Retailers Behaving Badly

trollIt’s been interesting within days of each other I received two tips about retailers “behaving badly.” Maybe there was something in the air, or the retailers defrosted from the winter freeze, but it got me to reflect about my time working in or running geek shops, about 6 years total. I loved that time, but I hear more and more horror stories and try to remember if at any point I displayed this abhorrent behavior, and the answer is no. I’m fairly repulsed by what I’ve been told and hear.

The first questions is, how responsible is a site for the trolls that lie within it’s forums? Heavy Ink is no stranger to controversy. The retailer made headlines when the founder advocated for more violence against elected officials after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. The police didn’t take too kindly to that one. So we know that the site is run by and probably populated by some asshats. If that’s the behavior that’s seen and expected, people will act.

About a week ago, a thread meant to discuss new releases devolved into jokes about Jews and the Holocaust.

retailer_1Though it might have been 70 years ago, Holocaust denial is absolutely a touchy subject today and to use it as a dig is beyond low, even if it’s meant in jest. Some regulars to the forum didn’t take too kindly to it, reaching out to the forum moderators and then eventually to us to raise awareness of this stupidity.

retailer_2I highlighted a bit of the administrator’s response in the image above, but it’s clear from lack of action as well as the fact the comment was called “dark humour” the Holocaust is fair game when it comes to dark humor. Clearly this is a retailer and site that wants to be inclusive of all and make sure individuals feel welcome… I as the head of this blog am responsible for what is posted. I make sure to handle any hateful responses, and there’s been some. That includes shamming or banning. Don’t feed the trolls and let them know their behavior is ok, it only encourages more.

But what was strange, a few days after being tipped off to this, I received another email about a certain retailer who is no stranger to this site where the individual was threatened with violence. Here’s the initial email in full and unedited other than redacting the retailer’s name (I’ll explain why in a bit).

I deliver for a living, so I have the oppertunity to stop into all the comic shops in Ma , Nh and Ri. Today I was in lowell and saw (retailer name redacted).

Before stoping in I tryed to look up his hours of operation online and found only a facebook page with them listed.

it states opening on friday at 10 am. It was 10:20 and thought it would be ok so I drove to the shop and parked my truck. The door was locked so i figured he was closed. as i turned around to walk back to my truck the guy across the street said that he saw him in there and i should knock. So knock I did. When (retailer name redacted) answered the door I asked what time he opened and he responded at noon. I proceded to tell him that his facebook page Stated 10 am and that he should change it and instantly i was given an attitude. I told him ok , i will come back later and as i turned around i made the offhand comment that he didnt have to be an asshole about it. He came out the door and asked me what i had just said and i tryed to then explain to him the facebook page and to my suprised i found myself in the middle of a fight that was escalating into a pyhsical brawl.

As our words heated up (retailer name redacted) turned sideways into a brawling stance. He cocked back his arm and closed his fist and then started to shout at me that he was going to break my jaw, knock all my teeth out then “curb stomp” me for good measure. I instantly took to the defensive and tryed defusing the situation by saying that we were haveing a miscommunication. I called him sir and even went as far as appoligizing for my words. He took that as a sign of weakness and began belittleing me using derogatory words meant to question my sexuality. At this point i was visibly shaking from the shear panic that was setting in on me, (retailer name redacted) could see this but he still wouldnt let up. I turned to walk away but it still didnt end. He followed me to my truck and took my company info and as i got into my truck he was yelling that he was going to call my company and get me fired.

Im not a strong man. I am not a brave man. I know bullying when i see it as i have lived my life with it. I paniced. even at my age I dont know what to do. who to tell. Going to the police turns into a he said she said dispute which solves nothing. So now im turning to the only thing i trust these days. The internet. I want to tell as many people in as many places as I can. This man should not be in this buisness. This man does not deserve our respect.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

First, I removed the retailer’s name because I have no way to verify this. I reached out and heard nothing back, and was not there. Other than a Yelp review recounting the same story from the person, I don’t have a way to back this up. But this isn’t the first time a retailer have acted as a bully or racist, or used hateful words towards an individual.

