Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't Give Me An Excuse to Stay Home

I was over on Mira Bartok's blog the other day and saw this interview with Andy Laties, who wrote the book Rebel Bookseller

In the interview, he makes the argument for the indie bookseller and why consumers should shop their local bookstores instead of Amazon or one of the big chains. (Or, actually, the only big chain left.) It's interesting reading, and he makes some great points. I haven't read the book yet (though I plan to), but as far as his interview ... I don't agree with the activist approach.

As a reader, I try to support authors by buying new books. And I shop in indie bookstores because I do care about where my money goes after I spend it. But the truth is, I have only a little discretionary income. I don't want to be guilt-tripped into spending my money in certain places. Indie bookstores who talk like they're nonprofits ("Support us!") only grate on my nerves. They're not nonprofits. They're businesses.

Here's an example of a bad experience. One summer I strayed across a one-weekend only book sale stationed outside of an indie bookstore. I made the mistake of attempting to buy a couple of books, only to be berated by one of the staff because they weren't open yet. Not corrected, not "I'm sorry, we're not open yet." Instead, she snapped. I went back and bought those books later that afternoon (they were hard-to-find gems I knew I wouldn't stray across anytime again soon), but after that I never went back to that store. Just one bad experience ruined that store for me.

Perhaps it's capricious of me, but the reality is the onus isn't on me as a consumer to "support" a business. I do what I can, but I'm not going to shop in a store that gives me the same or even worse service than Amazon or a big chain. I think the smartest approach indies can take is to focus on what they can do that Amazon can't: giving welcoming, personalized service in their stores. Appealing to the consumer's sense of fairness and right/wrong will get indies about as far as it has the green movement. Far too often I see indies take their customers for granted. These days, it's just too easy for people stay home and order online. Indies shouldn't make it easier by being jerks to their customers.


Old Kitty said...

Oh talk about bad customer service - I'm so sorry! Oh dear! It's a shame really because the indies cannot compete with Amazon and big shops full stop and proving bad customer service in this light is just suicidal!

Take care

fairyhedgehog said...

It really is silly not to have good customer service when it's all they can offer that the big companies can't.

stacy said...

Old Kitty, I know, right? It is suicidal. So many bookstores have closed. We've got some great used bookstores where the owners are these old, curmudgeonly guys (for some reason I don't mind that in a used bookstore owner), but they're still friendly to me. Maybe those are the bookstores I should be shopping in exclusively.

Fairy, they are still around, but I think they're struggling. I shop at another store that is much more welcoming. The same thing happened with a coffee shop that opened last year. At first, the owner seemed laid back. But as time went on, he got ruder and ruder to both his staff and the customers. It's closed now, which makes me sad. It was one of the few coffee shops in Chicago that was open late.