May 29, 2010

Blogging Barnes and Noble

May, at least this year, turns out to be a season of transition at Barnes and Noble. Over the past month or so several employees took new jobs, so hours for the rest of us, low for much of the year, increased as interviews for new employees took place. The result for me has been slightly more hours than I want for the past few weeks, but I've worked them knowing that the "gravy train" (of three-digit paychecks, LOL) would end. It came slamming to a halt this week. If only I'd known last night what would happen this morning...

This week and next week were set to be my biggest weeks in more than a year, but the managers know I can really only handle 16 or so hours a week given the state of my feet, so when they learned they'd over-scheduled this week, they cancelled my shift for Wednesday night. Which was okay because I'd still have had a 15-hour paycheck. But when I went into work last night and saw I was scheduled for five nights in a row rather than the three my feet can handle (I do four in a pinch, and have recently, but it's really too much) - giving me 22 hours in total - I realized that the manager who'd created next week's schedule hadn't done so with this week's in front of her. So I mentioned it and they reworked things so I'd be off Monday night, which just so happens to be my birthday. Not a big deal to me, btw, but it's a big deal to my daughter, which does make it a big deal to me. That meant I'd be working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, Tuesday night, then Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of next week. Still a good chunk of hours, and almost more than my feet can handle, but do-able.

The store is in a period of flux in more ways than one; we're in the process of moving entire sections from one location to another, and my guess is that the extra staffing they've needed in order to physically move books simply ate into too much revenue, causing these last-minute cuts. Last night we learned that all the new employees are being rotated in, meaning that those of us with limited availability - like me - won't be scheduled to work as often. As I mentioned earlier, I knew this was coming, so when the phone rang this morning cancelling me for tonight, I wasn't all that surprised even though now I kinda wish I hadn't gotten myself unscheduled for Monday. Because no longer am I working five nights in a row. Now it's one on, one off, one on, one off, one on, one off, then three on. Hopefully I won't have more hours cut next week before we re-enter this more fallow period.

As for work itself, last night was fun. The first thing Pat, our magazine guru, said to me when I walked in the door was that she and I were "neck and neck" on membership sales. I hadn't a clue what she was talking about until I walked into the break room and saw a list on the bulletin board with my name and stats at the top...revealing me to be tops right now in signing up new members. Let me say this about that: I believe these lists are of dubious value as a management tool. Those of us doing well at the moment - and, btw, it's a crap shoot with luck playing a huge part in sales success - feel pressure to maintain or increase our membership sales (which, because of the luck factor basically involves pulling something out of your ass) and I think it also breeds resentment among those who, at the moment, aren't. Not only do sales depend on which customer (and how much they're buying) stands in front of you at check-out, there are periods when things are golden and others when they aren't. Right now I'm in a golden period as last night I sold another five memberships. That's a lot for one night, but there have been entire weeks when I haven't sold anywhere near five memberships.

But when I'm on, I get jazzed, so I was jazzed last night. Within the first fifteen minutes I'd sold a membership and one of the books I'd displayed in front of my register area - Lisa Kleypas' new release, Married by Morning - to a customer buying Julie Garwood's most recent romantic suspense. I'd asked the customer if she'd also read Garwood's historicals, and when she told me she'd started reading all kinds of romance in college (she looked to be in her mid-late 20's), I suggested Kleypas' book. I know it's fourth in a series, but it's easier to come into an historical series (as opposed to, say, an urban fantasy series) later than earlier, and with Kleypas, I've found it's even less of an issue. The customer left not only with the new Kleypas, but with a slip of paper upon which I'd written some of my other Kleypas faves.

One of my "regulars" (a lesser one, though, as I didn't recognize her) also checked out with me last night. She said she'd thoroughly enjoyed the two Jill Myles books I'd sold her not long ago. She wasn't ready to add any new books, but she was one of the customers to whom I sold a new membership. Interestingly enough, she checked out shortly after I'd checked out a woman who bought the first of the two Jill Myles books - Gentlemen Prefer Succubi - I'd displayed at my station earlier in the evening (as "light" counterbalance to some of the darker urban fantasy books I'd also displayed).

I like to think that I did a lot of pre-selling last night. I believe I piqued the interest of a mother and daughter who went nuts over the new Rick Riordan book with Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series for mom, and for daughter, Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. And if I'm right, the woman who bought Dorothea Benton Frank's Bull Island might well return for one of the Mary Alice Monroe titles I wrote out for her. Had I brought one up to my register last night, who knows?

One thing B&N got really right was in their "buy two items, get this fabulous beach tote for $9.95" promotion. A couple were about to check out with two items and a tote, but when I realized the husband liked war history, I pointed out Sebastian Junger's War on my display, and next thing I knew, the wife went searching for another item, giving them four items so that they could buy two totes. Which, of course, set off another customer in search of more things to buy so she too could nab two totes. I couldn't blame either of them...these particular totes are fabulous!

My final hand-sell of the evening was the easiest; a young man (he was 16...I asked...and, yes, there are books I will or will not recommend based on age) saw Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim on my display, and before I finished talking it up, he'd already added it to the other book he'd decided to buy.

When you add it all up, the memberships and extra books don't amount to a Nook, and Pat sold one early in my shift, but even that competitive part of me realizes I didn't join B&N as a bookseller in order to sell technology...or memberships, frankly. But Nook giveth and Nook taketh away. One customer was extremely interested in Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles last night, but only for her Nook, and book one isn't available for Nook. The remaining three books are, though, so she wrote them down and I suggested she look for Any Given Doomsday in another format...perhaps pdf or epub so she can read all of them on her device. I hope she finds it, but it's too bad we won't get "credit" for the sale of "the best urban fantasy series nobody knows about."

And so ends this installment of Blogging Barnes and Noble. I hope the five of you out there who read this blog enjoy these periodic entries about my experience as a B&N bookseller...they're a kick to write.


1 comment:

vi said...

I am a reader of mainly romances who happens to be a retail manager. I thoroughly enjoy your blog, especially when you blog about B&N. I also have a type of membership to sell. I can also understand the stress of payroll, or really it's about the lack of. Floorsets are always tough with limited hours.

It's nice to read about retail because it is a very demanding job. With retail, everything is indeed about the numbers. My district ranks stores by memberships sold. Believe I
feel the pressure.