What is it like going in a head shop?
May 7, 2014 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Big nerd, never been in a head shop before. Are they going to laugh at me?

I have occasionally taken kava as a way to enjoyably relax in the evening, once in a blue moon (the instant powder kind that you mix with water). I have in the past ordered it online. I am in the mood to have some tonight but I'm all out. I know there is a head shop a few miles away from my house - this is in the suburbs, in a little plaza containing a bakery and other miscellaneous shops. I'm tempted to check there and see if I can buy some, but I'm nervous.

I'm a 33-year-old woman and I know I should be past the age of caring what strangers think. But I've been a nerd my whole life, and my middle school / high school years have left me fearful of being laughed at or made fun of. I've never taken any type of illegal drugs - alcohol and kava are the only things I've had. I'm just imagining that when I walk in, everyone will know that I don't "belong" and I'll be stared at or whispered about.

Just wondering if anyone who has gone to head shops, or works in one, can comment on what the environment is like for a complete noob. Are they generally pretty friendly or is there a bit of a clique-y vibe?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You go in, you ask if they have what you want, and if they do you pay for it, thank them, and leave. They don't bite. They're normal, friendly store proprietors like any other. You're really over thinking this.
posted by dfriedman at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2014 [15 favorites]

This might be a sidetrack, but I was in line at Walgreens on Sunday and the girl in front of me was buying (and loudly espousing) kava capsules. So you may not have to go anywhere more exotic than the corner drugstore.

Also -- head shop folks are chill. You should go in whether you need to or not. Don't feel like you have to buy anything, but you could always just get some incense and look at all the pretty shiny "tobacco" pipes. (Just don't mention anything about illegal drugs or you may get kicked out.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:21 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think their attitude will be a reflection of your own - I've seen people come in with an attitude of curiosity and get treated very well (with the odd first timer's discount), and I've seen people come in with an "I'm slumming" attitude and be largely ignored.

They're just people, who happen to do business in the currently taboo.
posted by Mooski at 12:22 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I tend to find that the clerks at head shops are naturally pretty guarded, but it's not like you're going in there to buy a bong. Just march up to the counter and ask for the powdered kava. I'd be surprised if anyone tried to mess with you.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 12:24 PM on May 7, 2014

Seconding fiercecupcake, the only real taboo thing is mentioning illegal drugs: "HEY WHAT CAN I SMOKE CRACK OUT OF" etc. Everything for smoking is for "tobacco." But since this shouldn't be a problem for you, it's just like any other store.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

You'll be totally fine. Head shops are really not scary - sort of the opposite really. Usually the staff is pretty chilled out and they're not usually very busy. In fact, I think you'll be a pretty refreshing customer, as I'm sure the head shop folks have to deal with a lot of obnoxious teens and the pot leaf t-shirt crowd.

It's a business, they are there to help you out. Just ask for the Kava, make your purchase if they have it, no biggie.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

They definitely won't laugh at you or whatever; depending on the state and legal climate I can imagine them being a little surly though.

You most likely will have to participate in the fiction that they are selling smoking implements for tobacco or other legal herbs -- especially, always say "water pipe" instead of "bong". But I'm not a stoner, and people tend to read me as pretty uptight/"square", and when I've been in these places everyone has been relaxed and friendly.
posted by vogon_poet at 12:32 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I worked in and managed a store that was, at least in part, a headshop. At worst, you'll get someone totally disinterested who will ring up your kava, say "thank you," and hand it to you.

Seriously, the only people we were ever remotely shitty toward was too-drunk people and annoying teenagers who had nothing to do and bothered the clerks clearly never intending to actually purchase anything.

However, I'd give them a call first. I've not seen powdered (or liquid) kava for sale in head shops, just regular pharmacies and health stores.
posted by griphus at 12:35 PM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

You may want to call ahead and see if they have it. I've had good luck finding Kava at health foods stores and places like Whole Foods. As for head shops, I've always found the clerks to be friendly and helpful, especially if you don't go in acting like a nut and talking about illegal drugs. I find the clerks at high-end clothing boutiques to be far more cold and judgey than any head shop clerks I've met.
posted by quince at 12:38 PM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

The good news is, head shop employees are pretty mellow. No one will think you don't belong. Regular people go to head shops all time. It's like going to a liquor store. No big deal.

Just ask for what you want, buy it, take it home and enjoy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:38 PM on May 7, 2014

Head shops are just like any other shop, but i think you'll have better luck finding kava at a healthfood / vitamins / supplement store than a head shop. The person at the head shop might be able to point you to a good herbal supplements store nearby, as I find the knowledge bases intersect moreso than teh retail footprints.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yup. Call ahead to make sure they have kava in the format you're interested in ("Hi, I'm just calling to see if you stock powdered kava capsules. You do? Great, I'll be there in a bit then, thanks.") because they may or may not, then when you get there just ask someone who works there if they can point you toward said product. Buy as much as you want, say thank you, and leave. It's like any other store, except that the staff may be slightly more on edge because they get more problem customers (people who hang around forever without buying anything, people who insist on asking about illegal drugs, people who are actively stoned while in the store) than most places. You aren't a problem customer though, and you can demonstrate that by acting normal, asking for what you want, and then buying it and leaving just as you would anywhere else.
posted by Scientist at 2:12 PM on May 7, 2014

head shops are kind of neat little shops even if you aren't interested in their main products. they usually have cool wooden/stone boxes, maybe some tshirts, maybe some records, maybe some artisan crafts or beads or whatnot. you might find it fun just to go in a poke around a bit.

i'm a super anxious female nerd in my 30s, with the difference of having been in lots of head shops. in my experience, they're tons more welcoming than, say, the typical local comic store, but with similar small business personalities working/owning the place.
posted by nadawi at 2:23 PM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

My strategy in this situation is to take the bull by the horns and have a question to ask. What kava product do you recommend? Do you have the one in the blue bottle? That establishes a conventional relationship, in this case customer to sales person, which is comfortable for everyone.

You don't have to take the advice you get.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:58 PM on May 7, 2014

The head shop in the town where I grew up was named "The Bench Shop" for some reason - and my mother naively went in one day to shop for furniture. The staff was quite gentle about setting her straight.

The people in a head shop seem pretty laid-back, is what I'm trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 PM on May 7, 2014

Not to be stereotypical but stoner types are generally very chill. There's nothing illegal about kava so it's really just fine all around. I'd call ahead and ask if they have it rather than wasting the trip, unless you're interested in checking it out anyway.

A couple times I bought kava I got a liquid extract from the local co-op in the aisle with all the other herbal extract and hippie medicinals.
posted by nanojath at 9:34 PM on May 7, 2014

Regarding head shops, I used to be similarly nervous about looking out of place or like I was too "straight-laced" or something but I've never really faced any attitude like that in real life.

That said, around these parts we have to go to the metaphysical books and herbs store to get kava. I've typically found such stores to have very friendly and helpful staff. So maybe check for such a store in your location?

Side note: if the shop you go to stocks kava candy (orange lozenges in a blister-pack) I recommend trying them. They are a nice alternative if you don't feel like mixing up a cup or you're traveling or whatnot.
posted by cabingirl at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2014

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