Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bookstores and One-Sided Politics: A Bad Business Plan

Would you give your business to a bookstore that actively works to ridicule one political party and promote the success of a second one if the party being attacked was the one you felt more comfortable with at the moment? Could you hold your nose long enough to pop in and spend some of your book money there? Or would you avoid the place like the plague?

It seems to me to be a very poor business plan for a bookstore, or any other business, to do something that would, right up front, alienate a substantial portion of its potential customer base. One bookstore that has apparently been doing this for a number of years, and has survived, is Bookshop Santa Cruz, a bookstore that has decided that pushing a potential Obama presidency is worth the risk of hurting its bottom line. Of course, this store is in California, so I don't know that it's necessarily a huge risk in this particular case.
Bookshop Santa Cruz is selling key chains that count down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the Democratic senator from Illinois is sworn into the Oval Office.

"If he doesn't win in November, we'll have much larger problems than our unused inventory," bookshop general manager Casey Coonerty Protti said. "I am very hopeful he's going to win. I just can't imagine Americans would do that to themselves."

The $10 Obama clock key chains, which went on sale last week, were created by bookshop owner Neal Coonerty and include a ubiquitous Obama quote: "We are the change we've been waiting for."

The Obama clocks are a spin-off of Coonerty's original clock creation two years ago, when he produced a key chain that counted down the time until President George W. Bush's second term ends.
Obama "hope clocks" are a "natural extension" of the anti-Bush message, she said.

"We would support any Democrat in their race to the White House at this point," Protti said. "The moment Bush leaves is the moment everyone's been waiting for."
If you read the rest of the article, you will find that this particular store has a long history of actively supporting liberals and attacking conservatives, so I suppose that its customers know the atmosphere before they walk in the front door.

But it is definitely not a store I would feel comfortable in because my political views are usually slightly to the right of center. This is one time that my love of books probably couldn't overcome my unease with such blatant, "in-your-face" politics. Personally, I am sick of books from either side of the political spectrum that simply ridicule the other side and have nothing else to offer the reader.

So now I know one Santa Cruz bookstore that I won't be visiting next time I get to that part of the state. Oh, well...that does save time.


  1. I have withheld my business for years from a local indie bookstore that displays this kind of merchandise. I feel that it is in poor taste for a bookstore to "take sides" and it is a poor business decision.

  2. I've lived near Santa Cruz for the better part of my life, Sam, and you're right in guessing that the store's political affiliations are already known to most of the people who might pass by and see something like this in the window. It's just part of the character of the community. Anyway, publicity stunts aside, it's actually a very nice bookstore.

    If California is anything, it's diverse. While this obviously works as a business plan in Santa Cruz, it wouldn't fly at all in the Sacramento area - where I am now - or in many other areas of the state.

  3. I wouldn't shop there, but it's their money and they can run their business as they want. If I were running a business, I'd want to maximize my profit as opposed to promoting my political beliefs (that's what a blog is for). I wouldn't think this would be the best strategy, but who knows? Maybe they actually did some market research and decided this would maximize profit.

    Or maybe they're just not too bright.

  4. Like you, I wouldn't be able to shop there any longer with this stuff staring me in the face....especially when there's plenty of other bookstores to go to.

  5. I agree, Annie...taking sides is foolish unless maximizing number of customers is not a consideration. This is just stupid.

  6. You know, hairpiece, that's exactly the problem. It's probably a very nice bookstore, as you say. But I know that I would feel irritated the whole time I'm inside that kind of store so the solution is just not to shop there. Stupid planning on their part...

  7. Factotum, sounds like they know their market...but I think your last sentence is probably accurate.

  8. Reader23, I agree...and that goes for any store that dumps on Obama and pushes Bush or McCain. I just don't need that stuff when I'm shopping...bookstores should be fun, not irritating.

    Stupid, stupid business plan.

  9. I'd be completely annoyed in that bookstore. I get bothered enough by the crappy political books we sell at my store, but at least we sell it for both canidates.

    I wouldn't step foot in that store. And my problem isn't so much that they support one canidate over another, but why is it necessary to spend so much effort in bashing a canidate (or entire party, as the case seems to be)?

  10. My problem with this kind of thing is that they are not just bashing a candidate or even a whole party - they are bashing me because I don't think like they think. Well, bottom line is that I don't have to spend my money there...or at any story that so directly attacks the other side either, for that matter.

    What they tell me is that they are shallow-minded and have no respect for people they perceive to be unlike them. I'm very uncomfortable when around people like that - bigots who think they are so much better than everyone else and don't recognize their own petty bigotry.

  11. Ah, but they are the Examples Of What We Should Be and you are the Example of A Poor Human Being Who Cannot Reason Correctly.

  12. I run to the liberal side of politics, but anytime a bookstore (or other retailer) whose owners feel the need to display their opinions with its merchandise (or AS its merchandise) my business has been lost. Suppose I don't read the books they think I ought to read? It's a subtle form of facism, is what it is.


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