Friday, September 9, 2011
"Barnes and Not So Noble" by Katalina Leon
In the middle of last month, during what I think of as the dog days of August, the peak of summer reading, when we all want to collapse in a cool corner with a good book—our local Barnes and Noble bookstore decided to completely gut their romance department.
Barnes and Noble did a lot of other uncalled for things in their store that bode ill for future business, but I’ll stick to the romance section because it hits close to home.
First of all, I couldn’t find it. The romance section had been moved to a dark corner at the every end of a large, two-story store with escalators running up and down the middle. Not only was the romance section sparsely stocked—it was less than half its previous size. Many popular publishers, including the one I write for were conspicuously missing. Not a single title from their press was represented on the shelves. Management told me many popular imprints were not being stocked. What’s going on?
I thought romance accounted for a huge percentage of book sales? Has this changed? Not only had the romance section been greatly diminished it was being hobbled as well. Many of the books were stacked on shelves five and six layers high. I could barely see the full titles of books on the top shelf and reaching up to them was out of the question. I’m a tiny person. My fingertips could tap the top shelf, but I couldn’t reach the books. In general the female population is smaller than the males but guess what? No ladder in this section—none.
However there was an anchored ladder in the men’s sport section. It was thoughtfully placed there so naturally tall guys could safely reach the books they wanted… What’s up with that? Do they expect the women to climb the shelves like lemurs?
I politely brought this problem to management’s attention and they said it was a Barnes and Noble “corporate decision” to place the smallest paperback novels up very, very high where only basketball players could reach them. One manager promised to place a ladder in the romance section. I went back a week later, no surprises—no ladder. That day I saw a woman in high heels trying to bat a romance novel off the top shelf with the sleeve of her sweater. She was very motivated, hopping up and down and in danger of twisting an ankle, but at least she was trying to get a book. I don’t know if she got the book she wanted or if she simply settled for the first book she knocked off the shelf…
The treatment Barnes and Noble has shown its female customers is thoughtless to say the least, and bad business on top of it all. I’m almost inclined to believe Barnes and Noble wants their romance reading customers to go away. Placing product out of reach is a crumby and insulting business model. It’s a ridiculous and extremely alienating “corporate decision” to inflict on customers, especially us vertically challenged gals who have to go searching for tall people in the store willing to hand us our copy of “My Secret Blood Oath Sweet Savage Barbarian Rebel Prince Werewolf”.
I don’t want a stranger reading that title aloud to me in the store and leering at the cover—I really don’t.
Shame on you Barnes and Noble, I left the store empty handed because I got tired of asking for assistance every time I wanted to glance at a book.
Did the Barnes and Noble bookstore near you monkey around with the romance section?
Posted by Marianne Stephens at 12:01 AM