FLGS: To Support or Not to Support

For those that are wondering, FLGS is internet speak for “Friendly Local Game Store,” and the prevailing sentiment throughout the net is that you should really do everything within your power to support them.  They provide local inventory, a place to play, new faces in the community to play with, etc.  There really are a variety of benefits they offer, so I can certainly see the logic in continuing to support them over online retailers.

The thing is that my “Friendly Local Gaming Stores” aren’t exactly local.  In fact, they all are about 30 miles away from my house.  I know that there are some people who drive hours to go play at a local shop and are appalled that I would think that 30 miles is too far to drive.  The thing is that I’m lazy, and I’ve grown accustomed to playing against like-minded players.  As a result, I’m really the epitome of old-dude garage-hammer players.  I have a regular gaming group that meets up on a semi-weekly basis in my garage and we play.  They get invited because they’re similarly minded people that I enjoy hanging out with and playing against.

WarstoreBlackFridayAs a result, I don’t go to the gaming stores.  In fact, of the four stores that are in my area, I’ve only ever been to two of them (and that’s only true because they’ve been around for 30+ years)–and neither of those really focuses on the games I play routinely.  They’re more focused on comics and Magic: the Gathering (which, though I buy a lot of, I very rarely ever get to play).  The two stores that I have never been to are the ones that really support the 40k/GW community and routinely hold tournaments, painting workshops, etc.   And though they’re not exactly my scene, I would certainly go to them–at least on some occasion–if they were closer to me.

Based upon this, and the fact that my local stores didn’t offer a discount, I wound up turning to the internet long ago.  My store of choice for the past 15+ years has been The War Store.  Neal and his staff have always done right by me.  His prices are always reasonable, the selection is good, customer service is great, and the shipping really can’t be beat, considering how remote I am.

In many ways, I consider The War Store to be my FLGS.    Except for the “Local” portion of the name, they have it nailed, so they’re really 3/4’s of the way there.

Enter Amazon.

Last year, Amazon wound up giving me a free business account to buy stuff online, and I’ve wound up moving a good deal of my employer’s purchases through them.  They have an unbeatable selection, hands down the best prices for almost everything, and impeccable customer service, plus with the free prime account, shipping is a non issue.  In short, they provide virtually everything that the War Store does (sans GW models, which everyone knows I don’t buy a lot of), and the prices are cheaper and often quicker to ship.

So that begs the question?  What level of loyalty do I owe “my FLGS?”  If I can get great prices, selection, and customer service elsewhere, and they don’t provide the base benefits of  community that a FLGS typically provides, do I owe them anything?  (EDIT: The irony is that, since Amazon offers the ability for other sellers to list their wares on their sites, I’ve actually wound up purchasing things from The War Store through Amazon’s marketplace).

I can’t honestly say as I know the answer to that.  Frankly, I find myself looking to Amazon first for purchases, and if they’re the same sort of thing that TWS sells, then I may ask Neal and his crew to price match.  I wound up doing that on Black Friday–wanting some board games from Amazon, but not sure I wanted to pull the trigger.  I eventually saw that Neal’s sale offered an additional 8%, so I tried to get him to price match and throw in that 8% discount, which he couldn’t do.  I hemmed and hawed, and turned a “maybe” purchase from Amazon into a definite purchase through TWS because I feel they’ve earned my business over the years.

amazon-logo_whiteWhen Deathwatch Overkill came out, I found myself browsing to find someone selling just the cult models online; finding none (at least none that were reasonably priced), I saw that I could buy a boxed set on ebay for $136.  Rather than pulling the trigger, I asked Neal (on a lark) if he could price match that number (noting he wasn’t listing the game at his typical 20% off cost anyway).  Two days later, he came back and said he could, but I’d have to pay shipping.

Let’s recap.  He’s selling at 9% off MSRP.  I find someone else selling at 18% off, and ask him if he can price match.  I wait a few days (during which the first guy could theoretically sell out of his product) and then hear back that I can buy it for the same price plus shipping.  So I’m getting the same quality of product, but I have to do additional work, pay shipping, and inject multiple days of delay into the negotiating process.

Is it worth the hassle?

I just don’t know… I’d love to hear your take on it.

