Please Don't Browse

Comic Quest, SM Megamall, Ortigas

I'm in absolute agreement with Chris Schweizer when he states that one of the pleasures and advantages to visiting a bricks-and-mortar comic book store is the ability to peruse the comics before making the decision to buy them. I've also enjoyed the open-ended delights of wasting as much time as desired shopping at a well-stocked comic book store or bookstore. But that's not the case everywhere. His post made me reflect on how differently Filipino comic book stores deal with customers who like to browse. To put it bluntly, they kind of suck.

The first truly tangible Direct Market presence in the Philippines (as far as I can remember) was in the early Nineties, riding on the speculator-driven boom of the time. The most important retailers were Filbar's and Comic Quest. Business must have been good, because back then the two franchises dueled so fiercely it wasn't unusual to find competing branches at any large shopping center. Things haven't gone so well since, as both have scaled back their operations and diversified their offerings to the point were when one enters their stores, it either looks like a hobby shop or a newstand. But in terms of store layout, they were virtually identical. Both would bag or shrink-wrap their floppies and graphic novels, and put them behind the counter. Needless to say, this made it difficult for customers to examine the comics. They could if they wanted to, but that meant asking one of the uniformed salesladies (It was always a young woman) to pull a copy of the rack since they were the only people allowed access to them. So customers got a lot of individual attention, whether they wanted it or not. And as you can imagine, it's not easy finding enjoyment in a comic when someone's hovering over you. But at least the clerks (to steal a cliche from Tom Spurgeon) never had to yell at some no-good kid for messing-up the racks and not purchasing anything.

Things haven't changed that much. In the newer stores, the shelves are now located over-the-counter. But a lot of them still practice bagging and shrink-wrapping their comics. Or even funnier, putting them behind sliding glass displays. Oh well, I guess it keeps them safe and in good condition.

This is something I took for granted for a long time because that's just the general retail culture of the country. You can walk into any regular bookstore and expect to find that some of the books are bagged or shrink-wrapped. If National Bookstore doesn't exactly encourage leisurely browsing, don't expect anything different from the majority of comic book stores.