Friday, July 31, 2009

The Seventh Sense.

I see dead.....malls.

Linda was commenting how people say the economy is getting better because "a friend of ours is building a house."

I answered, I don't see it getting better in Bend because:

I see only 12 building permits last month.

I see local banks struggling to survive.

I see commercial loans starting to struggle.

I see an astronomical unemployment rate.

I see house prices still falling, and foreclosures increasing, and short sales unculminated.

I see credit card risk everywhere I look.

I see businesses still going out of business.

I see....

"You see dead people?" she interjected.


I've become hopelessly cynical. This government rebate program for clunkers.

You don't think the car dealers are gaming this? Do you really believe you're getting that much better deal? How do you know they didn't just raise the interest point half a point, or raise the car price a few thousand dollars, or wouldn't have been inclined to sell you the car at about the same price even without the program?

End result? Money out of the government coffers.

I suppose, maybe better cars on the road. Though I suspect most of those clunkers weren't being driven all that much.

Do Me a Favor.

I ask them for a favor,
"Help me carry the table outside,
don't do it if it hurts."
"Sure," they all say.
Delighted, for the good work.

A cheap good deed.

Makes me wonder.

Would I make the world,
a better place,
by asking for help more often?

Do me a favor,
spend a buck or two.
buy a comic and a card,
a book a game a toy.

Or tell me how great my store is,
which with fifty cents won't buy me coffee,
but it will do.

I need a letter to the post office,
think you can do that for me? disappointing, you failed me...
No I joke, you're off the hook.
(No good deed today for you.)

I trust you with this money,
take it to the bank,
they'll give you back the bag,
and a receipt.

It's not enough to get to Mexico,
at least not to stay long,
so put in the bank please,
I'll be forever in your debt.

Go on home,
Your good deed is done.
A glow of self-worth,
cheaply but elegantly won.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dive on in, the water's warm!

You don't live near the Deschutes River for long before you become leery of that come-on.

To me, all this talk of recovery and green shoots is just fine. But I'll watch everyone else dive in, and I'll watch comfortably from the shore.

I see no sign of recovering in my store. I'm exactly the same pace down (about 20%) that I have been over the last year or so. I am getting large numbers of people in the door, but very few buyers. I can't be totally sure it's not my store, but since my inventory is --if anything -- better than it was a couple of years ago, that seems unlikely.

Plus I hear verbal evidence that people are being frugal. Putting stuff back after they are quoted a price.

Because of the seasonality of the Bend economy, even if there is some kind of recovery, we wouldn't be seeing most of it until next summer. Maybe an uptick at Christmas, but I doubt it.

Meanwhile, we have the off season.

Something that no one is talking about, but which seems super important to me.

I started seeing the steepest declines in September of last year, about the time of Lehman Brothers going under. Up until now, the declines in sales have been compared to a slow 2008. Starting in September, we'll be comparing to a cliff-diving September of last year.

Another drop from there really would be significant.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poverty with a View.

The Cascade Mountains in the distance,
God's horizon,
Nature's art.

My future,
My past.

It bears down on my shoulders,
my head dreams of the clouded peaks,
My body is frozen in dirt.

The horizon to which I strive,
the heavy weight holds me back.

I was at writer's group last night, and someone read a poem, and I mentioned maybe I'd give it a try.

They all seemed surprised.

But I wrote lots of love poetry when I met Linda, and had been dabbling in it before. Not that I know what I'm doing.

But as I said, I love word play and what is poetry but word play?

Anyway, I took their surprise as a challenge. I'm going to try to write a poem a day, ain't saying they will be any good. I'll probably transfer them over to my writing blog after a week or so, but I'll start here.

I'd already written the beginnings of the last two poems by the time all the writers had left the Bookmark. So there.

Pikachu and speedoes

I have a friend who's sister happened to be in San Diego at the same time as the comic-con. They have a friend who is a singer in a lounge bar down there.

"Everyone says he sounds like Frank Sinatra," she said. "He hates it when people compare him to Sinatra..."

"What he should say is, 'No, you dolt! I sound like Perry Como!'"

Anyway, she was in the bar listening to her friend when this 'old' guy started hitting on her. "He must've been in his seventies!!"

He introduced himself, but she had never heard of him.

Turns out, this was an actor who once had a MAJOR role in a MAJOR movie -- and I do mean MAJOR! -- but who hadn't done much since.

"Women never used to pay much attention to me," he said, "before I was MAJOR CHARACTER."

Anyway, she successfully fended him off. He was back the next night, but his heart apparently wasn't in it. He was hungover, and wanted to go home.

"In fact," he said. "Why don't you take my San Diego Con badge?" With the MAJOR CHARACTERS Name on it....

"Did she?"

"She took the badge, but when she drove up to the convention, she spotted a guy wearing a Pikachu mask and nothing else but speedoes.... so she kept driving."

(Because of the wonders of Google, I don't want to embarrass the guy, so let's just say he one among a NUMBER of actor's who have had this MAJOR ROLE. Just wink if you know who I'm speaking of, please....)

It's about trust...

An economic recovery depends on trust, I believe.

I don't trust that Congress can come up with a reasonable health plan, that will meet my needs.

My credit card rate is 9.9%, which is about the rate I borrowed money from the banks in the 1980's. But I don't trust them not to jack up the rate on any pretense, so I won't be borrowing.

I could afford a part-time employees, but the economy still seems shaky to me. I need good solid confirmation.

I won't expand or add product lines or open more locations or anything of the sort.

I'd like to make another IRA contribution, but I'm not sure that holding onto cash isn't safer.

Overall, I don't think the banks and mortgages and financial institutions learned a damn thing, except the survivors who think they can get away with it. The bonuses and the outrageous profits are offensive to me. I don't trust the economic institutions of this country not to screw me. So I'll hold onto cash, preserve my business, and work all the hours myself.

Drunk on words.

A first draft,
a top hat and a smile,
speedoes and a mask.

A cursory glance,
drive-by writing,
oozing words.

Streaking wordplay,
on green grass,
hopped on mead.

Second draft,
a hangover and a groan,
great words made good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A world of graphics....

So the Rocket Bomber guy picked up on my commentary about his proposed store.

I think I disqualified myself by admitting I had once sold pogs and beanie babies.

I still think he'd be better off with at least one other profit center. I'd recommend new books.

There are all kinds of books that fit into a store like mine. For instance, I sell The Zombie Survival Guide, and World War Z, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and 'Ask a Ninja': The Ninja Handbook ("this books looks forward to killing you soon"), and The Truth About Chuck Norris. In Me Own Words, Bigfoot. And on and on.

These are obvious, but there are always popular culture books coming along to add.

But I also sell the hell out of the Chuck Palahniuk books, and the Kurt Vonnegut books, and the Tom Robbins books. Edward Abbey, Jack Kerouac, every Philip K. Dick book. Carry the full line, because nobody else does. The beat writers, Burroughs and every Bukowski book you can get. Carry the beat and hippie poets, while you are at it.

I carry lots of cartoon books, as well. Peanuts and Garfield and Get Fuzzy and Zits and Foxtrot and Mutts and Far Side and, of course, Calvin and Hobbes. Again, carry a full selection, because even the big stores don't try to carry them all.

You can start to blend in the online strips as well as the classic reprints.

I've brought in great New Yorker type cartoonists; Gahan Wilson and Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey and Charles Addams.

Be selective in what authors and subjects you carry, but be very thorough in carrying those authors and subjects. There always seems to be that one Palahnuik book that even the biggest fan has missed. Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Irvine Welsh.

Neal Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem are all good fits. As you find out what works, you can branch out to other authors who have an avid following; Cormac McCarthy, Christopher Moore; or you can bring in the newer McSweeneytype authors, Eave Eggers, David Sedaris.

All these have the advantage of appealing to both your base graphic novels readers, as well as the casual browser drop-in.

It doesn't hurt to carry your own favorite books, no matter what genre; and if you can really pick up the vibes, you can carry books that are other people's all time favorites. Cult books, if you will.

Quirky books; I have a Zombie shelf, for instance. Vampires. And a Pirate Shelf, and Robot Shelf, and I mix graphic and prose and reference books together.

I carry the classics, because again, the customer seems surprised to see them. You'd think all the Catcher in the Rye's and To Kill A Mockingbird that ever could sell have sold, but there is always another generation who will pick it up.

I carry two genres, Science Fiction (fantasy) and Mysteries. I carry only the most classic of mysteries; Raymond Chandler, Dasheill Hammett, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy.

In S.F., I try to carry all the Heinlein's and Asimov's and Clarke's, because again, there is always that one book that even fans haven't seen before.

What you'll find is that real readers read all of the above.

I don't worry about current best-sellers and Oprah books and the latest novel hyped on the Today Show.

I carry a large selection of art books, which I've been gathering for 25 years; Royo, and Frazetta, and Vallejos, of course, but also every other Paper Tiger or Taschen book I can find. But artists like Giger and Escher and even Van Gogh are not out of place.

Of course, the Maxfield Parrishs, and the Howard Pyles, and so on.

Fantasy books that appeal to girls and boys: Brian Froud and Gris Grimley and Huygen.

Bring in all the pulp artists you can find; add them together, throw in the classic Doc Savages and Shadows. Bad girl, good girl, and pin-ups.

