Score One for Indies

Josie Leavitt -- May 20th, 2016

Yesterday was a slow morning. It was one of those mornings where it’s easy to think,”I’m actually losing money being open.” I was getting ready to leave for the day (blissfully, on Thursdays I leave at two) and feeling really badly about the slowness of the day, when an older man come in the store. He looked a little bit like Jack Nicholson, complete with the iconic Vermont spring-day outfit of a sweater, shorts and sandals with socks. He was looking for a card and Lizzy and I told him where to look for all the different cards we have. He lingered over the cards, very carefully looking at the ones he was interested in and then looking some more. We let him look, curious at his thoughtfulness over one card. Then something amazing happened. 

The man found his card and a book. Lizzy was ringing him up and asked if he’d ever shopped with us before so that we could add his purchases to his book club. He ducked his head down and apologized for never having shopped at the store. I said what I always say when someone feels bad about not stopping in before, “You’re here now and that’s all that matters.” His name was Bob and he had driven by the store many times, for many years, and finally stopped in. It was clear he felt bad about it. We let him know it was totally okay. Then he started talking about being an Amazon shopper.

I usually bristle when customers tell me how much they use Amazon, but I didn’t with Bob. He seemed truly repentant. “I always try to shop locally but had been shopping with Amazon for a long time. I don’t know why I haven’t come in. You’ve got a wonderful store.” This is the moment I absolutely love: by the mere fact of us being ourselves and representing the store so well, this man, this Amazon shopper, signed up for the book club, took a bookmark and a newsletter, and vowed to shop less at Amazon and come to us more. I told him about our website and how fast we can order books and he was hooked. Then we cemented the transaction by discussing the approaching weather front.

I realized when he left, sandals slapping against the floor, that we did far more than gain one customer. By not preaching to him about the evil empire that is Amazon and letting him see who we are and our passion for books and customers, we made this book-lover feel welcomed and not judged. This was the kind of moment every indie bookstore needs: someone who will extol the virtues of your store to their friends because they’ve fallen in love with your store.

We may not ever beat Amazon, but we’ve won Bob over and that made for a very good day indeed.

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