retail bookstores

millions of books

Full disclosure:  I worked at Waldenbooks for 5 years back in the day when I had to have someone describe to me what a search engine was.

Maybe that’s not full disclosure …but it’s enough of a reveal for the purposes of this blog ( a man needs some secrets).

We went to IKEA yesterday….and afterwards we went to the mall that’s just up the road from the Ikea in Charlotte.

I thought that I’d check out the bookstore.  They had millions of books at this particular store. I didn’t count them but I trust the sign….it was a big bookstore and I am sure they must have had at least a million books there.

I asked them if they had the latest Timothy Ferriss book , The Four Hour Chef.

I told them that since it had been published by Amazon that a lot of retail bookstores wouldn’t carry it.

The first two guys I asked hadn’t heard of it or either of his other two books.

The lady at the computer looked it up for me and said she could order it for me…and if I had a membership card (giving me access to all of the millions of books they could order for me), I could get it for 10% off.  Getting 10% off would lower the price to $31.50….but the shipping to my house would be free.

I told her that I didn’t do membership cards after selling them for five years at Waldenbooks.

Amazon sells the book for 19.88…with free shipping if my order hits 25.00.

How does a retail bookstore with tired, uninformed staff and a limited supply of books make it in this new, competitive world?

Friends have raised the point that people ( I won’t name anybody…or get too near a mirror when I’m making the accusation) use retail bookstores as places where they can sample before they buy…from a cheaper online competitor.  That’s really pretty crappy…but unfortunately, it’s the new reality.

I don’t know how a bookstore employee could possibly maintain any enthusiasm for the job.  When they graduated with their MFA in Creative Writing, I’m sure they had a grander vision for their lives than working for close to minimum wage stocking the latest teen vampire novel and answering questions about books that aren’t really about cooking that they don’t even carry.

I know I would.

I wasn’t going to buy it from them anyway.  My asking was mostly just a test to see if they carried it…and, like I mentioned before, give myself a chance to actually hold a copy before I ordered it.  So, if they were tired and beaten down by another person stopping them in their tracks to question about something that might be on the other side of the store from where they were taking inventory of their dog care books…I can relate to their pain.

Amazon was a young and still unprofitable company when I worked at Waldenbooks.

I can only imagine what it must be like to work at a retail bookstore now.

Unless you worked at the coffee shop…it would really stink.

( I wasn’t going to mention the name of the bookstore…  it was “cuter” somehow not to, but when I went to look up some information on it one of the first links I came to was this one… I thought the irony of it all was just too much….imagine…the same exact bookstore we were at.)

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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