Visitors and Fish

June 10th, 2009 by | Tags: ,

Chances are many of the readers here have worked a retail job at least once.

Of course, every job has its little annoyances but one of the perils of retail work, especially retail work in a field that certain groups of people are enthusiasts of, is having to spend long periods of time in conversation with people who take an interest in the things you’re selling.  Sometimes this interest is mild and tempered by a person’s natural social skills.  Sometimes it is passionate, and is not tempered by so much as a wrist watch that will allow people to see when closing time is.

All this discussion of mutual interests, theirs social and yours professional, will lead a lot of people to conclude that you are enjoying their company, or even that you are their friend.  Often the actual case is that you will get fired if you tell them to leave.

Having mostly had retail jobs in fields of heart-stopping dullness, I didn’t often have to put up with that kind of thing.  When I did, the relationship could range from mildly interesting to excruciating.  I vowed that I would never do that kind of thing to a helpless emloyee.

Guess how much time I spent at my local comic book store today!  Guess how much time I spent yesterday.

Some of you out there must have had jobs in comics in the past, and most of those jobs must have included dealing with people like, well, me.  Did it make you nuts?  Were you interested?  Pet peeves?

Those of you who haven’t been behind a counter; feel free to confess your sins, share your insecurities, or just talk below.  After all, if I get sick of you, I can just close the window.

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4 comments to “Visitors and Fish”

  1. My last year in college I worked for a shop in LA, and we didn’t really have too much of that. I think it’s safe to assume anyone working in a comic shop loves comics and enjoys talking about them (unlike employees behind perfume counters or at tire stores), but the thing is, do they want to talk about YOUR comics? If you’re a Fantagraphics and/or Vertigo guy, you’ll love chatting for forty minutes about 100 Bullets or Love & Rockets, but two minutes on “Battle for the Cowl” might drive you homicidal. Or if you’re the type who can go for hours over whether Marvel or DC is better, some erudite putz who wants to talk about the latest Oni Press quirky romance is gonna bore you stiff.

    The other factor, of course, is how busy the shop is. I hated people who couldn’t recognize that, even if I’ve enjoyed talking to them in the past, there are times when it’s not possible to dissect the Rainbow Lanterns or whatever.

    In all cases, I think for the customer the trick is to be very alert to the signs that the employee either needs to be working at the moment, or is bored stiff but too polite/professional to blow you off.

  2. I’ve managed to avoid any work in retail, which is probably a good thing, as I’m not sure I have the patience for it.

    I don’t get to visit my comic shop much these days (I live a couple hours away, so my comics are mailed to me), but back in the day, I used to love going there just to shoot the breeze. So I’d come in on Wed., buy my comics, maybe chat with the owner or the other regulars for a couple hours, then come back on Friday to talk with the owner for 3-4 hours. This might be odd, but we hardly ever discussed comics. I might ask what he thought of Civil War, or how 52 was selling, but mostly, we talked baseball, movies, or pro wrestling. The key was that I knew if a customer came in, or Ken got a call on the phone, the conversation would have to be tabled until that business was concluded*, and the other regulars understood that as well, so it didn’t seem to be a big problem.

    * This was really important because Ken ran his shop on his own, no regular employees, so he was it as far as customer service went. Good thing he was so cheerful.

  3. Never worked in the comics biz, but I did do some retail at a convenience store. We had this one old guy who would come in and talk your ear off. Problem was that he mumbled so if you got every fifth word it was a miracle. I was a kid and too polite anyway to tell him to buzz off, so I just watched him for cues as to when to smile and when to nod my head earnestly, and eventually he’d go away.

    BTW, there are some people who work jobs where they actively crave some conversation. I called one of our local disk jockeys one night some years ago to request a song and the guy chewed my ear off. I only got off the line when he finally played my song.

  4. I worked a couple of retail-type jobs for a few years, in addition to doing the fast food thing after high school. I think that everyone should have to put in at least a year in the mines, if only to learn a few valuable life lessons.

    Retail taught me how to deal with all kinds of people. People who need best friends, frustrating people, stick around too long and annoy you people, disrespectful people, and smelly people. It also taught me to appreciate a good conversation. At GameStop, we had a couple of regulars who were always entertaining and would sometimes stick around after purchasing just to shoot the breeze. Those were some of the best times.

    It also taught me how to behave in a retail place. Even if I have friends there, I try to be polite and do the brief hit and run thing if they look busy. Be out of the way, but be there to chill, if that makes sense.

    Retail is also great for increasing your game, honing your sense of humor, and learning how to insult someone like a pro.