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Monday, December 21, 2009

Lorem Ipsum Books or, Why Indie Bookstores Aren't Always as Great as You Think

Wait, what?
Image: the internet.

I love indie bookstores. Locally owned stores, like my dad's store Galaxy CDs, are awesome. The best bookstore in Ohio is located in my hometown (I'm not just saying that because I like the place, either -Ohio Magazine declared it to be so, and obviously, OM knows all).

That being said, being an indie store does not excuse poor customer service or a badly run store.

A friend of mine on Twitter -someone who introduces me to lots of lovely contests and people -recommended the store in question today: Lorem Ipsum Books. They're located in Cambridge and trying to move. The rent on their place is too high, etc. I can sympathize with that, since I worked in a great locally owned bookstore that closed because it was horribly mismanaged, the rent was too high and no one ever bought any books (with myself and my family as the possible exceptions to that rule).

The difference between Gallant's Books & More (where I worked) and Lorem Ipsum Books (aside from the latter having a website) is that when a customer couldn't find something or we didn't have it in, we'd make sure that they got it.

Lorem Ipsum, as I said, was trying to move. They had a sale wherein you could buy $10 coupons and redeem them for any books up to $20. That, my friends, is what I call a good deal. I bit, and bought one of the coupons.

Here's my beef with Lorem Ipsum. Their website is awful. It's relatively easy to navigate, but it's plain, unattractive and does not aid the reader in finding books.

When I first got on to find a book to use my newly purchased coupon on, I tried using the search feature. It's bad. Even with specific information, not once did it turn up the book I had wanted. Even when I entered an author's name, it used a keyword search and pulled up books by authors whose names were similar to the one I had searched for. To find a book, I eventually had to go through each category (pages and pages and pages in each one), scanning each title as I went by.

I could write an entire post about what an awful that experience that was and how it relates to selling books, but suffice it to say that I found a book I wanted. It was about Frank Lloyd Wright. If you hang out with me more than once, odds are, he'll come up. I like him a lot. The book was about $15. Huzzah!

I placed the order, and put the whole thing in the back of my mind -but each time I received a package in the mail, I hoped against hope that the book would be there.

Then, I got an email. A nice email, don't get me wrong, but not an email I wanted. It was telling me that the book I had ordered could not be located, and they were sorry, would I like to choose two books for my trouble?

Sorrowfully, angrily, I began picking my way through the categories again before I found two somethings I wanted. It took me an hour and a half to find two books. Two books I wasn't totally pleased with, but could accept nonetheless. As the days passed, I became more excited about receiving these books.

I love Dr. Who, so the Dr. Who Technical Manual was satisfying to my geeky side. I've loved the movie Coraline for ages, and as an avid Gaiman fan, I was really (if I may say it: reallyreallyreally) excited about that particular book. A technical manual is good mostly for geeking out over, conversing about and putting aside. But a Gaiman book is one I'll get out over and over again and just absolutely fall in love with every time.

Well, the mail came today.
The Dr. Who Technical Manual was in it. And yeah, sure, it's almost as cool as I thought it would be. Shorter than I expected, but still cool.
And Coraline? The book I had pinned all of my already-disappointed-hopes on?
Yeah. It wasn't there.

What I got instead is a massive, slightly musty smelling copy of the screenplay for Beowulf. Apparently Gaiman helped write it. His picture is on the book.

That's all well and good and whatnot, but it's not what I ordered. I'm not going to read a screenplay...that's why they make the movie. This book holds zero interest for me (plus, it smells bad).

Here's the point for today, kids. Indie bookstores rock, but they're not going to stay in business if this is the way they operate. I shop at the Stately Raven here in town frequently -I like supporting local businesses, and the people in the SR are always really nice. The selection isn't superb, but it's a nice enough store. I don't mind spending my money there.

What I mind, and mind very much, is spending money that I really shouldn't have spent on a bookstore in which I have no real personal investment and then getting screwed. Twice.

That's not cool. That's a problem. That's a problem for me (since now I'll probably go buy a copy of Coraline to soothe my irritation), and it's a problem for Lorem Ipsum Books -if they're this sloppy with all of their customers...well, no wonder they couldn't pay their rent.


  1. I suppose this is as good a place and time as any to relay to you that today I snapped and absolutely cussed out a customer in my store.

    He could not follow either the alphabet, or my instructions on where to begin looking for what he wanted, and kept loudly yelling that he couldn't find anything while I was trying to take care of other people.

    When he was the last one left in the store, he got a full on Shoemaker style frontal assault of all the pent up frustration that hundreds of his type have caused to build up in me over 25 years of retail. He called me a dick when he left, but I haven't felt this good in months! ;)

  2. Hahahahahaha and I was even going to put in a mention about how good you are with dickhead customers. ;) I expect a full report on this particular story, it sounds like a doozy.

    It feels good to chew out someone who really deserves it.

  3. This puts the lorem ipsum name to shame.