Monthly Archives: May 2012

Mega-Fail at Runnymede Chapters Store (Toronto)

Here is the angry letter that I just dropped off at Chapters, with copies being sent to corporate as well. Short story is that they got rid of the entire graphic novel section (which was extensive and had caused be to browse and buy many great reads) and put it behind the counter where you now have to ask for specific books and can no longer browse and discover new favorites. It’s ridiculous, and it really irked me both because I liked that section, and because stupidity bothers me in general. As if selling media isn’t hard enough already without stores crippling themselves.

May 26, 2012

To whom it may concern,

I am writing today about the misguided decision to eliminate the graphic novel section of your store (specifically, the Bloor and Runnymede location) and move all books in that section behind the counter, thereby eliminating the ability to browse the section and discover new books to purchase. I write this not as a concerned busy-body, but as a loyal customer who has spent literally thousands of dollars on graphic novels, almost entirely in your store (to say nothing of my purchases in other sections, and those of people that have accompanied me to the store). I am now no longer able to use this section of the store, which was my primary reason for shopping there in person. So in my case you have managed to insult, alienate, and convert a loyal customer spending a great deal of money every year in your store to someone who will not return and thus will spend nothing at your store.

It was explained to me that the reason that this change was made is that some people allegedly complained about the condition of the books in that section. If you really believe that books are being damaged, it makes a lot more sense to have your staff monitor that section for problem customers, rather than punish the good customers by eliminating the section — surely you can see how perverse it is for a bookstore to take its books off the shelves because of too much interest? After all, if the books are being handled too much, that should be a sign that the section is drawing potential customers. Congratulations in chasing them away rather than working to convert them into profit. It seems crazy that I should have to explain this… What kind of a book store takes books off their shelves because they are afraid that too many people will be interested in them? Even comic book stores that cater to the most elite of collectors don’t make their graphic novels inaccessible for browsing as it makes absolutely no business sense to destroy the single most effective marketing method while treating your best customers like criminals.

In any case, as someone who purchased very regularly in that section, I have personally never noticed a problem with wear-and-tear on the items in that section (although I have noticed among the magazines, but I’m supposing that you simply don’t care about that loss since you can report the used and damaged items as “unsold” to the publishers), and in any case, items that are deemed as having “special collector value” have always been shrink-wrapped and not available for browsing. I have trouble believing this was a real problem let alone that this is a sensible solution — talk about chopping off your nose to spite your face! Perhaps more importantly, this can not possibly be unique to the graphic novel section. Why not get rid of all the bookshelves in your store? Why target just this section? It seems very strange to me that on one hand your book store encourages people to sit there all day and read as if it is a library — with comfortable chairs made available to the many people who do just that. Personally I am not one of those people, and I find the idea of abusing a business in this way offencive and I wish you’d get rid of the chairs. But you created this situation. You created an environment that encourages people to read rather than purchase, and it is an issue across the entire store, not just in graphic novels. Yet when someone complains about people treating your store as the library your interior designers have it masquerading as, instead of dealing with the issue of people abusing the business, you take the books off the shelves. I feel like I’m living in “bizarre land”!

On the off chance that someone there thinks that any of this actually makes good business sense, let me point out the obvious. For someone to come in to the store and buy a graphic novel that’s behind the counter they would have to already know about the item. This means two big things — first of all, in nearly all sales, they had the desire to buy the item long before walking in your doors. This greatly increases the chances that they buy the item elsewhere, most likely online. More importantly perhaps, there is no possibility of a customer coming in to buy one item, and walking out with two — or more — because they flipped through it on the shelf. There will be no expansion of sales or growth in the market. People will no longer be able to come into the store to discover new graphic novels to purchase, something which I had done many times. Instead, to discover new items to read and enjoy they will either have to patronize other stores, or discover them by reading reviews and suggested reading links online (Amazon.com is superb for this and has more features for discovering new material than your own website does) — in either case, this means lost sales and lost customers for you. At this point I can browse and search for new material more effectively online — I can even “look inside the book” at Amazon.com. It’s nonsense that I can get a better feel for physical products on a website than I can in person at your store!!! And you know what? When you chase your customers away like this, don’t think that you’re just going to convert them into people that purchase online, because we all know that many of those “customers” become “pirates” instead — after all, if you visit sites like “The Pirate Bay”, you will see that nearly every graphic novel is available for free download. Your actions hurt more than just Chapters — by proxy you are also hurting the artists and writers that rely on you to get their product into the hands of consumers.

