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flyingtoastr
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Registered: ‎11-11-2009

Re: Nook placement in stores


keriflur wrote:

How do you put an ROI on handselling?

 


I can't remember the last time someone at a B&N even attempted to help me find something let alone handsold me a book.


You're going to a terrible BN.

 

I have no idea if it's still pushed, but way back in the day when I was hired the biggest thing they smashed into our skulls was the "five core service principles". One of them is "Book In The Hand" - meaning we never point, we always take the customer to the section, and we always take the book off the shelf and hand it to the customer. Even if someone just asked for a section or genre, we were to take them to that area and hand them a book (at our suggestion) off the shelf.

 

Granted, I was hired before BN went into digital, so they might have changed it. All our managers are long-term employees though, so they still push the old stuff.

 

******

 

One thing that I will add is that BN doesn't do a good job of motivating anyone except management at the store level. The store has all sorts of sales goals they have to make, and if the store makes it the management gets nice raises and bonuses. The line employees get absolutely nothing. Literally *nothing*. So it doesn't matter to me at all whether or not we sell enough NOOKs or ECG's or Memberships - all I need is enough to get a "good" on my yearly evaluation and I get my $.25 raise. Even if there was just a little incentive pay for employees it would make a huge difference in morale and attitude.

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keriflur
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Re: Nook placement in stores

[ Edited ]

flyingtoastr wrote:

keriflur wrote:

How do you put an ROI on handselling?

 


I can't remember the last time someone at a B&N even attempted to help me find something let alone handsold me a book.


You're going to a terrible BN.



Well, that would be three B&Ns in WA state, three in MN, one in NYC (the flagship Union Square store), and one in MI.

 

The B&N that I went to when I was in high school (in MI) did handsell, but that was 18 years ago.

 

I'm not saying that no one at a B&N ever helped me, just that I had to wait in line at the information desk and then they would direct me to the section.  At the B&N in Michigan near my parents' house (not the same one from when I was in HS), I asked for help with a specific book and the bookseller was very helpful - I was looking for a HC of THE LOVELY BONES and he remembered they had a copy in the used section.  He walked me over and put the book in my hands.  While this is great customer service, it's not the same as handselling.

 

My local B&N in West Seattle hardly even has staff at the registers.  I'm not sure how often they actually sell things, LOL, I always have to wait for a bit in front of the empty register bank to pay.  It seems like they've got people in the cafe and maybe one or two booksellers and that's it, and it's a fairly decent-sized store, though the stock has been dwindling and at least a third of the store is dedicated to non-book items.

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RHWright
Posts: 1,617
Registered: ‎10-21-2009

Re: Nook placement in stores

Two things:

 

True "handselling" is more than just Book in Hand. Though that's what B&N had mostly reduced it to by the end of my run there. Handselling is interactive selling of suggested product to customers one-on-one, rather than driving sales with display (stack 'em high & watch 'em fly!). It's about listening to a customer and fitting them with a book they might be interested in based on extensive book knowledge. B&N seems to, at best, no longer encourage this "old-fashioned" approach.

 

As far as motivating beyond the management level, B&N seems to have made the incentive for booksellers, "if we (the store) sells more, there will be more hours for you, since hours are a percentage of sales." But this seems to rarely be followed through on and once hours get cut, few come back if sales increase, except maybe at the busiest times (usually holiday season).

 

 

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Mercury_Glitch
Posts: 1,379
Registered: ‎06-07-2011

Re: Nook placement in stores

Handselling, as RHW points out, is more than 'heres the book you asked me for, is there anything else I can help you with?'.  It's finding out about the customer and what they like and suggesting a title to them based on that conversation. 

 

It's also something that is dying out at B&N.  Because when I have to clean a larger area, shelve more books, and answer more questions because we've cut back on hours I have less time to give to a customer.  Even putting the customer first, there are times when I'm out numbered 4 to 1 by customers.  Now I can multitask like crazy in those situations, but you're getting an answer not a conversation.

 

I think most of my coworkers leave after their shifts just glad to be done for the day.  We were all told hours would return after the end of the fiscal.  Guess what ended?  Guess what hasn't returned?  Guess who have been running on fumes for the last month because there was a light at the end of the tunnel which has apparently turned out to be the light of an oncoming train.

The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and we are only the thread of the Pattern.
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TriscuitCracker
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Registered: ‎02-27-2013
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Re: Nook placement in stores

There is an art to good handselling.

 

1. Always ask what was the last good book they read. What did they like about it? What kind of authors do you like?

 

2. If they say a genre like "science fiction" ask what kind? Millitary, Space Opera, basic Star Wars/Star Trek, Classic Asimiov. If Mystery do they like dark gritty material like Harlen Coben or light fluff like Evanovich. Etc.

