Summer Folks

Josie Leavitt - June 29, 2009

My store is in a tourist area and we see a sizeable bump in our summer sales because of them. We don’t have the increase in population that the Cape or Martha’s Vineyard sees,  but we do get an influx of new folks to the store that make summer our next best sales period right after the Christmas holidays. 

The summer people are different from our regulars in a few ways. First, they are on vacation, so the entire family comes into the store, not just a parent, and each needs a book, or two. This can make for a store that’s noisy, bustlng and sometimes understaffed. I love the challenge of a large family coming in with three to four kids ranging in age from five to thirteen, all needing new books. It’s like a never-ending book talk some days. The pace of the day is frantic, fun and often filled with many discussions of books read and loved over the year. These folks tend to visit while they’re just passing through. They bounce out with their stacks, burbling about which book to start first.

Then there the kids who are going to camp. It seems no matter how long or short a camp stay is, it requires at least one book. These kids are great. They are eager to read (for the most part) and I must find the right books, not only for them, but for trading with bunkmates. We have one girl, Greta, who comes every summer before she heads off to her camp in Maine. She goes for six weeks and each week gets five books. That’s thirty books we need to find for her in an afternoon. Thirty books for one voracious reader is a challenge that often requires the help of the whole staff. The reject pile really just consists of what she’s already read. She’ll try anything, mostly. I love this kid.

Then there are the kids who just want to read what’s on their summer reading list. They come in downcast, handing me the list, "Is there anything good on this?" In most cases there are several books. We talk about each one and they choose the one that seems the most "un-boring" as one child said the other day. As we get further into summer the book chosen will the shortest. Their honesty is refreshing. What’s good and short? Gotta love that directness.

I don’t love all the summer folks. There are some who literally snap at me when I’m making change. I can say, without hesitation, this kind of behavior I can do without. It makes me wonder how these people must treat the staff at their local bookstore. They tend to say "No" with a wave of the hand to every book suggested and we never, ever have what they’re looking for. They are a challenge and I seem not know the best way to deal imperiousness. So, I wait for them to leave and do my best to provide excellent customer service.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. Summer is a time when handselling needs to be an art. Kids come in and say, "I want an action adventure mystery that’s funny." While I enjoy the specificity, it can be tough to always hit it right. But when someone on staff shouts out, "Ooooh, Science Fair!", while I’m still thinking, and we’re handing the kid just the right book, which she then proceeds to hug, I’m having a great summer day.

6 thoughts on “Summer Folks

  1. Spellbound

    And then of course there are the ones who really only want to find a bathroom for the kids and some change for the meter… but luckily they’re far outnumbered by the families with enthusiastic readers and parents anxious to keep the kids occupied and happy while traveling. I do love how people always seem to loosen the purse strings while vacationing!

  2. Vicki

    Many summers ago, I was one of those five books per week kids! It was always such a treat to be able to buy the books for camp, since most of the year we used the library to save on cost. Hooray for the booksellers that help make that event so special!

  3. shelftalker elizabeth

    Spellbound, here’s what you do with the meter people: stock Kikkerland’s parking meter alarms (they hold a little stack of quarters and have a countdown clock so you know when the meter’s running out). Maybe you’ll get a sale from those customers only wanting change. ; )


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