Christian Bookstore – You’ve Gotta Do Better!

This past Friday I visited the local Christian bookstore.  I rarely go there, not because I have anything against Christian bookstores, but because I rarely go to any bookstore.  When I do go to a bookstore, my first stop is a used-bookstore.  But on this particular day, I was looking for something I knew the Christian bookstore, and probably only the Christian bookstore, would have.

So I made my way there, Junia in tow, found what I needed (a few Bible study books for a small group, to be precise) and headed to the cashier to make my purchase.

That’s when the interrogation began:

“May I have your phone number please?”

No problem.

“What’s your name?”

Ummm…you need my name?

“Can I have your home address?”

I just want to buy a book!

“Do you have an email address, we send out special offers through email?”

That’s when I said no.  It is probably when, in the eyes of the cashier, I became a jerk.  Who says no to one email a month from any retailer?  She probably knew as well as I do that my email is clogged with mailing lists I have signed up for.  I wonder if I was the first person to refuse being put on this list.

When I went to the store, all I wanted to do was buy a few books, not answer a dozen questions about my identity and location.  I especially didn’t want to answer a bunch of questions when my kid is running around the store like a terror!  Come to think of it, maybe their tactic is to delay my purchase so Junia would break some trinket that I would then have to buy?  At any rate, in the words of Charlie Brown: Good grief!

In the year 2012, it takes a lot for anyone to actually get in a car, drive to a bookstore and buy something in person.  If we can’t get the book on our e-reader, we’ll order it and wait a few days via Amazon.  When we do go to bookstores it is probably to meet a friend for coffee, or to spend a while perusing books while sitting on a comfy couch.  On the chance we want to buy a book, we want the process to be quick and painless.

I get that many stores ask questions.  You have to give your phone number at the craft supply store and the electronic store.  But I am okay with one question, with giving my phone number.  I am even okay with knowing that the store will probably use my phone number to figure out my home address and mail me stuff.  If that’s the game, play it.

I am also fine if a store asks if I would like to receive coupons in the mail and then asks for my mailing address and email.  If I want to be on the list, I’ll consent and if not, I won’t.  Again, easy.

I think what stuck me as most odd was that I was given no option in answering the questions.  The cashier started asking them as if I had to give all this information to buy a few books.  When she finally did give me an option, four questions in, I declined.  Maybe I’m just a meanie.  But maybe, if it was explained why this information was desired up front, I would have given the information freely.

The whole thing was just weird.

At any rate, my point is: Christian bookstore, you gotta do better.  I am already disinclined to buy things at your store, and this tiny hassle (and I admit, in the grand scheme of things, it is a teeny-tiny hassle) is enough to make me even less likely to return.

Christian bookstore, I love you and you are doing a wonderful service.  But in this regard, do better.

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2 thoughts on “Christian Bookstore – You’ve Gotta Do Better!

  1. I can actually answer your question here. When I worked at another unnamed corporate bookstore, we were actually told not to ask the customer “if they would like to provide” their e-mail address…instead, we were supposed to say simply, “And your e-mail address, please?” The idea is to create exactly the kind of psychological trick you identified above. If a customer thinks that the store somehow requires you to provide information to make a purchase, and if you’re really cheery and perky, and don’t worry about asking them “if they’d like” to, they’re more likely to provide the information. It is sad indeed. The cashier who helped you was, I suspect, just doing what she was told to do in the way she was told to do it.

    1. So you’re saying her mistake was asking me if I would give my email in order to get a monthly e-mail? You’re right – if she had just said, “email please” I probably would have given it. But that she actually gave me an option with that one, I turned it down. For the record, I hold no ill will toward the cashier, she was just doing her job.

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