 

3. Never under any circumstances let any customer read Fifty Shades of Grey. :smileylol:

 

4. Or with great enthusiasm direct them to a book in a genre they might not have normally thought about and rave about it. I've had much success with selling 1Q84 by Murakami this way to people who have never heard of him.

 

No matter what, be enthusiastic and look them in the eye and be genuine. Don't act bored or like the customer is taking up your time.

 

The biggest problem with this is nowadays Barnes is so desperate for hours there is little time to get displays and shelving done and very little time to take available for actual hand selling.

 

However we are still taught the rules of bookselling and how to hand sell and if you are seen with the same customer you were 30 min ago still talking about books nobody gets yelled at. It just happens less often now in general cause theres so much to get done and so little time and manpower.

flyingtoastr
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Registered: ‎11-11-2009

Re: Nook placement in stores

[ Edited ]

I'm well aware of the differences between suggestive selling and book in the hand - it was a response to your point that people at your BN's never helped you find a book. Which is frankly surprising to me. It isn't just bad bookselling, it's bad customer service in general.

 

But then again, it really isn't surprising. BN pays lower than Wal Mart, doesn't give their employees any benefits unless you make it into the manager club (which, at least in this area, they pretty much just hire outside for nowadays), and doesn't give enough payroll hours to the stores to actually do their business effectively. BN treats their employees like expendable labour, so it really isn't surprising that their employees don't care.

 

It sucks too because I'm sure BN used to be a good company to work for. They used to give merit based raises to everyone. They used to match 401k contributions with preferred shares of company stock so everyone had a reason to drive to do well. They used to offer medical, dental, and PTO to every employee - part time, full time, and management. Now they use a "performance matrix" to determine if you qualify for the massive $.25 raise each fall. There is no profit sharing or stock options for anyone outside of upper management and corporate. There's no incentive pay whatsoever. And last year they cut everyone's benefits except management.

 

 

If BN took William Lynch's bonuses (~$14 million) from last year and distributed it to the stores it would be enough to add another 40 payroll hours a week to every single store for an entire year. On top of that, he also got a signing bonus of $1.8 million is cash this year just for renewing his contract, and gets an extra $1.5 million when NOOK Media is split from BN and sold (along with 300000 vested shares of BN stock). And employees know this. They know that the CEO is making so much money the board had to change the company bylaws (his compensation went over the allowed cap) while their payroll and benefits are being cut to the bone in the name of "keeping the company profitable". If that doesn't hurt morale and the will to do your job, I don't know what does.

 

 

Hilariously, I looked up the press release from when my store was opened, bragging about "employing over 100 booksellers" (we have 19, and that's counting people like me who are cross trained and spend more time in specialty departments than on the floor - our total employment is a whopping 39 all included), stocking "over 200000 titles" (we had ~110000 last time I looked, probably less now), and will act as a "community center" with lots of events, signings, and bookfairs (we have exactly one event a year because our DM decided we weren't going to be an "event store" and shuffled all our business to the store she works from).

 

My god that post is all over the place.

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Mercury_Glitch
Posts: 1,379
Registered: ‎06-07-2011

Re: Nook placement in stores

My current favorite running joke is the pledge I'm told managers in my store took to be on the floor more.

 

Funny how the other day we had several call outs leaving one person for the majority of a floor (covering the kids dept. all genre fiction, and all the sciences/humanities, i.e. basically half the store) by herself.  Meanwhile two managers are sitting in the office.

 

Or another day when a similar situation arose and we had three cashiers but one person covering half the store. 

 

And I can tell you that person did not get so much as a 'thank you, we really appreciate it' from anyone in managment. 

 

The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and we are only the thread of the Pattern.
flyingtoastr
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Re: Nook placement in stores


Mercury_Glitch wrote:

My current favorite running joke is the pledge I'm told managers in my store took to be on the floor more.

 


Ha, we had the same pledge after I got into a friendly discussion with our store manager about why morale was so low and I was stirring up trouble (got into a shouting match with one ASM about the pitiful excuse for a wage we get for the amount of work we do).

 

We have been closing our 55000 square foot store with a single bookseller on the second floor, a single bookseller on the first floor (also covering the digital department), 2 barristas, and a single cashier. The store is an absolute disaster - outside of a handful of sections there hasn't been any zone maintenence since October, so we've pretty much given up on finding specific titles unless they have a whole lot of copies sitting on display of (and yet we've still misplaced 46 copies of Divergent that I've been looking for for a week).

 

For a few weeks after our new ASM was hired she really pushed the Above & Beyond board and bought us food and such when we had good sales weeks, but even she's pretty much thrown in the towel already. It's really sad.

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5ivedom
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Re: Nook placement in stores

When I lived in Seattle I used to visit nearly all the bookstores.

 

The Barnes & Noble in downtown Seattle and the one in Bellevue were both super. The staff were just the right amount of hands-off when you're browing and very helpful when you're asking questions.

