that bill quite nicely. So what I’m looking for in my own “Cheers”. WIth two stores nearby, as you’ve described, there seems to naturally be an evolution of that analogy so one of the stores becomes my Cheers and the other becomes my “Gary’s Old Towne Tavern”. It’s funny how that works.
    To bring this back around to your post, yeah, price-screwery is wrong. Travelling lots of miles and spending gas to counter that, as you noted, is questionable yet understandable. (Do those two things even go together? Now my analogies start breaking down….) Buying online is the right thing to do if your motivation is just getting the right price. Buying from a competing or alternate store is certainly justifiable if your motivation is getting the right price. But if your motivation is to foster a community or to build a repoire with like people then that’s why there’s value in staying true to your store. So that’s why I continue to frequent my FLGS. I try and buy what I need from them. I try and stop in whenever I have a chance and just become a regular.
    Does that make sense?

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