Interviewer: Okay. Well, Hey, this is our first podcast at Crystal Commerce, so if this seems kind of not so refined or finished or signed up, hey, it’s our first one, so give us a break today.
Today, we have Kevin from Geeks MTG, it’s geeksmtg.com. Kevin was a client of mine years back since 2012, and he had left us to go use another platform, but he’s back and we’re happy to have him.
Kevin, say hi to everybody that’s going to be listening to the podcast, why don’t you get yourself introduced.
Kevin: What’s up?
Interviewer: Awesome. Hey, thanks for being a part of the podcast. We definitely want to give you and your company a plug, so we’ll definitely do not later on at the very end, so you can say what you need to say, but also, you know, geeksmtg.com, if you guys haven’t been there yet, it is brand new website, go check it out.
We’re also going to be distributing this content on every channel that we have here at Crystal Commerce and I’ll be doing so on my own personal channels too because I have a crystal Commerce Facebook account, and Instagram account that I’m growing. So hopefully it’ll be filled with more content like this. Thank you, Kevin, for helping on day one of podcast one.
Kevin: I’m glad to be here to help you guys out. Absolutely
Interviewer: Appreciate it. Kicking things off, everyone loves to hear the stories, you know, how you came to be. I know you and I talked about your story before, and I personally love it.
I want to give the listeners something to learn a little something about you and how you got started, about the backstory and ultimately, you became a retailer in a special way. Can you tell the folks how it came to be?
Kevin: Oh my God. The original store, way back in 2008 was just a video games store. We did cell phone repairs, computer repair and stuff like that. It’s really weird how a video game store, a card shop, it’s amazing how computer repair and cell phone repair seems to work out in actually a number of different stores that I know, but moved to a huge location in 2008.
By the time the end of 2011 came around, we’d had like 26,000 different titles in the store as far as video games and everything, and a staff of 12. I mean, things were booming.
One of my managers came up to me and goes, “You know, we’ve got all this room, we should start doing magic.” I actually said, “What is that?” He explained it to me and I looked into it, and we had a little bit of product and customers started going nuts that we were actually going to start doing this. We just hit the ground running with it. I did all the research and found Crystal commerce, of course, I found TCGplayer. I’m like, “How am I going to get this going? I mean, this is gonna take me forever to build the collection.” Well, a guy came into the store and he wanted to sell these two big five K boxes worth of cards, and – there’s more to the story behind the scenes, but the guy wanted 200 bucks for the whole entire line.
One of my managers looked at it and said, “We’ll give you 200 bucks.” When I heard about it, I went up front and I said, “Well, I’ve been self-employed for a long time.” I said, “I’d like to actually get time to take a look through this.” I said, “You may be able to get more out of it depending on what you have.” He said, “Nope, just 200 bucks or I’m gone.”
So I was kind of in a corner. I gave the guy 200 bucks, ended up being about a $20,000 collection for magic cards.
Kevin: Of course, you know, not actually entitled with any retail channels, stuff like that online and really not even kickstarting anything off the store.
I and my manager talked about it, we actually sold the collection to an online retailer and we ended up with about, I think almost $10,000 in store credit, which actually funded the whole entire magic, the gathering venture. In a snap of a finger, we were in and it didn’t take long. I think we made a core gateway within a couple of weeks, so on and so forth. We advanced very, very quickly and we started having 76 men, Friday night magic and stuff like that, pretty huge releases, huge. The turn out was ridiculous.
It’s been really going ever since. We’re at a new location now because I got into the video game parts of our business, but we kept the card shop because it’s the only one in 45 miles and we’re accountable to 18,000 people and the fact that we have an advanced level card shop is a testament to my players. You know, the players, everyone for them, you don’t even have a business and I can’t stress that enough.
If you don’t appreciate your customers, you don’t take care of them, you’re not going to be in business long. I mean, you’ve got to really take care of them, appreciate your customers. Anyway, that’s the long and short, that’s the short version of the story.
Interviewer: I appreciate that. I appreciate it a lot. You’re advance your customers. I talked about that in the past, how your customers are your lifeblood and you take really good care of them.
We’ll touch on later on, but hey, thanks for your inspiring story. It’s kind of neat that you ended up doing a buylist to another online store for a massive amount of store credit, which actually kind of bootstrapped and launch your own company. That was really cool. It’s almost like anything, whatever it takes mentality, I liked that a lot, plus the stories, hearing about that you can now help change the hearts and their thought processes of others, also maybe breathe inspiration to other retailers or even try and find other stores who try and become more successful too.
For those that are listening that don’t know who you are or geeks MTG is, including the video game side, how long have you been doing your thing as a retailer?
Kevin: Well, I’ve been self employed since 1996 in the computer industry and starting in about 2008 in the cell phone consoles, cell phone, tablet repair industry, video games went from 2005 to 2013, started with a – I made my first sale on TCGplayer via Crystal Commerce on 2–Feb–2012. So, it’s been over six years now.
Interviewer: That’s awesome, but like 22 years total being a retailer.
Kevin: Yeah, being your own boss is fun, but sometimes you eat chicken, sometimes you eat the feathers.
Interviewer: It’s funny. I get it. Some folks, the only thing – It’s like two years, but for 22 years, there’s something that you’re doing that’s successful, that’s keeping you in business, is putting food on the table, building your nest egg for the future, and also employing people in your community as well. Can you kind of tell me what some of those secrets are?
