Show Some Love

Posted on Feb 2nd 2015 at 12:00:00 AM by (Crabmaster2000)
Posted under Game Quest, Game Store, Retail, City Council, Delegation, Politics, Second Hand, Pawn Broker, Video Games

So you've been operating your retro game store for a few months now and things are going better than you could have hoped. Customers are happy, new stock is getting traded in on a regular basis, bank account is moving in the right direction. Nothing can bring you down. Cue Bylaw Enforcement Officer..........

Back in 2013, the store got off to a fantastic start. There was far more interest than I could have anticipated. We had just hired our first employee to help keep up with the onslaught of excited nerds. Then, just after our first Christmas season, I was visited by our local bylaw enforcement officer. Turns out there are a lot of rules for dealing with secondhand goods...... and we were literally breaking all of them   

As someone who has no background in business, I didn't even know this bylaw existed until we were confronted by the bylaw officer. Fortunately for me, the city workers also dropped the ball as they were supposed to inform me of any relevant bylaws to my business when we applied for our license. This meant that they were willing to be quite lenient in their enforcement of these bylaws and not shut me down or bury me in fines. But I had to make a lot of quick changes, and very few of them for the better of my business. All items that are sold secondhand in my city, with a small list of exceptions, must be held for a minimum of 30 days, reported to the RCMP, not altered or removed during that time and had to be done ONLY in the place of business. There were a lot of other rules as well, but these were the ones that I found the most frustrating.

Holding all of my inventory for 30 days proved to be a massive challenge. First of all, that is a lot of storage space. Space that I don't have in my tiny store front. Luckily, our city, unlike most in my province (BC), forgot to add a clause that forces the business to store the items on site. Much to the dismay of the bylaw officer and RCMP officer that does random spot checks on stores dealing with used goods, we started storing our overstock in my home instead of at the store.

Another big challenge was being able to be competitive or react to a market while holding items for 30 days. This was especially true with newer games as other retailers would have price drops that I would have to try and anticipate when making an offer on a game to buy from a customer. To give the best competitive trade in value to a customer I needed the ability to turn that around as quick as possible.

Losing control of my inventory was often frustrating. When events that happened online or new games in a long running series get announced, it was maddening to not be able to get my customers what they wanted. During this time, Twitch plays Pokemon became a big hit and I had many customers coming in looking for older gen Pokemon games. It really bites having to ask them to come back in 1-4 weeks knowing that I had a dozen or more of these games in our storage. Lastly, the financial strain of having to buy items for 30 days without being able to put much of anything new on the shelf drained our bank account and maxed out my personal line of credit.

one of several rooms dedicated to housing our overstock after this bylaw came to light

Not altering items turned out to just be a big time sink. This part of the bylaw prevented me from cleaning stickers or writing off of a console/game, using broken units for parts or reformatting systems before the 30 day street date was up. It also meant if I wanted an item out for customers as soon as possible, I was coming into the store several hours early most days in order to clean, test or reformat systems and games before we opened. Even though we didn't open until 12 I was finding myself at the store between 8 and 9 am most days just to make sure things were getting out as early as they could.

The bylaw that prevented me from purchasing items for the store from outside of the store was more crippling that I thought it would be. While a majority of our trade ins are brought in off the street, this rule stopped me from being able to go to customers homes who have large collections they wish to liquidate, pick up large items (arcade, pinball, etc.) that cannot feasibly be brought to the store to inspect and negotiate. It also cut me out from ordering anything second hand from an online source.

Following a great 5 months, we had an incredibly tense February last year. Operating under these new rules left me thinking that we couldn't keep surviving like this and even if we could, it no longer felt like my store, so would I even want to keep it going? After talking it over with my wife, we decided on this: We had 7 months left on our lease. We felt that if things were the same as they were during February, we would sell off all of our extra stock and close up shop. If we were somehow able to find a way to make things better in that time, we would keep it going. We were left wondering what we could do to improve our situation?

Stay tuned next month for more on our struggle against the forces of bureaucracy.......same Bat-Time same Bat-Channel!

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Good read, man. It certainly is nowhere near as dark this February, as it was in 2014. It was definitely a frustrating time for customers, and as a friend, it sucked seeing you so bummed and facing the prospect of my favourite store shutting down so soon. I look forward to reading part 2, even though this is all old hat for me. Thank The gods, for the second Golden Age of Game Quest!
I hate to hear that. I hope everything works out.  Good luck.
A great read and a fantastic series for anyone thinking about starting their own business. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your life with us Crabby. Cheesy
For a man that went through this much hassle, during the whole thing Crabby was his usual, upbeat self. Bil and I got to hear about all the craziness as it happened, and Crabby handled it all like a champ. Looking forward to reading the rest.
Couldn't you have a work around where you buy everything for "personal use/collection" and then take your "personal items" and put them into your store front?
@Izret - To bring things in from my personal collection I still had to ID myself (I'm the "selling" items to the store). So that was a way to bypass the buying out of the store front part (assuming I didn't need to use store funds for the purchase), but I was still held to the 30 holding period unfortunately.

There were several ways to "work around" areas of this bylaw, but that wasn't the point. I want to run a legitimate business, I don't want to have to skirt bylaws in order to operate and I definitely don't want to hire employees where that is expected of them.
This just makes me sad.  I think I understand the reasoning for the laws, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating.  I think I would have cried when the bylaw enforcer showed up.  Kudos to you for sticking with it (and sticking with your guns as well).  I really hope everything works out for you, Crabby.
Been there. Very frustrating.

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