My biggest problem is, that like my graphic novels, I have to carry 99% of them spine out -- which is a problem with graphic works. But I've been in the same location for like 27 years, so the equation is to carry as much as possible in my limited space and hope that selection makes up for not having visuals.

I carry kids books, with the understanding that good kids books shouldn't just be wasted on kids, you know? The Giving Tree, Wind in the Willows, Where the Wild Things are. Add in a complete selection of Asterix, and TinTin, and all the Dr. Seuss books, and all the Shel Silverstein books. While you're at it, blend in Bone and Mouse Guard etc.

Same with young adult: I still enjoy reading books like Snicket and the Golden Compass and Harry Potter.

I guess the point I'm making is that a "Graphic" novel store doesn't have to be limited to just technically graphic novels.

Within the specialized world of graphics and pop culture you could fill a store.

I'm in a small town, and I learned I had to have as broad a reach as possible. I developed a good clientele for games and toys and cards, and I have no reason to move past them.

But if I had a clean slate? I might just gamble, and get a much bigger space where I could really display the graphics, and take out the ancillary product.

So I think the guy is on the right track, in some ways, but also limiting his possibilities.

One job.

I have just one job to do for the next 20 days (well, beside that little thing of showing up for work everyday.)

Sit on my wallet.

No matter what.

I'm going to make a couple thousand in profits this month, about half of what I was hoping for. I can make up for it in August, if I'm very, very tight. So that's what I'm going to do.

There's a lot of news in the financial and political and entertainment worlds, but it don't matter -- I'm busy sitting on my wallet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saving it up.

Sales this last week were much better than the week before -- but, you know? Just about anything would've been better than the week before. We were way over projections in the first ten days, by more than 30%. I got a little carried away, and restocked.

I then dropped like a rock for the next ten days, by the same 30%. That's a HUGE swing, folks. So huge, that it becomes an inexplicable statistical aberration. Especially since I end up back at average!

Over the last week or so, I've been just a tad over projections.

As I said last week, it was going to take a dramatic change in trajectory for me to change my mind about the budget -- and "a tad over" ain't it.

Anything I order this week or next will show up around mid-August, giving me just a couple of weeks selling period, as well as coming due very close to the following slow period. Plus -- it probably won't make any difference in overall sales.

This is one of the counter-intuitive things that took me many years to learn. When I first bought the store, I did the common sense thing by ordering tons of stuff for summer and Christmas, and then cutting back in the off season. Makes sense, right?


I'm going to sell stuff in the summer and Christmas no matter what I do, and what I order actually matters less, not more. I may miss the occasional individual sale by not having something in stock, but I probably won't harm the 'overall' sales.

Whereas, being of sparse inventory in the off season is just deadly, because those individual sales may be all I'll get.

In the busy seasons, I am getting a lot more customers in the door, and to most of them everything I have is 'new'. At least 'new' to them.

I've learned to let August and December take care of themselves. I prepare all year, in a way, for those months. A bunch of last minute ordering is just money spent.

Better to save it up. Then, in the first week of September and the first week of January, look at what sold, decide what parts of the store need to be replenished, and which can be laid to rest.

At this point in the summer, I'd just be second-guessing myself. I may very well get to the 10th of August, and find out I should have ordered more of this or that, and I may whack myself to the side of the head for not knowing that -- but IT'S TOO LATE! Anything I order on the 10th, will probably show up around the 17th and come due on Sept. 1, around the time business drops. And it will be too late to affect the lost sales, anyway....

In the off season, I'll get more of the truly interested, who have probably already seen everything I've got, and who want individual and/or new and fresh material to keep them happy. It's much easier to firm up the different categories, especially if I have Summer or Christmas cash to do so.

It's a delayed gratification thing, really. I usually believe that if I'm going to spend money on inventory, it's better to do so early than late, to give myself a chance to sell the stuff. Put the money to work, so to speak.

August and December are the two exceptions to that rule, and it takes a great deal of willpower to break the pattern. I just have to remind myself how much fun it is to have a viable budget to spend in the off season and how much more it matters.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Update openings and closings.

A couple of new ones. The proprietor of High Desert Gallery wondered why I had dated his opening so early (or so late). I told him the only way I know to do it consistently is to post as soon as I get confirmation.

He seemed O.K. with that, and told me about his 'new' framing business on Franklin.

Meanwhile, noticed that Colourstone is gone as of today.

Also, because I want to make note of empty spaces, I've decided to put a star next to businesses that are moving, not closing, such as Tangerine.

Again, keep me up to date people! This is meant as a neutral record of who's opening and who's closing, and when...


High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
**Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)**
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
**Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09**
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
**King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
**Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yellow Tape -- Scene of the Crime..

An ongoing observation of a street closure day.

11:00 AM.

The "No Parking" Yellow Tape is already out when I arrive this morning, but people are still parking -- about half as much.

Having good business the first hour.

12:15 PM.

Streets are emptying of cars. (1:30 cutoff.) Also done a pretty good job of scouring the streets of all human life.... Haven't had anyone in in 15 minutes.

12:30 PM.

If half the people who buy candy from Powells would also buy their kids books, I'd be sitting pretty.

Typical "quality time" visits from dads and usually more interested in what I got than the kids. Interested, but not enough to buy anything. After perusing the store, he turns and say, "Find anything?" and the kids act all confused because they thought they were here because of dad.

12:45 PM.

Lots of middle-aged couples which I immediately point to the used books. Should have a little tape-recorder that says, "Used books are on that side in front of the store for half price, new books on this side!"

Lots of requests all of a sudden for The Time-Traveler's Wife. As one guy commented, "Damn, I should have bought it sooner. Now I'll probably have to buy one with Eric Bana's mug on the cover..."

A couple of guys buying 2010 magic from me. Thought I'd convinced them there was a real shortage...then one of the guys let on that everyone "online" was sold out

1:00 PM.

Sold a couple packs of Pokemon.

Dad bought 3 chapter books for his kids, and we talked about Watership Down...

O.K. I have to admit, I'm getting the usual bunch of summer Saturday browsers...I should charge admission; I might make it as Duncan's Fabulous Pop Culture Emporium: "This way to the Egress!!"

1:30 PM.

Another fifteen minute lull. Streets now nearly empty of cars....scarfed down a couple of peanut butter sandwiches...

1:45 PM.

Funny. I've had the Big Lebowski toys in stock for a couple of years and couldn't give them away. And then, about 3 months ago, they started selling. I'm down to one last set. Guy just told me they have "Lebowski Festivals." First night at a theater and second night at bowling alleys. Who knew?

Amazing number of people (regulars, quite often) don't know about the bike race. "Hamsters in spandex going in circles as fast as they can," I say.

Looks like I'll do pretty close to my average in the first half of the day; you'll pardon me for wondering how I might have done if I had the whole day to sell stuff. We'll see, I guess.

2:00 PM.

Young lady in who said, "I passed on all the classics in high school, and now I'm trying to catch up so I don't seem like I don't know anything..." On my recommendation, she bought For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I think is Hemingway's most readable book...That why I like selling books!

3:00 PM.

Atmosphere has completely changed. No one in the door in over half an hour. I have to say, also, that I asked all the customers in the first few hours if they were down for the race, and the usual responses way: "Oh, that's what's going on?"

I'm going to give it until 4:00, and if nothing happens I'll go home and start working on my orders...

3:45 PM.

Couple of regulars in, who spent money and grumbled about the race. "If I'd known it was here, I wouldn't have come," one said. Have hit my daily average. Noticed that the owner of Ivy Manor has closed, and Wendy at the Trivia Antigues is taking her stuff in.

Also just noticed Pave was closed today.

So...4:00, it looks like. Did Good the first half of the day, at least.

(By the way, this is called the Twilight Criterion because it used to happen after know, as in TWILIGHT! Creeping promotionalism.... I'm not sure, but I think they might have broken the rules by closing the street next weekend -- if anyone wants to make a formal complaint...)

4:30 PM.

Came home. I can't believe it. One of the few times in my career when I closed within posted business hours. Anyone wants an explanation need only step into the street and get clobbered by a herd of spandex.

Can get an early start on my orders. I spend a couple hours just working up my nerve, which means I'll get going by 6:30 instead of 8:30...

Should have been a Frenchman.

The New York Times has apparently run an article about one of my favorite S.F. writers, asking "Is Jack Vance a Great American Writer?"

Apparently they conclude that if he had been born a European or a South American, he would've won the Nobel Prize by now.

Which brings up the question I've always wanted to ask; what's the f'nn difference between 'Magic Realism" and "Fantasy" except having a Latin sounding name? James Blaylock, Tim Powers, and Jack Vance among others rank in my estimation next to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Borges....except they might be more fun to read.

I discovered Jack Vance in the fruitless search to find "Lord of the Rings"-like novels in the 60's. The Languages of Pao had a wonderful fantasy feel, as did his Dying Earth series. Like Phillip K. Dick, he was lumped in the ghetto of 'science fiction'; until they die, I guess, which is when they get discovered. Or when they are 92 years old like Jack Vance.

I've noticed lately that authors like Neal Stephenson and Neal Gaiman are quickly extracted from the 'ghetto' and embraced by the mainstream, which is good for them, I suppose, but doesn't help change the public's opinion about 'fantasy.'

