Because fear no more. These tips should help you find that perfect geek gift, or at least take away some of the anxiety causes by geekly gift-giving.
Yes, of course you can find geekery in large chain stores. Big book stores have graphic novels and role-playing games. Department stores have action figures, movies and games. But you don't know what you're doing, so you'll need help from staff. You might get lucky and hit upon an "expert" in one of those stores, but I wouldn't count on it. A dedicated comic book/gaming store SPECIALIZES in geekery, and its employees are much more likely to be geeks themselves and not only know what you're talking about, but be in a position to recommend something. When you walk in, do the employees acknowledge you and seem helpful? If so, and the store seems well organized, with books alphabetically shelved and categorize, you're in the right place. Conversely, avoid places with piles of stuff chaotically lying around and employees ignoring their customers in favor of their own amusement. Feel like you can trust the staff to guide you towards the right gift and not just recommend whatever's popular at the moment, because your geek is probably a discerning reader/gamer. It's not about what's hot, but about what's GOOD.
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If you're going to ask comic book shop staff for suggestions, you've got to give them a little to go on. If the geek in your life has shelves, take a picture of his/her collection with your phone to show the store. Not only will that help a friendly and helpful store employee determine the TYPE of thing you're looking for, but you can also avoid getting something your friend already has! If your geek goes to that particular store regularly, he/she probably has a "pull list" (a list of things your friend has the store lay away for them). While a store might be reticent about outright telling you what's on that list for privacy reasons, its employees might still be able to take a look and recommend something based on your geek's tastes. And while it may be a bit late this Christmas for this, you might also consider making several visits to the store. At first to get suggestions, see what's there, etc., returning after you checked your friend's collection to see if they already had those suggestions in your collection. You can also go on the Internet to check reviews of your gift ideas. After all, it's possible your geek doesn't have it because, as experts, they have already considered it and found it lacking.
It could still be risky, so consider some lateral thinking. For example, if you know your geek is into Adventure Time cartoons and toys, consider getting them Adventure Time comics. Same franchise, different medium. If they're into comics, they might not ever spend money on toys or figurines of their favorite characters, but would certainly appreciate you tapping into their fandom with "sides" like this. Or start them on a new collection. They have lots of Vertigo comics collections, but not - as your pictures reveal - Fables? Get them the first couple trades. If they say they love it, you can even make a deal where you're the only one allowed to add to that particular collection. Your gifts are covered until your geek has every volume!
Some simple tips, but when I talked about it on the air, I actually took the role of the "store employee" and using these techniques, found a great gift for the radio announcer's girlfriend! They work! Now if only someone can tell me how to buy a gift for a non-geek, we'll all be sorted.