There's an acronym I sometimes see thrown around various bits of the internet, and it's FLGS. It stands for Friendly Local Game Store (or some minor variation thereof).
I'm going to take a minute to get on my soapbox about my local game store, and how the friendliness has been sucked out of it by the looming spectre of sales people.
This probably isn't going to be unfamiliar to anyone that's been in a Games Workshop in the last decade, since they've gained somewhat of a reputation for pushy sales people. I'm not talking about them; the last thing I'll invite on myself at this point in my life is being cornered by an overenthusiastic redshirt demanding to know what army I collect. Instead, this is a local, independent stockist of board, card and roleplaying games, which until quite recently held a fair chunk of my esteem.
This unnamed shop (I don't want to harm their sales, as if I actually wielded that ability) is the result of the closure of another that once stood close by a few years ago. The old shop was everything the new one isn't — it was poorly lit, stock was piled on shelves to alarming capacity, you had to hunt for what you wanted, staff would ignore you as you entered (or at best grunted their acknowledgement of you). Doesn't sound very inviting, and I'm sure it wasn't. The shop that has sprung up to replace it is bright, stock is clearly visible, and you are always greeted upon entry. So why do I long for the former establishment?
It's down to the way the staff view their customers. Upon entering yesterday with two friends, the person on duty started inquiring after why we were there, and if there was anything we were looking for. Perhaps this is good practice. In this instance it felt like I had to justify my presence. After we gingerly explained that we just wanted to look around, he insisted that he was there if we needed him. It was a positive relief when two more people entered the shop so he could speak to them instead of monitoring our activities.
This isn't the first time I've felt doubtful there. Before Christmas, my lady took me to the shop to see if there was anything I wanted for a present. At that time, we were surprised to find out that the most geeky items had been removed from the shelves to make way for the mainstream Christmas-crowd-friendly boxes that would sell better. I felt a bit abandoned. Moreso when the staff member there (a different one from above, whom I thought would have remembered us from previous visits) issued the same line of inquiry into our purchasing needs.
A quick trip a little while before that saw yet another member of staff (how many people do they have working there?!) trying to insist on us buying a game suitable for 6 players instead of a 6-player expansion to a game we already owned. In this case, the staff member may have had a point, but we had people visiting that all wanted to play that specific game, and the game without expansion was unable to cope with the numbers.
Anyway, back to yesterday. Feeling like the pressure was off when the staff member was focused on others, I took the opportunity to browse in relative peace. When I heard him pushing supplements on the two he was speaking to, I actually took a bit of interest... so, congratulations to him on that, at least. He was suggesting two mini-supplements, both quite cheap, and knowing I had a very limited amount of cash on me I was pleased to think I could afford one. Y'see, the aim of my visit was more speculative than anything — I suppose I was hoping something would catch my eye, and I could fantasize about purchasing it until I could afford it. At the culmination of my visit, I picked up the cheaper of the two supplements (for those interested, it's the Great River expansion for Settlers of Catan). No surprise, the staff member suggested I buy the other one as well. Sadly, it was only upon me insisting that I had insufficient physical funds to buy both that his enthusiasm waned.
I feel quite let down by the place. When they first opened, I undertook a quick round of texts to everyone I thought might be interested to promote the shop. I now feel significantly less inclined to even visit it myself, even though I usually love the charm of bricks-and-mortar hobby shops compared to the stark, efficient designs of websites. I'm very interested in promoting modern gaming, and I really wish I could feel confident that I could direct people to this shop and they'd have a positive experience. I feel almost bad for those non-gamers I've already sent there. Ultimately, I have no choice — there's no other game shop anywhere near as local.
Ah well, that's my rant. Any suggestions (even if it's just "suck it up and cope") gratefully welcomed in the comments.