Do better, Sangster's and Kingston bookshops

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

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Dear Editor,

This is the usual time of year when back-to-school preparations kick into gear. I thought I might as well try to get in ahead of the crowds and pick up a few things. Why not, I thought, August is not so early.

I ventured downtown to the popular Sangster's Bookstore and Kingston Bookshop. The first thing that hit me was that there were no queues outside the storefronts on King Street. I was relieved however.

On entering Sangster's the bag counter offficer was barely willing to get up from his roost atop boxes to hand me a ticket. I was, however, courteously directed upstairs to find the books I sought. Having climbed the stairs, I approached an attendant showing him the booklist. He simply pointed to where the grade two books were. What? No further help? It wasn't as though the store was teeming with customers. In any event, I read my way through. I noticed that a book I sought was not there, so I made a further enquiry. The response: “That's finished.” There was no “try again next week” or any such advisory. Again, the store was not busy at this time. Let's assume the staff had a very busy morning and the early afternoon was accompanied by fatigue. The cashiers, however, were delighful. I asked her about the book and she suggested I call in the morning. Good save, cashier.

Across the road I went to Kingston Bookshop. Again, no crowd. I went in and saw a flurry of attendants. They, too, were just willing to point me in the direction to help myself. I failed to find the text so I made enquiries. As if rehearsed from across the street the attendant said, “That's finished.” I asked when it would be in stock and he replied, “That's finished.” I had to resist the temptation to draw on my “teacher's voice” and said to the young man that, despite my advancing years, I heard what he said, but I had asked a particular question. He answered, “I don't know when.” I would understand his response were he so busy with other customers, but that was not the case. I just left, even though I had planned to grab something for personal reading.

In all, I am disappointed that the staffers in these establishments do no seize the opportunity to offer excellent customer service in the absence of an onslaught of customers. I, however, still expect some degree of pleasant service. I expect the two bookstores could at least compete on customer service, but one is only marginally better than the other.

What's more, I know full well that the books on the shelves will go, but the real rush is yet to begin, and a line of primary school grade two books are already out of stock? Is there no consutation with the Corporate Area schools? Was I just too early?

The bigger issue, I guess, is an overall poor customer service experience in Jamaica. I would hope, though, that these two national institutions would try to do better as they service this sector of society. Maybe because we have to buy the books, and they know we are wont to visit their two locations, treating us well is not a requirement.

Still, I say, do better!



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