Do you suffer fools quietly, or do you speak up when something is wrong? Some might say that I take offense too easily, but my tolerance level for nonsense is very low, and when I am the customer, it’s even lower. I work very hard for my money, and when I spend it, I want my shopping experience to be pleasant, and I expect to be treated like a valued customer. If I’m not, I go elsewhere.
Case in point: One of our weaknesses in life is books. We read a lot. I read some books on my iPad, but not every book is available in digital format, especially the reference books I use in researching the articles I write. We travel all over the country and shop at both Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide on a regular basis. It is seldom that we don’t spend at least $75 to $100 on a visit to a bookstore.
Yesterday evening, we drove 17 miles to a Barnes & Noble store in Winter Garden, Florida. After picking up two books in the travel section, I tried to look for a book in the business section. There were three girls about age 14 lying in the aisle, reading some sort of joke books from the opposite side of the same aisle, laughing and tickling each other. Just being typical kids, which is fine in a park or a playground, but not in a business where they are disturbing other customers.
What wasn’t fine was that they were completely blocking the aisle, when I said excuse me and tried to get into the aisle, they sprawled out even more so I could not get to the display I wanted. I walked away, looked at another section, and came back 15 minutes later. They were in the same position, and when I said I really needed to get in that aisle, they stood up and leaned against the row of books I wanted to look at, giggling and being obnoxious.
I found a lady clerk near the service desk, told her my problem, and explained that as a 58 year old man, I did not feel comfortable trying to nudge teenage girls out of the way. Her response was “We don’t make it a practice of telling our customers they can’t browse our inventory.”
I pointed out that I was a customer too, and that I wanted to make a purchase, not play in the aisle. She then went with me to the aisle, asked the girls to give me room to get to the display, and told them that there were chairs nearby if they wanted to use them. Her attitude was that I was an impatient old fart causing the problem. The girls just giggled and moved aside, the clerk walked away, and the girls immediately leaned back against the display I was trying to browse and made rude comments.
I gave up, found my wife, who was browsing in another section of the store, and we left. There are other bookstores where I can shop, comfortably, that will be happy to accept my business.
I suppose I could have asked for a manager, but then again, any manager who was in the store and out on the sales floor for the previous half hour or so and couldn’t hear the noise the girls were making probably couldn’t have heard my complaint anyway.
No problem, I still have my money, and there are other stores that stock the same titles. I imagine that one of them will accommodate me. Will my not buying at that Barnes & Noble have any impact on their bottom line? Of course not. But maybe if enough customers voted with their wallets, retailers might get the message that if a customer is going to go to all of the trouble of leaving home and driving to their store to make a purchase, they deserve more than nonsense and lack of attention from lazy store personnel. Convenience is a big factor in the rise of online retailers. Being inconvenienced and not having their needs met by store employees will send more and more shoppers to the digital marketplace.
Tags: Barnes & Noble bookstores, bookstore, Borders bookstores, digital books, digital marketplace, e-books, iPad, online retailers, poor customer service, rude tenagers, shopping hassles, store clerk