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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

After watching Cersei's GOT walk of shame on Sunday, I got to thinking: Wouldn't it be nice if LJ had its own rebirth of sorts, and returned to exploring productive ideas on how Barnes & Noble might rebound in the current business climate? Way back when I started posting here, I made the following predictions on how BN might stay viable:

1. Comfy chairs & couches, making the bookstore a destination to relax, read, and have coffee.
2. Expanded Cafe service, including a better menu, and wine bars at certain locations.
3. Smaller on-site book selections, focused on fast-moving titles.
4. In-house POD machines, allowing immediate printing - rather than ordering.

Now, who wants to guess why I'm bringing this up again?


( 50 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 18th, 2015 12:26 am (UTC)
Fuck off you stupid cocksucker!
Jun. 18th, 2015 12:28 am (UTC)
Fuck off, you stupid cocksucker!
Jun. 18th, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
Fuck off, you stupid cocksucker
Jun. 18th, 2015 07:41 am (UTC)
"Now, who wants to guess why I'm bringing this up again?"

Because you're suffering from a traumatic brain injury, and you just can't help it?
Jun. 18th, 2015 04:25 pm (UTC)
I agree with the above four responses
"Now, who wants to guess why I'm bringing this up again?"

Uhmmm.... Nobody?
Jun. 18th, 2015 11:31 pm (UTC)
Comfy chairs and couches are a great idea... in theory. Unless Smithy's volunteered to steam clean them every night, they'll stink of B.O., urine, and farts inside of a week. How quickly we all forgot...
Jun. 19th, 2015 03:39 pm (UTC)
I'd remind Smithback of what he predicted the POD machines would do from this post back in August 2014:

"POD machines allow customers to customize books. For example, if "Watership Down" is your kid's favorite book, you can print a special copy on demand...with your own binding (like our leather bound classics), and you can add a photo of your kid on the cover...an incredible (and non-returnable) gift."

Sorry, that's not how it works. The Espresso Book Machine, which is being tested in three locations -- Union Square in Manhattan, Paramus, NJ, and Willow Grove, PA -- only does books with paperback bindings. No hardback, and certainly no custom leather binding with your kid's photo on the cover.

You're also limited to only those items in the catalog here: http://www.ondemandbooks.com/as/
Hey, guess what... no Watership Down! Their catalog consists of a lot of the same POD stuff we've always been able to order through BookMaster: self-pubbed authors, library scans, cheap hack editions of classic works in the public domain.

For certain things this is actually a really cool machine. But it's not what you predicted, Smithback. So you'll understand if I take your other rainbow-colored unicorn fart-powered predictions with a grain of salt.
Jun. 19th, 2015 09:34 pm (UTC)
We all miss the days when this was a place to share ideas on how to do our jobs better. But then again the current Board is doing such a great job, why not stay the course. Let's review.
1. Let's mail out a brochure reminding our "valued employees" what a great place to work BN is what with all the great benefits and all.
2. Let's beg our "valued employees" to vote their 401 k shares to save "our store" from Ron Burkle.
3. Yeah our "valued employees" came through for us, let's thank them by moving everybody to part time and canceling their health care, nothing says "thank you" like "fuck you"
4. On the other hand let's just get rid of all our long time "valued employees" you know those trouble makers who had a "passion for putting the book in the customers hand", all those .25 cent raises year after year really add up.
5. "We don't want Book People we want Business People"**
6. " This job was never meant to be one a person could support themselves on"**
** Actual quotes from Managers talking points 2010.
7. Let's promote a complete moron like William Lynch to CEO. Why he's just full of ideas. Like making the membership program contingent on automatic renewal and designing the world only tablet that doesn't have a camera or flash player. Brilliant.
Jun. 19th, 2015 09:37 pm (UTC)
Take a long walk off a short pier smithback
Jun. 21st, 2015 09:56 am (UTC)
"In-house POD machines, allowing immediate printing - rather than ordering."