I sincerely hope you reconsider this poorly thought out decision. Until you do, you have lost an until-now loyal customer that was happy spending regular money in your store. I will not return until this policy has changed, and I to emphasize that point I will choose other online retailers to patronize as well. Please reconsider this deranged policy, and under no circumstances allow it to spread to other Chapters locations. You might also want to strongly consider firing whoever actually made this decision as they are clearly a liability for your business, but that’s probably asking too much.

If you put the graphic novels back on the shelves I would be happy to return as a customer. If and when these changes are made please contact me so that I know the situation has impoved. I can be reached by telephone, email, or mail.

Sincerely hoping this does not fall on deaf ears,

Shannon Larratt
(contact details removed)

Three new ring designs in the shop!

I’ve got three new ring designs in shop. Here are the links (and pictured from left to right below): 1. Tiki rings, 2. Winged Pyramid Illuminati rings, and 3. Illuminati Alchemist Pyramid Rings. I priced the Tiki ring really low, a penny under $50, and with the “pay what you can” pricing you can get them for $25 if you can’t afford the full price. I wanted to mention on the alchemist ring, the one with the Leviathan Cross sigil on the bottom, I’ve used a really neat stone, which is an 8mm dome of white quartz, but with a base of hematite bonded to it, which transforms it into this sort of mirror-ish crystal ball that suits the ring perfectly.

I will make some more of these tomorrow with different settings, as well as doing some tiki ones with eye settings. By the way, if you'[re looking for a ring to be engraved, the winged pyramid has the perfect band for that — just let me know what you need! Click below for some quick pictures, or follow the links above for higher resolution or to buy.

Thanks again to everyone who is supporting the shop, and everyone who’s been picking up my recent shirt design. The shirt sales to date have covered 10% of the medical bills (as of this morning), which may not sound like a lot, but honestly, it is a lot and it’s greatly appreciated.

Behind the closed doors of the Zentastic studio

First of all let me thank everyone who has picked up a shirt (see entry below). It’s greatly appreciated. In a day or two I will also post information on how you can get one using PayPal, since a couple people have asked me.

But in addition to drawing shirts (I also drew a shirt for a friend’s new food business), I started sculpting four new rings (one isn’t ready to be photographed yet). The first is a tiki ring, something I’ve been wanting to make for a very long time, although I admit that from some angles it looks more Mayan than Polynesian! Then I did a little winged Illuminati pyramid ring, followed up by a bigger pyramid ring, which was made because when Caitlin saw me sculpting the first one she asked me why I was doing it flat-on two dimensional rather than having the four sided pyramid climbing out of the ring in three dimensions. I thought it was a good idea she proposed, so I did just that. Check them out, as they are now in rough clay with a bit of blackwash to bring out the details:

I still have to touch them up a bit, but assuming that my hands are up to the job, I expect I will finish sculpting tomorrow and begin making the molds, meaning that there may be rings of these designs in the shop by week’s end. Plus they may even have some really nice new stones because in a short amount of time I’m headed to the post office to pick up a delivery of gemstones and cabochons that I’m greatly looking forward to. I got some more ingots on Tuesday as well, so I will probably take whatever day I’m feeling best this week and make it “casting day”. Anyway, then when I get back from the post office I have to get the stench cleaned off myself because Caitlin and I are going out for a rare nice dinner at Bloom, which I think is probably by a wide margin my favorite restaurant in this neighborhood (I like Rawlicious a lot too, but they’re so different that it’s not fair to compare the two). But I wholeheartedly recommend Bloom for anyone looking for something new to try.

