Good News and Bad News for New Zealand Booksellers

Bookstores beef up security in face of fury – National – NZ Herald News.

For the staff of Whticoulls and Borders, Friday was definitely a ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.’  Not only did they have to deal with the sudden news that their company has gone into voluntary administration, putting their jobs at risk, but they had to put up with idiot shoppers blaming them for the company’s policy about the redemption of vouchers and gift certificates.  Poor people – it’s not the fault of the staff.  And while the dude threatening people with a pipe (yes, really, a pipe) might have been looking at the loss of a couple of hundred dollars at most, the staff face much more significant losses.

However, according to the article, it’s not all bad.  The head of the New Zealand Booksellers organisation believes that the troubles of Whitcoulls’ parent company are not a sign of widespread problems in the book industry.  Sales volumes are up, demand for books is high, and new bookstores are still opening.  He thinks that with a bit of restructuring and new owners, Whitcoulls will be able to carry on in one form or another.  I hope he’s right about Whitcoulls and about the industry as a whole.

We went into the Whitcoulls and Borders Lambton Quay branches on Saturday afternoon. The extra security was much in evidence. The stores were busy with people spending their gift vouchers and in Borders’ case with people taking advantage of the coincidental 30% discount for the first full-price book. Most everyone seemed sympathetic to the staff, even if they weren’t too happy about having to spend extra to cash in their gift cards. But one dude in Borders held up queues of shoppers while he hectored the lad who had the misfortune to serve him about what he referred to as the company’s breach of contract. The server did a good job of dealing with him, hearing him out politely and calmly pointing out that he wasn’t personally responsible for company policy and couldn’t overturn it, and offering to find the manager. But the guy didn’t want a solution, he was just enjoying his self-righteous rant at someone who couldn’t go away and couldn’t answer back. Ah, the joys of customer service.

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