She describes competition with the other bookshops is "fierce", so the bookshop had to make its mark from the beginning, and getting the concept right was vital. Thus:
We offer free browsing, a pleasant ambience and plenty of seats for people to settle down to read. We also don't wrap our books so people are encouraged to flip through our titles ...She also cites competitive prices, the ability to source books from 1,200 stores around the world, and staff training as cornerstones of the company's success.
Borders now has three branches, with the second being at The Curve, and the third at Penang's Queensbay Mall - although business here is a little slower. More branches are planned ... and so is a customer loyalty card. (Collect the full set, why not?)
I blogged some time ago about the dreadful things bookshop customers do to books and raised the ire of blog-readers who (as I recall) offered I think to go and punch up those who dare to defile the hallowed tomes. An article in the New Sunday Times about the ugly side of Malaysian shoppers is a real shocker! According to Rodney Toh, manager of MPH's 1 Utama branch:
Even bookstores, the supposed meeting point of educated people, are not spared.Quite a few of you have said that your dream-job is to open a bookshop ... any second thoughts?
You can find torn books to crumpled origami figurines and carpets stained with urine and faeces. Rodney Toh, MPH Bookstores Sdn Bhd area manager in 1 Utama, has seen them all.
While children are the ones who usually damage the items, the biggest problem is parents who do not care, said Toh.
"I’ve seen a teenage boy cutting out a picture from a book and his parents just looking on without saying anything," he said.
Some parents also have no qualms about joining their children to do certain exercises in a workbook and then leave the store without paying for it.
"There are those who get very defensive when we point out that their children have mistreated our books."
Toh cited one incident where, instead of apologising for her four-year-old daughter who had ripped out the pages of a book, the mother faulted the staff "for not teaching children how to properly handle books".
Besides being a "library" to customers who read its books for free, MPH had also become "a nursery for some parents to dump their kids", said the company’s marketing manager, Renee Koh.
Children as young as four years old have been left behind for hours in MPH’s Kidszone by parents who go off shopping.
"In one of our stores some time back, a small girl cried for her parents for hours until she vomited. When I saw her, she was all alone in a pool of vomit. We had to clean her up and locate her parents — who were shopping without a care in the world," said Toh.
A child also once defecated at the Kidszone and a member of the staff had to clean up the place and replace the carpeting, he added.
Children could be forgiven for lack of supervision but when adults mistreated books, it became unacceptable behaviour, said Koh.
"Malaysians think they can always go to the competitor if we do not give them the service they demand.
"So they think nothing of it when they damage our goods, disregard our warning or exhibit rude behaviour."
He said a customer once tore a discount voucher and threw it at the cashier when he was told that he needed to make a purchase before he could get the discount.
But as a little coda, I must add that the bookshop that caters for kids should really have a toilet in-store so "accidents" don't need to happen. (I used to work in a big toy-shop in Birmingham, and got quite handy with a mop and bucket.) And I really don't see why bookshops shouldn't have a supervised play area at weekends so parents can leave their offspring while they go elsewhere or just browse in peace.
And y'know, kids are customers too, and will grow into big customers one day with plenty of spending power. Get 'em hooked young ... even if they do pee on the floor.