April 4, 2010

Working Under the Influence

Last night was my first shift in about two weeks, and a test of how well I'm feeling after being sick with whatever all week. While 90% of my respiritory symptoms have abated, that "cotton in the head" feeling remains as strong as it did last Monday.

The night started out strong; I hand-sold from my register a copy of Lisa Kleypas' Then Came You almost immediately to a woman who'd never read the author's earlier work. I noticed that of the 48 copies of Changeless, ten had already been sold. Though I did sell two more, we lost two double sales to customers who would have tried Changeless if they could also have bought Soulless. Needles to say, I short-listed several additional copies of Soulless.

As for recommendations, I made one couple pretty happy (I'm not quite sure what it was they bought that tipped me off) when I mentioned the up-coming reissue of a few of Mary Alice Monroe's best. As I talked to them about her, the husband realized his wife had loved The Beach House (sweet, right?), so when I handed them a slip of paper with Sweetgrass, Swimming Lessons, and Time Is a River hand-written on it, I knew I'd made a future sale. I also know that the next time another couple returns, they will take a strong look at Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job and Lamb (another hand-written slip of paper)...it's not a huge leap from Spencer Quinn's Dog Gone It to Moore's absurdist humor. I hope my Sandman Slim recommendation (the mass market release for Richard Kadrey's book comes out late this month) does the same magic for the guy who bought some Jim Butcher...he seemed intrigued and appreciative with his hand-written slip of paper.

I've gotten into the habit of trying to recommend something to as many customers as possible based on what they buy. For most of them this is a novel experience, but for me it's very natural. I talk to just about everyone who checks out at my station unless a line requires I move it along. My philosophy is that this type of personalized customer service is what brings people back to the store. I don't know if this is true, but it feels right. I do know that I have some "returning" customers who actually carry my lists around with them...checking titles/authors off as they read them, and adding/buying based on new recommendations. On the other hand, none of the notes from customers lauding particular booksellers that are pinned to the break room bulletin board are for me.

Not at all great on the selling of memberships, though; just one new one and one renewal in 3.5 hours spent cashiering. At the start of the month, that's pretty dismal (if you buy a membership early in the month, it's like getting an extra month for free, which can be a strong selling point). But the biggest "cotton in the head" moment came when I attempted to wrap a book for a customer to give as a gift. We had some pretty paper not on the big roll attached to the wall like toilet paper so I decided to use it. Unfortunately, I mis-measured not once but twice (horribly embarrassing). Certainly my least stellar moment of the evening, although that I was sent back to re-work several shelves during nightly store recovery was another suckie event because, hey, it's not exactly rocket science.

I noticed that we have not received our ten copies of Chaos Bites, which I would dearly love to sell like mad. Alas, we have precisely one copy each of books 1 - 3 in Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles, so it's going to be very tough going to move these because this series remains a total buried treasure. With such strong sales so far for Changeless at the bookstore, I feel as though the pressure is off me to sell it like a maniac, so my investment has totally shifted to Handeland's urban fantasy series. For the first and only time since leaving AAR I wish I still had access to its thousands of readers in order to extoll the series' virtues. Why, exactly, I'm not sure, but it's almost become an obsession for me to see this series take off at the level of Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson books.

Luckily I have more hours this next week than the 5.5 I had for the week just ended, but shifts are still in short supply. If I were to judge by iPad-mania, the recession must have been rescinded, but considering how hard it is to sell memberships these days, I guess not.

We'll see how it goes Tuesday evening. With any luck, there won't be any cotton in my head.

Finally, it's very odd to blog knowing that barely anybody reads this. Regardless, I'm going to keep at it...at least for a while.


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