 

The only bookstores I like more are very ecletic indie ones. B&N stoes were very good. Of course, this is 5 years ago. So who knows what's changed since then.

 

Though, even then, there were lots of freeloungers who would just grab a coffee and just sit somewhere for hours and hours.

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BFCoughlin
Posts: 651
Registered: ‎03-08-2011

Re: Nook placement in stores

I am really sorry to hear about such poor working conditions.  The people who work at the B&N store in Farmington CT are fantastic.  I asked about books to read to my 8 year old grandson (he is now in our care once or twice a week and--heartbreakingly--has never been read to before) and I had two people taking me all over the children's section offering suggestions and honing it down as I discussed his needs and interests.  Just this Wednesday, we went in for my huysband's birthday.  He aked for the new Nathaniel Philbrick book, and the person knew what it was and where it was.  She took us right over and, as you said, put the book in John's hand.  When my Nook HD+ was overheating, I was given a brand new one on the spot & they spent the time to set it up for me.  Yes, sometimes I have to wait for someone to be available, but so what?  I pick up a book or magazine to look at while I'm waiting.  My husband & I really love that place and appreciate the people who work there.

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RHWright
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Re: Nook placement in stores

Bookseller folks, I know what you mean. Zero seems to have changed since I finally got out in mid-2009. If anything, it sounds like it's going further downhill.

 

And, easily 99.9999999% of these problems are at the manager level and above to effect.

 

Sure, I've worked with or experienced some lousy booksellers. But most everyone I've ever met/worked with who came in through those doors hired as a bookseller wanted to do a good job. Was excited about working in a book store. Wanted to help customers.

 

But the system just seems to inspire burn-out, apathy, and mediocrity. Many fight those demons and sstill give great service. (Barring a few bad days.) Others, I totally understand how you get that way and that the experience has beat you down.

 

I wish I had some advice for you. I finally got a job writing, making enough money that I don't even have to work part-time at my local B&N anymore. But that's not really a solution for you or the company.

 

Stick in there, I guess. Speak up, politely and professionally. There are many people with deaf ears in the company, but I've worked with some good managers and DMs who truly do have open door policies. At least they did. Who knows if they've stuck in there.

 

TO B&N powers-that-be (if this wafts through the ether to you): wise up and start listening to booksellers. One of your most valuable assets, selling points, and unique value propositions for consumers is the strengths and talents of your front line staff. Invest in them. Payroll. Training. Benefits. And the right tools & time to do an excellent job. They have the ear of the customer on a daily, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute basis. You probably won't believe it, but the decline in sales can be just as strongly correlated to a decrease in HR investment than any fluctuations in the economy or marketplace. Your next $100 million dollar idea is out there germinating in that bookseller-customer relationship and you are woefully ignoring it.

 

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deesy58
Posts: 2,486
Registered: ‎01-22-2012

Re: Nook placement in stores

It seems to me that the posters in this thread are describing a phenomenon that is NOT unique to Barnes & Noble.  The process of transferring our nation's wealth to the top 1% of society (including grossly overcompensated corporate managers) is squeezing the dedication and loyalty out of lower-level employees everywhere.  It is happening all across America, and in industries other than Retail.  The loss of benefits described by flyingtoastr is not new.  I first experienced it in 1996 as an IT Director at an automotive aftermarket manufacturing company, then again in 1999 as an IT Director at an aerospace manufacturing company.  Until the American people get fed up with this sorry state of affairs and make fundamental changes to our political systems, don't expect things to get better.  :smileysad:

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5ivedom
Posts: 3,544
Registered: ‎12-03-2011

Re: Nook placement in stores

Or a massive crash happens and things get reset.

 

I don't think people will wake up. They are too happy with the opiates of sports and TV and celebrity culture and such.

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Omnigeek
Posts: 885
Registered: ‎01-25-2011

Re: Nook placement in stores

I'm sorry to hear the reports of poor management in your stores.  Unfortunately, that problem isn't constrained to B&N or bookstores but runs through corporations, unions and government offices as well.  Apathy and laziness are just as rife among the workers as management too -- when I worked fast food (min wage), I'd have estimated at least 1/3 of the workers weren't even worth minimum wage.

 

Fortunately, the conditions you describe also aren't universal through bookstores or even B&N.  The Nook guy at my store got promoted to manager, his assistant Nook expert continues to do a good job and they hired another gal who was energetic, helpful and just a wonderful ray of sunshine.  Of course, there are other booksellers on the floor although staffing does seem down a tad.

 

I don't know how they've done with the Mother's Day Nook promotion but they seemed to have a flood of people when I stopped in on Monday to pick up my HD+.

Currently reading: Destiny of the Republic, The Heritage of Shannara, Lonely Planet: Melbourne & Victoria