Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The latest news from Waterstone's

Last week I had a drink with former colleague from Waterstone's. I had been looking forward to hearing the latest gossip, but it turned out to be a rather depressing experience and after half an hour I was desperate to change the subject.

Apparently the management have now introduced bag searches for members of staff. This comes on top of a compulsory uniform (sorry, dress code - the word uniform is apparently frowned on in Waterstone's), mystery shoppers, restricted access to proof copies and the introduction of a course called Get Selling (because those airy-fairy booksellers don't know how to sell books).

My ex-colleague added that they'd read on book on Nazi Germany a few weeks ago, and were struck by the parallels with Waterstone's. It was a slightly melodramatic comparison. As far as I know, Waterstone's haven't started exterminating Ottakar's booksellers yet, but I could see that the combination of inefficiency, obsession with efficiency and intolerance of dissent all sounded horribly familiar.

I used to want to hear what was going on in Waterstone's and bookselling in general, but this time something had changed. I no longer felt any connection to the book trade and I was reluctant to open up an old wound. I listened patiently until there was a slight lull in the conversation, then decided to change the subject:

'Have you heard of an author called David Karp?'


Grey Area said...

I've worked in a lot companies where I have had to deal with the retail operations, and every industry is different - you get good and bad, the key is to employ people who are passionate about the product and treat them with respect, train them when they need it and encourage them where you can - but booksellers seem to be a specific breed.

Typical overheard exchange at the till in Waterstones / Hastings

"I've seen a book I want to buy for a teenage girl, I'm not sure what it's about or what it's called - but it has a blue cover"

- at this point I would be reaching for the baseball bat under the till....

Steerforth said...

Yes, that's quite normal, along with the people who don't realise that Fiction is A-Z by author.

It's takes great self-control not to punch these people.

John Self said...

Hm, most of this entry seems to have disappeared since yesterday. I blame the Sontarans.

Steerforth said...

I reread the post last night and was struck by how supremely dull it was. Also, I was repeating observations I'd made in earlier posts.

An abridged version seemed more desirable.

Anonymous said...

I used to adore remembering most of ISBN numbers, and being able to know exactly what the blue book was. Wonderful days. Oh and alphabetising!