Adventures in Reading

Bookstore Etiquette
March 10, 2008, 5:14 pm
Filed under: thoughtful

wmst-books.jpgOne thing that comes hand in hand with working in a bookstore in today’s world is the all too often uttered phrase: “I can get it cheaper on Amazon.” To say the least, it is rather difficult being helpful or even polite to a customer who has just said this. Admittedly, this is because the phrase is most often uttered after a person is disappointed or annoyed at the book’s listed price. The other afternoon though I had a memorable exchange with a customer who said this. It was a woman who called in to inquire after a rather lengthy list of books. She wanted to know if we had them in stock, what format they were in, and the price.

This has a tendency to be annoying enough. At my store we actually have a rule of thumb policy that we will only “personal shop” for a person who inquires after so many items. Otherwise, we suggest the customer drop off, e-mail, or fax us a list. However, it was a slow morning and I amassed the books together and gave all of this information to the one. It soon became quite obvious to me that she was also on a computer (the keyboard clacking in the background was a dead giveaway). Thus I was not entirely surprised when she asked quite brusquely: “Why is this cheaper on Amazon?”

Then I snapped.

“Because of me. Because you can call here, you can ask me these questions, and I will provide answers to them.”

I love Amazon. I have spent years locating affordable used textbooks through them and occasionally (as I also did fairly recently) splurge on myself and blow money on some books I have been eying. I completely understand trying to pinch a few pennies when acquiring books, but really, doesn’t it cross people’s mind that it’s rather rude to ask this in a bookstore? Keeping in mind, however, that I have yet to have this question asked to me in an earnest fashion.

So, Bookchronicle’s suggestion for bookstore etiquette: if you want to shop elsewhere for a bargain price please do so, but please do not harass book sellers because you don’t like the price.

Today’s picture: A rather squashed example of my gender studies shelf.


I understand you on this one because I’ve worked in a store too, though not a bookstore, so I think I can confidently say that any one who has worked in retail has come across a customer who voices out loud that they could get so and so item cheaper somewhere else. How rude! Don’t they know it’s rude! Didn’t they watch Bambi and listen to Thumper’s golden rule: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all?

Next time someone threatens that they could buy something for cheaper on Amazon, you should suggest that while they’re there, they should check out Emily Post’s big book of ettiquette where they’ll learn it’s rude to harass the book seller.

Comment by T Y

I can understand your irritation, plus the customer’s rudeness was inexcusable. I’ve had the frustration of entering Barnes & Noble, and being stymied by their Intranet. Because they do not allow customers access to their computers or the internet, it is sometimes hard for me to search for certain books in their store. You need an exact name and title. If I am looking for something esoteric, I might not find it. I will still have wasted the salesperson’s time. One told me to look up the book I was seeking on my laptop, which was in my car, and to order the book. To tell you the truth, in most instances it is easier to just order the book online, especially one that is rare.

However, there’s nothing like an hour spent in a bookstore. Wish there was an easy solution to this problem.

Comment by Ms. Place

Ms. Place: I definitely agree with B&N and as an independent shopper (that is, I rarely want the help of the shop clerks and prefer to explore myself) it is terribly annoying that I am so limited in my searching.

Comment by bookchronicle

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