Being the boss of your own place has a lot of elements that we’ve talked about throughout the series. One of the things that got a lot of commentary was how burnout can happen, which led to a challenge on helping keep a store open. The question was how to be a good customer; but it could be asked a different way.
How do we light the fires of store owners’ interest, passion and ability?
The best way for customers to fuel the flames, helping boost confidence, interest and talent is to remember that the owners of their local nerd store are people. They are people with passions, feelings and needs. Some of the things you can do to help bolster your FLGS owner into awesomeness are as follows:
Say hello (or other greeting) before anything else. If the shopkeep is coming in the door with an armful of soda, paper towels or other goods; it’s certainly acceptable to ask “Can I help you with that?”. But as a rule, make sure you’re addressing them as people before you talk about the new codex, the best glue on the market or other shop talk. It’s considerate, shows that you recognize them as people, and it’s polite.
Be who you want to see. This is an incredibly complex idea to try to get through, but I’m going to try. I am polite, kind and giving because I want to surround myself with polite, kind and giving people. I’m positive and generous, and I want to grow the gaming community. I want the community to be positive and generous and thrive. If you want to see people that act in ways you like, you have to emulate it. Yes, this is all very zen; but it’s the only way I can describe this thought process without being negative. I’m trying to describe actions you can take rather than forbid them, and empower you to take on the shaping of your local community.
Dinner. Most owners are eating on the fly, trying to scarf down a few bites of pizza, oriental or subs in between customers. If you see that your local Weird Pete is trying to grab a bite, let him finish his meal. If you have a good relationship with the guy, asking him if he wants something when you’re ordering is a very nice touch. You don’t even have to pay! Just asking “hey, I’m about to order from PIZZA PALACE, do you want me to add something for you onto the tab?” can be a lifesaver. It’s far too common for there not to be time to even look at a menu, much less place an order. Having a customer do something to help make that easier is a nicety that many people don’t understand. If you can, calling before you show up, asking if you can grab them a sandwich or whatever on the way in is a kindness that won’t be forgotten. Again, I’m not suggesting that you pay their way; just make the delivery of the food easier. (I’ll gladly pay you back if you grab me dinner, you just made my day!) Again, be considerate of the person behind the counter, and all is good.
“The store looks great today.”
“That game you suggested was awesome.”
“Hey [friend], pick up your trash, please. The owner works hard to keep this place nice.”
The list could go on – you don’t have to do anything that costs money to let the owner of your lovely store know that you value them, their time and their work. All it takes are little gestures like
these to make the work a lot nicer.
(We have been given paintings, beer steins, mirrors, handmade caramels, awards and more as thank you gifts from our patrons. They have waned a bit lately, and that might tell us something, but it’s nice to be appreciated.)
Help out. Another free way to help your store- give a bit of your time. Help move things, put things away, tote goods, pick stuff up or otherwise assist in any way that might be minor but useful. “Like” and promote your store on Facebook. “Like” their events. SHARE their pages. Invite your friends to the store! If you’re so inclined and your owner agrees, sort MtG cards. S/he is probably swimming in them and the work can help in a legitimate way. It will probably take some talking to find what they are comfortable with you doing, but the effort is usually well received.
The assistance isn’t just free labor- it’s a physical way for them to see how much you are invested in your store and community. It’s like a little booster shot of energy when the going is getting rough. Owners drink it in and store it up like camels for later, to use when they may need it most.
Buy stuff. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. You don’t have to buy something every time you’re there. But using your dollars as a venue of appreciation is a verified and genuine way to let your owner know you care about their business. Your dollars (or pounds) matter, and they show that you care about the store just as kindness and consideration do.
I know some of you are on budgets and I am COOL WITH THAT. If you’re on a budget, I feel you- I’m a pretty broke lady right now. If you’re an RPG dude that has already bought his books and dice, please consider setting aside the money for a soda so you can buy it during your next trip to the shop. If you play MtG, maybe a booster every other week (or even month). For 40K dudes, a bottle of paint or glue can go a long way to be remembered as a “customer” vs someone who hasn’t bought anything in a very long time. It doesn’t take much ($5 every now and then, folks) to help keep the store afloat. I can’t stress this enough- you DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY FOR IT TO MATTER.
Yes, there are other customers that will “make up the difference”, and owners know it. But owners remember the people that haven’t bought a thing in years- and they are a whole lot less likely to do anything “extra” for those people.
[There is an important caveat here: If you can’t spend money often, but you help out, are kind and considerate, and you have kicked or ordered dinner, you are probably cool. This is true for any of these ideas- if you’ve covered all but one of these bases and you’re a regular part of the community, you are usually ok. It’s the whole rather than each part that generally matters.]
These are just some of the things you can do. I’d love to hear your suggestions- I might see how they work around here.