“Showrooming,” the practice of book shoppers browsing brick-and-mortar stores for volumes they intend to buy on Amazon, is understandably loathed by independent bookstores. One consultant compared it to theft. An employee at a Brooklyn-based store called it “evil.”
In that light, the decision of a used-bookstore proprietor in northern England to charge customers £0.50 ($0.65) just to look at his inventory can be viewed as an unorthodox but justifiable defense against Amazon’s encroachment on local bookstores’ turf. (He refunded the money upon purchase of a book.)
But as all book lovers know, wording is everything. The owner, Steve Bloom of Bloomindales bookstore, is closing the store after his alleged rude behavior toward customers was the subject of multiple complaints to the local government and angry online reviews.
“It’s not even that this man wants to charge 50p to browse his shop. That’s his right,” one online reviewer wrote. “The point is largely his attitude. If you don’t see an issue with him or his attitude may I suggest that you’ve never visited his shop.”
In news reports, Bloom acknowledged that he “doesn’t butter his parsnips” when dealing with members of the public. He is “not really a people person,” and yes, he says, he did once call a customer a “pain in the arse” (but immediately regretted it).
Still, Bloom maintains that his decision to close up had nothing to do with the fact that his unconventional approach to customer service earned him national headlines and a reprimand from his local government as “the bookseller from hell.” He’s just tired of the drama, is all.
“I hope that none of the people who have been trying to drive me out are claiming any kind of victory, because it isn’t. I have left of my own free will,” Bloom told the Guardian. “I will not miss the moaning.”
Quartz has contacted Bloom for comment and will update this post with any response. But vendors, take note: for some bibliophiles, 50p is a small price to pay for the pleasures of a good bookstore.
“I cannot understand the attitude of the people in the previous reviews,” a customer named JeanN-8 wrote. “To me browsing in a wonderful bookshop filled with a fascinating books, maps, postcards & other ephemera is worth 50p any day. You pay far more for a cinema seat with no guarantee you will enjoy the film.”