It easy to sell what you love. I don’t mean that the task is self is any less or more hard than other selling, largely it depends on the person you are interacting with. But, its that its easier on the soul. It feels good to be given the opportunity to sell a product—and when its comes to the numbers on a page, books are a product—that you actually care about, that you believe in, and want to make money that you see go to the publisher (and your bookshop).
When Dubray began the Personal Shopper experience, I was quick to put my name down. Not just because it meant more time selling books and less time with admin, but also due to the fact that physically selling books that they love is the thing that every bookseller loves most about their job.
In the Personal Shopper there is a comfort, from the outset, due to the fact that money has already changed hands. I’m not aching to make a sale, and their not worried about spending too much money. Though, often people do spend extra, but rarely more than they would of on their average trip to a bookshop. And this is manly because of what happens when the two of us sit down.
Maybe, an arrogant part of me, thought that it would be an easy gig. Sixty euro worth of books was a tidy sum, but a relatively easy bill to fill. What I didn’t factor in was book lovers themselves, it never occurred me that I would selling books to someone like me. You know of course what I mean, a book nutcase.
Ironically, “Personal Shopper” is what we call the appointments/customers themselves, I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but oddly it never gets confusing. So, my first ever Personal Shopper, was a man in his sixties who liked history, which I was like, Sound! Current Affairs, I thought, covered! But he loved, and I mean loved, travel writing. “Feck,” I said aloud. My first hurdle. My entire Travel reading, that I can recall at all, is Dervla Murphy, Michael Harding and J.M Synge. I was certain he would have read them and then some.
Thus, my plan was simple, bring as many books as possible, and I brought a lot to have to get through in forty-five mintues. And, I did bring Synge, just in case.
I took him to a nice cafe, one that I used to work in, that is now gone due to construction efforts in Blackrock. We started chatting idly making small talk as was got coffee, and soon I brought out the first book, which he had, of course read. He’d also read the second, and third, and more after that.
I was twenty-seven, he was over twice my age and seemed to have started reading in the cradle. However, this did not stop us talking about those books; from sharing our different perspectives on them. And strangely, I think we both realised, that this entire time we were speaking as if we’d known each a while, not minutes. But, we’ve all always known book lovers are inherent kindred spirits. Soon, we began sharing things from our lives, moments that defined the period when we first read the books. And, eventually I brought out books that he hadn’t read. And, luckily, I had an entire bookshop ,twenty metres away, with even more books.
We finished our coffees, and heading back to the shop where he sat in an arm chair while I wandered around thinking to myself, What would R— really like? As if we were friends, because for those moments we were.
Ever since, this has been my approach; bring too many books, then, after, use the shop to find what they’d really love. Essentially, be their friend, buying them a book. Because; someone who cared about them bought them this gift.
Nearly two years later, I have had people buy the Voucher for themselves. (These one are usually the most craic). I worked with multiple Personal Shoppers at once, multiple ones in one day. I’ve had them last two hours, and one that couldn’t have lasted fifteen minutes. We’ve even introduced a package for children, which is whole different ball game. I’ve cried, they cried (not the kids), there’s been lots of laughing, and once or twice, some warm debate. But, all of these things have happened in my bookshop, and in every bookshop. And, they can happen every day. That’s magic of bookshops, its the magic of bookselling. The Personal Shopper is merely like a guarantee, for you and them, of getting that experience in your day. That amazing slice of human life, that leaves you feeling better, more whole, and maybe a little wiser. That was certainly how I felt after getting to know a person like R—. And, the way I remember it, he bought the J.M. Synge.
(c) Emmet J. Driver
See here for more information on Dubray Books Personal Shopper.