Monday, May 24, 2010

Clerk Fail

So I'm at our local Science Fiction/Fantasy Bookstore, and I'm asking the clerk about when a book is coming out, and in the course of the conversation he utters these words:

I don't really like SF that much. I don't really read.

I suppose it's possible that the owner is scraping the bottom of the barrel on clerks here, but still.


Marcy said...

Wow. In this economy, there's no reason the owner should need to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I'd guess there are plenty of desperate nerds who'd be willing to work there. I worked at a general bookstore that did better than that. Not everyone liked SF and fantasy, but at least all of us still read *something.*

rantingnerd said...

The store in question has been slowly evolving into a gaming store more and more...I think the clerks are evolving to match.

They also seem to be failing to get books within a few days of release date fairly regularly now. As much as I'd like to support the local bookstore, this is distressing enough that I might go back online.

Marcy said...

Ah, I see.

The release date issue could be a problem with their supplier -- ours did horrible things to us sometimes, as far as I could tell it was because we weren't as important to them as the chain stores, for obvious financial reasons.

'Course, we also didn't pre-order many books because we dealt with both new and used books, and couldn't afford to buy many new books, not if it'd turn out we'd be stuck with them (especially the accursed hardcovers). So we'd often wait and order off the bestseller lists, sadly enough.

Or they could just be sucking. Do they let you special order/pre-order the new releases you're waiting for?

rantingnerd said...

That's pretty much what they told me when I asked. (I found a more clueful clerk finally. :-))

They do allow pre-orders, yes, and I've put in an order for the new Alastair Reynolds (which came out officially on 6/1).

Seems silly to neglect the small stores, given the disparate impact they probably have compared to, say, B&N.

Marcy said...

=) That's good.

Yeah, if it was just a matter of neglecting one small store in favor of the chains, it might make sense. But now that I think about it, neglecting all the small stores in favor of the chains? Probably not such a good idea.

I believe most independents have more knowledgeable clerks, do more handselling, etc. I know ours did. Heck, we didn't just have one table of staff picks, we each had our own table or section of counter. Mine normally had about 50 books on it. I counted. (A couple of the ones I regularly put on there were Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore, which is how I found my way over here.) Our volume was still laughable compared to the bigger stores, but if you combine the independents, that's got to have a pretty significant effect.

rantingnerd said...

Knowledgeable clerks? Recommendations? That's crazy talk. :-)

Did you find your way hear following a link from Kristin's blog, or because of my review of Graceling? (I didn't feel comfortable reviewing Fire since I'd gotten to know her before reading it....)

rantingnerd said...

Augh. Find your way "here", not "hear". It's been a long week.

Marcy said...

=) It can still be hard to recommend books for people whose taste is completely different from your own, or people who aren't very good at describing their own taste ("Can you recommend a book?" "Sure, what kinds of books do you like?" "Uh..." "Some other books you enjoyed?" "Uh... I don't know, it's been a while since I've read a book, I'm trying to read more now..." ::clerk attempts to smile and be supportive, because reading more is good::), but we tried.

From a link on her blog... let's see, a post on March 3rd. I've been doing a little blog reading catchup. But now I'll go look for that review. Just because.

rantingnerd said...

I've often used to figure out things I might want to read, but then gone and bought them elsewhere. Is that unethical? :-)

Marcy said...

Heh. Sure, amazon can afford it. =)

I think it's also ethical to browse in a physical bookstore (even an independent!) and then check out a book that intrigued you from the library. What's really obnoxious is when you do something like ask the clerk for a piece of paper and a pen, and then write down the title and price right in front of them. Somehow... even when we don't expect people to buy all their books from us, it'd still be nice if they'd pretend to.

So, to not be an obnoxious jerk: 1) don't do the above, and 2) at least give the bookstore some of your business, even if you can't afford to buy all of your books there, or every book you end up reading.

I suppose what irritates employees varies based on how well the business is doing. For most physical bookstores, it may be safe to assume: not well. But then, for chains, the employees aren't going to care either way, since they likely feel that they're being screwed by the evil corporation. I haven't worked for Borders or B&N, but some of my co-workers had.

And maybe what's ethical is defined by something a little more absolute than what irritates employees. Meh. You can tell what I care about.

Sorry for the book-length comments -- I do like to write.