A local author walked into a bookstore. . . sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it. Well, what followed was a joke, but not in the least amusing for anyone involved. In our current economic times, good customer service is increasingly important to help maintain the customer base. As a consumer, I'm making my purchases much more cautiously these days and the downward pressure on the end price to move the product out the door has made the price differential between one store versus another even smaller. What this means is that when I find a product and want to buy, if someone doesn't treat me right, I'll go down the street and get the same product for the same or less. Borders bookstore does not seem to understand this concept.
During my lunch hour, I went to the Borders across the street from where I work and got in line for the cashier. My mission was to talk to the store manager about my latest young adult offering, Misfit McCabe, and offer some free bookmarks, posters, etc. and generally start to develop a relationship between the bookstore and myself. Being the lunch hour, there were a few people in line, taking care of some business while there was a free moment. At the register, I requested to speak to the manager. The cashier kindly called the manager and requested an additional cashier as the line had continued to back up. Instead of coming to the front of the store to meet with me, or advising me that now was not a good time and requesting that I come back at a later time, the manager communicated through the cashier.
I was ready and willing to step aside to wait for the manager so that the cashier could continue ringing people up and getting them on their way, as I am sure that several had time constraints and needed to make their purchase and go. I even asked whether another time would be more convenient, but that question was ignored and not answered. By the time I left, there was a queue of about 18 people waiting in line, which could have been so easily avoided by the manager either taking five minutes to meet with me or letting me know when a better time would be.
Instead when the cashier advised the manager that I was at the front of the store wanting to discuss BorderÂ’s carrying my book as I am local and can assist in driving traffic to their store, the manager told the cashier to have me call their corporate offices. That was fine, I am more than willing to do that, but when I mentioned that I also have free items, such as bookmarks, and cards, as well as posters to give them, the manager told the cashier to tell me to call corporate for that as well. I was hoping to build a relationship with a local bookstore so that I would have a place to send people who ask me where they can buy my book, and where I could do occasional book signings. I felt like I was trying to talk to the Wizard of Oz, who was hiding behind the curtain.
With the e-revolution, and several prognosticators predicting the demise of the "brick and mortar" bookstore in the relatively near future, it surprised me a great deal that the manager's attitude toward her customers was so cavalier. If I was the person at the back of that line and checking my watch (or cell phone) for the time, I most likely would have put the books I had in my hand down and walked out. Do that a few times, and I have no reason to return to the bookstore. After all, I can always jump online and point, click, deliver, with far less hassle and no lines. In fact, with the internet, I find it far more useful and much quicker to find something that I want, read up on products that I am thinking about buying, or find out what other people think that going to an actual store has almost become passÃ©.
In addition to online ordering of products, bookstores have to contend with another factor in their march toward extinction, the advent of e-book readers. E-books are gaining popularity and it is only a matter of time until they replace the traditional paper bound books. I think it is still a few years off myself, as first the e-book readers will need to support color, and until Fisher Price (or someone like them) develops the indestructible, color e-book reader for children's books, there will still be a need for paper books.
Maybe the manager didn't want to meet with me because I am an author. Perhaps she should remember that authors write books, which fill the bookstores, and along with the readers (people who give money for books), are the reason that she brings home a paycheck at the end of the week.
To see an article which discusses the trouble that Borders is in published last year, go to Blogging Stocks and from the same blog, an article which discusses changes that Borders is trying to make after plunging holiday sales. they may be good for corporate, but it hasn't filtered down to the local store yet.