About a month ago, fellow GeekMom writer Karen Walsh wrote an article about “Feeling Conned After the Con.” It was an excellent article, warning against merchants at geeky conventions who are only after the “easy” geeky dollar. As the appeal of the geek market grows, so too does the number of merchants who are looking to take advantage of our love for all things geek and our need to express our passion. However, I’m here to share a story of a merchant at Oz Comic-Con who reminded me not all geeky-con merchants are after my money. Some of them respect the geeky fandoms as well. Let me introduce you to Hobby Maniaz.
The Quest for a Master Sword
Evil Genius Sinister is just like any other geeky 12-year-old spawnling. He has been saving his birthday money for three whole months, waiting for Oz Comic-Con to arrive in Sydney, Australia. He wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to buy, but he reveled in the idea of buying something substantial since he finally had more than $10 saved as per previous years.
This year, Sinister had cosplayed as Link from The Legend of Zelda. Alas, the only feature he felt disappointed with was his attempt at replicating the Master Sword. It wasn’t a bad attempt, but it was simply not The Master Sword. After perusing the many displays of creativity found in Artists Alley, Sinister decided he instead wanted a better Master Sword. Sinister found his way to the merchants on the sale floor to see what was available.
EG Sinister found three Master Swords; I don’t think Link ever faced this dilemma. The first was a very heavy metal sword that was clearly outside of his budget. The second sword was also metal but cheaper in price. However, after holding the sword Sinister realized his growing 12-year-old body was not quite ready to carry this burden all day long in cosplay (smart kid). The third sword was a foam sword, cheaper in price and lighter in weight. There was no expectation of the sword being the same high-end quality as the more expensive one, but this sword looked good and felt right for him. Sinister made his purchase and was happy.
But Then… Calamity!!
Soon after his purchase, Sinister headed home with his family. He was excited to return the next day, once again cosplaying as Link but this time with a proper Master Sword! While he sat on the train home and admired the sword, he noticed some markings at the tip of the blade. It looked like the paint was wearing off. A closer inspection of the sword showed the same paint problem around the handle and the gold diamond shape on the hilt.
Sinister was devastated. He tried hard not to show it, but he was so disappointed with the purchase. This experience had started to spoil his first “solo experience” at the geeky convention.
At home, Sinister talked it over with EG Dad and I. He decided to approach the merchant tomorrow and show them the sword, and discuss if it was something that could perhaps be fixed. With a plan in place, Sinister felt better about returning to Oz Comic-Con the next day.
Faith Restored +1
With full credit to Sinister, he approached the merchant on his own merit. Sinister had taken great pride in his purchase and he was now taking full responsibility for the interactions with the merchant.
Sidenote: This is not an easy thing for many people to do, so I was REALLY proud of our 12-year-old son doing this. In light of Karen’s article last month, I was a little nervous as to how this would work out for him, but it was also an important life lesson for him to learn.
Sinister approached the merchant at Hobby Maniaz and explained the situation. He explained his purchase the day before and how he noticed the paint issue on the way home. Together they looked at the other swords to see if there were any paint issues there; they all appeared to be clean and issue-free.
The merchant was very understanding and impressed with Sinister approaching him about this. He explained that he wasn’t sure what had happened with Sinister’s Master Sword, however, it clearly wasn’t of the same paint quality as the others. The merchant instantly swapped Sinister’s sword for a new sword and said, “if there are any issues, you come back and let me know straight away, okay?”
Sinister’s faith was restored! The merchant was very understanding and approachable in resolving the situation quickly. Sinister appreciated the pride and respect held by the merchant in his wares. In fact, Sinister’s respect for the sword and the craftsmanship had increased +1 because of the respect shown by the merchant.
After Sinister shared this story with me, I made the effort to visit the store myself. I have been to enough geeky conventions to know there are some fantastic people and there are some absolute shockers you need to avoid. The problem is, the fantastic people are rarely told they are doing a good job. I wanted to say thank you to the person who had restored my faith in geeky convention merchants as well as ensure my son had a positive experience. The merchant was quite humble with my praise; he merely explained he took great pride in his wares and he wanted to make sure Sinister could continue loving his geeky passions.
Since then, I have spoken to a few cosplay-artists in Australia and they have all spoken highly of Hobby Maniaz, both in quality of their products and their customer service. Sinister’s Master Sword is now a prized possession; he is currently designing a mount to display it in his bedroom (with the intent to only take it down for cosplay opportunities).
For me, the best thing to come from this was the experience for Sinister. It is so important for us, as parents, to support our kids in finding their own path as geeks. This is not solely for their passions but also for the management of their path. As a 12-year-old kid, Sinister had the opportunity to approach the merchant himself or to have EG Dad be there with him. (Sidenote: I was busy reviewing a panel.) Either way, Sinister needed to be part of the experience to learn from it; there is no shame in being a geek, and there should be no extra cost in wanting to buy geeky things. All geeks are right to expect the same high quality in their purchases as we do with other items.
That is why this story is so important. There was never any guarantee it would work out as well as it did. However, here is a merchant who respected the geek community and his business. Positive customer service and geek respect should be noted and encouraged at every geek convention around the world.
I am so proud of Sinister and his approach. I am also impressed with the response from the merchant. And most of all, I am so happy to have a positive story to share—if only to help more people regain their faith in geeky conventions.
If you have had a positive experience with a merchant at a geeky convention, please share it with us in the comments below. It doesn’t matter where the convention is or how long ago—all stories are valued.