So yeah, unless some customer comes in wanting a POD title, this isn't really a viable option. No major publisher, and none of the medium-level ones either, have made either their frontlist or their backlist available for this sort of operation. So your delusions of customers stopping by the POD machine because we sold out of "Grey" or the latest Patterson aren't realistic either. Until a major publisher opens up their catalog to Espresso, for most stores this machine would be an expensive boondoggle and an unwise use of floor space.
Jun. 22nd, 2015 09:25 pm (UTC)
Regardless of our inability to agree on the specific actions Barnes and Noble should take, I think we all can agree something needs to be done.

Here are my suggestions.

1) Make the store destinations again. I agree with previous posters in regards to the "comfy chairs" lack of viability. However, the stores should focus on more community engagement, author events and even open mic nights. We have made progress in this direction with the new stipulation of author events not requiring books to be warehoused for consideration, but there needs to be a clear directive to invest locally through the CBDM position to bring in customers with more frequent event offerings.

2) If the company truly wants to be a sales company, we need to start acting accordingly. Give rips for selling digital products, put tip jars in cafes and invective selling. Keeping one's job is not invective enough. Show me an actual sales company that doesn't use employee promotions and invectives to drive sales. Furthermore, make the incentives legitimate. Remember the "EGC contest" from last fall where there were literally no prizes for stores or individuals? Actions such as these only have a negative effect and appear to only enrich the upper-level management.

3) Have a clear digital strategy. Seriously..where is this product going? I say scrap the booths/boutiques etc and just put one variant each at customer services. It's a payroll/floor space drain and is completely rudderless.

4) Combine new and renewal memberships into one metric. Cheating is entirely too rampant and there is a culture of cheaters being rewarded while the honest stores suffer. A simple 8%+- store goal for memberships would fix this cheating overnight and give a truer idea of each store's capabilities. Also, we need to double-down on what we offer members. Every year it seems we make the program less attractive for customers. Let's load them up with benefits so we can retain their business.

5) Coach MOD effectiveness. Way too many managers sit in the back all day and seem more focused on how little than can do than on how much they can accomplish in a shift. They need to be out, coaching and truly driving sales.

6) Make bargain 1's and 2's automatically clearance. This would save up so much payroll in scanning box after endless box of 1's ans 2's and keep up from warehousing these items in perpetuity.

7) Healthier options in cafe.

8) Close locations earlier. We lose so much money late at night in terms of shrink/payroll etc. No bookstore needs to be open till 11 on a weekday night.

9) Dial in the bundling system for work orders. We put in facilities requests and nothing happens...for months.

I have some more but I'll stop there.

*The above post in my individual opinion and does not reflect the opinions of Barnes and Noble, its affiliates, subsidiaries or partners.
Jun. 23rd, 2015 01:30 am (UTC)
I had the chance to visit some our east coast stores last month, and what's happening in our company is just...amazing. When speaking to our tech-guys - the folks responsible for integrating the Espresso machines with a network of current websites affiliated with BN - I have to admit I genuinely felt "humbled;" there's far more going on right now than I even imagined, and the first "release" (that is, sign-off of completion) is on track to happen within the next few hours.

I'm pleased that several of you took the time to go through my archives, (Chuckling...that's something even I was too lazy to do). I'm glad you're all having fun, but please don't forget to also dig up my many, many statements on "personal responsibility." My core talking-points have always been consistent, and cherry-picking my posts - though extreeeeemly flattering - will really work a lot better for you, if you strive to be fair & balanced.

And speaking of posters, kudos to the one above me here for your 9 suggestions. No, no-no-no, don't stop with just 9...most of your ideas are right on the money, and corporate needs to hear them. It still pains me to read stories about ineffective MODs, and for what it's worth - in all my travels, and all the stores I've worked in - I rarely find them to be the case in a way that lasts for long. I've always believed that We Listen is a valuable tool for extreme examples, but I also know from experience that most MOD issues are best addressed by realistically/intelligently reaching out to the immediate management structure, starting with a SM - but escalating to the DM/RM if necessary. Like any well-run business, you only face a backlash if you're a tool to begin with.