Kevin: Well, I mean, first off, you’ve got to want it. Seriously, to get into this business is not for the faint of heart. For anybody who’s thinking about ever getting into their own business, I’d say jump. I’d say just jump in the water. What’s the worst you can do? You’re going to fail, then you can’t be successful unless you fail, and I’ve had failures, not many, but you can’t really grow and until you learn where you were [Inaudible 00:08:46] have been. Really, truly, genuinely about love for the customers. This business that we’re in, the electronic side and the card side, in all honesty, you’ve just got to treat customers with respect. I treat my customers like they are members of my family. I’ve got some of my players who are of age and everything, of course.
We’ll have a tournament. We’ll go out and have some drinks later, you know, we’ll hang out, we talk outside of the shop. If anybody wants to talk about a personal problem, I’m always there for them. I’ll listen to them. I’ll give advice because I’m 47 years old and a lot of these guys look to me for advice and I’m willing to give what I can, but on the same coin, the customer service in this industry, especially in the electronic side is not known for having the most customer-friendly people.
When customers come in and if you don’t acknowledge them, if you don’t engage them, if you don’t treat them well, I mean they’ll walk because, you’ve got to treat them like they’re not used to being treated, which is, they come in, I say, “Hi,” to every one of them.
I’ll sit down and if I’m busy pulling orders or something, and a customer comes in and says, “Hey man, you want to play a game of standard modern or whatever.” I’m like, “Sure, let’s play.” Because I mean, that’s, that’s what the card shop side of this is all about the game.
For anybody who is considering getting into the business and actually doesn’t play, especially magic because that’s the biggest one, you’ve got to learn to play dude. You can not own a store and not play. Your customers want to see you play. I don’t play because my customers want to see me play. I play because I learned to love the game and I’m like the junkiest player in the store because I don’t have time, a lot of time to focus on building the best [Inaudible 00:10:57]. I like to build the crappiest [Inaudible 00:10:59] and see if it flies. But the customers, – the players are like family and that’s really the key too, it is. I’m not saying have them over to your house for dinner, although that has happened, but you know, just treat them like you want to be treated. Treat them with respect and treat them as if they are the most important people to your store because they are.
Interviewer: That’s huge.
Kevin: A lot of other things I hear is, somebody may decide to start a magic store, they build enough to hire some people and then they walk away and go do something else. If they’ve got a part-time job, that’s totally fine, but you’ve got to be involved. I’m involved in every facet of everything that goes on in my store, everything. That’s pretty much it.
Interviewer: That’s great. I used to be in the industry, service industry, myself besides Crystal Commerce where we had a lot of face to face time. One thing that you talked about that resonates with me is the SOPs, the Standard Operating Procedures, about when that door opens and that person takes that first step onto your carpet or onto your square footage. It’s kind of like you’re going to drop everything you do, but at least they’re going to get an acknowledgment of saying, “Hello, welcome to Geeks MTG,” things like that. So I love hearing that, that you’re really engaged with the store as soon as that door opens. That’s fantastic. So, it’s like you’ve to have your [Inaudible 00:12:30] senses on.
Kevin: Well, you’ve got to look at it from a customer’s point of view. If you walk into a store and there’s nothing going on, just like morning times, you know, we open at 10:00 – nothing going on. If a customer walks in there and they start walking around, going through the shelves and so on, and you don’t say, “Hi,” to them, they’ll walk around a little bit more and you still don’t say anything and you’re busy, pulling orders or watching Youtube or whatever, then they walk around and if you haven’t said anything to them, they’re going to walk, and guess what, you’ve lost that customer. They’re never coming back. They will drive 45 miles away just for somebody who say hi to them. That’s no joke.
Interviewer: They’re looking for community.
Kevin: Yeah, they want to be part of something. We have a great community. Our community is very unusual. The youngest players that we have played there regularly, are graduating high school next week. Our average player base is 20–40, pretty good age range. So we really have, not that many children that actually played in our store.
Interviewer: Are you doing anything special for the graduates?
Kevin: No, not really. I’ve only got two of them. I’ve given these guys so much store credit and I’ll tell you what, these two are, they’re actually twins and they’re graduating high school next week. They come in on their off time and they’ve always offered to help and if we need help pulling orders, need help with cards away, need help with sorting or whatever, they’re always willing to jump in and help out. Of course, I’ll give them store credit and if they see some cards they want, [Inaudible 00:14:10] for a commander or whatever, they just work off over time.
That’s a really good suggestion to other stores. I’m sure a lot of stores do that. I can’t see where they wouldn’t, but get your players to help you. I mean, who knows the game better than players? That’s kind of a split decision. Some people say, the best people to hire are not magic players because they don’t look at the cards, they don’t see cards they want, but when you’re talking about incentive symbols and everything, you take somebody who’s completely ignorant to the game. That’s kind of hard, especially when you’re talking about dealing with the white border stuff. You ended up with seven or eight boxes and everything else, so it’ll just be a huge mess.
Interviewer: If you’re not passionate about the product if you’re not able to actually transfer that passion of the game to another person, which actually may be flipped the person’s decision making.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely.
Interviewer: That’s huge. So 22 years in the retail game. Kevin, when you wake up in the morning, what keeps you laser-focused on your goals when you wake up each and every day to do this because it’s a grind? You being a retailer, what do you do?