 

 

 

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37 comments on “FLGS: To Support or Not to Support

  1. It’s an interesting conundrum isn’t it. I don’t have a FLGS that has gaming tables, they’re a small toy shop that just happens to stock GW stuff. I also help to run a local club however, and I contacted the owner of the shop to see if they would do us a deal. Now as you’ve discovered, you can get GW stuff much, much cheaper than their prices online, up to 25% in some cases and that particular place was my stop of choice thanks to the amazing discounts they offered, despite having to pay postage.

    The toy shop came back to us with a sliding scale of discounts however, based on how much we spent in a single order, so we can now get 15% off going through them. Yes, we have to wait for their delivery and then go and pick the order up, but they also advertise our club for us (which has resulted in a few new members over the years) and have offered their support to us in a few other ways since then. They also offer a discount on direct only models for us, which is great, though they do take a little longer to arrive.

    In short, I’m not sure I can really answer your question, except to say that the benefits of my FLGS aren’t just realised in terms of cheaper models, they also support my club and the hobby I love and help to keep my gaming group supported.

    • I think that’s the norm. Fundamentally, you buy locally because of the additional benefits provided from the FLGS: place to play, community building, advertising, etc. Having them around keeps you fresh with bodies. I think you have a strong case for buying locally, even if it means higher prices and sometimes slightly longer fulfillment times.

      By the way, I checked out your google+ page–just how many armies do you have?!?

  2. I do consider my “virtual FLGS” to Miniature market, but it´s about economy if you find cheaper it´s ok, usally the variation its between a dolar or 2 but somtimes worth the risk. Also remember that your true FLGS should exist to get new local players and have a place to play appart from private clubs or own house. so support assisting to tournament, holding gatherings there and well purchasing things from time to time… there is nothing better than go to the store and pay for something and bring back to start painting (or Hoard em until the end of times XD)

    • As a purely garage-hammer player, I find myself looking differently at the value of local stores, as I just don’t derive any of the benefits from them really. It does indirectly build up the community locally and theoretically seeds my gaming group with players, but I don’t think that’s the case. Maybe we just need to reach out and get some new blood….

      On Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 7:19 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:

      >

      • The FGLS is the way to get new blood for the battle, usually you get tired of same opponents and want more challenges and POV, thats whats right to support the virtual FGLS from time to time.

      • It helps that you actually send an email to their owner, Neal, when you’re placing an order. Granted, they’re getting fairly large, so he doesn’t oversee every order personally anymore, but he does answer any email I send him directly. I only wish I lived nearby, as I’m sure that’s one store that I’d frequent and support if they were closer.

  3. I live about twenty miles from MJ’s in Wasilla, and you bet that I pack my happy ass down there every time I need a 4 dollar pot of paint, or to play a game. Why? Because if I don’t do it, that place will close up and leave. Is it narcissistic to believe my business is what is keeping them afloat? Ok yeah it is… but I also realize that without community support, those stores close and we no longer have them as an option for local tournaments, or even as a meeting place for a friendly game. I want to keep those options open. I also genuinely like Robert, who runs MJs, as he and I have been friends for years, long before he started running the place, all the way back to when he’d organize small local tournaments out of the Palmer Library.

    MJs has also brought in a lot of new players since it started hosting events, which is great for playing the game. Playing the same players over and over can get you in a rut, so fresh blood and fresh perspectives on the game can help keep it new and exciting for you too.

    I do buy from the internet every once in a while, usually out of convenience. But since MJs came around, I rarely do unless it’s to snag an ebay deal. For us, it might be the difference of a few dollars. But to guys like Robert, it’s the difference between working at a job he loves (and I am a bit jealous of) and having the store close (which would throw him back out into the unemployment pool). Those internet stores don’t require your money to put bread on the table, they have enough customers. Support local brick-and-mortar stores first.

    • Twenty miles from Wasilla? Does that mean you live in Palmer or maybe Eklutna?

      It’s great that you feel that connection/dedication to them, and I wish I had the same. It’s just so far for me to drive and games already take so long. Like I said, if someone was closer, I might venture down more often.

      By the way, I only just now realized that you’re FoxPhoenix. When did you change your online handle?

  4. I tend to buy all my miniatures through ebay now as the prices tend to be better. The only exception is paints, which I still buy through the local GW.

