After the very busy holiday season of weekend shifts, I’ve noticed a few things about customer behavior I thought I’d share. First, I have to add that pretty much universally this year customers were wonderful. There were no last-minute fits of anger about books that couldn’t be gotten in time for the holidays when they were ordered on two days before the holiday. I did notice some trends.
– People still take way too long to respond to the simple question of “Would you like a bag?” This is not a rocket science question. It’s really a simple and quick yes or no. I love that Vermonters are weighing their options. “Is the bag plastic?” they ask. “No, it’s recycled paper with soy-based ink.” I add while I’m patiently watching a line form behind the person who is clearly judging what works for them and the environment. Here’s the thing, I don’t really care if someone takes a bag, has their own bag, or eschews a bag in favor of carrying a stack of books out to their car. What I do care about is how long it takes for 95% of customers to come to their choice. Some folks need to be told it’s okay to take a paper bag and even there is still some hemming and hawing. Take the bag! Reuse it, pass it on, use it as kindling, etc. Just made the decision and be okay with it and enjoy your books.
– Children were amazingly well behaved this season. I saw more kids participating in our Snowflake book buying program than ever before. These kids carefully chose the books they wanted to share with other kids. And with rare exception, they understood that a book for someone else didn’t automatically mean a book for them. I was really impressed by this.
– Adults often don’t get themselves books during the holidays. I know it can be hard on the wallet during the holidays, but a reader cannot be expected to put their habit on hold during December and hope they’ll get books for the holidays. I encouraged so many book lovers to get themselves a book they were really interested in. Life is short, and reading a good book is one of the true joys of life, so go ahead and get the book for yourself.
– Some customers have a great grasp of what a small store can do for them and what we can’t, when we’re busy. Bless the folks who wanted all 15 of the books wrapped, but were flexible enough to come back later that day, or even the next to pick them up. That kind of thoughtfulness makes our jobs not only easier, but a lot more enjoyable. I also understand who folks are really rushing and need things wrapped RIGHT NOW so they can carry on with their day. But it is very hard to wrap when you can feel someone tapping their foot as you try to get the ribbon to curl. One way we found to deal with this was to say, “Feel free to browse and I’ll come find you.”
– The last thing I noticed is our first generation of children have really grown up to be amazing adults. For the most part these young people in their 20s who came to the store as infants are thriving. One family came by to say to me. Julia, now 24, brought the stuffed snowman she got when she was a year and a half. Sure, ‘No Man (as he’s known) had to have his head sewn back on a few years ago, but he’s still part of the family. To hear Julia and her brother Will talk about their lives now was stunning. They’re both on the West Coast doing things I don’t understand for Google and experiential public relations. It was lovely to get hugs from these young people and talk books with them. And really, this is why I love working at the bookstore during the holidays.