Chain bookstores may be bad, but that’s no reason to assume independent bookstores are any better. As Paula Katz argues in the debut issue of Work Magazine, “The fact is, a ‘corporate’ atmosphere can be created anywhere … with just a few, easy steps:
insist[ing] that all decisions be made unilaterally by someone who rarely comes into contact with the store; treat[ing] your employees as incompetent and interchangeable; cut[ting] costs even at the expense of employee satisfaction and dignity; and [not worrying] about the customers or the community.
The owner of the store at which I work does not make decisions from some headquarters thousands of miles away, but her visits to the store are infrequent and largely consist of sitting in the back office chatting with her friends on the phone. When she is around, she doesn’t bother to refer to us by name, instead she addresses us according to where we work in the store – either “Up Front” or “Downstairs.” Her edicts, such as the one eliminating the children’s book section and staff recommendations (incidentally, our two popular sections), are issued seemingly at random.
“Eventually,” Paula continues, “this bookstore will fail.”
But what is most frustrating is witnessing myopic business practices that should be reserved for huge corporations being put into practice in what should be a haven for customers and employees alike.