Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Allow Me To Gripe?

Dear Pushy Bookstore Cashier,

I'm sure you remember me -- I'm the stubborn, ill-informed, backwoods, ignoramus who insisted on refusing your oh-so-kind offer of a $20 book club discount card. And when I say oh-so-kind, I mean terribly forceful and full of reproach. That kind.

You see, I don't visit real, live bookstores with much frequency. The books are too expensive to justify when I know I'll finish most anything I get within a week or two, and the same books can be borrowed for free from the library or purchased on the cheap from my favorite used book store. So, no. I don't really have much use for your discount card. Not to mention, I'm pretty sure that paying $20 for a discount card goes against my religious, moral, and genetic codes. It just doesn't spell S-M-A-R-T for my family at our current one-income level of living.

I popped into your store today in search of a specific gift item that I'd been alerted to -- one not available in the used book universe -- and enjoyed my time wandering through the aisles and displays, dreaming of which books to put on my library list. Bookstores have always put me in a fabulous mood, what with the thousands of books at my fingertips, the coffee smells wafting out from the cafe, and the hushed atmosphere. I was in a happy place. A calm place.

But it quickly turned into an uncomfortable and demeaned place. When you first asked me if I'd be interested in buying the discount card, I politely declined and gave you a simple answer about why it wasn't going to happen. You persisted; I expected that. I understand that in retail, you may receive incentives for selling as many extra doo-dads as possible, so it wasn't terribly irritating to state my denial twice.

By your third attempt, however, I was starting to get confused. I didn't understand your depth of investment in my answer and wondered if you would ever stop asking. I thought about saying yes just to make it stop -- perhaps you were banking on that. You explained to me, none too politely, that it would be ridiculous for me to not take advantage of the possible $500 savings per year that were available to me, not to mention the $5 and change I would be saving today! Wow! $505? All for buying a $20 card? Why, yes! That is a bargain! IF I had the capability to spend thousands of dollars a year at your store, I can understand how the card would be helpful. Seeing as how I enter your bookstore a maximum of 3 times a year, for holidays and celebratory gifts as needed, I declined your third attempt. With a saccharine, angelic smile, I thanked you, but said I wasn't interested.

This must have set off alarm bells in your head, because you knit your eyebrows together with incredulous concern. You explained -- for the FOURTH time -- the simple, yet wondrous capabilities of the discount card. You spoke slowly, as if I weren't fully processing the deal I was turning down: ANY FAMILY MEMBER CAN USE IT. YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO BE IN THE STORE TO USE IT. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WOULDN'T WANT THIS CARD. By this time, my cheeks were heating up, whether from anger or embarrassment, I wasn't sure. There was a line behind me, and I was being browbeaten by your singsong facade. All I wanted to do was pay and leave, so I refused again. With the same words I'd used each time before, I declined the discount card and handed over my money.

You banged some keys on the cash register, bagged my items and gave it your last, best shot. You told me, "To be honest, if I were you I would've just gone ahead and signed up for the card at this point. I mean, you're turning down some really significant future savings." All the while, your face was telling me how ignorant you considered my decision to be.

Now, I'm a non-confrontational type of person. Not because I'm overly nice, but because when I get frustrated or angry, my words seem to all jumble up and fall off my tongue in a completely different way than I'd intended. So I just smile and nod, and go about my business. But today? Today I had to BITE my tongue. I had to try my hardest to not tell you that YOU were not ME and therefore YOU should just let. It. Go.

I was proud of my success in not speaking rudely to you. Instead, I just quietly stated that I wasn't going to change my decision, and that I'd like to be on my way. You handed my my change and, in clipped tones, thanked me for shopping with you today. I hightailed it out the front door before my face caught fire.

If your goal was to scare me off, you've succeeded. If your goal was to make me feel smaller and dumber than a rock, you've succeeded. If your goal was to impress me with your tenacity, you've succeeded.

But if your goal was to make me feel welcome and wish to come back to your store more often, you've failed.

Happy Hunting,
Sarah The Disgruntled


  1. I'm getting aggravated just reading about it! I understand that they have to push, but what's with getting aggravated about it if you don't?? I have to admit that the first time I'm asked, "no" is a quick and easy answer. The second time is the one where they are closest to convincing me. That's when they're so convicted of the great deal that they're offering that I'm almost convinced that it's exactly what I need. If they ask again, they've turned me off forever. That's the point where I'm going to say "no" just because they want me to say "yes".

  2. How weird, Sarah. Certainly, she doesn't have the time to spare on being that pushy with every customer that declines the discount card??

  3. I have toilet paper. Do you have her address? :)

  4. Ah, Lenae, I do love how you make me laugh. Sometimes it's my evil plan laugh...

  5. Ugh, what an awful experience! In a bookstore no less! I'm impressed that you were able to bite your tongue and that you didn't even call her names in your post. (The whole time I was reading I just kept thinking "What a jerk!") So good for you!

    You could also think about contacting a manager if you remember their name and feel like lodging an official complaint. I imagine future customers would thank you!

  6. You should complain. The sad part is that her boss probably encourages that behavior! ANNOYING.

  7. Ok, I can't help my this the bookstore that claims more than a thousand books? (Is that too obvious? I'm trying to be discreet) The two times I've gone to the bookstore this year (Thank you for allowing me to buy books from home) I've had exactly that same experience from what I would guess is the same cashier. If I'm on target, you've described the experience to a t! Is it bad to say I'm glad to know it's not just me she picks on? :)

  8. Yes, Jill. They have MILLIONS of books there. And when I told Justin about it, he said he assumes he's had that cashier too -- she really gets around :) No, I'm glad to know you've been talked down to by this lady too! Want to start a petition? :)

  9. Holy Buckets! Just reading that made me feel annoyed!

  10. I have one word for you: Kindle, baby. Okay two.

  11. Awful! I hate the pushyness!

  12. Right after I graduated from college I worked at one of those chain bookstores in the mall. We had a quota of the discount cards we were supposed to sell. My manager was always on my case about not selling enough of them. I hated that job. Hated how we were constantly being reprimanded for not pushing the cards.

    I'm not a pushy person. I think most people don't need the stinking discount card. I didn't argue with management but just refused to put pressure on my customers. My point was always that the customer would have to buy more than $100 worth of books at our chain in order to break even on the "discount card". I couldn't in good conscience push it on people.

    But if your salesperson is rude and pushy, blame it on the management that sets quotas and puts pressure on them to do a hard sell. Me, I try to avoid spending money at a business that treats its employees so poorly and doesn't respect its customers.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?