How to Shop for Geeks

So last Friday, I was on local radio talking about how to shop for your favorite geek. It's a week and a half before Christmas, and you're panicking. So I thought I'd repeat this vital information here. If you're not a geek, perhaps you find shopping for your geeky loved one intimidating. A lot of people either feel completely overwhelmed by the geek's usual niches, claiming they don't know enough about comics, RPGs, etc. to make a good choice; or else give up before they start because they don't know what their beloved geek has and doesn't - and he/she seems to have everything already. And if you ARE a geek - which is more than likely given my usual topics - then you've known the flip side of this story, and have loved ones who never know what to get you. Send them a link to this post.

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.
Find a store you can trust
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.

Spies like us
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.

For the geek who has everything
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.


Anonymous said...


Siskoid said...

That's cheating!

It's easy, and as a last resort, sure. But ideally, your gift should show you put some effort or thought into it.

An equally simple trick is to point-blank ask the geek what he or she wants. But then there's no surprise.

I geared my tips specifically towards avoiding both these situations.


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