The internet has been a boon to the hobbyist. We can research things and find things we could never do before. We can order and receive products without ever leaving the comfort of desk chair. While I have reflected on this before, it bears repeating and re-examining. While the hobby industry is benefiting, hobby shops are not. Hobby shops can't compete with internet.
In most cases, I tend to side with the hobby store. I appreciate their knowledge and understand that their costs (actually having a store) are going to be higher than someone on the internet. That doesn't stop me from looking and comparing, though. (As I mentioned before, doing research on a new hobby is almost as exciting as the hobby itself--call it armchair hobbying) I am mindful of the price difference when I enter the store. As long as the difference isn't too great, I most often choose the hobby store.
If you read my last post (If you haven't go back and read it now. Read them all now!!--We will call that a desperate plea for readers) you will know that my latest hobby obsession is darts. I have only played once, and have sunk absolutely no money into it so far. In fact, the only livelihoods I have supported are the Royal Canadian Legion's and its employees. That is if you call drinking a couple of beers at ridiculously low prices support.
I digress (as usual).
I have started looking for darts. I spent part of yesterday's snowstorm driving around to all the usual stores seeing what they had. Alas, what they had really wasn't much. In the end, I ended up at a store that had a whole range of darts, dart accessories and dartboards. It was tucked away in an industrial area. I probably wouldn't have found it without the help of Google and Google maps.
I spend a fair bit of time at the store, trying out various darts and talking to the store owner. He was helpful and knowledgeable and didn't try to pressure me. The prices were a little high, but it was a specialty store and they didn't really have any low end stuff. After some practice, I settled on a set I planned to buy. I say planned because I need to wait out the credit card cycle a little.
Being research driven, I came home and searched out these particular darts on the internet, and found them for sale on EBay. The price with shipping would save me about forty bucks, if I understand the tax laws. Of course, I might get hit by duty, but how much could it be. Maybe five dollars? So I would save only thirty-five.
The dilemma for me is that I appreciate the time the owner spent with me. I also would like to go back there to buy accessories and whatnot. I don't know how many customers they get, but while I was there (a not insignificant amount of time) I was the only customer. I don't think he will forget my face, and he might wonder what happened.
If this were some nameless, faceless corporation run out of the mall, I wouldn't see it as a dilemma. I would probably have bought them already. Of course, I probably wouldn't have spent so much time at the store talking to the person either.
Basically, I am asking for your opinions--or if you want to share your experiences. I know some of you run businesses, so you must give me your honest take on the situation.