Feral Friday - Hating Bookstores

Hi everyone! It is time for another Feral Friday!

Feral Friday is were I discuss a topic, issue or question that is drives me crazy. So here is the latest issue that is sending me feral.

How could you hate a bookstore?

We all love bookstores, right?

Well, generally speaking, yes. We do love bookstores, and you would be hard-pressed to find a booklover who does not have a favourite store. However there a few things that can turn us of certain bookstores. And generally speaking, these are easy fixesL have good and varied stock, and great customer service.

Nothing turns me off more than bad customer service. I don’t want a shop assistant to be hovering around me every turn I take, but I do want them to be friendly, helpful and professional. Greet me if you see me or at least smile to recognise my existence. There is nothing worse than being a shop when the assistants don’t even acknowledge your presence. This could be something as simple as not looking up at you as you enter (either doing something work related or personal) or just down right ignoring my existence in the store.

And knowledge - be knowledgeable! Please, please know what you are talking about. I don’t expect you to be an expert on every author, book or genre, but I want you to have a basic understanding, and not to pretend to be an expert when you aren’t.

I have had a few experiences in bookstores where the customer service was so bad that I never returned to that store. The worst I ever had was with an interstate bookstore that I was really excited to go to, and ended experiencing unknowledgeable, unprofessional staff that ignored my existence. Upon entering this store I found the assistant on the phone. This is not uncommon, but she did not acknowledge either my friend or me as we walked past her. We then had to listen to her conversation as she spoke at the top of voice. This wasn’t too bad, as it was a conversation with another staff member in another section. What disturbed me, was the total lack of knowledge this person had. She was arranging promo materials for a signing that was happening the next day. The signing was last-minute and for an international author. She continued to tell her colleague that this author “had potential” and was “like <insert popular author>”. And then continued to say that they were only holding the event so that they could “get stock signed”. I was horrified! For so many reasons. I will admit that these comments initially made me rage because this author is one that I hold highly (take a guess who). But, after my initial outrage, it came down to far more important things than that.

Lack of knowledge, unprofessionalism and bad customer service.

Firstly the lack of knowledge: This author is a New York Times Bestseller. Not an author who “has potential”. And the other author that this one was likened to is actually a writer in a different genre and their writing styles are completely different. To me, this showed a major lack of knowledge on this author, however to anyone listening, the assistant made it sound like they knew what they were talking about.

This is unprofessional: Should a bookseller really be saying things like “they have potential” (even if they weren’t a New York Times Bestseller)? To me, this can certainly have negative undertones rather than positive ones. And secondly, saying that you are only holding the event to “get stock signed” tells me you are only wanting to make money rather than create a good customer experience. I know you selling books comes down to money, but you don’t need to dismiss your customers in the meantime. And lastly, why are you holding this conversation at full volume when there are customers in your store? Is it to show me your lack of customer service and knowledge - because that is what we got out of it.

All of this leads to bad customer service: I was horrified about this assistant’s lack of knowledge, pretentious bullshit and complete disrespect for both the author and us as customers. There were moments when both me and my friend said “did she actually just say that?”.

During this whole time she did not acknowledge us, even though at the time we were standing in front of this particular authors books. We had gone in to that store especially to buy a particular edition, however after hearing what we did we walked out without buying a thing.

Thankfully every other bookstore we walked into that day was fantastic and we went back to our hotel room with our arms filled with books and a few more favourite bookstores to add to the list.

Negative experiences are rare. But they will affect a shopper permanently. We will not return to a bookstore with bad service - basically in this day and age, we don’t need to. There are either other stores to go to where a customer will have a better shopping experience, or if there isn’t, there is the world of online shopping.

But nothing can ever beat shopping in a great bookstore. There is nothing better than having a chat with a bookseller about books they loved, about books you love, upcoming titles etc. They are a great source of recommendations for books that you may not have usually picked up, or ones that you didn’t even know were out there just waiting for you to love it

Most bookstores have fantastic staff, amazing ranges and provide a great customer service experience. To all those stores, I say thank you for time and effort! Please know that all your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, and it will keep us returning.


What makes you love or hate a bookstore? Do you have any favourite stores?


What do you think?

