How to drive customers away in three easy steps

So, my sister-in-law and I were wandering the little shops at Stinson Beach this week, and because it was a Monday, most of them were closed. And there weren’t all that many “them” to begin with.

Besides art galleries meant for customers with much fatter wallets than ours, there was one really lovely independent book store. Score!

The owner was out front when we walked up, and Ro commented that she was disappointed that all the other shops were closed. I added that several potential customers had wandered up to the locked doors, peered in the windows at all the beach-y souvenirs and cute little novelties, shrugged and walked away.

“Well, it’s to their own detriment,” she snipped regarding the other shopkeepers.

It just seemed like an oddly-toned comment. I expected her to say something like, “Oh, that’s too bad!” or “That’s great news for me” It just seemed rather harsh and sour for a beachside community that seemed so relaxed and casual.

We wandered around inside the store, with its high shelves, simply packed with enticing titles and authors. I was eying a novel called “Monkey Mind,” about one man’s lifetime relationship with anxiety (were we separated at birth?) as well as several Anna Quindlen novels, and I was just getting started. That was only the first rack I browsed.

I wandered on back, past the gardening and history sections, and found myself in the children’s room, along with the shopkeeper. She was rearranging the books on one low shelf, quite purposefully and precisely – which was clearly how she’d arranged every other single thing in the store.

As I passed her, she made a comment about “some people” just being too lazy or inconsiderate or some such thing, and not putting the books back in their place. Hmmm. “Some people”… as in children? The ones who would look at those books, fall in love with them and beg Mom or Dad to please, please, please buy it for them? Or maybe grandmas or aunties, looking for a cute book to bring back home from vacation for the little ones? In other words… the very people who would buy those books? Customers? Heard of those, lady? Or are the books merely intended as display items?

I browsed a bit more, lost Ms. Congeniality somewhere in the shop, and then, as if she’d pulled a Samantha Stevens and twitched her nose, she reappeared back in the front of the shop. Because it was our first time in Stinson Beach, the area was unfamiliar to me, so I asked her if the little collection of shops along Highway 1 was the entire business district, or were there more shops elsewhere? Particularly those that are open on Mondays?

“It isn’t about shopping. It’s about being here,” she replied, her voice so brittle that each word could have crumbled and clattered onto the floor.

“Oh, thanks,” I replied, and gave a couple courtesy glances at the books featured near the front counter, collected my sister-in-law and headed out the door, leaving Anna Quindlen behind with “Monkey Mind.” And I didn’t feel one bit guilty about not buying something to support a local business owner, because she told me herself: “It’s not about shopping.”

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