Monday, September 15, 2008

What happened to GW Paint Creek Crossing?

How does something that starts so strong end up so weak? In April 2007 Games Workshop opened a store at Paint Creek Crossing in Ypsilanti, MI. I was pretty excited when I found out, since it's only about 6 or 7 minutes from my house.

I had trepidation the first time I walked in the door there, since I had a prior bad experience at a Games Workshop store (the West Oaks one in Novi, MI.) I had been assaulted by their corporate-approved interaction methodology, which is basically "badger the person incessantly to either play a demo game, increase their current army or start a new army." I think there also must be some clause in the handbook about talking up every event coming up at the store, and shoving a photocopied calendar into your hands to use as a visual aid while describing each of the 5o or so events each month. I was immediately put off by how intense an interaction was required to be in the presence of that employee. That was my first time at the West Oaks store, and my first time in a GW store in probably 15 years. I wanted to look at the painted miniatures. I wanted to watch people playing at the tables. I wanted to look over the assortment of minis for sale. I did not want to have a Jack Russel Terrier of a salesperson following me around trying to draw me into a sale. I have not been back to West Oaks since that first day.

So back to Paint Creek Crossing.... like I said, I was a little wary walking in because I wasn't sure if I'd get the same treatment. I was thrilled to meet Mark and Reynolds, who were much more casual about their treatment of customers. They talked to me but without the intensity of the West Oaks gang. I felt at ease there. I knew I'd found a new hangout.

Over the course of the next year I spent a fair bit of time there. I made friends there. I often impulse bought minis, despite the fact that I could get them elsewhere at significant discount. The idea of contributing to the Paint Creek Crossing store staying open appealed to me, and I tried to make the hobby scene there better by helping people as they sought my painting advice. Unfortunately this idyllic situation ends. Mark went off to college. A new manager was transferred in. Reynolds transfered to a different store. With the changing of the employees came a change in the ambiance of the place. The sales staff started to become intense, like the experience I had at West Oaks. The beginning of Lance's managerial reign really pushed this to it's final stage. As manager, Lance had definitely drunk the "high intensity experience" kool-aid, and he expected his subordinates to show an annoying amount of energy, and to ask everyone if they were going to preorder whatever the new items was every time they came into the store. Seriously. It went from midly irritating to really annoying pretty quick. No, Lance, I don't collect Dark Elves and I'm not going to preorder the $250 box coming out next month. Yes, Lance, I know how cool they are because we've talked about it every time I've been in the store in the last month. As annoying as this was, I could still sort of deal with it because a) hanging out there was still somewhat entertaining due to the friends I had made, and b) some of the employees (Mark and Caleb) would actually interact with me on something deeper than a used-car-salesman level. It wasn't too long before Caleb quit, having found a job in his chosen field of teaching. Good for him!

...and here's where the breaking point came, but first a disclaimer. Mark was a friend of mine before the GW store opened. I encouraged him to apply there. I really thought he'd be happy there. For quite a while, he seemed happy there.

On September 8, 2008 Games Workshop released a fancy new starter set for their best selling game, Warhammer 40,000. This was a great deal for gamers, and it was going to sell big. Still under the impression that I wanted to support the Paint Creek Crossing store, I preordered and planned to attend their midnight launch event. I showed up at 11:30 PM roughly Friday night to await the midnight release. Lance and Mark (as the only two employees left at that store) were there running the events and getting everyone whipped up for the release. It was silly fun. Lance was especially silly. Less like enthusiasm silly and more like severe sleep deprivation silly. Multiple times I saw Mark step up and take over for a faltering Lance. Mark really went above and beyond that night.

Apparently my observation was not shared, because Lance fired him the next day.

No, that's too easy an explanation. After the release event that went late into the night and the cleanup afterward Lance asked Mark to come in early the next day. Only then, before normal shift the next day after the event Mark carried, did Lance fire him. Seriously, are there any GW regional managers reading this? So why was he fired, you ask? Personally, I think it had a lot to do with Mark's personality. Like Reynolds and the first Mark, this Mark was pleasant. I think they have a corporate policy against being pleasant.

Okay, so here's your google search phrase:
I will not shop at Games Workshop Paint Creek Crossing again.

The recent management has consumed all the good will built up with me in the first year of that store being open. I considered Paint Creek my "home store." I don't know whom they are tailoring their store experience to but it's sure not me anymore. It's sure not people who walk in cold either, because I've seen a whole lot of people who just pop in to see what the store was all about go running scared after being assaulted by an over-intense salesperson.

Oh, well.

EDIT: This store is my gaming/shopping home again, thanks to manager Brett and his pro-hobbyist approach.


  1. The problem a GW store has over the FLGS is the constant turn over in staff. There is no store owner to manage the mood of the store year over year. If you want to be optimistic - at least you can count on Lance either being promoted or fired in the next 6 months. Maybe the next round of management will be more gamer friendly.

  2. Oh that just makes me FURIOUS. Stores that cater to such a specific clientele should know better than to behave in that way. It's the same in the stitching/crafting world. There are 2 primary stores for needlework supplies in Nashville; one is snobby but has a wider inventory, one is friendly and accessible, but has less quality merchandise. And they wonder why brick-and-mortar stores are having problems staying open! I go to the friendly store for help/advice and an occasional purchase, and avoid the snobby store (also because they are notoriously slack with special orders). I get my high-end silk fibers online.

    At least we have some options!

  3. I am good pals with GW's new regional manager of that area. We never had that problem at our local shop (very minimal staff turnover in its 15 months exsistence) but the obnoxious hard sell does occasionally happen anywhere to people who they don't know, once they know you they are supposed to leave you alone. I've spoken to new staff members at our store privately about making the effort to get to know even the most random customer, so you don't turn off the occasional vistor by jamming it down his throat. Anyway I'm mentioning this post to my friend as it sounds like "lance" is a complete tool.

  4. That's a horrible shame, and I'm sad it has happened to you too. My store was overrun by the snake-oil salesmen mentality as well, and it was all I and some of my friends there could do but flee the place.

    Currently, those of us who were chased off by the crazy still get together for games in my garage. It's no FLGS, but on the upside my wife makes us cookies :)

  5. It is no wonder people just order on-line. It is a shame when you have a quality person working for you to let them go b/c you think you know the store better. Mark knows GW it is his blood. It won't bother me if Paint Creek closes b/c the interest I had there got fired over who can say what?

  6. I've had the same types of experiences in GW stores and Paint Creek was the one exception that got me to actually start shopping at a GW store. When it opened it had an excellent staff that recognized that you didn't need to hard-sell the regulars. Slowly the store has switched over to employees that try to sell you whatever is next.

    I don't play Fantasy. I don't plan to either. Please stop trying to get me to preorder the next fantasy army to come out. When Matt was in the store he was constantly trying to get me to preorder Vampire Counts even though I told him again and again I did not want to play Fantasy. Then, it was Dark Elves. I have decided to avoid the store while the preorders of Chaos are going on.

    My favorite bit lately is that every time I told them that I had already preordered Black Reach, they asked me how many I preordered and if I wanted to preorder another one.

    Mark was the last employee at the store that I liked. He knew what armies I collected or was interested in and talked to me about those. He let me know what was available for preorder or when there were really good deals without pestering me about them every couple minutes. He also really helped out with the hobby-aspect of the hobby. With him gone from Paint Creek, I do not think I will be in as much.