And, just an oh, by the way -- had a woman come in looking for Jack Vance. She said no one had them, even the library. I showed her my selection, which is pretty much every in print book I could find. Which -- If I May Point Out, is one of the reasons you might want to support your individual independent bookstore instead of the your typical megalithic stores. Cause, you know what, they're only going to carry what they think will sell. And I'm going to carry what I think is good; and keep the faith that they will sell. The woman bought 4 of my new books, thank you.

of bikes and sidewalk sales




Blech. Back to the 50's.

Actually, these are good books, I don't select out the better books I just grab them by the handful and put them in the boxes...

Bike race. That which I can't change I must graciously accept -- (if you buy that sentiment from me, -- we're having CRAZY DAYS!!! WE'RE JUST GIVING STUFF AWAY!!!!!!)

As you can tell, I'm a promotional genius. Which is why I concentrate on just having the best inventory I can have, keeping my store in a place that gets lots of foot traffic, and keeping up with the trends...

We'll see....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Time to jet off in my private jet....

I swore I wouldn't be defensive on this blog. That I would take whatever criticism people gave me under advisement.

But, you know, there has been a couple of troubling criticisms thrown my way which, while they have some validity, seem kind of unfair to me.

The first is that I work too hard. That I don't get away. That I'm losing perspective.

Well, this smacks just a tad of "Let them eat cake."

Gee, you're right. I haven't taken my Hawaiian vacation this month. Nor my bi-yearly jaunt to Europe.

I'm working every day because there is a recession, thank you very much. And I'd rather not go into debt, because when this recession ends two or three or four years from now I want to be able to really take advantage this time, instead of just digging myself out of a hole.

I'm going to close Sunday's this fall, and maybe even go so far as to close Sundays and Mondays after Christmas. I'm not crazy. But I do what I have to do.

The second criticism that seems a bit unfair is that I'm out of the loop because I'm in the store every day. Well, other than walking around and talking to random people, I'm not sure there is any better way to figure out what's going on.

More than 100 folk a day come in my doors, people from all walks of life, and we have a wide variety of conversations. Most people, I suspect, talk to the same friends, co-workers, and family members. (Which I also do, by the way.) And it's not like I don't do anything outside the store...

Meanwhile, I suspect we all get most of our info from other blogs, from the internet, from the local and national media, and of that -- as I mentioned in the previous post -- I'm a bit of fiend for knowledge.

In other words, we all have something to bring to the table. Mine is from the perspective of a full time shopkeeper, native Bendite, and information hound. Take it for what it's worth.

When is too much too much?

"I give you a choice, Duncan. You may drink from this cup of broken glass.....or you can go to the San Diego Comic-con."

"Ummmmmm........can I wash the broken glass down with water?"

Not my thing. Crowds. Too much stuff.

Now I'm a pretty pop culture savvy guy. I have to be, just to keep up. But the more I learn, the more I realize I have more to learn. Each little niche is a huge world within a sliver. You open a lid an inch and out flows a cornucopia of possibilities and history and connections.

Sometimes this Horn of Plenty can seem more like a Pandora's Box...overwhelming and heavy. My nature is to gather information. Frank Frazetta art leads to Roy Krenkel art which leads to Howard Pyle which leads to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, with side trips to art nouveau and post-impressionism and surrealism....


I have to shake my head, and back off. Too much.

I feel these days as if I'm actually fending off information. I am carrying new books and used books, and it turns out I have an almost photographic memory for books titles and authors. Out they pop.

I need to know about comics, and card games, and board games, and toys, and anime and manga, and sports cards (and the sports world behind it). Also T.V. and Movies and Music.

Arggghh, again.

I can't stand it if someone comes in and talks about something I don't know. I immediately have to google it and Wikipedia it. And wrestle it to the ground and gnaw on it and internalize it.

So sometimes I just shut down. Put on my stupidly polite look, and go, "Huh?" when someone asks a question. Nothing personal. I've just been overwhelmed and my brain is ready to explode.

I dreamed last night that I was in a big city and visiting this HUGE pop-culture store. I felt overwhelmed and didn't know where to start. I was at a loss.

Yesterday I had a woman come in looking for a card or board game that her whole family could play. I enthusiastically dove into the details of Settlers of Catan and Munchkin and on and on. Too late, I realized, the more information I gave her the more confused she became and the more she backed off.

Too late, I tried to winnow it down, but she had already decided to walk away and "Ask her Family." I may or may not see her again.

When is too much information too much?

I can't help my nature. I just love to know stuff. I'm not saying I have deep knowledge, just that I can put in a box just about anything you might bring up. I'll at least know a little.

But I'm not so much actively seeking it out anymore, but taking it as it comes along. Just slotting it in on the knowledge tree, and moving on. This isn't a matter of overworking, this is a matter of not knowing when to shut off the information flow...The internet was a terrible invention for Five type personalities...

I think what saves me are books; living in someone else's world for awhile. I am able to shut down a bit more at home. Take a nap. Sit out on the porch.

Go to Comic-con? Hand me that cup of broken glass, please.

(This is where everyone tells me I need a vacation. Don't I know it.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Little moments.

Jon Stewart is America's "Most Trusted" newsman. Sounds about right.

Celebrities die in threes. Walter Cronkite, Gidget the taco dog -- who's next?

Nice juxtaposition -- article in the Bulletin about a letter to the governor from all 7 city commissioners and all 3 county commissioners about the OLCC. Next article?
"Liquor regulators hit Mt. Bachelor with $3500 fine."

Paul-doh at Bendbubble 2 caught that the newspaper conceded there was an outflow of residents by publishing an informational story -- "How to Move." In the entertainment section...

3 out of 6 training sessions for the Point of Sale system, my trainer hasn't bothered to show up. Not sure what's going on there. Anyway, I'm thinking July was a bad month to be trying to train, with so many people coming in the door. I'm going to ask to delay implementation until Sept. 1.

I don't know why the Cascades Cycling Classic is trying so hard to convince us that it's a boon to the Central Oregon Economy. I have my doubts, but you know what? -- they are 'In like Flynn.' I asked Chuck Arnold, Downtowners manager, how it happened that we had yet another new event the following weekend (they won't be satisfied until they close the streets every weekend of summer, I tell ya...) Because we lost the music festival he said. But they didn't close the streets for the music festival, I answered. He just shrugged.

I have to say; the Bulletin is doing a good job of making me yearn for the outdoors. That plus all the twits twittering about swimming, hiking, biking, etc. etc. And all the blogs with pictures of vacations. Only a month to go before I start giving myself at least 6 days off a month....

There's a blue jay outside my door who is being strangled. At least, that's what it sounds like.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The funk.

Someone told me early in my career that I took the ups and downs of business too seriously.

How could I not?

Is it possible I'm still around because I do?

Anyway, over the years, I finally did learn to leave work concerns at work. Once I'm away from the physical presence of the store, I'm good. I learned not to work past posted hours, usually. Get it done at work, or leave it for another day. And I have found ways to work through my angst, as well to tone down my glee.

Still, it always surprises me how much stress I'll feel if business is slow.

Here's the thing, the slowness of the last ten days means that I've lost a few thousand dollars off the top, that is off the profit part. But I still have made a few thousand dollars in profit, nevertheless.

The difference is in expectation. I was probably being unrealistic to think I could get through this with no pain. Just because I saw it coming.

And as I've mentioned before, this is nothing compared to the past.

In the old days, the difference may have been delayed bills, or bounced checks, or borrowing off the credit cards. Now, it's not setting aside as much money as I wanted. In some ways, it's good that I find the setting aside of money to be an imperative. In the old days, I would've felt that was money to spend on the store.

Thing is -- it feels the same. And it shouldn't. I should be able to just shrug it off. "O.K., Dunc. You didn't make a couple thousand in profits this week, you only made a thousand. But you still earned a profit..."

What I've noticed is, if business starts off strong, then the day goes pretty smoothly, no matter the end result. Whereas, if business starts off slow I get in more and more of a funk, even though I might end up with good business at the end of the day.

I've learned to try to work through that funk. Get busy doing something else, engage in conversation with a friend. Quit thinking about it.

But the last ten days were so slow, that the funk sort of settled in -- thus the obsession that Blackdog points to.

So I worked out the details of my August budget, and I'm going to try to get back the money I thought I was going to make in July next month instead. I was hoping to get my IRA contribution out of the way, but I'm only halfway there, dammit.

But actually making plans to deal with it has helped.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Comings and Goings update.

I just noticed the Ina Louise last week, but waited for another store to add or subtract. I noticed that Tangerine has a for lease sign in the window this morning. Both in the old Fire Station building.

Keep me up to date, people. Any others?


High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
King of Sole (became Mary Janes)
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
Pomegranate (downtown branch)
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Buy less, sell for more.

"I don't understand why stores would raise prices in the midst of a slowdown," my customer said.

"Oh," I answered, "Let me explain it to you."

I could see the mild alarm in his eyes as he realized I was going to explain, but it was too late to escape.

We were talking about Magic cards, and how there weren't any deals to be had. (This was before there was any information about shortages...)

"Here's how it works. A couple of years ago, I would've ordered around 10 boxes of a new release. My cost of goods would've been around 750.00 for all ten boxes. I would have sold the first 6 boxes for about 100.00, for a profit of 25.00 a box. I probably would've sold 2 boxes by the pack for full price, for a profit of 70.00 a box. I would've sold the last two boxes for 110.00 for a profit of 35.00 a box.

