An oft quoted statement amongst gamers is “pay where you play.” It is meant to concisely remind gamers of how important it is to financially support your friendly local game store (FLGS). Proponents declare this to their fellow gamers by implying that the little mom and pop game shop will go the way of Main Street America when Walmart sets up shops next door if gamers continue to make gaming purchases online.
This is blatantly untrue. Gamers have been paying and playing at local game stores while also paying (and playing) elsewhere and they have been doing this for ages. Before the widespread adoption of e-commerce, gamers gladly used mail order to purchase mountains of lead figurines.
Although the internet does provide some cost benefits to companies that use it to do their business, gamers may forget that successful online vendors must carry a substantial stock of products to meet demand. It is costly, very costly, to purchase and house those items and then to hire the help to manually fill the orders. This is necessary because if Vendor A doesn’t do this then the customer will go to Vendor B who does have the items in stock, the staff to fill the orders and provide customer service.
Proponents of “pay where you play” treat the issue as one with inherent exclusivity. They imply, although some blatantly state, that gamers pay online or in their FLGS. Yet again this is untrue. Most gamers that I know who make purchases online also make purchases at their FLGS. Sometimes they spend money at one and sometimes at the other. I know a handful of individuals who buy boxes of CCGs online and then spend a pretty penny in store on singles. One gamer, in particular, price checks online and if the item is within a certain range of the FLGS’s price then they make the purchase at the store.
There are many reasons why gamers may purchase online. The number one, I hypothesize, is price. But, that is not the end all and be all of reasons. Value, Accessibility, and Customer Service are all influencing factors. Where does the gamer receive better customer service? Who treats them better? What place tends to have the item(s) they want? Who is most willing to special order the items and actually obtains the item(s)? How easy is it to get to the FLGS? Is the online vendor’s store offline more than it is on? Where does the gamer feel they receive a better value for their money?
This issue is similar to one at my day job. My work entails the borrowing and lending of materials amongst libraries. If every single library only borrowed and never lent anything then the system would break. That may seem worrisome but it needn’t be. There is an equitable distribution of lending and borrowing. Some places may borrow more and lend less while others lend more and borrow less.
Gamers pay online and at brick and mortar game stores. If every single gamer, everywhere, only spent their money online then brick and mortar game stores would go the way of the dodo. Is this a likely or even remotely probable situation? Certainly not! Some game stores may suffer but the good ones will succeed. Those with good locations, owners who have a solid business sense, well stocked shelves full of desirable merchandise, and treat the customer as king will, and do, thrive.
If you’d like to read a view opposite mine then I recommend checking out The Gate Stormers “Why To ‘Pay Where You Play'” written by my friend Drew. He is firmly entrenched in the “pay where you play” camp.
For those who are curious about my spending habits I’ll tell you this. I’ve spent over 4,000 dollars at Battleground Games & Hobbies over the years. I’ve spent several thousand dollars at the now defunct Danger Planet Games. The Whiz in Northborough has received hundreds and hundreds of my hard earned dollars. I’ve made purchases online. I support my FLGS (and other game stores) with my money, my time, this blog, and the podcast. I will continue to shop at brick and mortar game stores but I won’t give up shopping online either.
I know this is a volatile topic for the community. I look forward to receiving your civilized and mature feedback/comments.