Kevin: Why else do we wake up in the morning? Well, since we’re a card shop, I don’t wake up at six in the morning to go to work. Man, that’s actually a really tough question. I’ve been doing this so long, that it’s just automatic. I don’t really even think about it. I mean, I love my business. It gets exhausting and tiring at times, but it’s just automatic. [crosstalk]
Interviewer: The thing is, maybe you’ve got a huge passion for the community. I mean, it sounds like you’re really in tune with your customers and so, you know,…
Kevin: I know, unless they’re brand new, I know everybody by name. I don’t need to check an inventory, I just know everybody. And you know, like I said, most card shops are or should already know their players.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well, every store has their strengths and weaknesses. To me, you come across as a business owner that embraces, they’re really good at 100% in one thing or a few things and they go 100% in that direction, not really focusing on weaknesses that you may have. You’re just going with what you’re great at.
There are a few things I’d like to ask you, so if we can give the listeners who either up and coming into the business or those that just want to grow, I’m kind of firing a few questions for you.
Interviewer: Kevin, if you were to take a deep dive into your proficiencies of the store, what are some of those strengths of Geeks MTG to you?
Kevin: Well, I’ll preface this by saying that before I got self-employed in ‘96, I was in the Air Force. I was an air traffic controller. One thing that, that taught me was how to coordinate, how to organize, how to do things a certain way. From the time we got on with Crystal Commerce, we have – this is going to make some people cringe. We inventory every card, we inventory tokens, we inventory the cheapest commons, we inventory every single card. It doesn’t matter if they give the card, – they can’t sell it if they’re sitting in a box on your shelf. That’s the mentality I have and that’s, I’d say that’s the biggest thing as far as my proficiency of the store is like, “Yeah, we inventory every card.” At the absolute most, we’ve done over 70,000 sales in the last six years, between the store and TCGplayer, we’ve hit 50k sales, which was a huge milestone for me earlier this year.
20,000 in the store and 50,000 online, so it kind of tells you where most of our sales come from and since we inventory every card, we ship a lot of orders, and because of the organization, if you keep everything organized very well. I’ve known stories that have had 8–9 people pulling in, processing and shipping and packing and everything else.
Back in about 2012 when I had the most staff working for me, there were no more than three people ever involved in the magic side of the business. Right now we’re shipping, I think a couple thousand orders a month and it’s me and my son. That’s it, just us.
Interviewer: Love it.
Kevin: I have customers come in and you’ve got to target what’s important. I’ll have customers, players come in and they want to do some sorting for store credit, help put cards away, cleanup stuff and everything, put cards into boxes, putting inventory away and stuff like that, but as far as like the order fulfillment and everything, it’s pretty much me and my son and the twins I was telling you about, they’re graduating, they’ve helped out quite a bit. But it’s kind of here and there, whenever they can. There’s some source who just inventory the good cards. I have found that selling junk cards online is very profitable actually.
It’s all in how you price it and it’s all about how you ship and pack it. When TCG raised their minimum order size to $2, which was – I mean, I’m pretty sure every store that sold on TCGplayer rejoiced when they did that.
Personally, I wish they raised it to like three or five because then all of our store owners could probably retire in the next 15 to 20 years. $2 is a good start, but your tokens in your uncommon and common can be profitable. Well, if you focus on the fact that you do quantity, quantity sells in bulk, so you don’t have to just get rid of all your cards.
Interviewer: Awesome. I appreciate that. Here’s a tough one, like everybody loves this one, right? But if you’re thinking about this business, Geeks MTG, if you were to think about all the actions and the inactions that you did or didn’t do when you first started doing the magic thing with Geeks MTG, then if you had the chance to have a serious conversation with the old you growing this business, what would you tell yourself? What advice would you give yourself?
Kevin: Basically, if I could go back to my old self and say, “Hey, don’t do this or do this.”
Interviewer: Yeah. This is like, you know, a Spock, Leonard Nimoy talking to the newest in star trek here, you know.
Kevin: Well, one thing I would have definitely done is gone back and told myself not to sell at $20,000 [Inaudible 00:21:43] retailer. I would not have done it. It wouldn’t have jumpstarted it. If I would have just kept those and kept them in the store, it would have eventually, it would’ve been better that I would’ve done that differently. Let’s see, I wouldn’t change anybody I ever hired. Everybody’s been great.
Interviewer: Really? That’s awesome.
Kevin: You know what, – Oh yeah, here we go. My customers, you hear this will love this one. If I could go back and tell myself don’t do something back in 2014, I would have gone back and told myself – or 2013 – I would have gone back and told myself, “Don’t get married for the third time.”
Interviewer: [Laughs] Sorry.
Kevin: That’s, that’s the biggest thing. “Don’t get married for the third time dude, don’t do it.” It was terrible.
Interviewer: Was it?
Kevin: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Interviewer: It was bad for my dad too.
Kevin: [Laughs] It doesn’t always have to be related to card shop because my customers are like, “What is he doing? Why is he doing this?” And yeah, that was a huge error.
Interviewer: You were in love man.
Kevin: No, I thought I was.
Interviewer: Okay, fair enough.
Kevin: That was stupid [Inaudible 00:23:06] for sure.
Interviewer: Well, anything else that Kevin would tell Kevin?
Kevin: No, that’s pretty much it. Everything else has been a…
Interviewer: Has been a key thing.
Kevin: Everything else goes, just the way it – I wouldn’t have changed anything else.
Interviewer: Okay. So talking about your customers and how loyal they are to you, from my understanding, like your customers are really vocal and they tell you their feelings and how they keep coming back in for more. What did you do or how did you cultivate this kind of culture inside your store?
Kevin: They’re all my friends and friends tell you what’s on their mind. All the customers, I know everyone by name. All customers, if I see them, I’m going to say hi to them. That’s it, either one of them. Every single player that comes in the store, and that’s it. And they.
