Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Scams spams and funny experiences in bookshops

It seems that the other day the staff of Albion secondhand bookshop in Broadstairs managed to go to lunch locking one of their customers in the shop, adding a new and interesting risk to book browsing.

I don’t close my bookshop at lunchtime so I haven’t ever managed to do this, come to think of it though I don’t think Albion used to close for lunch, maybe it’s a sign of the times in retail.

I have been lucky with review copies and reps samples this year so am quite busy with people picking up early and extra cheap Christmas presents, in fact lunch time is generally the busiest part of the day.

With shops at the moment I have to admit that I am finding it increasingly hard to find one to hide in during my lunchtime and other times out and about, what with the cold weather coming on and early forays into what should be Christmas shopping.

This is an increasing problem for someone who doesn’t like conventional shopping, what I like to do is to browse bookshops, antique shops record and cd shops and increasingly they are going.

I am afraid the essential food and clothes shopping that we all have to do, isn’t my idea of enjoyment and as I said it’s a bit cold hanging around outside. There are plenty of charity shop I know but these seem mostly to contain old clothes and books that wouldn’t make it into most secondhand bookshops.

I have a section of this sort of book with prices ranging from 5p to 10p, not much fun to browse though.

Fraid to say one of my favourite shops in Ramsgate the camera shop is having a closing down sale, probably another victim of the internet.

Shopping on the internet though can have its problems, compared to shopping in a shop in the ordinary way, sometimes it seems that one the one hand one saves about 20% of the cost of the item, but on the other hand about 20% of the transactions go wrong.

I think this is more about the scammers out there than anything else, although scamming is moving out into the real world, often scams that have been going on for some time on the internet are now appearing in a non internet form.

One at the moment is the card through the door, saying that the postman has tried to make a delivery, but you were out, this card tell you to ring a premium rate number to arrange delivery.

Call the number and as soon as you start to hear the recorded message you will have been billed for £15.

This one effects me in a roundabout way, due to another sort of internet crime, this one is people who order books from legitimate secondhand booksellers and then say the book hasn’t been delivered, obviously if you are selling a secondhand book, you are only likely to have one copy, so the only thing you can do is refund their money.

We overcame this problem by sending out secondhand books that people had ordered over the internet via sites like Amazon, where you can’t view buyer feedback, by sending the by registered post.

This of course isn’t a problem with new books where you can send them another book, or with sited like Ebay where you can view the buyers feedback.

Other internet scams are moving onto the phone, I heard of someone recently who was phoned up concerning a compute virus that they were supposed to have, having removed some essential files from there computer, they then bought some supposed anti virus software that did even more harm to their computer.

I should point out that there is very good free anti virus software available online and also if anyone directs you to your computers error log, the indeed you will be able to see files that have had errors.
Well despite the imminent closure of the camera shop a new florist http://www.thesecretgardenflorist.co.uk/ is opening, I am afraid that a florist won’t really do it for me though.

What has happened to the independent shops and what I do when I go out for a bit of relaxation during my lunchtime is of considerable concern to me and I am beginning to think that it is the internet that that has tipped the scale here.

The factors that have lead to the demise of our towns are pretty mixed, out of town shopping centres haven’t helped, form the bookselling point of view though and speaking from my own perspective, in many cases they can’t compete either on price or range in some areas.

Another factor here is the increased cost of shop buildings and as I said the other day this hasn’t been helped by the way housing benefit has raised the value of housing that no one particularly wants to live in.

This is an old problem really, it comes up in many areas when the government pays for something for people, you often don’t get value for money when the consumer isn’t doing the spending.

Whatever the pros and cons much of the shop property on the edges of our town centres has been turned into undesirable housing.

It is when you add all of these factors together that things really start to go wrong.

Here in Ramsgate I don’t think that it is a problem with the underlying prosperity, as the independents selling things that you can’t easily buy via the internet seem to be doing OK.


  1. Niche marketing is ok Michael but lends itself too the internet as by very nature not everyone wants or need it. Thats where the internet is so good offering a market place for those who would otherwise struggle in a High street setting. And there we go taking another retailer out of the High Stree. The whole shopping experience is so different know even from that of say 20 years ago. Perhaps we have gone from a nation of shopkeepers to a nation of Internet shopkeepers.??

  2. Don I think underlying this problem is that a great many people selling on the internet don’t need a proper working wage, either they already have a full time job or are receiving various benefits that they wouldn’t be able to claim if they were running a shop.

    The difficulty here is if you declare your income in an honest way, so you pay the right taxes and only claim the benefits that you are entitled to.

    I sometimes get the feeling that most of the problem revolves around competing with a grey to black economy.

    But really the problem here is where to hide oneself at lunchtime in the cold weather, at the moment I find I am leaving the shop full of people having a relaxing browse in one of the quiet corners of the bookshop and am running out of any more interesting places to go.

  3. I would have to agree about the demise of the specialist shops. One I used to enjoy was the diecast model cars and trains shop up the Margate Road. Both the stamp shops, that lasted from my childhood to my retirement, have now gone and the old style genuine junk shop is no more. Well, there is certainly junk out there but not the kind where you find that long lost Ming vase.

    I suppose ebay, boot fairs and the exorbitant costs of running a well sited shop business all contribute though I do not subscribe to the notion it is all down to out of town shopping. That hardly effects the little specialist shops for, though the superstores do everything from TVs to fresh fish, they don't do old books or Dinky collectables. Guess the turnover on such retail items will no longer support the potential costs. Sad!

    Anyway, as long as folk like Michael keep going there is still somewhere to go (though I kind of wish my wife and daughter had not found the place for it is costing me a fortune and we need another bookcase to boot).

  4. Bluenote I stay clear of Michaels for that reason My wife wont let me go in because I would be like a kid in a sweet shop.Browsing in record shops and bookshops was one of my great delights unfortunatly its not the same in a wheelchair. I will get to see you Michael honest.

    Shops unfortunatly are an expensive commodity. And competing on a level playing field would be nice Michael. A friend was saying last weekend his turnover goes up at boot fairs when its too cold for those on Benefits to stall out. He is a general secodhand trader doing house clearances auctions markets and bootfairs, He had to give up his shop because it became to expensive.

  5. Bluenote Don, I really don’t know the answer to the problem of small shops closing, it’s something I give a great deal of thought to that result in few ideas.


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.