On Business: Culling Your Herd

By | Monday, July 06, 2015 1 comment
Last week, I visited a comic shop that I don't normally go to. It's just out of the way enough that it's a tad inconvenient for me, but I happened to be out that direction anyway. It's a decent shop, though; I've visited it more than a few times before.

This day happened to be a Wednesday, new comics day. It was the busiest I've seen this particular shop outside of Free Comic Book Day. The other customers were all regulars, judging by the casualness of the ongoing discussion. Which was impossible not to hear.

I was in the shop for maybe 20 minutes. I came in, looked through the new releases, checked my phone for a list of anything I was looking for, rifled through the back issue bins a bit, browsed the trade paperback and hardcover bookshelves, picked up some bags and boards, and headed up to the counter to check out. The conversation was going on in the background the whole time.

Well, I say "background" but it was really much more than that. The volume these people were talking -- one guy in particular -- struck me as obnoxiously loud. It was the kind of volume you would have to use if you were at a party trying to talk over the music. Except there wasn't any music. Captain America: Winter Soldier was playing on a TV near the register. It wasn't muted, but the volume was so low that I could barely hear the dialogue from the movie even when I was standing right under the TV.

The actual conversation itself wasn't especially offensive. There was one joke made about 9/11, but when no one laughed the person asked if it was still too soon these twelve years later. Which everyone else siezed upon to mock him for his lack of basic math skills, and then went on to explain that it wasn't funny in exactly the same way that jokes about the Holocaust aren't funny. But there was nothing I heard that might be construed as sexist or racist or homophobic or anything. Even so, I was still pretty uncomfortable.

There was nothing expressly said that really bothered me. (The 9/11 joke was a little off-putting and struck me as in poor taste, but it was pretty quickly corrected by others.) But the general boorishness of the customers still felt kind of oppressive. Not in a "I don't feel like I'm part of this club" kind of way, but in "Wow, this one guy's presence is so loud and overbearing that I just don't want to be here" way. He wasn't doing anything wrong per se, just going out of his way to make himself the center of attention.

So what I'm wondering is: how much responsibility does the manager/owner have here for one of the customers being disruptively loud? I mean, ultimately, it's the owner's store and he (in this case, it's a "he") is the going to set the tone for the store. But he doesn't have direct control over every single customer who might walk in. I mean, if he wants things loud, that's certainly his perogative and he could simply crank up the volume of whatever music he wants to pipe in there like you might do at an Applebee's or Chile's. At the same time, if you'd prefer things at a more typical volume, what're the pros/cons of trying to curb a regular customer who is (at least, it seemed to me) naturally and obnoxiously loud? You don't want him to alienate other cusomters, but you probably don't want to alienate him either. Particularly since some people (the other customers I observed at the shop) didn't seem to mind and, in fact, tended to match his volume themselves.

I don't know. As I said, it's not a shop I hit super-regularly and I've never had expressly bad experiences there, but I'm a little more inclined to give it a pass the next time I'm in the area.
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Tim said...

This is precisely the reason I try to avoid any comic shop on a Wednesday...especially if a movie I want to see has come out but I haven't had a chance to see yet...you will ALWAYS find some idiot yelling out spoilers. I have had a love/hate relationship with fans and fandom my whole life...there are so many annoying, immature, loud, smelly people in our hobby that it's really difficult to find any "friends".