Because we have that we have the kind of relationship between, you know, store owner and customer since we have that personal relationship there, they don’t mind telling me what’s on their mind and I really appreciate that. Sometimes, I wish they would do it a little more because you don’t know – Well, you don’t know what to fix unless somebody tells you, “Hey, this sucks.”
Interviewer: Your story kind of reminds me of a TV show back in the 80s, 90s called Cheers.
Kevin: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Everybody knows your name.
Kevin: Everybody knows your name.
Interviewer: You’re a 10, aren’t you?
Kevin: I’ve been married three times, so yeah, I guess you can say so.
Interviewer: 18,000 people are inside your town, it’s a small town, you’re running big events. We’re talking 76 man events, things like that early on.
Kevin: Those are [Inaudible 00:25:05] old location. Sometimes, we’ll hit a 50 man event. 50 is about the biggest event in our new location, which is okay. 50 people in the new location were only two people versus 76 man people in the old location with a staff of 12 in the entire store, you know, three on magic, other people everywhere else. When you compare the financial responsibility of that, I’ll take a 50-minute event over the old store any day.
Kevin: Sure. Yeah, but it’s a lot easier on the budget
Interviewer: Sure. A lot of stores I work with especially startups, they’re running between a handful of events total per week to several. It sounds like you’re running all kinds of events. How many events do you run every single week without batting an eye?
Kevin: We have an event on Tuesday. A lot of our events I’d say, we only do magic events. I do some Pokemon, Usagoals, but that’s pretty much it. I’m starting to get into comics as well. Yeah, we do Funko pops, all those stuff for walking traffic. They walk in grab and go. But the core of the store is magic. I mean, that’s the main, the potatoes, the dessert, beverage, that’s everything. Magic is where it’s at.
I’ve tried kind of getting into doing some pokemon and medio events, but it’s not big in our area. There’s just not enough people and most of the ones that do play that, they just play at home on the tabletop and try to get them in the store. It’s kind of like convert no casual player stuck at it. It’s almost impossible, but it’s a challenge.
We’ve got a good Facebook group which most of our players are in, it’s how we communicate.
Interviewer: What’s it called?
Interviewer: That’s a Facebook group?
Kevin: Yes, that’s open to all magic players. We have some pretty good conversations, a lot of different opinions when new cards come out, of course. It’s just a good place to just talk about magic, but we’ve maintained the advanced level status.
When we moved over to the new store, we had got advanced level pro and because I think last year we didn’t have a 50 man event, we got dropped down to advanced level, but we’re maintaining that really well. We’re doing events four days a week. And then I’ve got basically one day were my son does dnd and then I got two short days where I just do other stuff at the store.
Kevin: We’re doing Pro-2 qualifiers. We’ve got Pro-2 qualifier coming up June 30th. It’s a store, so hopefully, we’ll get a good turnout for that. We’ve got a really good judging staff coming. Some of my favorite judges are coming up to do that for us, which, – I put it on that day because the judges I wanted were available.
Interviewer: Is your judge pretty popular in the industry?
Kevin: What’s that?
Interviewer: Is your judge pretty popular in the industry?
Kevin: No, he’s just from a local area, he’s a level two judge, just a really great guy and the guy he brings along with him. We did a charity event last October for a magic player out of Missouri who is 26 years old, three years old, he had cancer and it just broke my heart. I became friends with the guy, you know, online and everything talked to him and we held the charity events, raised about, – I want to say it was around $1000 for him and I’m a team player kicked in, they sent some hoodies and some booster packs and everything for him. We put it in a box and shipped it to him.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make it to the event and unfortunately he passed away a few months later and a lot of us came to know him and everything, but the judges that are coming [Inaudible 00:29:08] came and volunteered their services for that charity event, which was really awesome. That was great of him.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful. Sorry for the loss my friend.
Kevin: He was a really good dude. He was going to sell his magic collection to basically pay for his therapy needed, chemo and everything. A lot of stores, a lot of stores, ran Missouri area, I think some in Memphis, a lot of stores heard about it and they had events and he was able to make some of them, but there was a lot of money raised and he did get to take a trip to try to get those therapy. Unfortunately, it just didn’t help, it was just too late. He was a really good guy
Interviewer: Well, that’s great. Those are really touching stories, man. Gosh, Dang it.
Kevin: I mean, it hits right [Inaudible 00:30:06] man, I mean, you’ve got to, you know, especially it was a local player, especially if we’ve got somebody, – it was kind of having some troubles or whatever, having some medical issues or whatever. Yeah, I mean, you’ve got to help those guys out, you’ve got to do what you can for them.
Interviewer: That kind of tells you the way you’re whole…
Kevin: For example, you can’t fix everything, but you’ve got to at least try and help a little bit.
Interviewer: That kind of ties in with your whole, a part of the big piece of your success, which is giving back to the community, those actually feed you as a company.
Kevin: That’s right. Yeah.
Interviewer: That’s huge.
Kevin: I haven’t done – I’ve done stuff for magic players. I haven’t really done a lot for my community as far as, – because, you know, we’re in a small town – I won’t say that Magic’s not really received well by the most of the public, but you know, it’s like a lot of places, you mentioned magic or you mentioned stuff like that, they automatically stereotype just like a lot of the other things.
Kevin: I had one guy in the store one day come in and said, “What are you guys do here?” I explained it to him. He said, “What’s the name of your business?”
He was just a random guy and this is how I give back. I said, “This is Geeks MTG.” He goes, “Huh,” and it was a couple of players, a couple of my buddies were playing, a couple of friends who are big dudes, and he looks at it and he goes, “Looks like you want to call it grandma’s basement.”
