Monday, June 14, 2010

My Reflections on Visiting a New (Horrible) Shop

Here is a look at my thoughts for finding a good shop - it may benefit you to read the post before continuing here.

I had an experience that I would like to share, one that I regret having. I know there are a lot of shop owners that read this site religiously, so I want to speak directly to them with the hopes that they can avoid this situation.

First a little background for everyone, because I don’t discuss it much here on the site. When I was living in Los Angeles, I made it a point to visit as many shops as I possibly could. Although I don’t really think there is a better marketplace for singles than eBay in the world (likewise with Blowout and DA for wax), convenience is key with a good local shop, and it can be a fun way to kill some time on a weekend. The first store I went to was Santa Monica Sports Cards, which was probably the biggest and most well known shop in LA when it comes to more modern stuff. I liked the size, but the prices were close to outrageous. I only went back once simply due to that Best Buy sort of experience. There were lots of boxes and wax, but the staff wasn’t too interested in me, the one person in their store.

The second place I went to was Beverly Hills Card Shop, and from the get go, I could see that they were more of a place for vintage collectors than anything. They had new stuff and new boxes, but I felt like I really didn’t fit with their target audience. Again, prices were ridiculous, more so than Santa Monica, so I only went back each time the Rookie Premiere rolled around.

The third shop I took a look at was Baseball Card Company in Chatsworth, and I can say that it was definitely the best shop in the area without a doubt. Not only did they have a great selection of wax at close to blowout prices, but the people were nice and interested in establishing me as a regular customer. The staff was chatty, something I valued, and the shop was well kept and usually filled with customers. They also had a "bid board" which allowed customers to consign their cards for auction within the store. It attracted a bunch of people, and was a great place to unload your cards as well as get some great deals. After leaving LA, this shop was my template, as I had spent enough money and time there to feel like they had the business model for others to emulate.

When I arrived and got set up here in San Antonio, I knew I wanted to find a shop here that mirrored at least some of my experience in LA. Even if it was some small shop, I just wanted everything to be good with me showing up to buy some recently released product just to see what was up. I searched on google to find places that peaked my interest, but there really wasn’t much going on. There were a few comic shops that listed sports cards, and there was one particular shop that was listed as an actual card shop. I searched on the forums and found some good reviews of the place, so I thought I would check it out. It was a terrible mistake.

First, the shop was not in the best area of town, and in a very dingy strip mall. The kind you would expect to find a payday loan place residing in. As I walked up to the door, I didn’t actually think there was anyone inside because the windows were practically blacked out. I realize now it was probably for protection against window shopping theives, but after going inside, there wasn’t much to steal anyways. When I opened the door, I was greeted with a foul stench of mildew and some godforsaken scent. It was noxious to say the least, and without even thinking "Is something burning?" shot out of my mouth. "Yeah, incense." was his response, and I immediately started breathing through my mouth. In fact I think that smell has penetrated my pores because I still get a whiff periodically despite 10 showers in the last few days due to the new baby. Strike one.

As I waded through boxes of old starting lineups and odd action figures, I found it tough to navigate to their small area of display cases because it was so dark in the shop. Obviously the guy had not understood that sunlight helps with bad smells, and was also quite important for customers not looking to kill themselves by tripping on crap. The display cases themselves were filled with all sorts of cards, but when I say display cases, I don’t mean actual installations, but card show displays on a folding table. Yeah, not good. I don’t even think the cards were his, because someone's business card was all over them taped to the plastic window. I started looking for wax, but all I saw were old boxes of action packed football, some 2003 Topps baseball, a few factory sets, and a sealed box of Chrome from 1999. There was not a recent box in the entire shop. Not one pack. Im not sure if they were sold out of whatever, or if the guy just didn’t buy new stuff, but it was terrible. I had intended to buy a box of something, but that was out of the question without anything recent to buy. Strike two.

Owners, if you have invested the money in a storefront for some reason only you and god know of, at least do your part to make it worth my while to come there. Why would I show up if you arent going to stock recent stuff for me to buy? Yes, keeping a stock of product is time consuming and expensive, but this is a business, and you have a responsibility to get your shit together. What if your local grocery store only kept food from last week? They wouldn’t have any business. What if that store was gross and smelly? Same result. I just don’t understand how anyone could spend that kind of time and then expect people to keep spending their money when the store looks to be in shambles.