  5. My instinct and desire to ‘do the right thing’ says support my local shop. However…I’ve found my local shop to be unwelcoming, unfriendly, cliquey and we’ll…I’ve stopped giving them any business. I’ve found that I’ve received much better customer service and personalised interaction from a few on line sellers: Twisted Pinnacle, CP Models, SnMstuff, Black Hat Miniatures to name just my faves. Vote with your wallet, vote with who shows you the most love!

      • Aha…yup, in the UK. I guess that I’m also lucky in that I don’t have to depend on stores for playing too, as I game with a couple of close friends. If that wasn’t an option, I guess I’d have to allign myself to a store. I don’t play 40k, AoS or modern Warhammer so I probably wouldn’t be welcome in a GW store but they always appear to have a healthier culture than my local indie store.

  6. Indeed a good question. I also decide something like this based on the ethics of the company in question. Amazon has some sketchy business practises, so if I can get something for a little bit more from an online or brick and mortar retailer I like, then I go for the latter to support some fellow hobby people, instead of a corporation.

  7. I live in the UK and within 15 minutes walk I have both a GW store and an independent. The independent has no space for gaming, but offers our local club 20% off rather than 10% that the rest of the public get.

    I, alone among our gaming group, choose to shop at GW rather than getting the better rates round the corner. My purchases aren’t often large or expensive but I do however use GW to play during the week and on occasion steal a painting space for days at a time. I also know that they don’t hit target and it infuriates me that others in the club group buy elsewhere, come round to store and complain that they’re not allowed to play horus heresy games on the tables or use their pure FW armies.

    It got so bad that we recently ran an auction for a gaming lock-in as part of the store birthday celebrations. Every £25 you spent got you a credit to use, ecery game you played got you one too. The local FW group were infuriateed when between three of us we managed to crush their tally and had thers in the sotre throwing random ones and two credits at us to use rather than them….when they asked people why they were told that amongst other reasons, we were know to the other customers but more importantly that we were always there to help people when they came in.

    For me, unless GW is closed or the discount shop is offering a spectacularly good offer I’d rather pay full price and support the place I game and paint. Now if I lived in an area where there was only an independent gaming store I’d be loyal to them too. If an independent store opened locally then I’d still support GW but would pay whatever the yearly club rate was to use the independent.

    • That makes perfect sense to me. You’re certainly deriving some additional benefit from the store, so I can see paying a little extra to do so. As I understand it, places to actually play in the UK can be somewhat hard to find, so anything you can do to ensure they keep the doors open and tables available makes great sense to me. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  8. I mean, I understand why, locally, if you don’t play in public why you wouldn’t feel obligated to buy stuff at their stores.

    Since I do play almost entirely at the local store(s), I try and do all my shopping at these places. I rarely place orders there for non-GW products however, because why knows when they’ll get it in (even if I get 15% off that stuff). Plus, all the local shops have a way to get 20% off of GW stuff, so I’m not really making any savings buying it online. Basically, I try and buy something physical (ie non-soda/snackfood) every time I walk into Tier 1 to play. I really, really appreciate them giving us a place to play games and run events.

    Recently, I’ve only bought terrain from Ebay, some bits from Ebay and made a big Forgeworld Order.

      • LGS can’t order from FW at all – I don’t even think that B&M GW stores can actually order from FW, even if they do carry some of the Imperial Armour books in stock.

      • I can’t speak with any recent knowledge, but I know that the battle bunker in Seattle used to carry a regular stock of FW, and would order specific items for no additional charge for you (Which was nice because you could see them in advance before buying them–though I’m not sure why that was necessary, because FW’s quality is really unmatched). Of course, that was a while back and it was a GW store, not a FLGS, but then there was a tenuous connection between GW and FW, so maybe there’s a shot?

        I also saw this article on BoLS, which insinuated there may be a connection as well: http://www.belloflostsouls.net/2015/07/confirmed-new-forge-world-store-coming-this-summer.html

        On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 9:47 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:

        >

  9. I try to support my local shop, MJ’s, when I can. I have made a couple large purchases there during their PDF sales (not sure if they still do that) and was happy with the service. They even special ordered some pieces for me. I’ve purchased most of Kaden’s X-Wing stuff there too. I haven’t yet played a game at their shop though which is a shame. The best day for me to get a game in is on Fridays and I’d rather hang with people I know (your garage) and Fridays at MJ’s are for the cardflingers anyway and Homey don’t play dat, so win-win.

