Misadventures In Holiday Book Shopping (UPDATED)


Being a fan of the local indie bookstore as an institution, I went out to do a bit of holiday shopping on Saturday. I had two books I wanted to buy. My chosen bookstore, a very good shop which has a big inventory and many author events (keys to the fact that it thrived even when the market consisted mainly of the big book chains), had one of the two (a perennial seller) in stock. The other I told them I’d like to special order.

The on-hand volume was twice the price I’d have spent online, but I had credit from previous dealings, so I bought it anyway.

The clerk looked up the other. “We can’t get that,” he said. He couldn’t explain why a book in print, published by Dell, should be beyond the powers of their distribution system. They’re not a new store, and I assume they do special orders all the time.

So, as a customer, I entered their shop with two specific books in mind, aware of the books’ availability and pricing online, but wanting to support the indie. One book cost me double the money I needed to spend. The other book was simply impossible to obtain.

That impossible book just landed on my doorstep, from Amazon. They not only had the book, they had it for cheap, shipping cost me nothing, and they got it to me inside of 48 hours. They got the sale because the local store either lacked a certain competence or wasn’t willing to find the means to get me the book I wanted.

Local shops can thrive, and this one does. If their owners are smart, and make themselves into community institutions that offer great customer service and special benefits and events, they can resist Amazon’s eminence in a way they were never able to resist the intrusion of huge chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. But they need to actually be able to get the books desired by their customers to those customers, efficiently, or they’ll lose valuable business. And that’s never good.

I’ll go back to the shop because I’m fond of it. But someone else may have walked out thinking, “Well, from now on, I’ll just go online…”  They’d have lost not only this sale but all the others that customer might possibly have made.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I forgot to mention that two weeks earlier I had gone to this shop’s website and used their automated search system to request ordering information on a title. Nearly a month later, I have yet to hear anything at all back regarding that search.

Best Buyer Beware (Best Buy’s Fraudulent Sales Techniques)

The Consumerist investigated Best Buy’s use of “optimization” to bait and switch customers buying computers:

Over the past year, a number of you have been telling us that, due to “pre-optimization” of computers, it’s difficult — sometimes impossible — to walk into a Best Buy and leave with the advertised deal (in effect, you would be paying a $39.99 surcharge over the computer’s advertised price). We decided to look into your complaints. We sent the Consumer Reports secret shoppers to 18 different Best Buys in 11 states, and one of our shoppers was denied the price advertised for a specific model because only pre-optimized computers were available. When the Consumer Reports engineers compared three “optimized” computers to ones with default factory settings, there was no performance improvement. In one case, an optimized laptop actually performed 32% worse than the factory model.

So keep this in mind if you buy anything at Best Buy. The full article is here.

TODAY ONLY: Full Set of ANGEL for CHEAP @ Amazon!!!

Amazon’s “Deal of the Day” today is the boxed set of all 5 seasons of Joss Whedon’s Angel, usually selling for $125, for only $57!!!

This is an incredible deal, for some incredible television. If I didn’t have all of it already, I’d grab it up.

You can get it here.

Last Chance At Limited Edition Doc Wilde Stuff [Updated]

[UPDATE: The shop is now closed. It will probably reopen later with items featuring the actual cover art by Tim Gabor.]

A good while back, I opened a Cafe Press shop of Doc Wilde merchandise. It has largely gone unnoticed and unseen, though a handful of sagacious souls made their way to it and enriched their lives with the purchase of an item or two.

The items on the site showcase the original (unused) cover art by Australian master comic book artist Gary Chaloner:


As I’ve written before, this isn’t the artwork that will be on the actual book. But I have always loved it (I have one of the large posters framed in my living room, and this version of Doc still peeks from the Doc Wilde logo I use on the website) and wanted to let you get a chance at it before I take it offline.

It’s April 1st as I write this. I’ll leave the shop open and Gary’s art available through Wednesday, April 8th.

So this is really limited edition merchandise. It won’t be available again, and I don’t actually expect many sales in the next week, so if you do get any of it, and Doc Wilde becomes popular, the items will probably be quite collectable (especially if you ever get me and/or Gary to sign yours).

If you visit the shop, make sure to read the item descriptions, I had a lot of fun writing them. Here are a couple:

Doc Wilde Logo Preppy Shirt

Doc Wilde Preppy Shirt

Infiltrate a cult of power-mad evil golfers in this comfy shirt sporting the Wilde logo over your courageous heart.

Doc Wilde Trucker Hat

Doc Wilde Trucker Hat

Use small words, spit tobaccy, and wear this ventilated cap sporting the Wilde logo next time you’re hunting a bad guy at a NASCAR event. (Hey, I’m from Georgia, I can say this stuff).

Remember, this is your last chance at this stuff, it comes down Wednesday, April 8th, 2009. The shop can be found here:

Doc Wilde Adventure Gear