"For a total profit of 360.00; or a 31% markup. Not great, but acceptable.

"Compare this to the newest wave. I got 6 boxes in at 75.00. My total cost of goods was 450.00. I will sell the first three boxes for 125.00, for a profit of 50.00 each. I will sell three boxes by the pack for a profit of 70.00, each.

"For a total profit of 360.00; or a 45% markup. Much more acceptable.

"I take only 450.00 out of my cash flow; and take only a little more than half the risk; and I only take up half the space and do roughly half the transactions to make exactly the same amount of profit."

The real question is, why would I do it the first way?

The answer is -- to keep the game flowing, and to keep our store in the running. After the initial burst of business, I might sell twice as much product over the next three months at full price, which is where the real profits come in.

The current shortage of Magic also points out another reason to order more at first, but try to sell it for less. You have quantity in stock in case shortages develop. This is rare, and not a great reason, but it happens. Like it has just happened. But even in this instance, I was able to garner enough product after becoming aware of the shortage that I didn't lose anything by buying less initially.

Actually, even the example in the paragraph above isn't completely right. By having my boxes for 125.00 for the last 6 days, I probably guaranteed that I wouldn't sell any. Now that I know there is a shortage, I take them off the market so I can sell them for full retail price by the pack.

So my profit margin suddenly jumps to nearly 47%. I make a 560.00 profit, on my initial investment of 640.00 for 8 boxes.

A long time ago, I learned that it is more important to have the product in stock than to lower the price.

I will probably have the following conversation many times in the coming week.

"How come your Magic is full price? I can get it for 100.00 a box."

"Sounds like a great deal. Why don't you do that?"

"Oh, well, they are out. Right now...but....."

"Why didn't you say so? I have really, really cheap prices on the product I'm out of..."

Confused look in the customer's eyes. "Well, where is it?"

"I'm out of it. But I do have this product for full price...."

Grumble, grumble. "Give me four packs...."

Still, if you have any doubts, the solution is actually opposite of what most people would expect. Firm up your prices, and order less product.

"I can't have it? I want even more!"

When it comes to collectibles, I'm always leery of shortages. I'm always suspicious that the shortages are artificial and manipulated. Nothing boosts the appeal of a fading fad like creating the illusion of rarity. It's like catnip to collectors.

What do you mean I can't have it? I want twice as much!!

Of all the Magic product I get in, the 'Core Set' has always sold the least for me. This is the set where Magic wraps in old cards with new cards and makes them officially playable. It's a way of weeding out cards that don't work --too powerful, or not powerful enough-- or changing the dynamic of the game. It's often a necessary corrective.

Plus, it means that Magic players can never stand pat-- the temptation on the part of long time players is to never buy another card, because they have 'killer decks.'

It's always been a bit of a problem for games; how do you get continuing sales once the players have the core rules? D&D and Warhammer are constantly being 'revised', thus forcing players to buy the rules yet again. There are always a certain number of players who drop out of the game at that point. They are always a bit self-righteous about it, too, thinking that they don't need the new rules.

Unfortunately, what usually happens to such players is that they become marginalized, and eventually drop away completely.

So there is always a bit of tension between the players and the game; and the retailer is often the middle man, who gets to try to mediate that tension. Me? I just shrug and sympathize with the players, but advise them that if they want to keep playing the game, it's probably best to get with the program. (Or not.)

Anyway, like I said, the 'Core Set' has always sold the least for me, my Magic sales have been down lately; so I thought I'd order less product this time, but stay more firm on my prices.

So I come to discover by calling my secondary source that the Core Set is sold out. I had three boxes on order from them, and had planned on canceling them. So I wavered, and hummed and hawed and cut it to two boxes, then one box.

But by the time I got on the internet and checked what people where saying, I realized I'd probably made a mistake.

So I called my primary supplier, and he had a few boxes at a higher price, and I grabbed them.

If there is a rush on the product, it won't last long. I may be forced to 'limit' purchases -- which may only accelerate the process. Or just lie low, not tell anyone what's happening, and hope the product lasts.

I hope this isn't just hype, because I broke my damn budget to get the extra product in.

Reality Check.

Green shoots?

Thing about green shoots -- the first nasty frost will kill them off.

I always try to gauge the real strength of my business by how I do in the slow months, not the busy months. Summer is summer. Christmas is Christmas. But the rest of the year is the 'off season.'

Not only don't I believe we are in a recovery, I think there is a real danger of a double dip recession. Especially in Bend.

Don't compare June to May, compare it to last June. Of course unemployment dropped. It's summer in BEND!

Meanwhile we still had a rather pathetic 12 building permits issued last month. I've pretty much written off summer; we will probably be down the same 20% we've been down for pretty much all this year.

What I'll really be watching is Sept, Oct, and November, because that was when the biggest decrease happened. I'm hoping that 20% figure will level off. If not, if it continues dropping, then the next 10 months aren't going to be much fun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oh, no. Now what do I write about?

Blackdog has posted the comment:

"Dunc, you need to get out more. Develop some interests besides the store and writing about the store. Yes, of course a good businessman needs to keep track of his sales numbers ... but doing it week by week, day by day, hour by hour?

Pardon me for saying so, but isn't this getting a little, uh, obsessive?"

My first response was a little bit snarking, "You think?"

My second response was to say, "I'm going to be obsessive, either privately or publicly. But I can see how this is getting a little old for you guys."

In my defense, it is only 20 minutes in the morning when I write the blog and business is foremost in my mind. I actually do think about other things.

But...point taken.

Ironically, I first started writing my "Business Journal" in notebooks, and then on my computer, to save my wife from having to listen to me all the time go on about business.

And I did warn you guys; I've never made it a secret that I obsess over business. I find it fascinating, and I find it always surprising, and I find out something new just about every day.

There is always a cost in taking my attention away from my business for very long. Even short vacations I know will have consequences. It doesn't take very long for outside interests to impact on sales. But I also know that it only takes a bit longer for obsessive behavior to backfire.

So I am trying to walk that line, and I probably error on the side of too much attention instead of too little.

I figured last year and this year were the years to really put the hammer down on turning a profit in my stores. (The recession is an unfortunate event that keeps me from making as much profit as I hoped, but doesn't keep me from making a profit...)

I'm getting a little long in the tooth to keep proclaiming "Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Ever Had." I'm working to change that to, "Best Slightly Better Than Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Ever Had."

This goal has coincided with me writing this blog. It's important at this stage of my life to really start to put some money aside. To get those IRA's paid each year, to put a little cushion between me and the poorhouse.

I probably couldn't have even published a blog during the tough years. It would have been unremittingly dire. The fact that I have any good news at all to report has let me continue to write about it.

I've had regular customers tell me my blog has become boring. Ah, the bloom is off. I totally get it. But I want to achieve my goal of "Best Slight Better Than..." even more and if this blog helps me get there, so be it.

Hey, how about them Mets?

Weathers been hot, don't you think?

Damn Californians....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Borrowing off a doubtful future....

It's all very odd. Mid-afternoon, I looked out my door and saw empty parking spaces extending two spots past the alley west of me. 8 spots in a row empty, in Mid-July on a Saturday.

When I went home last night, the parking garage was sparse. "Oh, Oh," I thought, for the sake of the restaurants.

On the other hand. Get this. I had 146 people in the door, which is a ton of people for a non-special event day. For the first two hours of the day, I had 10 or 15 or 20 people milling about my 1000 sq. ft. store. That's too many for me to be able to deal with effectively. My business depends on being able to talk to interested customers, not being a traffic manager.

The per-customer average was very low, though. Almost record foot-traffic versus average sales. That seems to be my fate this summer. I suppose I should be thankful for the 20 or 30 people a day who buy 2.00 or 3.00 worth of used books. I should be thankful for the average sales.

It's hard to reconcile the two experiences -- tons of foot traffic, empty parking spots.

As I've mentioned, I was having a hard time getting a read on summer, and I waited until this week to come to a conclusion. I think summer is sort of a dud. At least for me. Mostly in terms of expectation.

For me, always, it isn't about the cash coming in the door, it's how much I spend. I've made a couple spending mistakes. I bought 5000.00 worth of novels in January on my credit cards. I've paid that down to 1500.00, and with three more months of 500.00 payments, I'll be back to zero debt.

And at the beginning of summer, I spent 2500.00 on "Sale" items; which didn't pan out, and will cut into about half of what I was hoping to profit in July. But it's not too late to cut my spending for August, and now that I feel I have a good sense of the dynamics, I think I can recoup some or all of that profit.

So, in pretty good shape. really good shape, I just hate to say it out loud. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad I went through those tough times in the 1990's, because it's kept me from being tempted to borrow off the doubtful future.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blog - twits.

Man, if you look at the national unemployment maps, it's like -- Revenge of the Red States.


Bend keeps popping up in the top five of all kinds of negative indicators. Someone more ambitious than me ought to collect them all in one place.

But anyone that ambitious probably wouldn't want to wallow in all the bad news.


A customer offered a rational explanation why so many parking spots downtown are empty -- the heat. People are parking in the garage to escape the heat.

Makes sense, except it hasn't been all the hot until lately, and it didn't seem to be this way last year or the year before.


