When Customer Service Results in Sales, for Another Store

Josie Leavitt -- August 10th, 2010

The other day, the store was busy and I answered the phone cheerily enough. The woman on the other end played to my ego: “You’re so good at recommending, I was wondering if you could make some suggestions for my five-year-old.” I was more than happy to help.

I asked a few questions about her child. Turns out she had just read him The Hobbit. I held back on commenting, save for a, “Wow. He must have a great attention span.” Sensing this could be a challenge, as we had a really well read kid on our hands, I suggested the customer come to the store, then we could really pick and choose books that might suit him. The customer said rather clumsily, “No, no, I just need a list. I will come in and get the books from you. I just need a list now.”
I sensed something amiss. Rather than spend twenty minutes on the phone as I did, perhaps I should have given her three great suggestions and turned my attention to the customers in the store, but I got caught up in the excitement of trying to find the right book for this young reader. I had a yummy stack in my hand and I asked the customer her name, so I could set the books aside for her to come look at when she came in. “Well, I’m not going to get the books with you. I’m taking the list to Crow Books (a wonderful used bookstore in Burlington).”
I was stunned. I understand that sometimes budget dictate where you can buy books, but to take a bookseller’s time knowing full well you have absolutely no intention of buying anything at that store seems kinda mean, especially after I really tried to find things this precocious reader would enjoy.
I know people get information about books from a variety of sources and I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was. I guess I’ve gotten used to folks coming in the store and choosing one or two books from the towering stacks we show them. I think it was the sheer duplicitness of this call that really got to me. Of course we help everyone, but to lie about your plan to shop at my store and then tell me, after you’ve gotten fifteen titles from me, that you’re going somewhere else, seemed unnecessary. The only thing that consoled was if this mom got even one of the books for her son, they’d have a wonderful time reading, and that had to be enough.

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