  • I know we’re all supposed to love and support indie bookstores, but I have been in some where the customer service was so horrible that I didn’t want to return, either. Once I walked in a bookstore and when the sales associate saw me he yelled that the store was closing in fifteen minutes and I had to get out. I admit I did not know the store was closing and I probably wouldn’t have entered had I known (because sales associates want to get home at the end of a long day, I understand that). But he could have been polite about it. I knew what I wanted and was going to purchase it, but I put it back on the shelf and left. I felt like making him check it out would have been too much for him to bear emotionally.

    I’ve also been in a bookstore where none of the sales associates ever knows what is in stock or who popular authors are. One time I went in and the cashier was busy eating the free samples provided for an author signing so she couldn’t be bothered to check me out. When she finally finished and came over, she licked her fingers off and handled my purchase!

    Indie bookstores are struggling to stay in business thanks to competition with Amazon and the one thing they really have to recommend them against the convenience of at-home shopping and lower prices is their customer service. So when the customer service is bad, they really are hurting themselves.

    • Kristy says:

      Wow, you have had some bad experiences Krysta!

      Personally, I would have made the sales assistant who yelled at me wait right until closing time! I understand they want to get home, but in all honesty, when you work in retail, the doors close at a certain time, and that isn’t necessarily the time you actually walk out the door yourself.

      And the finger licking? I can’t even!!!! I just cannot even fathom that! There is NO WAY I would pay for a book that has been touched with hands that have just had food all over them and licked. That is beyond disgusting!!!

      Most indie bookstores are fantastic, and I appreciate all their hard work and customer service. But you are right, online shopping is hurting them, so customer service is one aspect they cannot fail on - it is the reason why we go to them.

  • Leah says:

    Yikes! So sorry to hear you’ve had such crummy experiences. This was actually something I was curious about and mulling over today - is that personalized experience something you just don’t see in big box stores? This isn’t strictly book-related: during my freshman year of college I worked at a local hardware store and we had countless instances where customers would say they preferred our store to Lowes/Home Depot/etc because we were generally friendlier and more knowledgeable - not to mention we actually treated customers like people!

    For the past few years I’ve been a bookseller for a local shop and, again, I’m hearing the same comments. I think there’s something to be said for knowing customers by name. There are regulars who will actively seek me out when looking for a book rec because they’ve enjoyed what I had to recommend in the past. The same goes for my coworkers. It’s mind-boggling the seller you dealt with was totally clueless about that author. I can understand not having read a particular author’s work, but that’s ridiculous! Take Danielle Steel, for example. I’ve never read her books, but you can bet I’m WELL aware of who she is, her titles, what we have on hand, and when her new ones will be out.

    I’m so glad to hear the other bookstores were awesome!
    Leah recently posted…weekly wrap-up 5/17My Profile

    • Kristy says:

      Sadly I don’t think personalised experience is only affected at big box stores. The example I provided was at an indie store… which maybe is why I found it so astounding? I do hold indie bookstores to a higher level, after all, we go there for a better shopping experience.

      You are a bookseller in a local shop? How amazing! I would love that. Not only being surrounded by books all day, but also being able to establish relationships with your customers and helping them find books they love - what a blessing!

      And I agree, I don’t expect every seller to know every author, but to overhear her say such things was completely baffling. If you don’t know what your are talking about, then don’t talk the book or author like you do.

  • […] Kristy hates bookstores, sometimes. […]

  • What a horrible experience! I shop at my local Dymocks because they have great customer service. I’m always asked if they can help me and we usually have a quick chat about the YA books, especially when I’m purchasing them. I can’t recall ever having a bad experience in a book store, but I have in other stores. It does make you leave and not want to purchase anything from that store again. I used to be a sales assistant (and a good one at that if I do say so myself) so I hold them to high standards. And I totally agree that if you don’t know anything about books you certainly shouldn’t be working in a book store.
    Rochelle Sharpe recently posted…A Writerly Update 55 + May Book Haul.My Profile

    • Kristy says:

      I can completely see you providing great customer service Rochelle! And I don’t blame you for having high standards - I don’t necessarily expect exceptional customer service in every shop, but I do expect a certain level.
      Fingers crossed you never experience bad customer service in a bookstore - it is truly heartbreaking (loving books should always result in nothing but joy).

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