Foot traffic, schmoot traffic -- I did twice the business yesterday with half the number of customers than Thursday.


I didn't get my gold star for customer relations on Thursday. Had a real putz in, and I asked him. "Are you from around here?"

"Why, no," he says.

"Good," I said, emphatically.


Lost my twitter access for about ten days, but I still picked up a smattering of followers.

I don't understand twitter....


HBM has offered to show me how to download music. Don't I have to buy some fancy do-hickey? Something eye-pody? I have no speakers on either of my computers. I don't like the constant noise...


I topped off my gas tank last fill up because I wanted to check my mileage. Now I come to find out that I can't top it off this time, which thwarts me.

I do so hate being thwarted.


Any bets whether the OSU College of Education will actually move to Bend?


We just don't seem to have the trouble with trash and graffiti and swearing and loitering that Wall Street has. Knock wood. I think it's really interesting how the city council imposed a big fine for skateboarding at almost the same time the police department withdrew their downtown patrol.

That really worked.


So is there a consensus that this economic era will be called the Great Recession? Sounds about right.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wow, that sounds really good!

In conjunction with trying to relax at my store, I've been buying music CD's.

After being dormant in my musical tastes for years (I'm perfectly happy playing decade old cd's) I purchased about 10 for the store a couple of years ago. A few months ago, I finally realized they would never sell, and opened them up.

Arcade Fire, the Shins, the New Pornographers, and so on.

Even these are a little long in the tooth, a couple of years old. For instance, I'm really digging the last Cheap Trick album, and I read this morning that there is a new Cheap Trick album.

Linda bought me the new Elvis Costello.

I've got a bet on with the new Wilco album at stake, but I don't know if I want to wait that long.

Reminds me a bit of how I started reading fantasy and science fiction again when the Lord of the Rings movies came out. I'd been off them for a decade or so, reading mostly mysteries, but it was fun to come back to them and discover new authors...

I'm trying to loosen up a bit. Allow myself to buy the occasional thing. Actually buy a donut at the 7-11. I can afford now not to just eat peanut butter sandwiches and listen to early Elvis Costello albums.

Jobless recovery?

A jobless recovery seems a little oxymorony to me. Especially for retail. Still, I'm hearing people talking about moving to Bend, and others buying houses. My foot traffic still seems pretty high.

But I seem to be missing my target audience -- the 20 to 40 year olds who come into my store on vacation and find material they've been looking for. What I seem to be getting is lots of older couples buying a few books, (cheap books at that) and lots of young families buying little or nothing, maybe a pack of cards. Packs of teenagers who giggle over my designer toys and can't seem to relate to anything in the store but video game related material.

After a terrific first 11 days of the months, I've had a very slow last five days, bringing me smack dab back to average. Unfortunately for my profit level, I got a little carried away earlier this summer when it looked like it was going to outperform. (Notice, I haven't talked about my budget much --- um, budget? What's that?)

I spent the last couple of days in a bit of a funk, but woke up this morning with a fresh viewpoint. I surveyed the store in my mind's eye, and realized it was completely stocked. All I need do is keep it up, and quit trying out new things all the time.

Fact is, I'm still having my best year in terms of cash profits, which is the most important kind of profit of all. So time to reboot:

First of all, I need to revive my mindset that I had for the first half of the year, and keep my expectations low.

Secondly, it's my experience that this kind of slowdown doesn't turn around quickly. In fact, it feels most like that time between 1995 and 2000 when things were slow to dormant.

Third, I need to keep my ordering down to the essentials. Reorder Y -The Last Man when it sells. Settlers of Catan when it sells. But that terrific deal on StarGate figures? Well, I already have a mix in stock, and I've sold like two in a year. Pass, dude.

Four, I need to relax. I'm in good shape. No debt, a store full of stuff. I'm talking about at the worse making less profit instead of more. This is a walk in the park compared to the past. Any stress is self imposed.

So I need to plan for the rest of summer, but I'm already looking at fall. Which I want to hit with a running start.

This week will influence what I order for the next two weeks, and especially my monthly order for September (due in ten days). It will keep me restrained in my outlook. When these two weeks are over, I only have about 2 more weeks where I can affect summer sales, and maybe I'll just let those go by and coast.....

It seems counter-intuitive, but I've always let summers and Christmas take care of themselves -- stuff sells. It's the off season that I need to pay for having as complete and timely an inventory as possible. In order to do that, I usually accumulate cash (or at least eliminate debt) in the busy times.

I just forgot that for awhile.

Meanwhile, my point of sale computer is up on the counter. I started entering subscriptions yesterday, and immediately ran into problems. Aaron's coming by on Monday, so I'll ask him then.

The rep keeps telling me not to worry, that it will all work out, that it won't be as big a problem as I think. It's one of those things where I know in a year or two I'll look back and what seems like an overwhelming amount of information now will seem normal.

The thing is coming online on August first, but I'm keeping my old beat up register on the other side of the counter for awhile, just in case.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sailing solo.

Well, I'm back to being master of my own fate. Sailing solo around the world. And I like it.

I'm just too ornery to share my store with anyone else. I kept feeling -- I don't know -- crowded, stymied, distracted having someone else standing at the counter.

Yesterday, as I put away the weekly comics, I kept thinking to myself, "I'd have to tell an employee about this, and about that, and how to price this and where to put that, and who to tell about this, and who to explain that..." and so on.

I can't delegate, and when I do I'm impatient with the inevitably slower pace of an untrained -- and let's fact it for minimum wage -- unmotivated employee.

To hell with it.

I'll do it myself.

I figured out yesterday that one 20 hour minimum wage employee was worth one day's retail sales (wages divided by margin). Add in Sunday, and I would lose about half a day's sales overall, even if I took two days off.

So I'm going to work through the summer, which is half over, look at the situation in the fall, work full time through Christmas. Then take either one or two days off a week in the slow period between January and June.

I wonder if I can get my State Accident Insurance Fund money back?

Pick on someone your own size.

One of the reasons I started writing this blog about Pegasus Books, is that several years ago, I got caught up about reading the rise and fall of a new comic store called Riot Comics.

I knew from the first entries that the guy was going about it all wrong, but I was fascinated by his bullheadedness. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Generally, it's not all that difficult to get a strong sense of whether a store is going to make it or not make it.

Talking about it on a blog just makes it all that much clearer. (There's a lesson there, I suppose....)

He was very disdainful of all the other comic shops, which is common enough among fans. But of course, these shops have been existing in the real retail world and it seems foolish to dismiss everything they are doing.

The guy had a vision, to be sure, and he was entertaining and candid in his lead up to the store. He designed a very nice looking store.

And then fizzled.

Because he went about it all wrong.

In fact, the most fascinating aspect of all was watching him change his mind about each of the things he had made fun of about other stores. He brought in back issues. He had to buy some more functional fixtures. He found that having an "anime" club didn't do a thing for his anime sales. And so on.

He forgot he was a store, and not a 'model.' He forgot he needed lots of inventory. He narrowed his focus to such an extent there was simply no way he was going to make money.

He come into retail as a purist with a vision, and left disillusioned that people liked the look of his store, but didn't buy anything.

He seemed to spend most of his time designing business cards, and logo's, and signs, and t-shirts. Describing the colorful Ikea furniture, and showing off the 'art' on his walls.

But nuts and bolts, you need inventory and lots of it. Design doesn't pay the rent.

Anyway, I've found two new blogs about start-ups, and they seem equally misguided and bullheaded.

One is called Rocketbomber. He's gained some notoriety for writing about his book customers in a mocking way. But he's entertaining to read. He certainly has put a lot of thought into his store.

But his 'vision' is fundamentally flawed. The 'vision' of a Graphic Novel store. No comics, no back issues, no toys, no cards, no books even, except as they tangentially relate to graphic novels.

The question is -- why would you cut off all possible revenue streams but one?

I started with comics -- and it wasn't enough.

I added sports cards -- and it wasn't enough.

I added games -- and it wasn't enough.

I added card games -- and it wasn't enough.

I added toys -- and it wasn't enough.

I added graphic novels -- and it wasn't enough.

I added used books -- and it wasn't enough.

I added anime and manga -- and it wasn't enough.

I added new books -- and.......well, I can't add anymore. I've at my wit's end in space, time, energy and money.

In the midst of all this trying, I also handled Beanie Babies, and Pogs, and gave up any idea of being a 'purist.'

Pogs are about as widgety as it gets -- if I'm willing to sell Pogs, I'm willing to sell anything.

The other start-up is Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y. They got the go ahead on June 1 or so. A couple of days ago, they had a party in their still untouched store-space, for their friends and neighbors. Had a great time sipping wine and tasting cheese.

The architect's drawings were on the wall.


An architect? You hired an architect? It's an empty space! Slap a coat of paint, scrounge up some bookshelves, but some damn books and get rolling?

You sign a lease on June first and you're still staring off into space six weeks later?

No, they've 'designed' some bookshelves. Custom made bookshelves.....

Hey, if I'm an investor, I'd be looking to get my money out of this disaster. They are going to sink a ton of money into this store, and it will be a marvel to behold, and it will even generate a lot of sales at first.

But they will spend most of their career trying to dig themselves out of debt. And if they are as pie in the sky about their day to day operations as they are in their planning stage -- their career won't be long.

But they'll leave a beautiful corpse.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

That didn't last long.

