Like many bookstores, we get a lot of business from customers who special order books. This is the life blood of many stores. Special orders keep people coming into the store and that’s always a good thing. My favorite part about special orders is being introduced to books that I might not know about. Often special ordered books are then ordered by us to stock. It’s like having 100 book buyers a week helping curate the inventory. There is a rhythm to orders that feels natural to booksellers, but not necessarily to customers. So I’ve created a list to help with how the cycle works.
– The very first part of ordering a book for a customer is often helping them remember what book they want. Usually they have part of a title and often remember the book cover was blue. It seems the majority of covers on adult fiction titles are, in fact, blue, so that’s not as helpful as it could be. But it does tell me they’re not thinking of a mystery whose covers are often black.
– Once the correct book is verified, we order it. Special orders, especially time sensitive ones, go on distributor orders because we can get them in two days, sometimes even the next day if the timing is right. We have next-day shipping with our distributors, so they get the order, process it and pack the books up for delivery. Then UPS and Fed Ex work their magic and the next day cartons of books arrive.
– Then depending on which distributor is fulfilling the order we either get the books before noon the following day or after five. There is a huge disparity with delivery times that actually affects our business. Getting a shipment in before noon allows us to receive it and call all the special orders before two. This allows folks time to pick up their books the day they come and that’s always fun. I still marvel at how excited folks are when their books come in. I totally understand this because when I order books for myself I’m just as excited when they arrive.
– Books ordered at 10 in the morning are not likely to come by the end of the day they were ordered. While I love this kind of enthusiasm, it’s physically impossible for a book to come in the day it was ordered. I still have customers who call seven hours after their books were ordered wondering why they’re not in.
– We always call our special order customers the minute the order is fully received. We tag the books for the right people, call them and then put the books on the special order shelf.
– Calling to check on an order is always okay, but there is no need to call every day. Bookstores ask for your phone number so we can contact you.
– Murphy’s Law also dictates that the more time critical a book is for a customer, the more likely it is to hit a shipping snafu. At least once a week, we are missing a box from a shipment. Why that one box didn’t make it on the truck, no one really knows. All I know is that I don’t have the box that contains the book that someone is absolutely desperate for. And no matter how deftly we explain the shipping issue, it’s always our fault in the customer’s eyes.
– The special order process is complete once the customer comes to pick up their book. Usually, this is extremely timely. Although, periodically we go through the special order shelves and call folks who’ve had books for a month that haven’t been picked up. Often, people are just busy and forget and are happy to have the reminder. Occasionally, someone will say that they got the book elsewhere and while that stings a tiny bit, it’s also very human and speaks to really needing a book right now.
So, dear readers, please keep special ordering books! We love it and love getting to hear about different books.