I looked at him and said, “How’d you like me to knock you in the mouth?”
I was not happy about that because you’re stereotyping me and that’s probably one thing about a card shop that irritates me the most is, people who don’t know what we do here, and I know this happens in a lot of places, it has to. People who don’t know a lot about this stereotyping are the people that are into it and that’s absolute crap.
I would hope any store owners or even players here, that kind of stuff going on, I like to think that they would say something about it and put a stop to it or whatever, because that’s bad for the business.
Interviewer: The thing is like, though, you guys, you store owners, you guys are giving a safe haven for kids to go to, keeping kids off the streets and keeping away from things that’ll probably get them in more trouble or just a waste of time, but as fantastic, provide that kind of service.
Kevin: You know how the old adage goes, “If we get kids into magic, they can’t afford drugs.”
Interviewer: I didn’t know that one.
Kevin: If we get kids into magic, they don’t have any money for drugs.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. I love that. [crosstalk].
So Kevin, online traffic, it’s important for you, especially when your doors are closed for your business. You have built a culture with your customers, especially for your website too. So, they can go to your direct website, geeksmtg.com or any marketplace when your store is lights are out. That’s pretty big. Like they’re going to you, number one.
How do you make that happen inside your store?
Kevin: Well, you guys.
Interviewer: Well, besides us providing the tools, okay, because we provide the tools.
Kevin: Same as Crystal Commerce. Yeah, you guys do give us the tools, you give us the tools we need, you guys have a software that makes it possible for my customer to sit at home at 3:00 in the morning with a stack of magic cards and put those cards in the buylist, put them in the order that they’re supposed to go on in the buylist and drop it off at my store early in the morning on their way to work here. And they’re like, “Stick this in my account.” Then they get off work. If anything goes into the store. If it’s a short day or they just can’t, just don’t have time to make it because you know, the wife wants him home for dinner, they go home, they get their credit in their account, and now, they can shop for the cards they want, to stop by the store the next day and pick them up. It’s phenomenal. That’s literally the buylist and the ability to actually buy and pick up a pay in store and the wishlist are the three best tools that are available to local players.
How built the culture is, I trained my customers. They come up with a big stack of cards and goes, “Hey, can I trade these in?” There’s a – Well, it used to be laptops. They go over the laptop there and put them into the buylist, put them in order and then bring it back up.
I’ve got tons of stuff to do and I don’t have time to go through a stack of 200 cards, one at a time and then sort, and then put them in by set order and are they going to buy lists and then go back and reverify everything. They’re wanting to trade them into me and so they use the tablet and trade them in. Now if it’s a couple of cards, I don’t mind, I’ll do it right on the fly. They got a big stack, they just create a buylist and the software allows us to do that, which is something I didn’t have, which I’m sure we’ll talk about here in a minute, which it didn’t have before I came back to Crystal Commerce, got a little segway in there.
Interviewer: As you know, I’m pretty transparent and showing our vulnerability here because as everybody knows from previous – on this podcast here, they all know that you loved our platform for a little while, but for the listeners, I think that’s important that they hear this from you.
Several months ago you left Crystal Commerce and tried another platform. Would you tell the listeners why you left Crystal Commerce for TCGplayer pro for example?
Kevin: I think I left in – I want to say it was somewhere around June of 2017, is when I left Crystal Commerce, I believe give or take a month. There was a lot of issues with – The biggest issue for me was the market prices were not even remotely close to being right.
When I was going through and trying to do batch updates and everything, my prices were way wrong. I was either not selling anything or I was selling everything. It was kind of causing quite a bit of issue.
Then I got a call from Chedy Hampson who I think so much of. Chedy’s a great guy. I’d give a short testament to him too. Being the owner, TCGplayer, I mean from day one, that guy is always made himself available. If there’s an issue, I can always call Chedy and say, “Hey, I got a problem.”
That also goes in line with all the years I was with Crystal Commerce, selling on TCGplayer. If I had a problem on the TCG side, I’d call him up and we’d just have a conversation. He’d ask for suggestions, things like that and I’m sure he does a lot of store owners, ask what they could do to make things better.
He called me, he contacted me one day, he goes, “Hey, we’re doing this at TCGplayer pro thing. This is what it’s all about. What can you do? What do you think of it?”
Honestly, I kind of regret it and I kind of don’t, but I jumped ship on Crystal Commerce. I went to a TCGplayer pro. I kind of went in, kind of expecting more down the line.
I think my biggest constant gripes were, there’s no buylist, there’s no – The wishlist, I wouldn’t worry about. There’s no buylist. My customers can’t log in and see their store credit. There are some batching issues. There’s a software called Quicklist where unless you have a scanner, you’ve got to put in each card at a time, which is kind of cumbersome.
I mean, they’re on the right path, but I think they’re just, – I think they have just had more work to do before they get to where they want to be, but Machete and Megan and Yon and the whole staff over there were always been really nice and really helpful. But it gets to a point where, when there are tools that you need and your customers are griping saying, – I would sit at home and I take my laptop that I use at work is also at home. I’d take it back and forth to work every day because that’s where everything is, and at 8:00 O’Clock at night, my Facebook messenger goes up, “Hey, what’s my store credit? How much store credit do I have?”
I’m like, “Okay, let me go to my spreadsheet, find your name, give your store credit back,” because – I had exported and my customer list out of Crystal Commerce and that way I could maintain – keep up with everybody’s store credit. So, I had to keep up with the spreadsheet. I mean, there were errors, there were some errors here and there that a customer would say, “Hey, I got $20 in credit. Right?” And I’m like, “you’ve got zero.”
