Well, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is getting pulled off my Christmas Card list. It all started with a simple phone call. By simple, I do mean the soul shattering betrayal type. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much.
First some backstory.
FLASHBACK…Flashback…flashback, to about two months ago. My various family members, all who live hundreds of miles away, send me a stack of B&N gifts cards for my birthday. Score! They know I dabble in the arcane art of word-crafting and enjoy a good portal into another world.
Now normally I frequent the smaller, “mom-and-pop,” bookstores. Because, screw the corporation man! Not really. I just prefer smaller spaces, shelves packed to the gills, and the scent of worn dusty books. I like older texts. You find all kinds of cool stuff in them. Doodles, highlighter marks, snippets of paper, or even a handwritten note gifting the book to whoever tossed it aside under the cover.
Regardless of my normal habits, I had some $100 dollars of gifts cards to use, so off I went to B&N.
B&N was just how I remembered it. Clean. Tidy. Sterile. Everything sorted and in it’s place. Instead of the scent of old books, the air was heavy with whatever cleaner they used on the carpets combined with the latest caramel-frapa-whipa-latte-vento the attached coffee shop was pouring.
It’s not that I dislike B&N. I appreciate any place that promotes the sale of books. If you love B&N, that’s awesome. For me, it’s just not an adventure. There are hunters and there are gatherers when it comes to finding books – I prefer the hunt. B&N is the supermarket meat section. Everything is prepackaged and perfect. I want to get dirty. I want to roam the jungle with a knife in my hand wearing nothing but leaves and a smile as I stalk my prey.
I moved to the non-fiction writing section. There might as well been a dotted line on the ground leading me there. I looked through, snagged a few selections, and then wandered around a bit. There were two people sleeping in blue cushioned chairs next to the magazine section. One of them, an older man, was snoring loudly. I understood exactly how he felt. Convinced I had exhausted my limited patience, and daddy free time, I headed over to the checkout counter.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a B&N, but they employ the airport security checkpoint method of herding paying customers. You have to wander through a nylon-strap partitioned maze to get to the counter. Which was amusing, because I was the only person checking out at the time.
Once I emerged from the labyrinth (now older and wiser, having learned an important lesson about life, and more importantly about myself), the lady behind the counter greeted me, asked me if I found everything okay, and inquired if I was interested in pre-ordering the upcoming Harry Potter book. My wife LOVES the series (I enjoy reading them too), so I agreed. Of course I then had to get a B&N card, fill out some paperwork (like I was getting a home loan instead of a book), and viola – book is pre-ordered. I left with my chin up knowing I had fulfilled my husbandly duties.
FLASH FORWARD…Forward…forward, to last night.
I am sitting in my sanctuary expelling evil from my body (going to the bathroom). My phone rings, I ignore it, and ding – a voicemail. I open it and it’s someone from B&N letting my know my book was available for pickup today. Awesome sauce! However, a little late in the evening for the heads-up.
They are holding it for me.
Thanks B&N, you’re the best.
There is a high demand for the book.
Really, you don’t say? Thought that was common knowledge. Good thing I pre-ordered it!
And if I don’t show up by the 3rd (two days from receiving the message) they will sell it to the floor.
We understand this is an inconvenience, but to provide the book in a timely manner to customers we must release pre-ordered copies after three days of the books release.
So what you are telling me is your mega-store didn’t stock enough copies so you are going to resell the book I already purchased?
Have a great day.
Have a great day? No, no, no B&N – we are now enemies you and I.
And that is the story of how B&N got removed from my Christmas list. They were added to a different list. My shit list (sorry for the vulgarity, but hey, I’m a Sailor).
This exchange is exactly the reason why I feel so disconnected from society sometimes. I can’t go anywhere to buy something without someone trying to get me to sign up for a card, join an email list, or some other nonsense. My money isn’t enough. They have to try to sell me something else. Then when I bite, something like this happens.
When it comes down to it, I’ll get the book today. I’ll take time out of my schedule, strap Thor down, and wander over to get the book I already bought before they sell it out from under me. Heather will be happy. I’ll be happy as a result.
As for Barnes & Noble – they won’t miss me. The store will remain how I remember it. Clean. Tidy. Sterile. Devoid of adventure and absent another customer.
Not really a writing tip today. More of a life tip. A while back I wrote a blog post about print being dead, here. In it, I talked about the misconception that bookstores were dying out. The truth is, small bookstores are on the rise. They are run by people passionate about writing. Places where an indie author can wander in with a box of books, and get them up on the shelves.
If this new experience taught me anything, it’s that I should have never left my local book haunt and wandered into the sterile convenience of B&N. Never trade adventure for easy passage. Never worship in a temple where the worshipers are asleep and snoring loudly.
We will kick it back off with writing tips tomorrow. Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!