Last week in StarMag, Nurindah Yunos who works in the children's area of one of the largest bookstores in Malaysia highlighted the problems that bookshops face:
I witness many acts of rudeness every single day, especially during the weekends. It wouldn't surprise me if I get a heart attack one day! Many kids step on books, handle them roughly land even tear the pages or steal the free gifts that come with some books. And what do the parents do? Nothing. Sometimes I feel like screaming at them, telling them we are a business entity and not some public library! My favourite response is to go up to the misbehaving child and say loudly: “Hey dear, please handle the book nicely and pass it to me after you are finished with it. And if you damage the book, mummy or daddy will have to pay for it.” When the parents hear the word “pay'“, they always tell their kids to put the books back on the shelves. We have tourists asking us why we wrap all our books. Well, we have no choice. Until our people know how to appreciate books, we will have to keep wrapping them up. Once, my colleague saw a girl tear a page from a magazine. When she asked the girl to pay for it, guess what, the mother argued that her child didn’t do it. When that didn't work, the woman insisted on paying only for the page that her daughter tore. Hello? If I tore your dress, can I just pay for that bit that was torn? Sorry, but I always feel like laughing out loud when people say we Malaysians have good manners and are civilised.And this week another bookstore employee calling herself Helpless Bookworm took up the theme:
For bookstore staff, weekends and public holidays are a constant headache, no thanks to selfish customers who disrespect books and other people’s property. In short, the whole store becomes a “tsunami-stricken” zone. Books and magazines get strewn everywhere. It is an eyesore to see them on tables and display shelves, or atop rows of books. ... Despite the reminder to “Please ask staff for assistance to unwrap this book/ magazine”, some readers will tear off the plastic covers then stuff them in any available space. Some parents obligingly unwrap books for their children. One mother had the audacity to utter the four-letter word to an employee who advised her not to do so – right in front of her young son. And, to rub salt in a wound, parents let their little “terrors” meddle with buttons, fragile gadgets and playing cards by themselves. No supervision at all. Some adults have been caught switching the price tags of items. There are cases of customers camouflaging an expensive book with the jacket of a lower-priced one. You don’t need rocket science to understand why there are so many missing and damaged pages and items in the store. For instance, audio books with no compact discs. During one stock-check exercise, we found a rotting chicken bone stashed behind some books! There also were books with visible water stains, rendering them a total loss. Having experienced all these, I have no qualms about blaming irresponsible parents for their rude children.The April 2005 issue of MPH's Quill magazine had photographs of stock ruined by customers (below - click to enlarge):
In the same issue Renee Koh writes about the need to respect books:
Damaged books means losses to bookstores, which in turn translates into even lower margins, and in the end, it is you, the genuine customers who will loose out, whether price-wise or because all the books will be wrapped up...Customers need a course in book-browsing etiquette, it seems. Or maybe we should just shrink-wrap the errant ones!