“Yes, yes, but do you accept Bitcoin?” “(sigh)”

§ July 17th, 2015 § Filed under retailing § 35 Comments

So a question that’s popped up from new patrons to my store with surprising frequency over the past few weeks is “do you take credit cards?” Now, maybe it’s just a strange question to me from my particular position, in that I see that the majority of my business is done via credit and debit cards. For a lot of people, it’s just more convenient to have their spending cash accessed that way rather than making sure they have actual folding money on them.

Anyway, I thought it was odd, since, well, wouldn’t it make things that much more difficult in a retail setting by not offering credit card processing? Over the years I would dread any time there was some kind of glitch in the credit card machine, requiring resetting or, God help us, downloading a program update on its .003 baud modem, forcing us to delay or even turn away credit sales for a time. And that was just for a few minutes…I couldn’t imagine not having a card machine in the store at all, given the large percentage of customers who pay with cards aaaaand that’s pretty much it.

I wondered about this on the Twitters, and a few folks responded back, with one letting me know he was in a comic shop that didn’t take cards just within the last month, and another saying that the only places he encounters no-CCs-a’tall are some cash-only eateries and, yes, comic shops. (And blogging brother Tim brought up the point that we’re lucky we’re not all still using cash boxes instead of registers…which reminded me of Marvel’s early 1980s program of actually assisting comic shops with purchases of registers, but that’s a story for another time, I think.)

I mean, I suppose I can see the upsides to not taking credit cards: getting your cash immediately instead of waiting for a day or two to deposit; no fees; no worries about your credit card machine going kaput and taking that financial hit until you get it fixed; electromagnetic waves from the CC machine leeching away your precious humours, and so on. But considering that lots of people depend on using their cards for transactions, the advantages of not accepting cards is far outweighed by the inconvenience for customers.

This could be a regional thing, too…dependence on cards may just be greater in my general area, but in other parts of the country maybe most people still just prefer cash transactions. Or maybe the comic shop is small, with a limited clientele and smaller transactions and folks just find it easier to deal with cash instead of credit, and can’t afford taking any kind of hit from the fees. Or maybe the owner didn’t want to jump through the hoops to apply (or couldn’t jump through the hoops) to get approval for a credit card machine…it was bit of an annoying process to get one for myself, involving several phone calls and the occasional warning that they might not want to give me a machine. I even had someone from that bank send out an inspector to confirm I actually was a physical store.

There are also little card readers that plug into smart phones and iPads and whathaveyou, so there are still options if you can’t get a dedicated machine put into your shop.

As I’m sure some of you know, I’ve been at this comic retail thing for a long time, so I do remember a point at my previous place of employment when we also didn’t have a credit card machine. But, dependence on cards for transactions wasn’t quite at the level that it is today, so I don’t think it hurt us too badly…or maybe it did; it’s not like anyone was going to shout “WHAT? You don’t take CREDIT CARDS? I’m taking my $10,000 credit limit elsewhere!” as they stomped out the door. But the time did come when we had the machine put in, and…well, I’d like to say “suddenly people started spending a lot more money at the shop, so convenience for the customer does improve sales!” but I honestly don’t remember any specific alterations in buying habits at the time. Just, as time went on, cash and check transactions gradually dropped as credit card sales gradually rose and, like I said earlier, the majority of sales nowadays, at least around here, are via card.

I do remember telling a customer at the other shop way back when that we were going to get a credit card machine put in, and the customer basically harumphed at me and declared “that’ll be the day when I buy comic books with a credit card!” …Pretty sure that day came for him sooner than he expected.

A little survey, if you don’t mind: don’t mention store names or locations, other than maybe a state — don’t get people mad at your pal Mike for no reason! — but let me know in the comments if your local shop accepts credit cards. And again, this isn’t me trying to be a jerk about it…it may seem strange to me to not have a CC machine, but what may be right for me in my particular circumstance may not be right for someone else, so I’m curious as to how other stores are handling things.