I followed up and asked what was said to the tipster Mike:

I didnt know how to describe it without using the actual words. But it was things little “go suck a dick you fag” and things of that nature

So, we have numerous anti-lgbt slurs and in both cases anti-Jewish remarks (curb stomp has its roots in the Holocaust where Nazis saved ammo by doing it to Jewish victims).

Normally I’d chalk it up to people being trolls and assholes, but the fact is, we’re a community. We’re a fandom that has no right to be exclusive or judgmental, both are something many of us have experienced. Both incidents emphasize the negative stereotype that comments are full of juvenile individuals refusing to enter adulthood.

What disappoints me most is not just the words used or reactions, but the fact is retailers are one of the main ambassadors of comic fandom. This is where individuals, old and new fans, have to go to get their comic fix. These folks need to be welcoming of individuals no matter what, showing tolerance and a willingness to embrace fans, regular and casual alike. I, in my entire time as a retailer can not recount one incident where I didn’t make people feel welcome to the store or purposely drove them off.

I wrote this after the ugly #comicmarket incident:

Too many have images of “The Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons when they think of the register jockeys who sell funny books.  #comicmarket and #comicretail is an opportunity to break that mold.  It’s a public face of the industry, which is what was so disturbing about Sunday.  The incident painted retailers and fans in a bad light, but it also turned off so many past, present and potentially future participants.

The question is when will we all as a fandom rally to say this is unacceptable? When will creators or retailers stop dealing with these shitty retailers? Feeding trolls, using slurs or hate words, belittling customers, promoting misogyny, it all needs to end. For the good of our hobby and entertainment, it needs to end.


  • did heavyink have a response?

  • I think this is a really important topic, so thanks for writing this post. My LCS and the people who work at it couldn’t be more friendly, inclusive and thoughtful – but boy, have I seen some shops that just…cross a lot of lines. It’s a really tricky thing to talk about without becoming unpopular, but when you walk into a store and hear casual jokes about rape, derogatory terms used for women or lgbts, I mean, it’s a turn off. There’s a way to be a geek and have fun and yeah, even hate on stuff and complain about comics (we can’t deny that’s part of the fun!), but we can do all that without making a bunch of people feel really crummy. And a bunch of potential customers no less! Anyway, great post.

  • hi, i’m the one who made the joke, and it’s probably important that you know robert schwaggie, by that point, had been a contiuous nuisance on the forum. really, he was more of a troll than i’ve been, constantly complaining about everything, though mostly variant nonsense, and then proclaiming the site is garbage and why would he ever buy anything from it, before then just complaining more. he’s been doing it for months. he also kept taking offense from things where no offense was obviously meant, developing some bizarre persecution complex. that’s what scaredofducks is referencing in the first screencap

    the support people at HI have also been super helpful and friendly whenever i’ve needed them, and a dismissive response to an obvious joke at the expense of someone who’s been a thorn in the community’s backside for a while isn’t representative of them overall

    i also thought travis’ comments about the arizona shooting were pretty rotten, but i also think he has the right to express his terrible beliefs, though he totally shouldn’t have, if only for the public opinion. he’s also not customer service or anything, which is probably a good thing

    but yeah, i mean, clearly the holocaust happened, i’ve seen Shoah, those old dudes weren’t lying

  • I’m the user “scaredofducks” on that forum, and I will say as well that robert has been a perpetual harrassment on the forum, and you get to a point where someone will find ANY reason to be offended, and you just give him what he wants and then move on. Gus, the customer support person who made the reply you screencap, obviously noticed that was what was going on. No one is actually denying the holocaust.

    Why are HI users suddenly on your site? Because Robert himself linked here as an argument about why we’re all jerks when he, once again, got himself in tizzy over absolutely nothing. In this case, it was because when asked if he wanted bags and boards with all his comics or just some, he went on a rant about how comics are garbage.

    • Also I think it’s important to point out, the comment about being gay – I am also gay and have never once felt anyone had any sort of issue with me. But every time someone says “Robert, you’re being crazy” he says “you all hate me because I’m gay/a jew/ ate a banana yesterday”.

  • I agree with John and Maxine, I frequent the Heavy Ink forums and Robert is a chronic complainer. I am confident he will take offense to John calling him a thorn in the community’s backside as some malicious gay joke. Robert needs to grow up and learn the world and definitely internet forums are not created to tip tow around your oversensitive self.