Well, Phil decided my store wasn't for him.

I basically feel relief. I just like running the store myself, frankly. I don't like not having time off, though. I think I'm going to have to rethink the Sunday hours. Perhaps have "Winter Hours" where I close on Sundays, open later on Tuesday, and take the occasional 3 day holiday. If Linda is willing to work one Monday out of every month, I could even get two days in a row, once a month.

Phil showed up at Linda's and said it wasn't enough hours.

So, there you go.

Take that, Michigan!

From the New York Times, Part-Time Workers Mask Unemployment Woes:

"In California and a handful of other states, one out of every five people who would like to be working full time is not now doing so.

It is a startling sign of the pain that the Great Recession is inflicting, and it is largely missed by the official, oft-repeated statistics on unemployment. The national unemployment rate has risen to 9.5 percent, the highest level in more than a quarter-century. Yet it still excludes all those who have given up looking for a job and those part-time workers who want to be working full time.

Include them — as the Labor Department does when calculating its broadest measure of the job market — and the rate reached 23.5 percent in Oregon this spring, according to a New York Times analysis of state-by-state data. It was 21.5 percent in both Michigan and Rhode Island and 20.3 percent in California. In Tennessee, Nevada and several other states that have relied heavily on manufacturing or housing, the rate was just under 20 percent this spring and may have since surpassed it."

So there you have it. We're Number One! Beating Michigan, and yet never having built a single car. We did it the hard lost job, one diminished job, at a time.

So it isn't just Bend that is "Poverty with a View": (see definition in Urban Dictionary...), it's all of Oregon. It isn't just me who likes living here so much that I've got the best minimum wage job a middle aged guy ever had, it's everyone who wants to live here, no matter what.

Just shows how special Oregon really is....heh.

"Pretend and Extend."

There is an interesting article in the website, RetailTraffic, which uses a couple of new but pithy terms:

Wary Of Realizing Losses, Lenders "Pretend and Extend" (7/14)

Jul 14, 2009 1:02 PM, By Elaine Misonzhnik

"Two new phrases have entered the commercial real estate industry lexicon in recent months: "Pretend and extend" and "A rolling loan gathers no loss." Both witticisms describe an ongoing phenomenon in commercial real estate finance: as the level of distress mounts, lenders have been loath to seize properties from troubled borrowers.

Instead, in many cases banks are generously granting extensions or other modifications even in situations where it appears unlikely that borrowers will be able to pay back the loans."

"Pretend and extend" and "A rolling loan gathers no loss."

Obviously, this applies to Bend. I think the commercial overbuilding in Bend (which I have always felt was as big or bigger than the housing bubble) is just now coming home to roost. (Of course, our city council in it's infinite foresight has chosen now to try to sell a couple of big commercial properties....)

There is a couple of years lag in commercial, because of the timing of decisions and planning and building. The big hotel downtown, for instance, will be coming onto the market in November -- good timing, eh?

More from the article:

"What's at work is that lenders are attempting to avoid recognizing writedowns and losses on their commercial real estate loan books. Loans originated at the height of the market were done at near 100 percent loan-to-value ratios and underwritten with generous assumptions on increasing occupancies and rents. But in the past two years commercial real estate values have dropped considerably and fundamentals have weakened. Rents and occupancies are now dropping quickly, not rising. On top of everything, a major source of financing, the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market, remains locked down."

As I mentioned a year or so ago, commercial real estate loans all but ceased around January, 2008. What you see being built right now was approved before that.

I think the game that will be played in Bend, from a retail and commercial standpoint, is to wait, to hope for a turnaround, to keep the losses off the books as long as possible....

"Many banks hope that if they stave off foreclosure for a year or two, even if a distressed sale becomes inevitable, they will be able to recover more of their investment than they would if they sold right now. In the case of multi-family or office buildings, that might turn out to be the case, according to Christopher Grey, managing partner with Third Wave Partners, LLC, an El Segundo, Calif.-based advisory firm. But the likelihood of a significant increase in the value of retail properties, in his estimation, remains low.

"The reason is not only do you have extremely negative fundamentals, there’s a tremendous overhang of properties that are distressed and very little investor interest," Grey notes. "Retail is tied to the consumer, which is in a position of long-term damage. People are going to expect income declines [for the foreseeable future], so they will want a very high cap rate."

Sound familiar?

At least Bend got lucky enough to have most of the commercial property either finished or never started. Go visit places like Crescent City, CA, and it looks like they tore down a bunch of buildings in preparation of building new ones and got caught with their pants down and their rubble showing...

"So lenders are playing a waiting game. Foreclosing on assets today means they would have to manage properties in a treacherous economic climate. The alternative would be to sell. But the investment sales scene is not encouraging. Distressed assets are trading at steep discounts to peak market prices..."

Commercial real estate is its own little world; hugely important, but kind of under the radar for most people. The reason I bring up this article is because I believe the phrase "Pretend and extend" probably applies to housing, as well.

Here's where RDC will pop up and tell me banks can't legally hide losses. But, well, I just don't believe that. There are ways and there are ways.

I had a discussion yesterday with a young man who was looking to buy a house. He had put in several bids on short sales and had been turned down.

From what I'm hearing, the whole short sale thing is a big of an illusion. The banks really want to keep these properties, but don't want to take losses on them, and are hoping to pick them up cheap and sell them for more.

I guessing, and I admit it's a guess, that banks like Bank of the Cascades and Umpqua are sitting on a huge load of bad debts they aren't quite acknowledging. Commercial properties they can "Pretend and Extend," and I'm betting that's going on all down the line.

"The question today is how long can this delicate balance hold? In the long term some market observers worry this strategy, employed on a wide scale, might delay the process of price discovery, prolong the freeze in the investment sales market and negatively impact the cash flows for individual properties as they remain in the hands of owners unmotivated to increase their value."

So let's have a big chorus of Whistling Dixie, as we skip past the graveyard with a stiff upper lip and blinders over our eyes and hands over our ears saying, nah, nah, nah while Micheal Jackson sneaks up behind us, eyes glowing and tiny little nose twitching and we feel a cold chill but yell out "I can't hear you!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Finally bringing in help.

After working most every day for six and a half months, I found myself going home, taking an hour nap, getting a full night's sleep, and still feeling draggy in the morning.

I'd told myself I'd work alone for the first quarter, and probably not much beyond the second quarter. I paid my State Accident Insurance Fund minimum at the beginning of the year, with the assumption that I'd hire at some time.

Closing Sundays or any other day of the week just wasn't a solution. At best, it would give me one day off at a time. No chance of three or four day vacations. Or even two days in a row, beside the odd holiday. Plus, the sales even on Sundays more than justify having an employee.

I started looking about a month ago, but I have very strict perimeters of what I wanted.

I wanted someone who wanted the job, but didn't need the job.

Someone who could accept working just two days a week at minimum wage.

Someone who has some tech ability.

Someone who has retail experience.

Someone I felt was reliable and honest and could work well with customers. (I had to have someone fairly young, but not so young he didn't know what work was...)

Every time I talked to someone, they had a roadblock that didn't quite fit.

Anyway, I'm bringing in someone who has all the above qualifications, plus....I looked him in the eye and said,

"I have a challenge for you. I want you to enter the entire inventory of Pegasus into the new Point of Sale computer."

Philip didn't seem intimidated by that idea, in fact, his eyes lit up. I can always tell a tech geek by how they respond to those kinds of challenges.

What really impelled this was, we are having our first 'retail' training session for the POS this morning.

Phil came in yesterday, and wouldn't you know it, it was one of the slowest days I've had all year. Every time I wanted to show him something, I realized the POS system would be different, and since the POS would be online in less than two weeks, there wasn't much point.

I spent the day being way too negative. I'm really disappointed with myself. Having a day when we had quite a few people in who didn't spend money was probably not the best start. I'm going to take him aside today and say, "I'd like to start fresh. I was feeling kind of off, yesterday. Let's take a different attitude."

I'm going to have Aaron bring the POS up to the retail counter this morning, after our little session, and place it where the cash register is now. I'm going to move the register over near the phone, and keep using it for the next week or two, and experiment with the POS.

And also get Phil going on getting the inventory into the system. I'm actually willing to hire him a extra day or two beyond the original two, if he'll get going on that.

We've figured we can send Phil over to the Bookmark for a day a week, as well, so he's starting out at a little more than halftime. Between the two stores, if it works out, it could easily turn into a full-time job, especially if Linda and I actually go on vacation once in a while.

I've had a strange reaction. I feel guilty about the idea of taking time off. I know it's irrational, but there it is. I get into a mindset, and it's hard to throw it off. But I also see weeds in my garden, and I haven't gone on a walk all year long, my book reading has declined to a horrible low and comic reading even more so, and so on.

I risk losing Phil to another job, which he has had off and on for a couple of years, but I decided it was worth it. If nothing else, he can help me at first with the Point of Sale system, and maybe stick around long enough for Linda and me to go off somewhere.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday irk, and finally a shrug...

Showed up for work at 12:00 and there is a partially assembled, or disassembled, I can't tell which, Jazz stage in front of my store. A big huge U-Haul truck, and stacks of jumbled wood. A tattered backdrop.

Oh, so attractive.

