Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Automatic email responses

Morning all!

A book-selling friend of mine who specialises in language books, Marijana Dworska, was recently railing against an email she received from a purchasing bookseller, that was basically treating her as if she was an idiot.

There has been an expansion of mega-lister sellers with barcode scanners, who add hundreds, neigh thousands of unwanted charity shop books a day to their price-comparing databases daily.  Standard descriptions, covering all the bases (may be ex-library; may be marked or highlighted; may not actually be a book) have become the norm, as have standard their email responses.  The business model is based on a light human touch.  Let the database do the work of pricing, comparing to the competition, repricing etc etc.  It's why you see so many common paperbacks on Amazon at 1p.  They are making their money on the postage in these cases.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure most larger businesses use some form of 'standard' template for parts of the emails they send out on a regular basis, but it is just meant to be a starting point in my book.

This standard response, now seems to have transferred to some bookseller's purchasing formats too.  Marijana was initially offended by the tone of the message from the purchasing bookseller's email, but calmed, and retracted.

I penned the following response, which amused her:

Dear [INSERT CUSTOMER NAME HERE] , thank you for contacting us about retract

Unfortunately, despite an outward appearance of a customer friendly website that values YOUR every movement through our system. Fosters' bookshops – purveyors of outmoded educational tools and antiquated entertainment devices, is now run by a central computer, and all responses are determined by our extensive research of what YOU, as a customer want.

We no longer offer a direct contact option via telephone or email, as we have discovered that not staffing those options had an impact on your experience. We're sure you will agree this is an improvement.

If you are contacting us about retract that you ordered, or the rubbish delivery company we have chosen to use because of their cut-price rates, please persist with their hopeless website and similar automated services rather than bother us with the minor details of actually getting the goods to you.

We are sure you have enjoyed this experience, so please fill in the customer response form on the link below, where you will unwittingly have agreed to us selling on your details to a number of spamming companies who will pester you over the coming years.

Thank you for shopping with Fosters' Bookshops, and remember, keep spending the money!

Customer Services


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Aquatic Notes by Bateman and Coombes

Today at 5.55 pm is the 160th Boat Race.

As previously mentioned, we've done a bit of a Thames and Rowing window.  Probably the loveliest thing we have included, is a small, but very scarce item, Aquatic Notes.

It's by John Fitzherbert Bateman and Robert Coombes.  Coombes was a notably distinguished Thames waterman, oarsman and sculler; his first public race took place in 1838. He pioneered the successful use of skill, technique and training, thereby beating men of superior size and strength, and was Champion of the Thames from 1846-1852. His knowledge was exploited successively by the Oxford (1840) and Cambridge (1846, 1849 both races) Boat Race crews. Cambridge asked him to coach again in 1852, but a dispute broke out about the use of professional trainers, with the result that for many years both sides avoided professionals and men of working class origins. 

Sadly, Coombes descended into poverty in later life, and died in the Kent Asylum in 1860. A fine monument to him was raised at Brompton Cemetry by public subscription in 1866.

There is a contemporary owner name in the book of G. B. Forster, L. M. B. C. (i.e. Lady Margaret Boat-Club, St. John's College) George Baker Forster, 1832 - 1901, rowed for Cambridge at the 1853 meeting of Oxford and Cambridge at the Henley Regatta.

It was the sole edition published.  Copac, the academic, national & specialist library catalogues for the UK and Ireland, only locates copies at the British Library, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, and Southampton. Uncommon, the last copy to appear in auction five years ago, made more at Winters auctioneers, after commission, for a stamped ex-library copy that was rubbed, and cracked at the hinges, than we are asking for our copy

Aquatic Notes, or Sketches of the Rise and Progress of Rowing at Cambridge
By a Member of C. U. B. C., With a Letter Containing Hints on Rowing and Training By Robert Coombes, Champion-Sculler
Cambridge J. Deighton 1852
First Edition Publisher's Cloth Very Good Small 8vo.
pp. xi (i) mispaginated, 107 (1, blank). Original dark blue cloth, titled in gilt on upper cover within ornamental frame, spine titled gilt within a gilt blocked oar, matt pink eps, erosion to the head and a small amount of loss to the tail of the spine, otherwise a bright copy.

Pull together


Friday, April 4, 2014

Bookshop Window

Sarah has been at the window again.

This time it's in honour of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race which is this Sunday.

We often have a fair few books on The Thames, it being on our doorstep, and of course the Boat Race finishes at Mortlake, just before Chiswick Bridge.

Pop by and have a look if you get a chance.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Goodbye lobster

Enjoyed having the Lobster in the window for April 1st, along with various silly books.

Sarah's been busy with a new display. I'll take a snap in the morning.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Through the green window ......

Following St Patrick Day on Monday, we still have our Green window in place.

Here it is;

Look what I found while I was digging around late at night.....

A Blog!

I've been so consumed this past year, that I've not even looked at the virtual baby.  So much for 'blog at least once a week'!

What I've been busy with is a major shift in the business.

We are currently moving our internet and catalogue stock over to the Chiswick shop, so that all of that part of the business is in the one site.  The builders and decorators have almost gone, and a week ago we moved the packing and shipping to the Chiswick site.

As we are moving the internet stock to Chiswick, we are going to smooch over to another domain that we own, www.stephenfoster.co.uk as our new permanent online address.

Looking forward to being in the Chiswick shop and offices most days of the week!

Still currently open Tuesday to Saturday 10.30 to 17.30, but as we settle in, we are planning to expand that.

Chin chin


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

So much for regular posting ........

Time accelerates as you get older.

December 2011 since the last post!  That's just plain tardy!  Too much time on Twitter!

We are still here, and despite an obvious slow down in certain areas of the business, things are not too shabby on the business front.

We've been selling our lovely rarer items quite well, and we have also had an interesting range of Library building jobs for far flung parts of the world. We are currently working on one for Thailand, but have recently sent books to Azerbaijan and Nigeria.

Sadly Martha, who worked in the Chiswick shop mostly, has had to go back to the US for a while, but the upshot is that I will now be in the Chiswick shop more consistently towards the end of the week.  Perhaps I'll get some more blogging done........