How Not to Shop in an Independent Bookstore

You would think that browsing a bookstore is pretty easy. Walk in the door, find the books that interest you, and browse. You might be surprised, however, at what Kris and I encounter when we open the doors for business each day.

Based on our real experiences, here are some suggestions for how NOT to shop at an independent bookstore:

1. Don't tell us how much you're going to miss Borders.

2. Don't tell us that you just got a Kindle for your birthday.

3. Don't only look for books by James Patterson and Danielle Steele. Believe it or not there are literally thousands of good authors, encompassing all genres, who actually write the books with their names on the covers.

4. Don't ask for paper and pen to write down the titles and authors of wonderful books you discovered by browsing in our bookstore, with the intention of buying them online. Especially don't use our high quality (i.e., expensive) business cards and/or bookmarks to do so.

5. If you must do #4 above, please don't steal our pens.

6. Don't use your cell phone's Internet connection to check online availability and pricing for books you find here.

7. In fact, don't use your cell phone at all while browsing in our bookstore. Your need to be "connected" at all times doesn't quite fit in with the ambience we're going for (why do people think they have to shout into cell phones?)

8. Don't ask us to research a book, of which you don't know the full title or the proper spelling of the author's name, taking up half of our counter space with your notes on scraps of paper, and preventing other customers from getting service, if you don't intend to buy the book from us.

9. Ditto for phone requests. If you can't find it yourself on Amazon, don't ask us to help you.

10. Don't pretend to browse when all you really want is to use our restroom. Just ask - we won't refuse your request to answer nature's call. Just don't take any of our books in there with you (the "George Castanza" syndrome).

11. Don't take books from our shelves and randomly scatter them around the bookstore. Unlike the large chain stores, our talent is our knowledge of books, not our need to pick up after you.

12. Don't hide your empty Starbucks containers or banana peels on our shelves or under our chairs or tables. If you have trash to dispose of, just ask us where to put it.

Of course, the above represents an extremely small fraction of our daily experiences. Most are with the wonderful book readers and book lovers that make owning an independent bookstore worthwhile and satisfying.

But, someday I'm going to write a book. Retail - gotta love it!

Joe Neri is the co-owner of The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona. He can be contacted at (928) 282-2284 or books@wellredcoyote.com.)

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