A lovely Canadian tourist couple came into the store the other day, and after browsing for a while, they bought a couple of books, among them a book group reading log we’ve had on the shelf for a good long while. I was delighted to see it leaving the store in the hands of an appreciative buyer — especially one who lives out of the country, which diminishes the possibility of returns by about 100%. (Doesn’t it seem as though the books you’re most happy to see leaving the store are always the ones that get returned?)
We chatted a little about her book group; she was getting the log as a gift for one of her reading companions. Suddenly, I remembered a brand-new reading-group log we’d just gotten in — one with a less handsome cover but a lot more oomph inside, most notably checklists of up-to-date literary prize winners. I suppose I was thinking the customer might want a reading log for herself, too; at least, that’s how I justify the following downward spiral of salesmanship:
“Oh!” I said. “If you like reading logs, you need to see the one we just got in. It’s jam-packed with features…” At this point, I started seeing the yellow flags alerting my inner Paco Underhill to the bad path I was heading down. I was committing a couple of errors here: 1) undermining a customer’s purchase; 2) pointing them toward a different, less expensive alternative.
Unable to stop myself, I leapt out from behind the counter and dashed to the Book Group Picks shelf where she’d found the other log. I could have pretended we were out of the new book, sure, and I certainly didn’t need to point out all of the cool features it had. But I am a book enthusiast first and a businesswoman second, and truthfully, in good conscience I couldn’t just let her leave the store without seeing all of the choices.
As surely as bread falls jelly-side down, she hesitantly asked if she could exchange the first book for the second. “Of course!” I said brightly, hiding my disappointment. To add insult to injury, the new book was $3 cheaper. Why didn’t I let her leave with a book I wanted to get rid of, that she was perfectly happy with? Now I had to run a credit through the machine, and since her card is from a Canadian bank, I racked up a few extra fees on both sides of that transaction. #SaleFail!
I comforted myself by not offering to giftwrap the book, and she didn’t ask, so at least I wasn’t out the price of the paper.
The bookseller in me is, of course, happy that she left my store with the best possible book, but I was kicking myself for the rest of the day for my idiocy. The spine of the older, less oomph-y, nonreturnable reading log sits spitefully on the shelf, a mute reminder of my failure.
In case you’re curious about the new reading log, there are actually two versions, adult and teen. Both are really terrific (although I wish their covers looked less “school assignment”-y) and are nicely and cleanly designed inside. Read, Remember, Recommend: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers and Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers, both by Rachelle Rogers Knight (Sourcebooks, $15.99, EAN 978-1402237188 and EAN 978-1402237195 respectively).
Booksellers, have any remarkable sales fails to share? Tell us. It’s cathartic. Kind of.