Friday, December 03, 2010

McNally Winnipeg Annoys

I really hate petty bureaucratic small minded rule spouters.

Shelley and I are in Winnipeg on our way back from her conference in Grand Forks. One of the stops on our list was the McNally Robinson book store.

I'm browsing through the books and I find one that looks interesting. I try hard not to buy every interesting book I run across, so instead I was snapping a picture of the cover with my iPhone camera, as I've done numerous times before. Some guy comes along and says "hey buddy, you can't do that, it's illegal, breaks copyright law". I stare at him, thinking up wise ass responses, but keeping my mouth shut, as is usually wise in such situations. He sees I'm just staring at him and says, "I'm Andrew, I work here." I fight down the urge to say, "I'm Andrew too, and I'm the customer that pays your frigging salary, bozo."

Having said his piece, he left. Leaving me annoyed. First, I really doubt that copyright says it's illegal to take a cell phone snapshot of a book cover for personal use. Even if some lawyer could argue that it's against copyright, is it really something bookstore employees need or want to enforce? Or even something authors would want? Book publishers and authors spend large amounts of money and effort trying to get their books mentioned and the covers displayed anywhere and everywhere they possibly can.

I have no doubt that it pisses off bookstores when people browse the books and then just write down (or god forbid take snapshots) of the titles. I'm sure they imagine we all immediately run home and buy them from Amazon. But regardless of how annoying they might find it, abusing the customers who actually made the effort to come to the store won't help.

Nor does sticking to ways of operating that are helplessly out of date. The last time I asked for a book at McNally they said it wasn't in stock but they could special order it for me and it would only take 6 to 8 weeks. And they wonder why people order from Amazon when they get their book in 3 or 4 days? It seems to me they'd be better off taking the order, ordering from Amazon themselves, and getting the customer back in the store in a week to pick it up, even if they didn't make much profit on the deal.

I love bookstores and I don't want to see them go out of business. Yes, I buy books digitally because of the reduced impact on the environment (and the reduced impact on my basement stacks). I also read books from the library. But I still do buy books, and when I can, I try to buy them from local bookstores like McNally.

The people that care enough about books to be keeping wish lists are the very people they should be cultivating and encouraging, not pissing off.

You might say this is just one employee and not necessarily representative of the store itself. But the employees are the public face of the store. And this kind of behaviour and culture spreads. If one employee is acting that way, chances are good he's not the only one.

Needless to say, I didn't buy any books at McNally in Winnipeg.

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