April 10, 2010

Blogging Barnes and Noble

I'd originally planned to call this blog Blogging Barnes & Noble, but then decided that would be too limiting. Instead, I'll just use that title for certain entries...beginning with this one, as last night was a pretty unusual evening at the bookstore.

First of all, I sold my first Nook...finally. It's incredibly rare that I work anywhere besides cashiering or Kids, but my first hour last night, from seven to eight, was Info, where the exciting event occurred. Actually, I didn't sell it so much as convince the customer she'd made the right choice in coming in to buy it, but a sale is a sale. Then, while still working Info, I saw a woman carrying Red-Headed Stepchild and The Mage in Black, both by local author Jaye Wells. I'd noticed the latter title at work earlier in the week and actually went so far as writing it down and researching it for my TBB list.

After chatting with the customer for a few minutes and discovering she was interested in the nephilim after having read about them in another book, I asked if she might be interested in some recommendations. I knew we had all three books in Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles, which feature quite heavily the nephilim, so I suggested she look at them, then told her I couldn't wait for the fourth book to be released later in the month. I guess she decided we were sympatico, because I also sold her Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur, and Soulless and Changless - both by Gail Carriger. And to tie it all together, I told her that later in the month she might want to consider Sandman Slim, also featuring the nephilim.

Later, after about an hour and a half cashiering, and suggesting Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series and Dorothy Sayers Peter Wimsey series to a reader who likes historical mysteries (those recommendations come courtesy of LinnieGayl and Ellen, btw), and Laura Bennett's Didn't I Feed You Yesterday and Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, both of which I reviewed positively for Amazon Vine and both of which we're featuring for Mother's Day to a couple of customers who didn't bite, I went back to start recovering sections three - YA, nature, pets, science, business, computers, and humor (we have tremendously large business and computer sections) - and five. Five is comprised of just about all non-fiction outside of family and child care, including cooking, relationships, medical, travel, self-help, and psychology/psychiatry.

Recovering the store involves straightening out the shelves, re-organizing, and re-shelving books that belong elsewhere. Part of the task is also keeping the Info desk within eye-sight. A young man, a social studies teacher, wanted to know where we shelved Camus, and if I had any recommendations other than The Stranger. To be honest, I didn't, but after we looked at the selection available, I asked if he might like a recommendation. He said he loved recommendations, so I took him to Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, which I describe as "the only Pulitzer prize-winning novel I ever stayed up all night to read," followed by, "my daughter recommended this to me and after having read it I told her she'd gone up ten points in my estimation."

That always gets people interested, but the clientele of our particular store doesn't lend itself to this type of content. I figured the customer, a young male social studies teacher, would be open-minded enough to enjoy a book featuring an intersexed narrator, as well as the themes surrounding immigrants, race, and social unrest. He looked at the book and decided to buy it. Later, when he came to me at Info to see if we had another book in stock, I suggested that if he indeed enjoys Middlesex, he might consider giving Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children a shot. I told him I'd actually not read it, but that my daughter recommended it to me specifically because I loved Eugenides' book. It wasn't the content, but the format of the books she found similar.

Other than selling the Nook, nothing so far was all that unique. I bombed out more often than I succeeded in recommending reads, but was pleased overall in that generally I don't sell seven add-ons (or convince another employee who's listening in to pick up any of my add-ons for herself - Pat bought the Carriger duo), but all of the above are simply part of my sharing the love of books with other readers. No, what made last night different was the young girl wandering around the bookstore with a purse and a book for something like three hours...and another small girl holding an empty pink pet carrier.

Eventually, after clearing it with the managers (because I was the only parent/employee handy), I went and asked the little girl if she could give me her parents' phone number because I worried about her being by herself. She did, I called, and suggested to her mom as gently as possible our concern at the girls' being alone for so long so late into the evening (a quarter to ten by then), then took her to the front of the store where I sat her down and said one of us would stay with her until her dad came to pick her up. My manager took over from there and had the much tougher conversation with the dad about this not being acceptable in the future, but by then I was back in Kids, asking the very small child about the pet that was supposed to be inm the little pink carrier she held because I could see it was empty and worried about an animal on the loose. No, the animal was not loose...her guinea pig was inside her sleeve. I asked if I could see her pet, took it from her and pet it briefly, then had her put it back in its carrier "so that it didn't get loose and get scared by somebody." Come to think of it, where were her parents?

The evening ended at 11:15; a rarity because on weekends we generally aren't finished with recovery until at least 11:30 - often it's nearly midnight when we leave. But before-hand, I mentioned how needy I'd been feeling about never having a "kudos" card on the bulletin board. Alison, another bookseller, took pity on me, said, "You sold a Nook," wrote up a card for me, and stuck it on the board. Thanks, Alison!



Blythe said...

Laurie, if you worked in my store I'd be giving you kudos all the time. I shop in Barnes & Noble several times a week, and have for years. I've never had an employee recommend anything to me - ever - other than a membership. I wonder if they know how lucky they are to have you. If I were the scheduling manager I would be using you at your full availability, because you are a) helping people out and b) making them money.

Laurie G said...

Blythe, maybe our store is different, but a lot of us give recommendations, and our store encourages it. I probably take it to another level, but you know me...I can't half-ass anything. In fact, I over-do it at times, rather cluelessly. One time I got in the way of a pick-up and didn't even realize it until later.

I do get great feed-back on the spot from customers and from other employees and managers, but I really wanted to make it to that board, where it's in writing and semi-official. It's like getting that gold star when you're a kid. Even if the teacher picks you first every time, until you get the gold star, it has less meaning. ;)