A Trip to the Dark Side

Let me begin by saying that I am on vacation, and what I do on a stay-cation vacation is to have lunch with friends and buy books. Well, buying books is what I do on travel vacations, too. I am a big believer in supporting local, independently owned bookstores, and while I do have an Amazon Prime account, that’s more for instant gratification than anything else if I want something and can’t get it immediately. I buy probably 60% of my books locally and the rest from online venues, including epublishers.

Today, however, I am frustrated with one of the independent bookstores in my town. I stopped in a week ago Friday to browse; they didn’t have the books I wanted but promised to order them for me, as well as hold back a non-book item I wanted, all for pickup this Friday. I was told to return yesterday to pick up the items. They have my phone number and I didn’t receive a call telling me of any problems with the shipments. So I made the 25 minute trip to this store and breezed in, expecting my two books and my promised-to-hold item.

The item was gone, out at a convention. One book hadn’t been ordered (a “computer glitch”). The other didn’t arrive because of some payment fiasco on the part of the distributor.

This is the second time this has happened in the last six months.

The woman I speak with while I’m there is very, very friendly. Very nice. Very knowledgeable. But I am a voracious reader in possession of an Amazon Prime account. I waited a week to get the books I wanted, which was no hardship, but without a phone call saying, “Nothing’s going to be here – come on Wednesday and we’ll have everything you wanted” (which would have been FINE) I drove 25 minutes down there, waited 2 hrs for the UPS man to arrive in the hope of getting at least one of the items I ordered (he didn’t come – apparently the payment fiasco canceled the Friday shipment), and drove home again completely empty-handed.

At home I pulled up Amazon. A little after 4 p.m. yesterday I ordered the two books I wanted, both at a considerable discount ($5.10 off one book and $5.76 off the other). I added overnight shipping for $7.98. No tax. Even with the overnight shipping the total was still less than I would have paid at my local bookstore. The books were on my doorstep at 10 a.m. this morning, 18 hrs after I ordered them.

I love independent bookstores. I do! I do, I really, really do. I shop at them and look for them when I travel. I will continue to shop at this store (although perhaps not place special orders through them). But my advice to any independent retailer fighting the good fight against Giant Internet Retailers is to please, please do not give people a good, solid reason to shop at Amazon. This was a customer service #FAIL, something small stores simply cannot afford when the only selling point for less discriminating, locally focused buyers is the personal attention and customer service you get from a knowledgeable bookseller.

/end rant

So. One more week of stay-cation, including a 3 day silent retreat, then it’s back to business. I’ll spend a couple of weeks finishing up a contemporary romantic suspense (non-erotic) I hope will find a home somewhere, then plan to spend the rest of the year finishing up my next erotic novel. Thanks for stopping by – I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

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