My husband and I decided to take a day trip from Branson to Eureka Springs last Wednesday. We both have been there many times since we were kids. I found a little bookstore downtown and never pass up an opportunity to visit a bookstore, so of course I went inside. It was Gazebo Books, which I assumed is an independently owned bookstore.
I always prefer patronizing locally owned bookstores, rather than the big box online stores. I have been a professor of childrenís and young adult literature for 20 years. Obviously, I love books! As I was browsing, I came upon a book about Route 66 that I thought my friend might like. She is a fourth-grade teacher and integrates Route 66 into her curriculum, so Iím always looking for books and resources that she would like. I took a picture of the book to text her to see if she wanted me to buy it for her. But as I was taking the picture, the owner yelled at me, telling me that I couldnít take pictures and to turn off my phone, and if I couldnít do that I should set it on the counter! I was horrified, then angry. I felt like I was caught in a criminal act! I tried to tell her what I was doing, but she wouldnít let me talk, lecturing me how small bookstores have a hard time staying in business.
If only she knew that my career and personal life has been dedicated to books, reading, and the support of little bookstore like hers. If only she could have seen my library both at home and at work she probably would have been courting me! I donít know if she thought I was going to go to Amazon or what, but I could just as well have written down the title if that was my intent. However, it shouldnít have mattered who I was. It was rude to treat anyone that way. I understand that some stores, especially craft stores, donít want you taking pictures, but here? And if she did have that policy she should have it posted where all can see. I will venture to say that folks like me who make the choice to open the door of a little locally-owned bookstore are not just cruising for titles to order online. We are people who love books and know that independent bookstores will have titles that you may not find anywhere else, such as the Route 66 book. We also know how important it is to support these bookstores. I have visited many locally owned bookstores throughout the country and have never been treated like this. It was mainly her accusatory tone of voice that galled me. As I was walking out I told her that she just lost a potential sale and customer. Then she again chastised me. It was as if I was trying to shoplift or steal. Later I discovered several other online reviews of this store that were similar to mine. So I guess she wasnít just singling out me!
The moral of this story is that she ruined Eureka Springs for me. We immediately left town and didnít spend a dime there. If youíre a book lover you know that it would have been easy to drop $100 for books you love. But It only takes one person being rude to give you a bad feeling about the whole town. I know that most business owners in town are probably lovely people, but one personís bad attitude and poor customer treatment reflects badly on everyone else. As a professor in education I always tell my students that is always hard to make a good second impression.
Susan Knell, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Teaching & Leadership
Pittsburg State University