35 Responses to ““Yes, yes, but do you accept Bitcoin?” “(sigh)””

  • MRPRSN says:

    My old LCS in Seattle strongly encouraged cash, but didn’t refuse credit cards. I’ve visited 5 or 6 different shops since moving to Portland and they have all accepted cards.

  • Boosterrific says:

    Here in Greater Metro Atlanta, I don’t think I’ve been in a shop that didn’t take credit cards in well over a decade. (I seem to remember being in a shop in Athens, GA that didn’t take cards about 15 years ago, but that’s ancient history. That shop is long out of business.) I’m not saying cash-only stores don’t exist in these parts; I’m just saying I don’t know where they are anymore.

    The owner of my LCS owns stores in two different counties. He certainly takes my credit card at both locations.

  • Patrick C says:

    Every comic shop I’ve been to in NY and NJ have taken credit cards.

  • politescott says:

    Small-town central Illinois here. My LCS always took credit cards — but until a few years ago, you would get a discount for paying with cash. Their fancy-schmancy card reader broke a year or so ago, and they’ve been using an iPhone-based one since.

  • Thom H. says:

    Every dedicated comic book shop I’ve been to in Chicago has accepted credit card payment. There is a little “nostalgia” store that I tried to buy a comic book in once that I think was cash only. They are a very small shop and likely need to avoid the fees.

  • Walaka says:

    I can’t recall a single comic shop I have visited that did not take cards. That’s where I have lived in the Pacific Northwest and any place I have visited while traveling, which is a bunch of places in the U.S.

    On a related note, aren’t most of them debit cards now, or are folks actually putting comics on credit?

  • Evilbeard says:

    The *only* stores I have found in the past two decades that didn’t take credit cards were all Asian take out restaurants.

  • CG says:

    A few years ago I encountered a shop that took Visa and Mastercard, but not American Express.

  • Travis says:

    Every store I’ve been to in Iowa has taken cards for as long as I can remember.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    I quite deliberately paid cash in your store the other day because I had read your twitter Q about this question. Also, though, while I do frequently use a debit card for comics (and a CC or Paypal for online purchases of course) I prefer using cash (and buying in person) because somehow it helps me be more selective in what I buy, in that somehow I value it more.

    But you didn’t ask about me. A dearly departed shop in the Orange/Fullerton area during the 90’s accepted credit cards but required a minimum purchase, either $10 or $20. When I was in my heavy-credit-card abuse stage of life, that could sometimes be a problem if it was a light week for me among the new Wednesday choices. I’d spend a half-hour looking for something cheap but interesting to bring my total up. Or sometimes end up buying something expensive when nothing cheap caught my eye.

  • David Oakes says:

    All the shops (that I have been to, Internet) in the PHX Metro area take cards. Though many (most?all?) have a $5 minimum. This has actually been a problem some weeks.

  • Chris Wuchte says:

    I’ve had comic shops in my area only take Visa or Mastercard (no Discover or American Express).

    The only shops I’ve seen not take any cards are a pizza restaurant and an Italian deli. In the case of the deli, the owner will actually yank your sandwich back across the counter and lecture you about how much it costs him every time someone uses a card, then send you across the room to take cash out of an ATM that charges at least $3.00 for the privilege of being able to actually pay for your lunch that cost less than $10.00.

  • G23 says:

    Yup, all Chicago comic shops I know of take credit cards. Same with the ones in the burbs too. Even the dimly lit grungy one in my town that’s been there for decades and has become more of a “Magic the Gathering” store than a comic store with an ornery owner who occasionally yells at her customers. That place too. Honestly, I usually pay cash for comic books any way…

    The only business I know of that does not take credit cards is a vegan brunch place in Oak Park. We went once, the food was good, but the inconvenience of not taking credit cards means I will never go back there.