“No, I have $20 a credit in my account,” and I know that they had to be right because one of my customers keep up with it or I don’t. But the ones that don’t, will just message me at all hours and it’s like, “Hey, what’s my store credit?” And that became, – I don’t mind anyone messaging me at night, but it’s like when I was with Crystal Commerce before, it’s like, they just log in, “This is your store credit, use it. It’s available right now.” The best one that I ever got was, “Hey, I forgot my password. Can you change it for me?” Which is also phenomenal.
When I went to TCG pro, the number of buy orders that people were submitting to the store, drastically dropped. I mean, drastically. I’m talking like 50%. It was not a good thing and I gave as much time as I could and, like I said, I think they’re on the right path to do what they want to do and there are some third party developers that are working with them, but when it came time to actually make a decision on it, I had a choice, had an opportunity to go onto a software called ion, I think it was, and stay with TCG pro or go back to Crystal Commerce, which obviously, I made the right move because now, I had more buy orders in the first two months of being back with Crystal Commerce than I did in the entire eight months, nine months I was gone with TCGplayer.
Interviewer: That’s awesome.
Kevin: There’s a lot of other platforms, – you guys interface the best way because when a new set comes out, once orders come out, you make them immediately available for import. That’s what we need.
The only other thing to be better, it’s okay, they’re putting in creating categories for us, but I mean, you guys can’t do everything. You can’t do everything. We’re going to create the categories now less price and for him to, that’s up to us. That’s our job to decide what prices are, where we want, how do we want to construct our category tree and everything, stuff like that.
The inability to customize the front end of the page, which was generic for pretty much everybody on TCG pro, everybody’s website looks the same. So, there’s no unique identity. There’s nothing special.
Interviewer: By the way, go to geeksmtg.com and go look at that website.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. Check it out. They did a great job. When I came back, you guys did a site for me, took care of it, got it all up and going. Was it Paul?
Interviewer: Paul from the support team? Yeah.
Kevin: God bless him. I’ll tell you what, man. When I left TCG, I had to download a spreadsheet of all my inventory, and guys, if you’re listening out there, give a clap while you’re listening to this, even though he can’t hear you. Paul actually went through, and I had zero it out, all my inventory as it was before Crystal Commerce. He actually took it and dropped it into place on Crystal Commerce for me. And that right there was – you want to talk about the epitome of customer service. That was Chris high five to Paul let me tell you, huge.
Interviewer: He’ll love that when he hears this.
Kevin: Everybody loves a Chris high five.
Interviewer: That’s right, especially when you connect. I think we kind of heard it in there, but was there anything else that made you decide to come back to Crystal Commerce?
Kevin: The customer service is awesome. I’ve never had a problem getting a hold of anybody with Crystal Commerce. Really, the three biggest things – our four biggest things, website, website appearance, buylist, wishlist, you know, price control, stuff like that.
Everything about Crystal Commerce makes it easier and I know you guys always got something in the works and making things better. I’m sure whatever that is it will be great, but that was pretty much it. There were tools I desperately needed in my business and I just wasn’t getting it. So I had to come back to where the tools were.
Interviewer: Got you. I actually got a question for you. Earlier, you mentioned that you used the ion scanner to add to your inventory. Is it faster to add the inventory using our platform or using the scanner?
Kevin: Well, the ion thing was a software platform similar to you guys. Apparently decided, but it was called quicklist and it’s software you download it and you have to do them by hand, but it was very – there was a lot of clicking.
If you wanted to make it faster, you can get, I think it’s the Fujitsu scanner. Of course, I’ve heard all kinds of numerous issue about jamming, about damaging cards, but you know, having to tape of the rollers and everything to make sure the cards went through without damaging them and stuff like that. I never bought a scanner because I’m pretty fast when I type. I type 140 words a minute or so.
The interface with the POS on Crystal Commerce, putting in cards or buy orders versus the quicklist is the way easier, simpler. You can actually see the image, which is kind of important, especially when you’re looking at cards that have multiple prints. That’s definitely important. I couldn’t wait to get quickly this off my computer.
Interviewer: Got you. For those they’re thinking about coming back to Crystal Commerce or even maybe just start to use Crystal Commerce – the greatest benefit to you, it sounds like the buylist, but you know, your experience, what would be the biggest thing why someone should come back or come aboard?
Kevin: It’s all about personal preference. I know customers that are personally perfectly happy with the other platforms they’re on. I love TCGplayer, I do a lot of my sales through them and I’m sure they appreciate the business, I know they do, but, it’s just every store is different, every store owner is different.
The basic tools, I would think are uncommon, but everybody runs a business in a different way. We all have a different way of pulling orders, we all have their own way of packing orders. We all order different kinds of supplies. No one store does it exactly like another store. We all have our different – we all learn this by just running the business and figuring out what works best for us.
My personal story, a decision for somebody to come back and they may say, “You know what, I really don’t want to go through that and I’m perfectly happy where I am.” It’s hard to really say, “This is why anybody should come back.” I’m personally happy to be back and I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way now, because it works for me.
Interviewer: Yeah, keeping the balance between how you diversify your business, your customers, like the ones that are loyal to you in your store, they use your website a lot, but you mentioned earlier keeping a balance between integrated sales, indirect website sales or actually, not putting all your eggs in one basket for example, but you’re spreading yourself out, which is good. Of course, building your brand and the website, like your customers though, what’s the biggest benefit to your customers, are getting from your direct website?
