This past Friday I visited the local Christian bookstore. I rarely go there, not because I have anything against Christian bookstores, but because I rarely go to any bookstore. When I do go to a bookstore, my first stop is a used-bookstore. But on this particular day, I was looking for something I knew the Christian bookstore, and probably only the Christian bookstore, would have.
So I made my way there, Junia in tow, found what I needed (a few Bible study books for a small group, to be precise) and headed to the cashier to make my purchase.
That’s when the interrogation began:
“May I have your phone number please?”
“What’s your name?”
Ummm…you need my name?
“Can I have your home address?”
I just want to buy a book!
“Do you have an email address, we send out special offers through email?”
That’s when I said no. It is probably when, in the eyes of the cashier, I became a jerk. Who says no to one email a month from any retailer? She probably knew as well as I do that my email is clogged with mailing lists I have signed up for. I wonder if I was the first person to refuse being put on this list.
When I went to the store, all I wanted to do was buy a few books, not answer a dozen questions about my identity and location. I especially didn’t want to answer a bunch of questions when my kid is running around the store like a terror! Come to think of it, maybe their tactic is to delay my purchase so Junia would break some trinket that I would then have to buy? At any rate, in the words of Charlie Brown: Good grief!
In the year 2012, it takes a lot for anyone to actually get in a car, drive to a bookstore and buy something in person. If we can’t get the book on our e-reader, we’ll order it and wait a few days via Amazon. When we do go to bookstores it is probably to meet a friend for coffee, or to spend a while perusing books while sitting on a comfy couch. On the chance we want to buy a book, we want the process to be quick and painless.
I get that many stores ask questions. You have to give your phone number at the craft supply store and the electronic store. But I am okay with one question, with giving my phone number. I am even okay with knowing that the store will probably use my phone number to figure out my home address and mail me stuff. If that’s the game, play it.
I am also fine if a store asks if I would like to receive coupons in the mail and then asks for my mailing address and email. If I want to be on the list, I’ll consent and if not, I won’t. Again, easy.
I think what stuck me as most odd was that I was given no option in answering the questions. The cashier started asking them as if I had to give all this information to buy a few books. When she finally did give me an option, four questions in, I declined. Maybe I’m just a meanie. But maybe, if it was explained why this information was desired up front, I would have given the information freely.
The whole thing was just weird.
At any rate, my point is: Christian bookstore, you gotta do better. I am already disinclined to buy things at your store, and this tiny hassle (and I admit, in the grand scheme of things, it is a teeny-tiny hassle) is enough to make me even less likely to return.
Christian bookstore, I love you and you are doing a wonderful service. But in this regard, do better.