Other than that I have been giving altogether too much thought as to whether there exists a truly “dangerous idea”. I’m not talking about “the truth is a virus” — what I’m wondering is there “software” (that is, an “idea”) that your brain can “run” (that is, “contemplate”) which causes the brain to “crash” in some way? When I was a kid I greatly enjoyed how it felt to contemplate concepts like infinity, trying to picture the edge of the galaxy and what is or isn’t beyond it, trying to picture the nature of time and it’s beginning, and so on. I still do. So I wonder if there is an idea that can cause something analogous to a buffer overflow or other computational error that results in a failure situation? I told Caitlin that I thought there was, and that it was actually so common as to be meaningless. My feeling is that the brain is extremely modular and parallel, with millions of separate processes/memes/plans/ideas being considered at once, and I suspect that they are constantly crashing, and that this is part of why the human brain is so incredibly fault tolerant — crashing is part of the way the brain functions. And more importantly, the fact that the brain is so modular means that there isn’t even an “overbrain” or seat of consciousness big enough to meaningfully crash anyway.

My first BME shirt in a half decade

Since we had a whack of unexpected bills from our daughter’s gastrointestinal problems — seriously it is shocking and offensive how quickly medical bills climb in the US* — which we are still in the process of diagnosing and could be anything from a motorcycle injury to kidney failure to something related to my genetic condition. Rachel suggested that I draw a shirt for BME, the sales proceeds of which would go exclusively to those medical bills. She has set up the pricing similarly to my shop, where you can set how much you want to pay, either just buying the shirt, or a donation if you’re able.

Please don’t think I expect a donation in addition to a shirt purchase — this community has already been more than generous enough to my family. However, I hope you will like the shirt design. I did it based on the very first logo that Scott Fox drew for BME just a couple months after I started it when we were living in a little apartment together at St. Clair and Bathurst (which Caitlin reminds me is near the wonderful ice cream parlor Dutch Dreams). I thought about how that logo might look if he were to draw it today, with the modification influences of 2012 instead of those of 1994. I tried to make something that was true not only to all my good memories of “the old BME” but also of where body modification is at today. Again, I hope you enjoy what I’ve drawn. If you can donate, it really is very helpful to us, but like the tip jar says, “always appreciated, never expected”.

* As Rachel points out, we’d have to sell 500 of shirts to pay off what I have spent so far, and I’d be blown away and on cloud 9 if that actually happens… But even if we only sell a tenth of that it helps make sure that there’s enough money to cover her until she’s back in Canada and the costs drop dramatically. If you’ve bought stuff from my Etsy shop, that helped too — in fact, every cent I’ve made off my Etsy shop for the last few months was swallowed up by these bills.

There are two other variations on the design, which you can see after the break, but this one with the rings of swastika-patterns is my favorite of the set. Oh and if you’re curious, I drew the logo by hand with a pencil on paper, and then scanned it, then redraw it in the computer using my Wacom tablet, and finalled hand-tuned all the linework with a mouse. If for some reason anyone wants a high res copy of the artwork feel free to contact me. Click the pictures to jump to the store page.

(Continued)

Two new rings that turned out very well

This morning we went and got Caitlin her new sewing machine, an upgrade that was the other half of her birthday present along with her tooth-ring that got so much attention all over the internet. After that I finished off two of the rings I’d wanted to do yesterday, and I must have had some good luck demon sitting on my shoulder because I am absolutely thrilled with how they turned out. The first is a remake of one of my winged Day of the Dead skull rings, which I put a pair of 7mm light blue gemstones into and polished to a silver or steel-like appearance (versus my usual “just pulled out of a shipwreck” dark finish). The other ring I’m especially proud of, a Leatherface take on one of my half-face zombie rings. I completely recarved it, adding a mountain of detail (which is why I posted much more zoomed in pictures than are typically appropriate) and turning it into a grotesque mask, as well as including a pair of pyrite eyes. You can click either of the pictures to see bigger pictures or to buy them.

I’m going to read for a little bit now and then start working on some t-shirt designs.