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Oakland, California, USA

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1816 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612

One of the Bay Area's finest book stores, this place features a wide variety of books on such topics as fiction, poetry, California, and general titles.

What our users are saying about Bibliomania | Rate Bibliomania
My educational background is in Business Management, and I work as a Business Analyst for a major publicly traded technology company. I have studied entrepreneurship and worked in many retail settings (Yes, I've paid my dues), and I must say this store owner's disturbing lack of basic customer service and insulting, control-freak behavior were far from what one would call "textbook" business practices.

While exploring downtown Oakland, my husband and I came across this small, locally owned book store, Bibliomania, and were compelled (as I'm sure many passersby have been) to go inside and admire the impressive vintage book collection. One would assume the inherent purpose of a book store is to sell books to interested customers, but to our surprise (and confusion) our mere presence seemed to provoke an air of anxious suspicion and passive aggressiveness from the female owner.

As first time customers to the store, we were of course fascinated by the wide selection of interesting volumes she had available, and spent approximately 30 minutes there browsing the titles on display. One or two other customers shuffled in and out, but the place was mostly empty, as one might expect on a lazy weekend afternoon. Within a few minutes of us arriving, the owner began to hover over us, reminding us repeatedly the price was located on the first blank page of the book. One reminder would have been sufficient, but instead this woman persisted to pester and monitor us in a way that came across very clearly as, "you're going to actually PAY for something, right?" A few minutes later she scurried over to the section I had been poking through to "clean up" the "mess" I had made, and by doing so implied I had not put the books back in their correct places. Being a somewhat persnickety person myself, I can tell you for a fact that I did not misplace any books - I treated the books gently and put them right back where I found them. At that point, her behavior was decidedly weird, but it wasn't until she very rudely remarked that "just READING the books wasn't going to help her business" that I became completely fed up with her. Really? What kind of business owner says something like that to a customer? A customer with plenty of money to spend, no less.

I told her very bluntly that I was 2 seconds away from leaving her store because I found her behavior to be incredibly rude, but she did not seem to be bothered by that one bit. Perhaps she was relieved. My husband and I left the store, with me admittedly in a bit of a huff. Halfway to the car, I decided that maybe it was just a misunderstanding, so I should return to sort things out, to leave on a nicer note and find out what the problem was. Once I returned, I watched her have a very pleasant interaction with an older gentleman who was purchasing a book he had found the last time he visited her store. So this woman apparently knows how to be nice when you're at the cash register, at least. ($$)

Anyway, I actually led off with an apology and let her know I genuinely enjoyed her store (a compliment), but was confused why it wasn't okay for me to look through her books. Wasn't that, after all, the best way to decide what to purchase? Or should I judge the books solely by their covers? As hard as I tried to be fair with her, the response she gave was just totally wacko. She said she didn't appreciate that I was sitting in the aisle reading books, because I was blocking a "fire lane." Really? That seemed ludicrous, because 1) There was no one else in the store, 2) there were many aisles for people to pass through, and 3) by that definition, just STANDING in the store, narrow aisles and all, could be considered a fire hazard. After we pointed out the silliness of her claim, she flat-out insulted my husband by calling him a "monkey," implying that he was too dumb to put a book back on the shelf the way he found it. My husband is a cultured, well-educated man, but is a person of color, so it is difficult not to construe that remark in a racial context. My typically mild-mannered husband had heard enough, and things escalated from there, she asked us to leave, and that was my inspiration for writing this review.

Everyone gets poor customer service from time to time, and it's typically not worth mentioning. We aren't confrontational people by nature, but this woman clearly had a problem, whatever it was. And even after we tried to understand, she continued to make invalid arguments and insults. I would not want to do business with a person like this, which is why I can't recommend her store to you. It's unfortunate because, truth be told, she has a great collection of interesting books, but unless you want to support this sort of uncalled for behavior, I suggest you patronize a different bookstore.

OR maybe you should go in there and look around, just to piss her off.
Kim at at 10:36PM, 2011/06/11.

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