    • I play at MJ’s on a weekly basis, so I feel guilty if I -don’t- purchase my gw products from there. It is super convenient to have a store within 25 miles of me for a change, so I want to ensure they stay there. Plus, Robert (who runs MJ’s) is a terrific guy, so I want to make sure he has job security there! Most of the time, the deals he gives me are better than what I’d get if I ordered online anyway, and I can have it in my hands when I walk out of the store. If he doesn’t have it, he’ll put the order in and get it for you. There really is no reason for me to shop online other than trying to snag massive bulk deals on used armies from Ebay.

      • I want to have a shop nearby for quick runs if I need it and think if the people there are friendly enough then they should be supported. I know I wouldn’t be in this hobby if it weren’t for Bosco’s selling stuff on their shelves back in the late 80’s. Discovering that first box of Space Marines on the shelf is something I will never forget and having a store around to provide that for the next generation is important to the hobby I think.

  10. I always shop around for the best deal, but I have a number of online and local vendors that if I’m visiting I’ll at least pick up white dwarf. Currently I’ve got a virtual fistful of Amazon vouchers, so Deathwatch Overkill will be purchased through the Marketplace. Its been interesting to see the sellers undercut each other on a daily basis 🙂

    With the new FLG opened in Southport that’s no doubt had an effect on the GW, its a different environment and with snacks and a seating area the vibe is just cool and it’s got everything the GW has and loads more. There are also a couple of places online I like to use but ultimately it’s best price for me as all of them are little operations that need support.

    As for your situation then travel is a factor, if the venues don’t play your stuff and have a different vibe then there’s no issue in my book. If the War Store do you a good turn then that’s great but just because you find a better deal elsewhere doesn’t mean your disloyal, especially if you gave them an opportunity to price match (as a valued customer if they failed to match then what of their loyalty?).

    The fact your questioning this shows you’re a good guy, so whatever decisions you make then I imagine they’re sound ones 🙂

  11. I support my FLGS. My hobby group is based in it, and we get the whole store to ourselves every other thursday. Granted, I pay as much in my local store as I would in any GW store (though I do save up some sort of customer credit in my FLGS). And seeing how our local group has been booming ever since we have started having open nights once a month were interested parties can come and watch us play and discuss. I do believe we have a healthy symbiotic relationship with the store. (Also, getting freebies for scatter terrain and models for group painting competitions is a nice bonus)

    Now granted this is now. Several years ago I was in the same situation. I had to drive at least 45 minutes to an hour to either go to my GW store, or to an independant store and I had no guarantee that I would have a table to play at both stores. and I did all my purchases online. I had my problems with it although some people did call me a “local business destroyer” at times. I really didn’t care since they were so far away. Now having a store a mere 15 minutes in walking distance. I’d be more then glad to support it to ensure I have a place to play.

    • So, since you used to be in a similar position to me and have the benefit of hindsight, do you see it as a mistake that you didn’t support the store that was 45 minutes away? Should you have been building that community all along (even if you eventually didn’t wind up staying there, as it likely helps benefit your new store’s culture as well)?

      • Truthfully, I have no regrets of how things have passed. Back at those older stores I and other miniature gamers have never felt welcome. Miniatures were a “tertiary” source of revenue, had to wait weeks before we could get our orders of a new codex and what not. The old shop owner didn’t put in the effort I expected.
        Now however I have been welcomed ever since I set foot in that store. Even before our warhammer group started we could reserve tables, we have very minimal wait times on our orders. This guy really cares for his community of gamers and hobbyists. Most of the people that I have brought into that specific store have now even picked up a secondary miniature game such as guildball or X-wing. And that just by the sheer positive force of an active and supported community.
        I work in IT for small businesses and for my job I happen to come across many independent stores some just for miniature modeling such as tanks and train, others for just boardgames and the like. And I tell to each and every owner “Invest in your community”. If you only see patrons as sacks of cash, your store will not survive. We’re all human, and even patrons have expectations. Don’t live up to those expectation, and we’ll take our money elsewhere.

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