Kevin: Well, this is actually a big thing too. Even if a card is not in stock, my customers know what the price is based on my website. That’s huge because them being able to do that means that they’re not going to another site, they’re not going to Star City and look up a price on a card because the price Star City sells a card for doesn’t matter when they’re trading in store or trading amongst other players.
What matters is what the store is given. That is invaluable right there, that they can actually do that. That’s just so important to be able to know what the price of every single card is without actually, even if it’s not an inventory. I’m not sure how other stores do it. Like I said, everybody does it differently.
I generally run two price updates a day. It takes me about five minutes to launch each one and I do one in the morning and one in the evening and I’d just run, – that way I keep my prices as updated as possible and I don’t miss anything. So yeah, that’s huge.
Customers were really, really, really happy to have the Crystal Commerce site back. They could not be happier. I mean, they couldn’t stress enough how happy they were. I’ve actually had customers come back and start playing again and trading again now that we have that backup. I’ve actually gained some old business that I had lost.
Interviewer: How does that make you feel?
Kevin: Really, really good. Really, really happy.
Interviewer: I bet.
Kevin: It’s really good to see somebody didn’t seem like, you know, maybe a year or so. I was like, “Man, I’m so glad you’re back. You remember that time a few years ago when we were at TCG and we were playing these decks and this entity.” I mean, it’s good to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while.
There’s a lot of players that I haven’t seen in a while and maybe I’ll see them stroll back to the store one day because nobody really ever quits magic really. I mean they make me quit for three months, they may quit for three or four years, but eventually, most of them come back.
Interviewer: Yeah. I did.
Kevin: They don’t call it cardboard crack for a reason.
Interviewer: I agree with that 100%. Hopefully, listeners will hear this and see this. So we make sure we get your business a spotlight out there, but I do want to ask you, you know, you’ve been with us for almost several years besides a small stint when you tried another platform, you know, you have goals you’re trying to reach and things like that. We’re hoping that Crystal Commerce, – we’re trying to help you achieve your goals each and every day, but if somebody is looking at you may ask you about using our services, would you mind telling people like, why – Maybe they should consider using Crystal Commerce in the future?
Kevin: Absolutely. If anybody’s listening and they’re not using anything right now. Let’s say they’re just selling at a store, even if you’re just selling in the store, Crystal Commerce can be used. You don’t have to sell on TCG or eBay or Amazon. You don’t have to sell any of those places. You can just sell in store with it and it keeps your inventory tight, it keeps it accurate, makes your customers really happy. Your customers will love you.
If anybody wants to see the kiosk thing that I’ve built up, which is really awesome, actually, I just bought a full-sized iPad. I put it on a metal enclosure, bolted it down to the counter and got a permanent power to it and got a Bluetooth keyboard, you know, you can actually access it sideways, up. With the IPAD I actually lock it into the Google Chrome for Crystal Commerce. It’s a great little kiosk. I think I built it for less than 300 bucks.
If anybody has other facilities and still using laptops and stuff like that, I’ll tell you, it’s a space saver. If anybody wants pictures of it or want equipment I bought, feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook or Geeks MTG, it’s easy.
Interviewer: Shoot me a picture. I’ll have Nikki from marketing team include that in the visual of the podcast as well.
Kevin: You can be able to do that. I bought it all on Amazon. I had it in two days and stuff on a referral first iPad and I’ll tell you that customers love it. I mean they can either use the touchscreen or they can use a Bluetooth keyboard, they’re really, really like it. I’ll definitely send a picture of that.
Interviewer: I love that. Of course, everybody listening to know that Geeksmtg.com is live right now. Kevin, is there anything going on with Geeks MTG that the retailers or potential customers of yours should see or hear about today?
Kevin: We’re always finding new cards, always constantly, every day, all day. New cards coming in, new cards going out. My biggest project is just trying to figure out what I’m going to do with all this stuff. I’ve got a lot. People dumped on me like crazy and thinking through, the money cards are quite a challenge but we’ll get through it. It changes all the time. Inventory is always evolving and I sell to stores. I sell to stores, I sell to individuals too. If people want to buy rampaging bail on us to line their bathroom, I don’t care. We have no limits on quantities. So buy a $400 card stock, somebody wants to buy all 400, have at it, we’ll ship them or someone else will do it.
I’ve literally had people scratch our heads like, “Why do they really need this many?” There are two dollar minimums, there are ten cents, why are they buying 100? They want it for something. I don’t know why they want it, this was one of the stores just scratching their heads wondering, “Why somebody would want that many?”
But it’s always changing. Always something new. You never know what’s going to be on there. We’ve had some really, really cool cards, but like a lot of stuff, it goes pretty quick because we do price our single cards to be competitive because again, we’re in a small town. I depend on a turnaround card.
Interviewer: Yeah. Right.
Kevin: One thing they won’t find online is a really good standard stables. Those all stay on my display case from my local players. I don’t put those online at all, which is actually good because they know customers have to come into the store, bring foot traffic. That’s not really the reason I do it. I don’t do it for the foot traffic. I do it because I don’t want, you know, I really don’t want online customer scooping up all the cards at my local players need to build decks so they can participate in events. It keeps them in the local pool.
Interviewer: That’s great. I wrote something down here because it kind of reminded me because you’re doing direct website sales and a ton of them. You mentioned Amazon shipping in two days.
One thing that I think about when I receive a package from Amazon is that the box is branded, the tape is branded and stuff like that.
When you ship your products, especially if it’s not local, what do you do in the shipping to make sure that this person should look into geeksmtg.com a little deeper?