What, they couldn't find enough Jazz bands for two days? Actually, it looks like they constricted down to the westside of the alley, and are on street level. Which is probably better for the audience in any case. More intimate. The stage was a little much for 3 and 4 piece bands....

On second glance, all the chairs are stacked to the side, so I suspect they are done. I'll keep this an open thread, and report through the day how it looks.

Customer's comment: "It looks like a construction zone, like nobody is supposed to walk here." I've seen couples veer away, just in the short time I've been watching.

Saw a "Event Staff" t-shirt walk by, and snagged him. "Are they going to set up the stage again?"

"I don't think so...."

"Is there any way you could remove all this? It looks like a construction zone."

"I know," he says. "I'll see what I can do."

Hey, if they actually respond to my concerns, I'll be happy with them.

I got a hold of Linda and asked her to bring my digital camera down, so I can take pictures of the glories that is Bend Fest, or rather, the carcass of Bend Fest that was left rotting in front of my store.

Another customer's unsolicited comment: "It's a war zone..."

You know, a picture is worth a thousand words--


Nevermind. The pictures would have been somewhat damning, but so what? I'm not deluded enough to think they'll quit these events. And as I've said before, they no longer seem to hurt sales.

I apologize after that big lead up.

You know what? I had a good day. Probably because of the Fest. So forget about it. No harm, no foul.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Old dog, new tricks...

Linda came down to babysit the store with me for the last two hours.

I got busy signing up a new customer for a shelf, so she took over the register for awhile. "See, I come down to visit and he makes me work," she grumbled, goodnaturedly.

I look over and see her hitting a single button and getting 2.99 for each comic.

"How'd you do that!" I exclaim.

She looks at me, puzzled. "You didn't know you could do that?"

"No...I've had this register for 20 years and I never knew that...I always entered 2.99 with every comic."

Everyone had a good laugh.

But what's really funny is, this register is getting replaced by my Point of Sale computer in about 10 days.

Bend Summer fest. report

The jazz stage was in front of my store, which was pleasant enough. Found myself snapping my fingers and tapping my (bare)feet. I'd get a blast of music everytime the door opened. I didn't have to resort to turning on my stereo to drown it out....

I got about 156 people in the door, less than the 200 I estimated. It may have been more, though, because it was too busy to keep an accurate count. Didn't seem very busy outside to me, but really, I couldn't tell from the small space I can scan.

Kept my sale table inside, since they cut off about a third of the sidewalk. But that actually seemed to work O.K. which has got me thinking. A little rearranging, and I might be able to make that permanent.

Had a well-dressed elderly couple come in looking for a hardcover local history book, and I figured out from the little information they had what they were looking for. It was a 29.99 book. He said, "I'll pass...."

It's not so much that he said, "I'll pass..." it's the WAY he said "I'll pass..." like I'd just asked for his first born grandson.

I called Linda. "Have we ever in 6 years gotten a used copy of that book?"

"No," she says. "But some people just want it for the price they see online."

O.K. Fair enough. What I said to the man was, "Well, it's either worth the price or it isn't...."

I'm sticking to my guns. I want a nice, fully stocked store in the middle of a high rent district. I have to ask retail.

Frankly, with the little information the couple gave me (wrong info at that), they would never have gotten an answer out of most mass market clerks. They got an answer because they asked someone who knew his stuff....


I'm still not getting a read on this summer.

I've had a good first eleven days of July. I'm 15% above my projected estimates. But I had an even better first six days of June, and it got dissipated by the end of the month and I ended up at the original average.

If I can do my original average per day the rest of the month, and keep the gains from the first ten days, I'll end up at six percent ahead of my predictions for the month.

Like I said, though, I don't know if that is going to happen. Lots of price resistance out there. I had a really busy Wednesday, a really slow Thursday, a really slow day through the first 5 hours Friday and then an explosion of business the last two hours.

So what's going on?

Anyway, I have to be careful about predictions for the other businesses in town. My tendency is to believe that if I'm doing well, everyone else is doing well, and if I'm doing poorly, everyone else is doing poorly. Overall, that's probably true, as long as I allow exceptions. (always have to allow the exceptions....)

But right now? I have no clue.

I mean, my foot-traffic count is way up. But I keep looking out the windows and seeing empty parking spots and quiet streets. It apparently doesn't seem that way to most of my customers, who think there are NEVER any parking spots -- but that's what I see.

We all have to be careful of 'selective perception.' Had a tourist in yesterday, and we were talking about the local economy, and she said, "I see a couple of 'For Lease' signs on this street." She said it with great portentousness.

But a couple of "For Lease" signs wouldn't have been all that unusual even in the boom years. Businesses are always coming and going.

Anyway, I know I should be pleased to be over 15% more than I expected to make.

I just wish I felt it was more solid.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keeping my Obama-like cool.

This whole summer has been about staying calm, cool, and collected. That's been my focus and my goal.

As I mentioned, I started giving myself brownie points for every day I didn't say a discouraging word. So I have little red stars on the first three days of the July calendar, then failed on the Fourth of July and on the fifth. No real confrontation, just some frustrated words that probably no one heard or cared about.

But I failed by my own standards, and almost gave up. I thought, if I can't even stay cool more than 3/5th of the time, I'm doomed to live on adrenaline. But I started over again on Monday, and made it through Friday no problem.

Saturdays have been and probably always will be my biggest challenge.

Saturdays with special events? Even more so.

Still, I'm determined to get through the next two days without incident.

I was telling Paul, one of my good guys, about it. (Curse removed, Paul.) And he asked, "Are you making more money?"

It isn't really about the money. It's about feeling good about myself. I can't even say that I don't think some of these people I've had mix ups with didn't deserve it. But it didn't do my business any good, it didn't change their behavior, and most importantly, it got me riled up.

I did realize, though, that I couldn't do what I tried to do the first three days, which was say nothing at all. That just set me up to crack when things got really bad on the 4th.

So, I will intervene, but oh, so gently. That seems to be working better.

For instance, I had a Mom and a 4 year old in the store. She was looking at books, while he grabbed one of my 7.99 kids books. And proceeded to completely and utterly mangle it.

I watched him for awhile, but when he started to reach for another book, I stepped in, "Can I show you my used kids books section? You can look through those all you want..."

The Mom looked down at her son, and saw what he'd done to the book, and I heard this...."...Oh."

I had an inspiration. "I'll sell you that book for half-price, if you like, since he seems to like it."

"That would be great," she said, in relief. So problem solved, Mom and kid happy, I didn't lose any money. I just need to keep coming up with solutions like that.

Twice I shewed some packs of teenagers out of the store after they hung around a little too long, by saying, "Hey, guys. It's great you are looking around, but I can't have you hanging around all day. It's not you, but I've had some problems lately. Really, I know you aren't doing anything wrong...."

So far, they haven't taken too much offense, and got the message.

Has a lot to do with tone of voice, and making sure the message hasn't any "blame" implied. I figure the longer I do this, and the more "blame-free" messages I can come up with, the easier it will get.

Today, I'm just going to hang back and not expect much. Hope I can keep everything in order. I'm expecting a couple of hundred people in the door, at least. But most will be browsing, and I just need to remember that and not get uptight.

Wish me luck.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just another blogger.

Keeneye from the Pizza Professional with OCD blog came in last week, and she wrote about the shop: below.

It was kind of funny. She came in with two young ladies, who looked around the store and looked at me in puzzlement.

"Duncan is a fellow blogger..."

"Ohhhhhhhh! they said, immediately losing all interest in me and store.


I also find it funny that everyone finds it funny that I'm barefoot at my store.

To me, it seems quite logical.

Anyway, if you want to read a great blog about a start-up, Paizano's Pizza in Baker, definitely check out the Pizza Professional. (Link on my Pegasus Books Blog, under old name Untrained Professional with OCD.))

"When we were finally finished, we took our glamorous toes out on the town to pound the pavement in downtown Bend.

My goal was to finally irk Duncan in person, and I think I succeeded. The girls kept on walking when I ducked into the comic book store, as there were fancy handbags and jewelry in the window next door. Duncan tallied me on a post-it note with a Bic pen (keeping track of his traffic, no doubt) before saying hello. When he realized who I was, he came around from the counter and shook my hand. It was then that I noticed his barefeet. I love that.

We chatted for some time about blogging, small business garb, and his meanderings on too much success (yes, he’s fairly spot on). He then asked me to go on a mission regarding a new biz down the street from him that he hadn’t had time to visit. What do they sell, he asked…. (Candles, chandeliers, soap.)

He rewarded me for my mission with a couple of comic books that have no business being photographed and displayed on my blog. And no… not that kind of comic book. They’re just a tad politically charged, which I believe we both veer away from. But I love them. Thanks, Dunc.

And shoot! I really should have taken photos of Pegasus. It’s a much cooler store than I envisioned. You don’t expect much from the outside, but once you’re inside – POW! He really packs the place with tons of stuff, yet without crowding the walls or the customers. Very nicely done. Well-organized, and dare I say it – OCD?"

Blogs have more fun.

I've given myself permission to be a complete slacker for the next six weeks of summer.

Not that I'm not already a slacker.

But usually I'm conflicted about it.


Linda had a funny conversation with my 89 year old Dad. He has coffee twice a week with other retired doctors at Jake's Diner. He lives for it, and they treat him really nicely.

Anyway, he's a bit deaf.

He asked my wife how I happened to know the guy at Jake's.