  • MrJM says:

    The chain that dominates Chicago’s suburbs takes credit cards.

    There is one family-owned suburban shop that doesn’t take cards. It’s been in business at least 25 years. (I’ve gone there, on and off for years but still didn’t realize they don’t take cards, so I went to the counter with $22 of product and a $20 bill in my pocket. When I realized my error and tried to put books back to get under twenty bucks, he said, “Don’t worry about it” and took my twenty. Seems like you wouldn’t have to do THAT too many times to make credit card fees the cheaper option!)(When I got home, I mailed him the two bucks.)

    Another family-owned suburban shop requires a $10 minimum purchase for credit cards. (I’m sure that was an issue when the started taking cards, but I just can’t imagine leaving a funny-book store without easily clearing the $10 mark. Maybe if you never took your nose out of the quarter bins?) That store has also been around for more than 20 years.

    — MrJM

  • Kelson says:

    My local comic shop takes both credit and debit.

    I’ve found it interesting how Square and other smartphone card readers have transformed the convention landscape from mostly cash with a few vendors who have card readers to the point where I hardly ever have to use the cash I take out before the con except for snacks. Even then, most of the food trucks seem to use them as well.

    Several small restaurants/coffee places in my area actually use an iPad with a card reader as their main register for card transactions.

  • Northern NJ here. Only my local barbershop and bagel shop are cash only.

    That said, I knew the owners of my regular comics shops over the years well enough to know they preferred cash, just to avoid the transaction fees. I tried to use paper as often as possible for them. They never made me feel bad for going credit card.

    Low margin businesses, these comic shops. Every percentage point counts!

    Two other things:

    * There used to be a law against minimum credit card purchases. Not sure if that was a state or federal law, but it seems to have slipped away over the years. Either it changes, or so many businesses started to ignore it that it wouldn’t matter.

    * Square – makers of those iPhone and iPad dongles that can swipe your credit card – does offer a “cash register” like package, which is just a fancy stand for your iPad along with a card reader. Makes it look official, but yes, it’s still an iOS device handling your CC transactions.

  • Bruce Baugh says:

    I’ve bought comics various places in southern California (including, once or maybe twice, from your old place), Oregon, and Washington, and have used credit or debit cards for a long time. I can’t remember when I last was in a comics place that didn’t want any of my filthy cards, but it was probably the ’80s.

  • Mathew says:

    My LCS here in LA takes credit cards, but has spent several years discouraging their use because of the fees. He enforces a minimum purchase amount for credit cards, and has a discount for cash sales that has varied over the years. I’m pretty much trained to stop and pull some cash out before visiting the shop these days.

  • Almost all stores (not just comic shoppes) accept cards, but a surprising number insist on a base-level purchase of anywhere from $10 – $15 – $20.

    Sadly I have no LCS anywhere near my home since I moved to the Poconos of PA, but I work on Long Island, NY (don’t ask) and the shoppe there that I’ve frequented for decades has a $20 minimum.
    That’s not a problem for me as I make sure I bring at least $20 in cash (if I think I’m going to get anything more than one or two books), but glad to have my card handy, just in case (a debit card -don’t want to have a credit card anymore. Especially since individual issues are at least $3.00, it’s too easy to overspend. I just bought that NIGHT NURSE reprint book [while I own the original issues, this was a nice compilation with a cheesy assed cover] but it was Eight Bucks! For a staple-spine comic!)

    Sorry. I digressed.

  • Andrew says:

    Portland, Oregon (east side of town to be exact), and every shop I’ve been in accepts debit and credit.

    That said, as far as I know they only take Visa and Mastercard. And I’ve worked at places that do the same, so maybe that’s the unspoken second half of their question.

  • Eric L says:

    All the stores I’ve been to in MA have taken cards, but I’ve been in retail long enough to have noticed a definite change in how we’ve gone from most people using cash to most people using cards of some kind. Like someone above said, I prefer cash because I value cash more and swiping the card makes it too easy to just grab whatever.

