Don't Leave Them Alone | Newberry

Don't Leave Them Alone

I was flipping through some old blogs, to make sure I don’t repeat the jokes TOO often, when I ran across one which whined about…outlined some of the wise advice I’ve been given over the years about what books not to sell. Too controversial, too boring, too cheap, too expensive: had I followed all that advice we could hold the Book Fair in one of the first-floor restrooms: the ones at the west end of the building, which are smaller.

Looking around, I cannot see that I ever gave credit to the people who offered me advice on what people I should allow into the building to buy these books. You don’t, apparently, want people to come in just because they want to buy books. Savvy marketers look for a target audience, and coddle that one. The others you throw back in the pond. “Go for the gourmet crowd and send the others to McDonald’s,” I was told.

When I pointed out that McDonald’s makes reasonably good money catering to hoi polloi, I got That Look again. Unable to think outside the French fry container: that’s what they think of me.

But not every one is like that. Some people are perfectly willing to let anybody with a dollar come in and buy a book. But they don’t think I do enough WITH these people once they’re here. “You mean pick them up and shake them upside-down until I get ALL their money?” I asked. There came That Look again. Then they would explain what I ought to do.

Have them work their way through a giant Monopoly Board to get through the Book Fair: This would have been fun: we could have put the expensive books where Boardwalk would be, and put Squirreling, say, where the Jail goes. The fun we could have with Take a Ride ion the Reading! And it would have slowed traffic, frustrated sales, caused fights with the judges (No, no, you have to go through Foreign Language before you can look in Travel: that’s the way the board is set up. No, you can’t turn around and go back; you need to keep going around the board in the right direction!) I, myself, will not go into a store where I am expected to take part in some fun activity before being allowed to browse.

Count how many books they’re buying. “Then we can divide that into our total and we’ll have a Statistic!” “A statistic that’s good for what?” said I. Again: That Look. You get the statistics first; THEN you decide what they prove.

Have them fill out a survey to find out what they like and don’t like. Turned out a lot of them don’t like filling out surveys.

Have them shower before they come in. This person no longer works here. Presumably he now labors in a company which deals in lavender soap.

Hand them each a stick of gum: We tried for YEARS to get sponsorship from Wrigley.

Talk to them, engage them in conversation, get them to spend more money: I think this should be a matter of personal choice. If a customer and volunteer strike up a conversation about books, that’s fine. (We get a lot of great volunteers that way, as it happens.) But there was that volunteer who thought she was at the peak of her marketing genius every time she told a random passerby, “Oh, you’ll be a happy camper if you buy that!” Not every volunteer and every customer are going to, um, hit it off right away.

Convince them to spend more time in better categories: THIS person was always asking me to put the paperback Jane Austens into the Paperback Romance category. “So we can wean them away from that garbage they’re reading into real literature,” she said. When I pointed out that to me it didn’t matter whether people spent five dollars on paperback romances or five dollars on paperback literature, she…yeah, you’d think I’d have developed an immunity to That Look by now.