Children in Bookstores – Oh my….

No One Cares
This chapter is sort of a side-note to everything that is being discussed in this book.  Of course, with a good selection, fair pricing, and a nice store, most everyone will appreciate your products and what you are doing as a bookseller.
childrensHowever, they don’t care at all about your books and sundry items until they have bought it for themselves.  By using a short story, I will illustrate this point.  Keep in mind that I am excluding how no one cares about the people around them while shopping in your store.  As I write this chapter, there is a young man standing fifteen feet away who is going wild on his cell phone.  I think that person he’s talking to must also be in a place of business; I can hear her, too.
A common sight in our stores is grandparents with their grandchildren.  Already, there is a break-down of discipline because a grandparent’s responsibility is to spoil, not discipline, correct?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  However, this boy was whining from the time he stepped through the doors until the time his grandfather dragged him out.  I knew that he was a bit too privileged from the get-go when I noticed a massive dark green balloon tied to his wrist.
Our Byron store carries many toy items, and these are a great draw for children.  Often, it means sales from parents and grandparents.  This particular couple almost immediately walked their grandson over to the puppet display and proceeded to play with upteen characters.  After a few minutes, great news!  The child had one in his hand while they began to walk through the other parts of the store.  Obviously, this meant a $20 sale!
Clearly, they were going to buy the nurse puppet with its green smock and mouth covering.  I mean, the kid was flopping it around by the stick that controls the right hand.  You only allow your grandchild to hold something like that if you’re going to buy it.
I watched the green balloon hover above the bookshelves while they walked around the back of the store.  Very cute.  Almost whimsical.
Two minutes later, the kid was screaming.
The grandfather carried the boy outside, immediately after the grandmother slapped him (the boy) on the leg.
The good news was that the grandmother was still in the store, so I’m sure she had an armload of items, including the puppet, ready to take to the counter.  A few minutes after the boy was removed, kicking and screaming, the grandmother shot out of the front door.
What happened?  Where’s the armload?  At least, where’s the puppet?  No, seriously.  Where’s the puppet?
I looked out the windows at her, her husband, and the child, and I saw no puppet.  Frantically, I searched as much as I could for the green doctor, but nothing showed up.  I waited until I could tell that they were obviously walking away from my store and out of the breezeway before I stepped outside and said, “M’am, where did you put that puppet?”
She responded, a bit perturbed, “We put it back over with the puppets.”
I wanted to say, “Well, can you pay at least 5 bucks as a rental fee for your grandson abusing my nurse?”  But, I didn’t.  Instead, I came back inside and found the puppet… abandoned, alone, and crying.  (Sure, I made up the last part.)
I skewered his torso onto the wire rack and walked away.  I did this to the puppet… not to the child.  I e-mailed my wife, explained the situtation, and closed the chat with the following statements: “I just don’t understand how they could let him carry our product all around the store just so that he can have fun with it and then not even be curteous enough to put it back. Oh, well.”

In homage to all the books that have been dropped, packaging that has been opened without being bought, and puppets subjected to abuse at the hand of spoiled, snot-nosed kids, I salute you.  Too bad you were either too expensive or too ugly to actually be purchased.  Too bad you have a new dent because your holder was clumsy or had to answer their phone with that hand.  Too bad that that new dent will hurt your chances even more of ever being bought.  It stinks to be you.
As the bookseller, though, 95% of your items will be treated with respect, 50% of the folks perusing your shelves have sense enough to respect quality used books, and 10% of your customers are morons.
If you haven’t become a bookseller yet, you’ll soon see what I’m talking about.
Since that day, I have been fuming about puppets.  I despise seeing them in my store.  They don’t sell very often and they are a burden to keep straight.  Once they are in a mess, it makes my entire toy section look messy.  Flopped-over police officers, chefs, cowgirls, gorillas… you get the point… really ad turmoil to a quaint used bookshop.  A couple of days ago, I chose to box up almost my entire selection of puppets.  I called the distributor and said that I was sending them back for credit, no matter what anyone said.  I told them that I had absolutely no interest in trying anymore since they become easily disorganized and, most importantly, since they don’t sell worth a lick.
Needless to say, they convinced me to hold onto them until the Christmas season is over.  If a child destroys one due to parental negligence (or idiocy), I can receive a full credit refund for that item.  The toy company wants the kids to play with the puppets so that their parents will hear, “Mommy! Mommy! Buy this one!”  I, obviously, don’t want my bookstore to become a kids fun center.  I want it to be a bookshop that carries toys.  If you get into the book game, be careful with how your sidelines affect your goals.  Don’t ever let them get in the way.

2 thoughts on “Children in Bookstores – Oh my….”

  1. It took me a long time to overcome my own shyness and my exaggerated concern for other people’s feelings. Now I don’t mind walking over to a child, even when (or especially when!) the parent is standing nearby, and saying, “Gently! You need to handle books gently!” Sorry about your puppets, but you’ve convinced me not to go in that direction, so thanks!

  2. I love P.J. Grath’s comment re: sidling up to a child and teaching them manners especially when the parent is nearby. Although I’ve had parents defend their child’s bad behaviour so be prepared for that possibility too.

    As far as the puppets go try contacting some local church and youth group ministers/leaders and see if they already use puppets. They may not know you can supply them. If not you can suggest they think about it and they ask their workers if they might consider it. Great object lessons can be told through puppets. Plus some kids like to write stories that can be used by puppeteers. You could use that as a selling point to get youth groups to start puppeteering. As an added bonus you can sell books on puppeteering and puppet skits.

    My wife uses puppets at our church and the kids not only love the shows they love doing the shows themselves. She buys puppets online but is always worried that they will not meet her requirements. I know she would love to be able to purchase them in a brick and mortar store.

Comments are closed.