Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beautiful little bookstore, Between the Covers, at least from the pictures.

Liked the quote from Tina Davis, owner of the Camilli Book Company. "You know, I think it's great. Bend could do a lot worse than have another independent bookstore. We have restaurants open all the time, and nobody says boo. But suddenly, it seems like people get a little wacky when somebody opens a bookstore."

She could, perhaps, be referring in part to my amazement that we've gone from one indy bookstore for the last 7 years, to three in Bend. But she misunderstands me.

I think she's right. I think there should be a bookstore on every corner. Really, that's a world I'd like to live in!

Meanwhile, Keeneye, who has a charming blog about her new pizzeria in Baker City said she's getting a bit of flack from the locals, and wonders if she shouldn't have an anonymous blog instead.

Since I've recently gone through the same kind of self-examination, I'm sympathetic. But her blog is fun and interesting and inoffensive, so I think anyone who has problems with it is someone who has problems, period. I'm way more opinionated, but then I'm in a bigger town.

Still, I know that she's written about run-in's with customers, and I've sort of avoided talking about that because of the reactions.

The customer is always right, and all that. Except when he's wrong. But what do I know? I'm just the guy who's been doing this forever.

But, like I said, the customer is always right.

She'll eventually realize that no matter how perfect her place becomes there will be people who aren't happy. Eventually, you just have to accept it and move on.

I generally don't talk about the worst things that happen. It won't solve anything. I'm amazed sometimes by the way some people act. Small example, because we just got done dealing with it: We had a hose connected to the bookstore all summer, and people would come by and water themselves and their dogs. They would also leave the hose running, leave it in the roadway, and tightened it so much that it took a pipe wrench to take off!

I got the advice one time of looking at them and thinking, "They've got a brain tumor, they can't help it."

I'll give you an example of a complaint about a customer that I wouldn't ordinarily make, because it happens every day and it's part of doing business and why worry about it. A mom and daughter came in, and the daughter 'loved' our store and she wanted to look and examine everything. We have hundreds of dice behind the counter for gaming, and she had Pat take out one dice after another for her to look at. She went over the the anime section and wondered why we didn't have an obscure later copy of a series because it was the "she hadn't downloaded, yet." She had him get up on the ladder and pull down a Japanese toy from the very top section of the wall, and then had him get back up and put it back. And she had a running commentary of what all she wanted and all we didn't have.

I finally got a bit exasperated and said, "What do you want from us? Our store is packed! We'll order it from you."

And I get the deadpan. "I'm just looking." And they start to walk out the door.

And I did what I rarely do and said, "After all that, you aren't buying anything?"

They did a right turn into the other half of my store, and spent another half an hour on their own. Came to the counter with 20.00 worth of stuff.

"Are you happy now, we spent money?"

"Yes," I say. "Thank you."

My wife would say, they had every right to browse, and I would say, yes, within reason but if you make us your monkey, that's just rude.

And retailing wisdom would say, you just take it without complaint. And I would say, yeah, but I got them to spend 20.00 by pointing out their energy expenditure. And the fact they spent the 20.00 means that they knew it.too.

So there you are. A dangerous thing to do. Complain about a customer.

And generally, it makes no sense to complain. People are people.

It's the same kind of everyday aggravation that everyone goes through, and there is little point in talking about.

Even this relatively mild incident makes me nervous to talk about. I remind myself that I get 70 or 80 people a day, and most are perfectly fine. And that in the scheme of things, the kind of situation I just detailed is so unimportant, that there is no point talking about or mentioning it.

But since this blog is a reflection of my day to day work life, I thought just this once I'd talk about it.


dkgoodman said...

I too get amazed at what people will do. I also know that you can get jaded. If you've always worked with good bosses, you're amazed when you start working for someone who's a jerk. You forget what people can be like.

When I worked in technical support, people only called me when their computer was broken and they were upset. You start to feel that people are always upset and always jerks, because that's what your days are like. You have to remind yourself that your situation is a filter that brings you in contact with a certain type of people. If you work at Macy's you get a different type of people than you do working at Wal-Mart.

People who are discourteous are a part of doing retail I suppose, and if you blew away every customer who was discourteous your sales would suffer, but there are limits. I see nothing wrong with telling a customer, "Look, I'm happy to spend a half hour catering to you if you're interested in purchasing something, but please don't do it just to amuse yourself. This is a business and we'd like to stay in business." Sometimes people forget what the real world is like and need a reminder. You've probably made shopkeepers everywhere a little happier by educating a customer.

When toddlers misbehave it's easy to think that they do it on purpose, to be bad. But toddlers are little scientists who have to test things to see what the limits are, and what the consequences are of various actions. They misbehave to see what the consequences are, to see where the line is, so they can learn to limit their behavior. When our daughter was young I tried to keep that in mind, and consistently and (usually dispassionately) remind her of what was acceptable and what wasn't and what the consequences are. Sometimes customers are like toddlers. :)

Duncan McGeary said...

All true, DK.

But, I know in the end that silence is the better part of valor. Almost always. I bite my tongue, they walk away, and I know I've done my business a favor.

Really, it's in the best interest of my own business.

Still, as you say, sometimes you can't help it. I'm probably much more vocal than most clerks, but then I own the business and care alot.

Duncan McGeary said...

Maybe it's just another consequence of corporate retail. Clerks don't have to care. The customer assumes the store isn't out anything in damage or theft (even of time.)

In the old days, the owner might have been standing right there. Would've frowned on misbehavior.

I know that customers assume that I can return or somehow write off product, or that I may have many copies so one damage isn't important.

Instead, I buy my stuff. I usually can afford only one of each. And even 'shopworn' damage can be difficult to dismiss.

Keeneye said...

The customer is always right, and all that. Except when he's wrong.

(laughing) Yes - we have a saying similar to this: The customer is always right until they are no longer a customer.

Thanks for the positive feedback.