Kevin: I personally like the way you guys have a little header for the invoices, so I put some in the header of the invoice, so when they open the envelope, it’s a plain white envelope order, they see our logo, the first thing they see when they pull it out is our logo, unless they tear it from the side. I do sometimes, but when it comes to like shipping that bubble mailer packages, multiple cards, expensive cards, stuff like that, I put it on the bottom of the label and, you know, I tried to use an insignia. It was okay. I’m a huge fan of stamps.com. That’s me personally. Stamps.com allows me to customize that label and put where it says shopping geeksmtg.com on the bottom.
Every time somebody gets a package, it has my website return address as website model label as the, – basically our advertisement for the business on the invoice. So when they pull the invoice, they see that as well.
Kevin: One thing, when I first started doing this, I didn’t send invoices along. I just popped the cards in them in a bubble mailer and sent them along. I didn’t start doing invoices until shipping became free, pretty much on TCGplayer because of all the competition. That’s when I started doing invoices.
A variety store owners that they’re not doing invoices, I highly recommend them because we all know magic players are some of the pickiest customers on the planet. I cannot tell you how many times I got an email saying, “Why do I not have an invoice?” So, print it out on an invoice. So you have an invoice I go through like I know it goes through at least 150–200 pieces of paper a day just to print out invoices and it takes a lot of ink. I would get my ink from Amazon, my toner for my printer and get really good deals. $10 for a toner is a really good deal, especially when you’re churning out as many pages as we are. You know, keep the costs low, keep the profits high, keep the customers happy. That’s where it’s at.
Interviewer: Got you. You specialize in magic, I heard a little bit [Inaudible 00:57:33] sprinkled in there too, the Crystal Commerce catalog as you know, there’s like millions of products in Crystal Commerce. If you want to expand like you have free reign to do in that. Recently with the video game stuff, we have the update with the price charting importing, is Geeks MTG going to be possibly going back in the video game industry as well? I’m crossing my fingers.
Kevin: I can’t see doing it personally. That ship has pretty much sailed. After we closed down the video game part of the business, it created a big bag and we don’t have a Gamestop locally, so a place called game exchange opened up in town.
It’s not that I couldn’t compete with them if I wanted to, I could. It’s just, I buy all my video games online, I either buy them on steam or if it was on my Xbox One or PlayStation 4, I buy them online.
The days of going to Gamestop and standing in line in November at 11:00 O’clock at night, freezing your butt off are over. It’s done. You don’t do that anymore. You download your game days ahead and you get the whole game on there and it unlocks at midnight. So we used to have lines of people going out our door, like hundreds of people. The days are over. Hastings Entertainment shut down. Of course, we don’t [Inaudible 00:59:01] Blockbuster went belly up. Movie Gallery went out.
There’s a lot of game stores are just shutting down because new game titles in a retail setting, unless you’re Gamestop and you have whatever sweetheart deals they got going on, you can’t compete. If anybody is, if anybody ever wants any advice about video games side of the business, feel free to contact me. I’ll tell you everything you possibly need to know of other people, build it up on their website if they need, you know, give suggestions or whatever. I’m not in that business, no conflict with me. I’d be glad to help anybody who needs help because I did it for a long time.
At one time, we were the largest single location independently owned video game store in the country with, like I said, 26,000 to 35,000 titles. I mean, the store was massive. It was a – and it had just about every video game you could ever imagine and people were just streaming in trading, buying. I mean, it was just crazy. Our lines during a release of a new game, we’re a lot of times bigger than Gamestop’s, about 15 miles away.
Matter of fact, when I heard Gamestop had actually thought about opening up in our town, they decided not to. Whether that was because of my presence, I don’t know, but we were definitely a force to be reckoned with, but the game has changed, it’s just not what it was.
If you go to a lot of retail stores like Walmart, you’ll see their game display does not look like it used to and a lot of stores are going belly up, so I’m glad I got out when I did. I definitely made the right decision.
Interviewer: Yeah. Geeksmtg.com, what is in your future in the next year or two?
Kevin: I’m dabbling in comics right now. I’m not ready to go feet first. I’m just kind of testing the waters. Magic for sure, no question about it. Whatever else wizard slows our way, I’m hoping it continues to be as good as diamond area. Still waiting for those four masterpiece orders. It’s coming. It’s coming, they have to do it, they have to do it.
I don’t know. I take it year to year, and that’s one way to adapt. Make sure if you’re getting into the business, make sure you adapt, make sure you diversify somehow. If you have to sell if you had to put kitten key chains over in the corner that you’re making in your garage, do it. Put something else in there until you get things rolling because just when you think you’re getting – If you ever comfortable and complacent this business, somebody will open a store down the street from you and they will try to siphon off some of your business. Don’t think that, you’re the only game in town because nobody’s ever really the only game in town
Interviewer: I hear you. I hear you.
Kevin: Unless you make your customers happy or you’re me or the only store in town.
Interviewer: Or you have the community all to yourself. Kevin, I appreciate it, buddy. For everybody listening geeksmtg.com, go check them out. Kevin, if you have a godsend, please let me know.
Kevin: My brother. I’m looking for one. And if anybody needs go contact me for anything, make sure you email me or text me because I’m way less long-winded when I’m typing.
Interviewer: Awesome. Well, hey everybody, thanks for listening. I appreciate that, and also Kevin, thanks for stepping up to the plate and being part of our first podcast. It’s been a fun time. I look forward talking to you in the near future as well.
Kevin: Absolutely. We really appreciate you guys. Thank you so much.