Matt Blind has written a disturbingly accurate light and humourous piece on the different types of customers who visit bookstores.
Grazers don’t need a book, or want a book, but they love coming in to the bookstore, and love lingering leisurely over all the tables, racks, endcaps, promotional displays, and front-of-store placements. If they can do this while a bookseller is attempting to replenish or reset the display, all the better.
The only redeeming feature of a grazer is that they can only accomplish their task with a cup of coffee in their hand — pardon, with a $4 half-soy-half-decaf-latte-with-a-shot-of-pretention — and while they clog the main aisle and generally pose a hazard to navigation, they are mostly harmless. They might try to casually engage you conversation, “How’s Business?”, but they don’t really care. Their primary goal is being in a bookstore for an hour each week so they can insert an off-hand, “oh I saw that the other day at Big Box Books” in later conversations, proving to their friends that they are topical and literate.
Bonus: They buy coffee. Margins on coffee are excellent.
From “Rethinking the Box: The Seven Types of Customer”
My store didn’t sell coffee (apparently we were missing out on a huge opportunity here) but it certainly reads familiar.
I think I qualify as a browser, though my sections tend to be fiction and literature and philosophy, though I do it independently with a hint of grazer. That said, it’s difficult for me to walk out of a bookstore without spending at least seventy bucks.
A follow up piece titled “Rethinking the Box: Application and Practice” gets more into the nitty-gritty and what it actually takes to be a competent bookseller. Folks, it’s all true.
Support your local independents, kids.
I loved working at the bookstore, but eventually left after working there three years.
A lot of people who love books and think they’d love running a bookstore actually want a library. A personal library, with a lock on the door and the opportunity to restrict access to only those people they like. “Here is my collection, which I offer for ‘sale’ in as much as I’d like you to compliment my taste and insight in selecting these titles, and only these titles, which are worthy of my efforts and your consideration.”
From “Rethinking the Box: Motives”
I loved that bookstore, but after I quit, I found I was actually able to afford to buy and build that personal library. In the absence of customers, books have once again become things to treasure and enjoy.
My heart goes out to you, Matt.