Since the Borders I've worked at closed last May, I made the decision to start shopping at an indie bookstore. It's not that close to me but its very convienent for me to get to and I enjoy visiting that part of town. So yesterday I called with the intention of ordering two of my favorite books from 2011, What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez and Vanished by Sheeri Chari. The first four or five times I called the line was busy. Then I remember the store had a signing coming up with John Green, but I thought it was later in the month. So I decided to go to their website, and double check the phone number and the day of the event. I had the right number and the Green's signing is on the 15th. However they were on the phone all day confirming tickets, hence the busy line.
When I was calling I will admit to being a bit frustrated that the line was busy. At the same time I was happy because I knew a busy line meant business for the store. After giving it a little time before I called again and a bookseller picked up. I told her I wanted to buy two books, and if they weren't in stock I wanted to order them. I gave her the first title What Can't Wait and the author. She found it easily.
I gave her the second title but I didn't have the author. Having worked at a bookstore, I know that it can be very frustrating to search a one worded title without an author. So I told the bookseller everything I knew about Vanished - that it was published in 2011, it's a middle grade mystery, written by a South Asian author, I also gave her the publisher and the imprint.
The bookseller searches the title and comes up with a 100 matches and tells me she can't find the book. I am thinking to myself WTF really I gave you all that information and you can't find it. No matter how outdated or archaic a stores search engine is it should be able to display title matches based on publication date. So while the bookseller was telling me she couldn't find it I was thinking to myself how many books in the U.S. could've been published last year entitled Vanished. Mind you I didn't say this out loud. Nor did I say when I used to work at Borders our computers could search by date, can't yours do that. I trust that people know how to do their jobs. I am not the type of customer who tells someone how to do their jobs, I hated customers like that.
I didn't expect nor want the bookseller to scroll through the 100 matches. However I did expect a little more effort. If she had looked through the first three pages and didn't find the book, I would've happily said thank you for trying, I will call back later with the author's name. Or If the bookseller had simply offered to get my information and call me back after she did a quick search, I would've politely declined the wonderful offer and called back later with the authors name. For me excellent customer is sometimes showing a willingness to make effort. There was no effort here. While the bookseller was not helpful she was at least nice. But sometimes nice is not enough.
When I searched Vanished on amazon, Sheela Chari's wonderful middle grade debut was the 7th title on the first page. Of the 11 titles that appear on the first page only 3 there were published in 2011 and only one by a South Asian author. When I searched it on Barnes & Noble.com it the was the 19th book on the first page. I am still baffled as to why the bookseller couldn't find it.
When the bookseller suggested I call back when I had the author, I was thinking to myself you want me to do what? I was livid. I did something I normally don't do I asked if someone else there could take a look. I don't do this because I don't like to question anyones ability to do their job. If they're new or unsure of something its up to them to seek out the help of a co-worker.
I heard people laughing in the background and assumed at least one of them was another sales assoicate. The Little shop of stories bookseller basically told me there's no where else to look and there's nothing we can do. She didn't even take the time to ask her co-workers, in a childern's bookstore mind you, if they were familiar with the middle grade title I was looking for. Inside I was seething.
I did not scream or question the booksellers lack of effort. Nor did I say I am never shopping at The Little Shop of Stories again, though I won't be. I simply said thank you, I will buy the books elsewhere. I did not say I will be buying the books from amazon, though I will be.