Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Reason I Love Indie Business

My mother-in-law used to live in Dover Plains, NY, a small town east of Poughkeepsie. For years, she's been giving me a gift card to an independent bookstore in the area (Oblong Books, in Millerton and Rhinebeck, NY) as a birthday present. We love Oblong, I've been going there pretty much since we got married (it's half a block from where Cathy and I spent our wedding night), so it was a real nice gift, and gave us another reason to visit -- crafty mother-in-law!

But then she moved away from the area! I had this $100 gift card I didn't know what to do with. I finally figured out that it was good at affiliated indies, so I planned to get to the one in Doylestown...and just never got there, even though it's across the street from Stephanie's; go figure! I finally got there about two weeks ago, and learned that the program no longer existed: my card was now only good at Oblong...three hours away.

Crap. So I called the store, and they said, you know, we have a website. How do I use that? Not sure, we'll have someone call you. How about email? That works, so I emailed co-owner Suzanna Hermans about the issue. I had a personal response in under 24 hours: "Thanks so much for your email - we can absolutely take care of this for you!" She walked me through how to apply the card, and said if I wanted to, she'd take the order by phone. Sweet, I was in business.

That would have been great, but...when I finally got around to making the order late last night, I got everything selected, entered the information, and hit the Checkout button -- I got an internal server error. And when I re-loaded, the order was still in the cart, but my card showed a balance of $2 and change. Did the order go through, or not? I emailed Suzanna again.

I got her response an hour ago: send her the card number. I did, and in under 5 minutes, I had her personal response again: "Got it! Your books should be shipping today or tomorrow via USPS Media Mail. Thanks for your patience!"

Suzanna Hermans? Awesome. Oblong Books? Still a favorite, even if they are three hours away. Independent bookstores? Essential, wonderful, a treasure! Please support yours!


Zac said...

I include craft brewers in this category, particularly our local brewpubs. My entire blog is dedicated to exploring indie business in the form of craft beer and indie rock. Nice story and an excellent piece of evidence as to the importance of small, independent bookstores.

Steven said...

If there's one thing in my world that holds bigger interest than trying good beer, it's books -- I love 'em.

Can't walk into a book store without getting my wallet in trouble.

I'll take some time and check out Oblong, they sound pretty cool all around.

Lew Bryson said...

Very much agreed as to brewpubs being in the same category! Local beer, local meat, local produce (completed my directory entry for our new CSA (old one was good, this one is much closer)), local candy, local art...doing what we can!

Oblong's actually even cooler than that: they have an excellent selection of music, and a fantastic kids' section (plenty of fun toys, too).

Ken in NJ said...

Sorry Lew. 99% of the time I agree with you, but I don't see how this can be described as a Win for Independent Bookstores. The amount of aggravation involved in having to cash in that gift card had me thanking anyone and everyone who has ever sent me gift a card from Amazon.