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    a bit off-topic, but my hometown of about 35,000 people at the time finally got a dedicated comic shop in the early 80’s. This was the dawn of the direct market, so finally having a store to get those elusive DM exclusives was nice.

    they had the smallest physical location I’ve ever seen for a retail store. I believe that it used to sell pool cues for the billiard parlor next door – that small.

    I came home from college and visited and bought a good supply of books. About a month or so later I went back in and saw a note taped near the cashbox/register stating that there would be no more loans made from the cash register. A month or so later, that location was empty of any sign of a store or comics. this was my first exposure to the harsh reality of running an actual business as opposed to the fantasy of having a *comic book store*. Later in the decade, when I worked at a small comic/gaming shop in a university town, I learned the rest of my comics retail education…

  • Will H says:

    My favorite LCS in Tacoma has always taken credit cards. Much more convenient for both parties (having worked retail, balancing out a till full of cash and checks is a pain). But who still takes checks?

  • Jack says:

    The only business I encounter anymore that doesn’t take credit cards is barbershops. In fact, if you see a barbershop around here that doesn’t have an ancient wooden cash register, there is something very, very wrong.

  • Roel Torres says:

    Not an LCS, but:

    The big barber shop in my neighborhood is cash only. I suspect that they are happy not to have any documentation on how much business they actually do, and that the barbers save money by under-reporting their taxable income.

  • Former Employee Nathan says:

    We take CCs at our stores. I can’t speak for other shops in the area.

    I *do* get asked pretty often “Do you accept cards?”, but that’s very likely a regional tic, as SF has a rather large number of cash-only restaurants and specialty retail stores.

  • Bryan B says:

    My shop (Tennessee) takes them but recently required that if you use a card you don’t get the discount for hold customers due to the fees.

  • Brad says:

    Sure, but do you take Apple Pay?

  • kiwijohn says:

    The comics shops I frequent here in New Zealand (in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington) all have card readers for EFT-POS (electronic funds funds transfer- point of sale) Most people use the same cards that were first introduced in the 1980s (we call it an ATM card) that they use to withdraw cash from an ATM for swiping EFT-POS services which pretty much every retailer in the country. Some retailers still charge a fee or a minimum for credit cards, and a few refuse to take them at all. I think to US understanding our ATM cards would be debit cards, in that they debit your bank account (which must have the money in it) when you purchase something. What we call a “debit card” here is actually run by Visa or Mastercard, but it takes the money directly from your bank account. The advantage of our “debit cards” is that because they are issued by a credit card company they can be used for online purchases especially from other countries (instead of running up a credit card). The “debit cards” also allow people who would not qualify for (or not want) a credit card to still be able buy online. Hardly anyone here in NZ carries cash at all anymore.

    kiwijohn

  • Ace the Bathound says:

    In the greater Boston area all the comics stores take credit cards. My typical question is not “do you take credit cards” but “do you take American Express”

  • SKleefeld says:

    There’s one shop in SW Ohio that has a $10 minimum for credit cards.

    Any more though, I’m surprised when an individual creator at an artist alley table doesn’t accept credit cards.

  • Matt says:

    My local comic shop in central NJ takes credit cards, but has a $10 minimum. The adjacent pizza place maintains the same policy. I do not usually have a problem hitting $10 in the comic shop, but the pizza place is much more of a hassle.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “do you take credit cards?”

    i would hope so! I use my debit card 90% of the time I’m buying stuff at ANY store now. It’s simply proved to be very convenient.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “In the case of the deli, the owner will actually yank your sandwich back across the counter and lecture you about how much it costs him every time someone uses a card, then send you across the room to take cash out of an ATM that charges at least $3.00 for the privilege of being able to actually pay for your lunch that cost less than $10.00.”

    GEEZ! what an a-hole! How did he even get any repeat customers?