Little children ripping pages from pop-up books before returning them to the shelf. Customers who buy books, read them, and then return them, just like at a library.
Rebecca George, co-owner of Volumes Bookcafe, an independent bookstore with locations in Wicker Park and downtown Chicago, has grown accustomed to such annoyances.
But that didn’t stop George, 42, from venting on Twitter, where he received 5.3 million views as of Tuesday evening.
She began typing after a customer spent about $800 on art books during the crucial Christmas shopping season and then said she wanted to return them all this week.
“It turns out that one of our biggest sales last month was for someone to stage their home for the holidays, and they now want to return everything. Please do not do this to a small business,” George tweeted.
Margins in independent bookstores are “razor thin,” according to George. She described forecasting what people might want to buy as a high-stakes guessing game.
George and her sister, Kimberly, recently relocated their Wicker Park store to a new location in the same neighborhood, which opened in September of last year. She expressed gratitude that 25 members of the local community contributed loans to help them purchase the space.
“Even after opening, we were still paying electricians and plumbers and all the things to open, on top of now paying for a mortgage,” George explained. “The fall was difficult. We knew we only needed to get through the holidays to feel more secure.”
She also claimed that the pandemic lockdown hampered business.
The woman’s purchase at the downtown branch in early December was significant enough to excite employees.
“This person came in and purchased all of these art books! What a wonderful day, ” George recalled thinking. “We needed it right then.”
On Monday, a member of George’s staff received a call from the book buyer, she said. The customer stated that she desired to return all of the books. Book returns are uncommon, accounting for only about 1% of sales, according to George. According to her, it’s usually someone who received two copies of the same book as a gift.
George stated that she is unsure what “staging” the woman desired the books for.
“If that was the case, they could have obtained books in a different manner. They could have obtained used or library books,” George stated.
Here’s a sample of what some Twitter users said:
“This is such a gross thing to do regardless, but absolutely never do that to a small business,” wrote @TareUhhhhhh.
“Please tell me why the f—k are people ‘staging their homes’ for the holidays?” @minimoogles replied.
“This year, I don’t care what you get me but I want my bday gift from here please,” @Uh_huh_honey wrote.
Unfortunately, the customer called after the 30-day return period had expired. According to George, after “much negotiation,” the bookshop and the customer agreed on a store credit.
On the bright side, George stated, “We’ve been getting tons and tons of orders overnight from all over the U.S., and we are so thankful for it.”
George believes it is because of her tweet.
“For the most part, our customers are amazing,” she said.
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