The worst part of everything was the prices. Not only were the prices on the old boxes set to prices of recent stuff, but they had to look up every single in the Beckett before selling. I didn’t ask for a price on anything, but the one other person there had a barrage of them. Each time he asked, the guy there would say, "it goes for X in Beckett, so ill give it to you X minus five dollars" or whatever. Give me a break, seriously. Price out the damn cards and label them clearly. If the shop can stand to drop the price on a card or two, say that in the sale. Don’t pee on my leg with Beckett prices and tell me its raining when you chop five bucks off high book. That is highway robbery, especially when you consider the state of that shop's business store front. Strike three.

On a side note, I didn’t even venture into the back area of the store because there were so many cardboard boxes piled haphazardly on the floor to the ceiling. It looked like war torn ruins, not kidding. It made me wonder why this guy even bothered to come into work every day, maybe because there arent any good options in the city. I actually saw he responded to criticism that was posted on SCF back in 2008, mostly defending a stance that no one made. Someone said the shop was disorganized (it was) and had nothing worth buying (it didn’t), and he created an account to say that none of it was true and that he had just organized and priced thousands of jersey cards for people to buy. He said they bought lots of collections and that he didn’t always have time to get them out in a normal way, but after seeing the store first hand, there was no way any of it was true. I could have been in someone's garage who just happens to set up at shows once in a while, and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

Lastly, im not sure where the positive reviews came from. I really don’t. There is no way that place could be considered to be a good shop, and I guess will focus on finding another place to buy on whim if and when I actually need to. Speaking of that, I think I owe the guys at the Baseball Card Company an email to thank them for being awesome.


  1. The label "smelly places" makes me smile.

  2. Wow, sounds like you went to Howies Sportscards. Not the greatest shop you'll ever visit, as you discovered. Check out Whats on Second when you get a chance. You won't go anywhere else.


  3. I've been in San Antonio many, many times in my lifetime and I have only visited two places for cards.

    Sadly, that was 4 years or so ago, so I don't exactly remember the names of the places, but do know one is in a mall (wildly, wildly overpriced) and another was in basically an "antique" store. Had some newer boxes, some older boxes (at relatively high prices, like 1999 Topps chrome at RELEASE price) and a terribly selection of singles.

    Outside of my hometown (if you are ever bored and want a road trip, head to San Angelo, I knew the guy who owned the only shop in town, but he moved from the mall to a larger strip and changed the name of the shop) and DFW, everywhere I have seen has blown.

  4. You should've cussed him out.

    I don't get how places like that stay in business. I used to live in southern Virginia, and as of about 4 years ago there were about 4 or 5 card shops to visit, in addition to a semi-regular card show (at the mall in Roanoke... Tanglewood, I think it was called? I forget.) One of them was exactly as the one you're describing: smelly, in an obsolete mini-mall, and had NOTHING that anyone could possibly still want, at least not at the pricing they were using.

    If I ever leave San Diego, the thing I'll miss more than even Mexican food is my LCS.

  5. That sounds exactly like a shop in Branson MO that I know of. (minus the smell) Horrible horrible shop in an EXCELLENT location.

  6. It's been three years since I been back to San Antonio. I don't know if its still there but try search for it. It's called Sports Card Plus. I saddled along with antique store. It's on 2251 Lockhill-Selma in the shopping center with HEB. Last time I was there they have loads of current and 90s wax. It's still the best place to get cards in San Antonio

  7. Check out Sports Cards Plus on NW Military and Lockhill Selma Rd. It's the opposite of what you just visited.

  8. We have a shop like that in Nashville. No organization, unfriendly staff and cigarette smoke in the building! I was there recently with my son and wasn't even acknowldeged. Good luck finding another shop.

  9. hello..sorry to hear of your bad for me i normally buy my wax from blowout or da..but i still love to go to my local card shop here in weathersfield ct..omni comics and cards..the owner scott and his staff peter and steve..are very friendly and they always take the time to talk with me about the hobby..9 once i start talking i don't shut up lol ) but they are so from time to time i will buy some wax from there..even though i know it is going to be more than blowout or this weeks spa hockey..but hobby shops are a dying breed..and the good ones that are left like omni..i try to support by buying my supplys and some wax..they actually have three shops..and the one thing i love about going in it feels like a hobby shop any kind of collector...i hope you find yours in your area..