"You mean Lyle?"


"Duncan knows him through his blog."

"He knows him through a blond?"

"No, George. They both have blogs!"

"They both have blonds?"

"Blogs! They both have blogs!"


"Blogs! Blogs!" She spelled it out. "B......L.....O......G!"

"Oh.............what's a blog?"


Linda says she doesn't have anything for her blog.

"Sure you do," I said. "In fact, I just stole the contents to a blog with your story about Dad."

"I'm not going to write about just nothing," she says.

"Why not?"

I approach my blog differently.

It should be fun. One should be allowed to fail. To write a nonsense blog, or a joke that doesn't go over, or a stupid observation, or....well, anything.

Blogs may already be old news to some people, but I think they can be played with and experimented with yet.

You can't take yourself too seriously. I quit monitoring who was reading this, and how many were reading this, about a year ago or so. I didn't like worrying about it. It's not like anyone is going to be reading this in a year --- or a month --- or a week --- or tomorrow -- or today....

I try to be coherent and thoughtful, but not too hard. Trying too hard would make this blog, well, work. A column. An essay. A homework assignment. A... oh, shit....a term paper....

Not that I'm not trying to dig as deep as I can get on some subjects -- but even then I'm trying to dig deep as I can for my own sake, and if it happens to emerge here, great.

To me, life is full of incidences that could become blog fodder. It's choosing which ones that's hard. And changing it up, and making it different, and mulling about it for a few days before I commit to words. But not finding things to write about?

Not for me.

Just stringing words together is fun for me. Changing them around, adding or cutting, looking for a different slant. Trying to find the 'telling' detail. Just doing stream of consciousness. Seeing what emerges, and being surprised.

It's play.

I figure in the end, I'll be doing this in a vacuum.

But that's alright.

As long as I'm having fun.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You want it cheap, or you want it good?

It's always interesting to me when people balk at the price of quality product. I'm not talking about your everyday commodity; I'm talking about something that is nicely made, isn't generally available, and isn't discounted by anyone else.

I just have to shrug. Either the quality is worth paying for, or it isn't. But what it says to me is that some of these people just don't buy UNLESS it's on sale or cheap, and quality isn't really the point.

I suppose I never noticed this as much because until recently, I never really tried for that higher quality market. Most of my product was in the 1.00 to 50.00 range, with a few exceptions. I stayed in that zone, mostly, because I hit so much price resistance in the past.

But as my store has filled out, I've realized the only way to get some of the nicest material is to get it at the higher prices. So I've slowly morphed in that direction. Frankly, I have limited space, so I need product that can produce more dollars per foot. One of the consequences of the high rents.

Still, I kind of like it. Nothing super fancy, mind you. But nice.

Games like Settlers of Catan are just made better than your average Monopoly set. You can feel the quality in the heft of it, the packaging, the contents, the colors, the thickness of the cardboard, and so on. Just the sheer pleasing design of it.

Same with the "deluxe" editions of classic graphic novels like Sandman or Watchmen, or the wonderful reprints of Peanuts, or Dick Tracy, or Little Orphan Annie.

I'll have people pass over these wonderfully solid hardcover books, which cost in the range of 30.00 to 50.00, even though they are obviously attracted to them; and then they'll buy (they'll settle for, if you will) a 10.99 paperback of Pearls Before Swine, or Get Fuzzy. (I'm not knocking it, just wishing they could see their way to buying the nicer books....)

Same with 'designer toys.' An artist created it, and it is usually produced in smaller quantities -- so small, that I estimate that about half of the designer toys I order are 'canceled'; which means they didn't even make it to my wholesaler before they sold out.

But they cost quite a bit more than your average toy. I pass on most of the $100.00 and more toys, but I have a fair number in the 30.00 to $80.00 range, and when I quote the price, people put them back quickly.

"What does this belong to," they'll ask. (You know, what movie, what cartoon...?)

And I'll say, "Nothing. It's an object that is esthetically pleasing in it's own right."

I might as well be talking Greek.

"Oh," they'll say. "Do you have any Spider-man toys?"

So it's the very quirkiness of the artist toys that attracts me to them, and which drives the average customer away. Problem is -- weirdly enough for a comic store -- I just can't get decent Spider-man toys at a decent price. And when I do, they sell for even cheaper at Walmart. I'm almost forced (gladly, in this case) to carry the unusual, the weird, the wonderful -- and often that comes with a higher price tag.

And, well, it comes with a need to sell to people who think for themselves, who know what they like, and aren't just following the herd. Even designer toys hinge a little too much on the name value of the maker than the actual object, but there it is. If you buy this toy, you may be the only person within 300 square miles who has it...

I always want to ask, "Do you really like it? Isn't it a bit better than the average? Wouldn't you like having it around, long after you forgot what you paid for it?"

I don't know -- buy less cheap crap, and a few higher quality items and you'll spend about the same.

Walmart and the Dollar Stores are doing great, so I hear.

O.K. I can understand it. But it does make me wonder about the vaunted 'rich' demographic of Bend, though, because I know this stuff sells like crazy in bigger cities.

(***Sidenote, because it deals with comics. But as illustration of Bend's difference...
I recently read a message from a dealer who was asked about his sell-through on a certain title. "Oh, pretty slow," he says. "I've sold about 60% of what I ordered, about 225 copies."

Which made me do a double-take, because I got 10 of the same item. Total. So, he ordered something like 400 copies!!!

I see this over and over again, and it makes me realize that for all the talk, Bend is still a pretty small town.***)

Eventually, if 'designer toys' really take off, you'll see them everywhere and they will become a commodity and they will be discounted. "Ugly Dolls" are already reaching that point.

Eventually, Walmart will convince the makers of Settlers to use thinner cardboard, and eliminate some of the extra pieces, and so on, and the game will play the same and most people will only see that it's cheaper....

The irony being, the longer I'm in business, the less inclined I am to discount; and the longer I'm in business, the more people seem to expect discounts. But the way I look at it; I have a nice store, full of nice things, and you found me because I'm in a nice district of town with high rents. (And if my profit margin is adequate, I can get even more nice stuff and make an even nicer store.)

I'm going to wait for the people who really want something enough to pay for it.

So it goes....

All this is a long lead-in to my real point.

12 years ago, when we had the mall store, probably 80% of the people who came in the door weren't really interested in buying anything. It was the nature of the mall. Lots and lots of people.

Meanwhile, at my store downtown, probably 80% of the people who came in the door were customers, because my store was a destination. I was off the beaten track.

I almost couldn't work the mall store because my expectations were all out of whack.

Now, more than a decade later, my downtown store has turned into something very similar to the old mall store. 80% of the people who come in the door aren't really all that interested in what I have. But there are lots and lots of people.

I'm glad I recognized this trend a few years back and tried my best to carry material that would both fit into my store and also attract the average person off the street. Books, obviously. Family boardgames, too. But also toys and just knick-knacks. Comics and cards and manga and anime are still pretty specialized, but I pick up a bit from the sheer numbers.

I'm not responsible for this change. I stayed in the same location while the world around me changed...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I know it exists. I saw it on Urban!!

It's amazing how often kids send parents and grandparents on fool's errands.

They come in an ask innocently for something I've never seen, or seen once in twenty years, or I quote them a price and their eyes get as big as saucers.

Just saying.

Not sure if the kids know they are doing this, or don't care.

Always a little amusing to me to see how miffed some of the parents are that I don't have what they are looking for, and when I patiently explain that it is extremely unlikely that they'll find it just laying around, they obviously don't believe me.

But patiently explain, I do, and if they choose not to believe me and continue their search for Junior's desire, so be it.

But it's the retail equivalent of urban myth. "Well, Junior saw 5 of them at regular price at Walmart!"

"O.....K......" Never argue with Junior through doting grandparents.

Or....."I have 5 of them already, and I'm just looking for a 6th." (This comes from not knowing what they have. There have been, Oh, 10 different Superman #1 reprints. There have been 100's of #1's with Superman in the title. I've never seen a Superman #1, nor do I ever expect to.... Or....I've never seen a legit of the era Babe Ruth card, or Joe DiMaggio, and I've seen one Jackie Robinson....and believe me when I tell you, that there was a 5 year span when I saw just about everything readily available -- dozens of Mickey Mantles, etc. But no Babe Ruths...)


Then there is the, "I sent my money off for 5 of them, but they haven't arrived yet...."

Holding your breath for a refund?

But the classic is: "I figured you didn't. They only printed 5 of them, and 3 of them are in museums! But it never hurts to look!"

Yes. Yes it does, when you have me searching for 10 minutes...

Anyway, when I try to tell people that certain product is extremely difficult to get, I can see that people don't believe me. The internet has only aggravated this process.

"Oh, it's for sale," they'll say. "I KNOW it is....I saw it on such and such a website."

"Really?" I answer. "Did you know I sell a unicorn on my website? Sorry, you can't find him here at the store, but he's available at"

Some people get what I'm saying, most just look at me weird.

Unfortunately, I am wrong just often enough that I must go through the motions, usually. There always is that really, really off chance that I'm the only store left in the country selling that particular item for regular price... Or, more likely, that an item has been released, and I somehow missed it.

I have enough knowledge in my fields, though, that I can usually make short work of it.

And I've decided to not take offense at their skeptical looks. They just don't know any better.