Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bookseller Rant!

Lately, our business email box is getting any number of book inquiries re: out-of-print titles we have listed on our website.  

The inquiries usually include a “cut and paste” description of an item listed on our “Jonathan Sheppard Books” website, followed by the question, “Is this book still available?”

Look, if you’re dealing with a “real” (i.e., professional experienced bookseller like JSB that’s been in business since 1977), you can probably safely assume that the item (if cataloged on the bookseller’s own website) is, in fact, still available.   

Why would it not be?  Real booksellers do not list items that they don’t have in inventory. That would be counter-productive.  Moreover, most of us tend to remove sold items ASAP, simply to avoid potential customer disappointment.

In fact, in the very unlikely event that the book in question was just sold a few minutes before you sent your inquiry, any reputable seller will quickly respond to your actual order with a message informing you that the item was just sold, is no longer available and will likely offer you first refusal on the next copy that becomes available.  

Moreover, most of us will direct you to a colleague if we know there’s another copy of that particular title available elsewhere. After all, we only had one copy of that $15 book you wanted, so there wasn’t much profit to be had anyway.  Most of it was eaten up by the time it took to check the shelves and compose a response. 

Might as well send you off to our colleague for that other $20 copy.

Yeah, I know ours was less expensive, but if you really, truly want a copy…

Also, don’t worry about us charging your credit card for a non-existent item we no longer have; no “real” bookseller would ever do that because of the associated cost. 

It’s simple business math.

As the customer with the credit card, you’d protest the charge for the undelivered item and it would then be back-charged to us (the retailer), along with a rather hefty selection of fees, thus costing us far more in fees than any potential profit we might have made, had you failed to notice and thus not protested the charge.  (What, you think the credit card companies give you all those points and bonuses out of their profits?  Think again! Those things come directly out of the retailer’s fees to (a.) process your credit card in the first place, which are far more than you think and (b.) cover charge-backs by customers who “forgot” they bought something.)

Still, that’s not the real issue; it’s the fact that after we locate the book you inquired about on the shelf (yeah, we actually check) and then confirm availability via email, and also ask if we should reserve it for you (yeah, we always write back), couldn’t you at least take the time to respond to our note with a simple “yes” or “no”?

Or, maybe, just a “thanks anyway”?

Apparently not.

Apparently, that all takes far too much time in the age of internet instant gratification.  Fewer than half of out “inquiring” customers ever respond. 


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