Thursday, April 15, 2010

Post 100 - The Nook

Originally for my 100th post I was going to do a nice long piece about Seton Hill University where I got my MA. After all, I'm forever referring to it, the mentors there, and have lists along the side of links to Seton Hill people.

But I decided that might take some time and instead have opted for a different route, one involving e-readers in a post that I haven't seen anywhere else, regarding a matter that I'm not sure anyone has considered yet.

Selling an e-reader in a bookstore and how that changes things (in a not-so-good way).

I wanted to work for Barnes & Noble because I love books. I love to play with them. I even love the smell of the store when I walk in, working day or no. And one of the things I knew I could count on was catering to a better clientele than in other retail locations like sporting goods or clothing (trust me, I've done both). Sure, on occasion you get a fussy customer or even a really unhappy one, but they're few and far between when compared to the rest of the retail world. Why do you think every B&N store has a huge backlog of applications?

But getting to the point. Just yesterday a woman comes in. Her Nook (the B&N e-reader to rival the Kindle, in case you didn't know) won't turn on. Now, I'm not a total idiot when it comes to gadgets. I'm fact, I'm pretty friggin' tech savvy. But I don't own a Nook. I work part-time and freelance wherever possible and barely make enough to cover my expenses - you think I'm going to shell out $259 for any e-reader? Especially when, even with my discount, I only buy maybe a total of 5 books a year? The company certainly isn't going to give out Nooks to all its employees (just the district managers...or store managers? I don't remember). The simple fact is that I know perhaps 1% about the Nook. We haven't been schooled in Nook technology yet. This may not be true for all B&N stores, but it is for us. We only recently got our little front store Nook nook set up.

Basically what happened was this: The woman's Nook refused to turn on. She maintained that it was charged. None of us knew what its deal was. So we told her to call the help hotline on the Nook package. Of course this is too much for her. She hemmed and hawed about how if it was a quality product we should stand behind it and be able to take care of such things in the store. As always, we were polite and explained that we weren't tech savvy just yet on the Nook (as evidenced by our not-yet-functioning Nook nook) since it's still relatively new, etc. Naturally she wasn't satisfied and left all huffy.

Fine, we get people like that all the time even on books. My complaint isn't about her. My worry is that we'll get more people like her. The issue is that we'll go from booksellers to tech people. And we're not tech people. None of us (save the store manager) owns a Nook. We don't know what all their potential problems are. We can't fix them for you. We don't have the know-how and we certainly don't have all the tools and toys to open it up and check it out. People, as a whole, get a lot more frustrated and - in a word - bitchy about electronics than they do about books. Myself included (just not to any employees because I know better). Even after the woman left, I later had a man come up and ask me all sorts of questions about the Nook and I could only answer a handful of them, which was also frustrating to me because I like helping people.

True, I'm sure they'll school us employees on Nook functions soon, but the fact remains: We are still going to be booksellers. We are not going to be tech support. Yet I am willing to put money down that all sorts of people who own Nooks will mosey into the store and expect us to fix it. In fact, I don't even think our Nook nook is meant to fix things; I think it's just a kiosk to help push the product. In which case people coming up to the desk expecting the poor soul behind it to fix their jacked up Nook will get all pissy when the person can't. People are impatient. They don't want to call a help hotline and tinker with their own product. They don't want to have to send it anywhere and then wait for it to get sent back. They want it fixed now.

They'll want us to be the Geek Squad of the Nook. And we're not.

Will the clientele for the Nook be different than typical book shoppers you might ask? Yes. E-reader owners don't have to go to bookstores to get their books. They won't be browsers who mosey through the store and ask or give book suggestions. They'll just come in when they want us to fix something. Granted, that won't be every e-reader owner, so I'm not assuming that just because you own an e-reader you suck at life. But anyone with a brain knows there's a difference between the atmosphere in B&N (or even Borders) and the atmosphere at the Geek Squad table at Best Buy (no offense Best Buy - I like your tech guys and applaud them for their skills. I've even used them a few times when my computer has gone beyond me).

Maybe someday in the future all new hires will be required to understand the Nook inside and out. But I think that day is far ahead. For now, if you have a Nook and it's broken, we can't fix it. Don't be a jerk about it. Going on a tirade won't help. I work at a bookstore because I love books and I love the people that love books. If I wanted to work in tech support I'd be at Best Buy or somewhere else. Amazon is lucky they're online only - people with Kindles have no choice but to call or email. Even then, guess who they talk to? Someone specifically trained to handle fixes for the Kindle.

Here we go...

P.S. I don't actually think it's called a Nook "nook," but I just found it amusing.


M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

Maybe there needs to be a disclaimer somewhere saying 'we can't fix your kindle'. I know that sounds silly and perhaps a little sarcastic, but maybe it's possible to sort of nip it in the bud. I don't know what makes people think that a piece of technology could be fixed in a non-tech place. That's like taking your mp3 player to a music store and asking them to fix it. And you'd get the same answer people get at the book store: we can't fix it.

Common sense. I miss it.

Anne (aka "stormie") said...

I love this line in your blog: "They'll want us to be the Geek Squad of the Nook." Somehow it made me laugh. (I'm easy to amuse.)

Anyway, maybe there should be a sign saying "Anyone with an ereader that needs tech support, call...."

Nicole said...

M.R.J. - They think that because that's where they bought it. They automatically assume because they bought the product there, it can be fixed there (yet you don't see people asking us to bind books...hmm). I too miss common sense.

Anna - Glad to make you giggle. ;D I think on the Nook it says "If you have problems, please call ###" or something. Our merchandising manager pointed that out to the woman. She wasn't happy about that idea. Guess it's too hard to pick up a cell phone these days and call someone...

Megan said...

I am against e-readers for the simple fact that I love books. The way they feel, the smell, the pages crinkling under my hand...I despise technology when it comes to books. I teach reading, and my school is pushing the use of technology in every classroom. So what, now there's enough money to buy each of my students a Nook/Kindle? What happened to just reading for the sheer pleasure of reading, and not just to acquire the latest piece of technology??

Nicole said...

Yeah, me too. I always find it amusing when people ask if I have one.

"Why yes ma'am, I do. Especially since I only buy about two books a year and then I wait for the extra employee discount to kick in, not to mention I work part time here where $259+tax is equivellent to about three or four paychecks."

I mean, I love working at B&N, but I am NOT a fan of trying to sell their e-reader.