Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nostalgia & Comics & Me part 15
From the Recommended Shelf to Propaganda

One of the most wonderful things I ever got to do in Nostalgia & Comics was recommend comics and graphic novels to customers.
Often when someone was browsing the shelves or came up to the till myself and all the rest of the staff would make pleasant comments on what they were looking at/ buying and gamely suggest that if they liked ------ why not try -------.
Of course, we never, ever criticised the selection. It's up to the customer to read what they liked. But we could always find a way to try to suggest something wonderful to them, no matter what they brought up to the till.

The rarest of prizes though, the really fun one was when a customer would come in and tell you that they'd read everything they wanted and could you suggest anything to read. That always made for a fun 10 minutes or so of chat and selling.

I always sold the books to people with the promise that if they didn't like them all they had to do was bring it back in and we'd refund the money, no questions asked.
To me it seemed the only fair thing to do. After all, this wonderful customer is putting down good money for a book just because I'm telling them it's wonderful. I've spent a little time asking all the pertinent questions to gauge exactly what sort of thing they're after, but I could always misjudge their comic character and sell them something they hate.

I'm very proud of the fact that in all my years of doing this, not a single copy has ever been returned. Not one.

So the inevitable end to this love of selling stuff I love to people would be the recommended shelf. About 1995/6 I was sorting out some of the shelves, changing a few things round and generally keeping myself busy on a long Saturday afternoon when I realised that if I moved this, shifted that and squeezed some horrible books a little I'd have a whole endcap to do with as I pleased.
(Quick explain, before the FPI buyout, the shop's shelves were a horrible wooden affair. Really, really horrible. And at the end of each run of shelves was the end cap, 4 shelves about 2 feet wide.)

So this endcap became The Recommended Shelf.
Every Saturday, after toiling in the basement I'd emerge, sweaty and blinking into the light and go about the shelves looking for what I want to put on the Recommended Shelf for the coming week. Quickly get them together, knock out a quick review sheet and pin it up on the shelf.
Over time, the reviews got longer and the shelf got labels and I started to think about what I could do with it to make it better.

Luckily Dave at Nostalgia & Comics has always been very good at letting us get on with stuff if he thinks it's a good idea and will help us sell more comics and graphic novels, so with his blessing I went about moving the shop around a bit and eventually made myself an entire rack of space.
This became, over time, my PROPAGANDA shelf. The top shelf would be a regularly changing selection of great stuff and the shelves underneath it would be a home to all the stuff that was worth reading but tended to get lost on the main shelves.
PROPAGANDA was where you'd find stuff by Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Andi Watson and the rest. And the top shelf became my mission. Every few weeks I'd select some books, take them home and labour over reviewing them. The resulting A4 review sheet/newsletter became PROPAGANDA. It took bloody ages to do. Mostly because I had to design it, write the reviews and then spend ages trying to get them to fit into the A4 space I had.

But I really loved it.
In fact, leaving the shop meant leaving PROPAGANDA behind and meant I could no longer have access to all the goodies in the shop to read and review as I saw fit.
Of course, regular readers will know that I've started reviewing again and am now putting PROPAGANDA up before you every few weeks as part of the FPI weblog.
The PROPAGANDA @ FPI weblog posts are here.

On the plus side it means I no longer have to condense the reviews to fit an A4 sheet, but the downside is that I no longer get to have the satisfaction of selling stuff to our wonderful customers from my very own PROPAGANDA shelf.

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