  10. Hates when i cant be sure that a storekeeper dont have burgersauce on his fingers when going through his singles.

  11. Reflections on a Card Shop Whiner

    I have had many different experiences at card shops across the country. Some good, some bad. Card shops, collectibles stores or what ever you want to call yourselves are all different. No two will ever be the same, it all depends on the owner and the customers they serve. No matter what though, some people only look at the surface and never take into consideration the store owner’s side of a story. I know the store the valley boy from California is whining about.

    His statement about the stores in LA told me a lot about him. He said the prices in the Beverly Hills Card Shop were ridiculous. Well he must not have comprehended the first two words in the name of the shop “Beverly Hills”. He goes on to whine about the prices and selection until he finds a shop that has something he is looking for. You should go and have some cheese with that whine.

    As for the owner of the store in San Antonio, he is one of the youngest I’ve come across and is just starting out (under two years being open) with his first store. He took over a store that was known for being very unorganized (but to each his own). Does every store owner start out with a new building stocked full of everything under the sun, no they don’t. It takes time, sometimes years.

    As far as some of the charges valley boy made against this mans store, well let’s see:

    a.) Dingy strip mall – Well ok, it’s not Beverly Hills and the area of town is not The Rim or La Cantera, but when you take over a store you sometimes have to go with what you have. Both, for the cost of rent and your customers.
    b.) Foul smell – Ok the store had a leak in the back and the strip mall owners fixed it. As for the incense, it’s his store. I have smelled it and it wasn’t bad.
    c.) Didn’t have anything except old starting lineups and odd action figures – A store owner sells what his customers want. You can have a store with a million cards, but if no body wants them you will go broke. The valley boy just didn’t find what he was looking for. This store sells a lot of Nascar diecasts, toys and collectibles. (how many stores did he go to in LA before he found what he was looking for – 3)
    d.) Tough to navigate in small area, tripping on crap – Ok, there is a lot of stuff in the store and it is a bit crowded.
    e.) Display cases are really card show cases – Yes they are card show cases, but you were just whining about it being tough to navigate in the store, display cases would make it harder to move around. He will most likely have display cases in the future, but not now.
    f.) Cards not his, someone else’s business card on plastic window – The business card valley boy saw was the owner’s for his online site for selling collectibles. You did read the name on the card and get the owner’s name when you talked to him, right.
    g.) Old boxes of product or cards – I have been in the shop and seen new boxes on the shelves and I have also seen those same boxes sold out. Here today, gone tomorrow. Are new boxes supposed to sit on the shelf for long periods of time or are they to be sold?
    h.) Back of the store has a lot of boxes stacked or piled haphazardly on the floor to the ceiling – This is the stores storage area and its employees only.

    If you talk to the owner he will be the first to tell you, this is just the beginning. He is also his own worst critic, so hopefully in the future San Antonio will have multiple nice card stores in town.

    One last thing, to valley boy from Californ-eye-A, this is Texas! You will not be served a latte at the door and those pink slacks with the sweater tied around your neck is kind of frowned on deep in the heart of Texas! Also if you think you can do better valley boy, open your own store or shop. We, your potential customers, will be by to grade your store and we will be just as open minded and fair as you were. Have a nice day!

    A San Antonio Card Collector

  12. PG3 - Before I would ever go to Sports Cards Plus, I would go to What's on Second on Naco Perrin. If you are looking for just sports cards and supplies, What's on Second is much better than Sports Cards Plus. Bruce has very fair prices, Charlie is Mr. High Book at SCP.

  13. If it was in such a bad part of town are you sure it wasn't just a front to sell other 'product' out the back?

  14. Gunther - That part of town is a little run down, but not the worst. If the person who posted the orginal article wants to go to the bad side of town, he should go to the east side. He may want to take some Blackwater guys with him though. There is no other 'product' being sold out the back (there is no back door anyway), just cards, diecasts and collectibles.

  15. Wildcat1 -

    Little bitter are we? You don't have to be from an affluent part of L.A. to know how bad a card shop SUX. I used to have a good one here in Lexington before the owner shut it down and moved to Vegas. Now I'm stuck with two mediocre shops that occasionally have new product until it runs out in three days and you have to wait over a week until any new stuff arrives. One of the shops is almost as bad as the one mentioned in this story. Sorry if Gelman hurt your little feelings.