Sunday, September 13, 2009

Table Fees

"Five dollars an hour."

"For a table?"


"...And that's if the game is out of print or unavailable from your distributor?"


I stood, slightly dumbfounded.  The gaming tables were in a next-door store front, at that moment completely empty of gamers.  The Not-So-FLGS manager smiled that "I'm with a customer but I don't really mean it" smile.  I must've let on that I was taken a little aback, when he continued, "Hey, if you game for four or five hours with a few friends, that's just a five from each of you.  Cheap!"

"But it's free if you can get the game from your distributor."


I can understand that game stores need to sell games to stay open, but this kind of table fee is clearly aimed at moving current product, rather than the long tail of gaming.  It also has encouraged me to look at other game stores in the area to run games at - simply because they don't have such fees.  Economics can cut both ways.


  1. Name and shame brother. Let the world know who the scumbag is. It's a powerful tool.

  2. Everybody's gotta make a living. On the other hand, not good public relations ... I presume you lay down your fair share buying product. What would provoke an owner to drive away a repeat customer? Not smart.

  3. Given your location and the description of the space, it sounds like you're talking about Pegasus. If I'm right, and I hope I'm not, then that is a shame. That's the only FLGS for RPGs in the area with decades of history. Bought all my first games there as a kid a couple decades past, when they were downtown. I've always had positive experiences with the owner, but the rest of the staff and the way it has been operated have been hit-or-miss for years. If you're looking for other stores, try Misty Mountain across town. Or if you'll be playing wargames instead of RPGs, don't miss The Last Square just down the road.

  4. My local FLGS has Saturday gaming sessions in which you are supposed to purchase at least £10 of stock in order to play - however as all the Saturday regulars are amongst the highest spending of his customer base that rule is pretty much given only a token lip service.

    I _can_ see his point - if the game is in print in theory playing of it in his premises drives sales, a game that a prospective customers sees, asks for it and is then told "try eBay" isn't so helpful.

    That said I'm in the UK where the games shops aren't the main public face of "where to game" - we tend to game in clubs away from stores.

  5. Devil's Advocate here.

    The shop has space for tables. In a next-door storefront. This is space they're renting, or if the owner owns it, he could be renting it to someone else.

    In either case the space could be used profitably for anything else. But they choose to make the space available for gamers.

    I know we're so used to buying our books and then the rest is free. The ticket price is your imagination. But in this case the shop is losing out on hard cash by offering gaming space.

    I will admit that the way he approached it is bad. His method seems crass and ugly. There are a lot of he-shoulds here. So I can offer some suggestions:

    1A: Offer the space to everyone at $2 an hour per table, but if you buy something from the store you get table-time credit of 1 hour per $2 spent. This won't add up very fast for the customer, but it gets people in the habit of playing there and buying there. If three people buy their PHB at the shop for $20 a book, they have 30 hours of table time for free.

    1B: Get nearby businesses to put their phone numbers on a pamphlet map of the neighborhood. Places like pizza delivery, sandwich shops, that sort of thing. The neighbor should give up something small for the extra advertising, and the gaming shop should get a tiny bit of benefit, and the gamer should get a tiny benefit. Maybe a small discount for the gamer and a kickback to the gaming shop if there are more than 50 referrals per month. It needs to be simple. Perhaps put up a blackboard where people can write where they want to order from that night, and get them together to make the call at the same time so it's a single group order for a small discount.

    2: Set up tournament games using products that the shop sells. Have shop employees set up games using certain products. Get the word out on things the shop wants to sell. The award for being the winning team at a tournament could be an extra discount on your next purchase.

    3A: Set up craft nights with instructions and materials already there, you just have to pay to sign up. Or craft nights where you bring your own stuff, but you can buy materials that the shop sells. I'm thinking more along the lines of painting minis, homemade terrain and buildings, that sort of thing. Show people how nice these store-bought materials can be.

    3B: Terrain swaps. People can come in and sell their homemade terrain and painted minis without dealing with paypal and shipping and such. Get some Hirst Arts going. Eventually the shop could collect donated terrain pieces for use in tournaments.

    4: The gaming table area rents out gaming materials like mats, terrain, miniatures, etc. The materials stay on-site and you're expected to leave a credit card as collateral in case you don't return things. But the rental minis are the old and busted sort, not excellent quality, and the point is that you'd much rather buy your own. There could be a nominal rental fee to defray replacement costs for damaged materials.

    5: Get whatever licence is necessary to sell prepackaged food and drinks. The gamers at the tables are likely to hit your snack bar, unless you price yourself out. Your cleaning duties are no greater, because they will bring their own snacks if you don't sell them.

  6. I'm actually disinterested in identifying the store. But I agree with 1d30 about things they could do better. I suspect we'll be back there, though, simply to do some educating about the OSR.

  7. Here's an idea: tell the store owner you will no longer purchase anything in his store, and neither will anyone you game with, and you'll be sure to pass the word to anyone you game with or ever have gamed with via face to face and your online blog. Be sure to stop by periodically and stick your head in to tell Asshat what your latest purchases were at his competitor across town, and your buddie's purchases, and how much money he's cost himself with his asinine policy. Then, when Doctor Evil is getting his next meal from the dumpster out back after he's lost his store, he can pat himself on the back for standing on his principles and not backing down in his effort to wheedle a few bucks out of you.
    In all seriousness, it's never a surpise when this sort of stuf happens, because most game store owners are notoriously bad businessmen. It's a tough economic climate, and you are looking at putting 5-7 gamers in your store for several hours, where they may see something they like on the shelves and purchase it, or at the very least tell their gaming friends about the local spot that lets you game for free. It would seem to be common sense...but, well....
    I've known a few places to charge for "gaming" over the years...without fail, they are all now out of business. None of the local gaming stores charge for gaming on the premises, and if one did, it would quickly disappear also.
    Sometimes people bemoan the extinction of the some cases, it's just Darwin's Law flushing the turds down the toilet.

  8. What a pathetic lack of imagination and business sense.

    Dice, minis, snacks and drinks, t-shirts, stickers, comics, etc. And ya know, it's not like people who play RPGs ever buy new RPGs cause they saw it on the shelf and it looked cool.

    Getting people in the store, browsing your stuffs is invaluable. Customers dude! if they're not in your store they're not giving you money. Not to mention many DMs/games introduce people (aka new customers) to the hobby.

  9. Norman - no kidding. You'd think that the owner would realize that anybody coming in to game is going to be potentially interested in other stuff there.

  10. I know which store you're talking about, and I genuinely like the place. But I still think the $5 charge is way over the line. I know for a fact that they do pay rent for the other part of the store, but the amount of revenue they would rake in by attracting more people to the place would make up for that.

    It's a little alienating, they should remember that gaming at libraries is free and people would be less tempted to buy new games.

  11. I was lucky enough to have a great local hobby shop at the last place I lived, where not only was gaming space free, but the owners would stop in for a couple of games of Magic, or even DM if they had the night off.

    I can understand a store needing some extra revenue, especially if they have to rent space for the gaming tables. But maybe it would be better to move the tables into the main store, where most of the product is, and find a way to rearrange their shop, even if it means carrying a bit fewer of product X. I know that I feel FAR less comfortable, and am less likely to make a purchase, at a hobby shop that is quiet and has no one gaming inside.

    A full table, even if it is a table full of smelly goobers like us ;-), is far more welcoming than a morose or cranky shopkeeper.