But going back to my predictions, I challenge everyone not to make statements that are clearly based in fear & anger. I've been angry myself many times - often with the inflammatory idiocy on various anonymous online forums, but even more so with some of BN's hindsight-missteps. Again, all that money wasted with Nook University - UGH. I remember shouting at the BNInside screen last year, when my store was fighting for every payroll dollar as pictures were posted of Len's 8/9/2013 party with Lou Reed. (I have no problem with successful people enjoying the fruits of their labor, but certain things make hardworking booksellers angry - when juggling customers, eplanner, and snooty intranet features). Admittedly, my own attitude has evolved these past few years, but I'm still a bookseller at heart, and I've definitely put in my dues with this company. Granted, those promised Tiffany bookends sure looked sweet, but the glass brick is nice too.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for continuing to respond to my comments from a few months back. Had you not bombarded my email - "Someone has replied to Smithback's post" - I never would have reopened BNLJ, and seen how much I was missed :)

Now, if I may continue to direct this discussion, who out there has first-hand experience with our Espresso tests...or any of my other predictions? Discuss, please. Also, for those of you working hard in our tech departments, what can you share about how everything is tied together? Several (myself included) have mentioned these early machines' immediate shortcomings. What's the plan, Stan? Specifically, how is our current software/systems being set up for dramatic expansion?

Enjoying a glass of wine in a comfy chair, while I wait to hear this :)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jun. 24th, 2015 08:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 1st, 2015 05:20 pm (UTC)
B&N doesn't care about any employees opinions. They want disposable cheap employees that don't rock the boat. This is a temp job so always be looking for other options.
Jul. 3rd, 2015 02:19 am (UTC)
So, Smithback, I'd love to hear your positive spin on the announcement that we're getting a new CEO come September: one Ronald Boire, formerly of such illustrious thriving retailers as Toys R Us, Best Buy, Brookstone, the Sears & Kmart's U.S. operations, and currently the CEO of Sears Canada. With a resume like that, we should all start polishing our own.
Jul. 4th, 2015 01:29 am (UTC)
I don't really see my post as being all that positive. I'm happy my predictions are coming true, but I am disappointed that it's taken BN five years to embrace this new direction.

I'm glad you mentioned Ronald Boire, though. Old retailers like Toys R Us, Sears/K-Mart, and Brookstone are all still in business because they made tough choices. They closed strategic stores, streamlined staff & policies, totally retooled their remaining salesfloors...and most importantly, became competitive online. Their doors are still open. A good chunk of their core staff is still employed. Sure, lots of people lost their jobs, but a good many more...didn't. Sounds to me that a CEO with Biore's history of stabilizing and SAVING companies is exactly what BN needs.

Unless, of course, you'd rather have Borders' last CEO...
Jul. 5th, 2015 01:58 pm (UTC)
The smithback mentality is destroying this country.
Is it enough you destroyed this blog with your know it all smarmy attitude. Now you will destroy this company. B&N needs to fire all the Dm's and corporate types so it can start over. We need more book people and less Smithback types if this company is going to survive.
Jul. 5th, 2015 04:19 pm (UTC)
Re: The smithback mentality is destroying this country.
Guys, how can you not see that we're talking about the same thing? Your desire to fire everyone and start over is just a reckless way of saying "change the goddamn business plan." Why can't you admit that's what BN has been doing all along? Isn't corporate restructuring - and the removal/replacement of antiquated people, policies, and ways of thought - EXACTLY what you're asking for? I will happily be your smarmy scapegoat if it gets your attention, like a babysitter clapping her hands to stop a child from sticking a fork into a light socket.

Honestly, what frustrates me most about folks responding to my posts months after the fact is that their denial is just like cancer. It's like watching someone notice blue moles on their face while looking in the bathroom mirror, but saying "This is the SUN's fault, not mine!" Forget your family's predisposition for melanoma - or the fact that survival requires not only tough medical choices, but acknowledging that your own behavior triggered the cancer gene - WHAT must you do to fix the problem that's literally staring you in the face? Do you blame your doctor? Ronald Biore? Your bookstore's fluorescent lighting? Or maybe it's easier to blame the Smithbacks of the world who have been trying to wrench the goddamn fork out of your hand before you hurt yourself - and in turn, everyone around you?

Children, listen to the adults: We are talking...about...the same thing.
Re: The smithback mentality is destroying this country. - (Anonymous) - Jul. 6th, 2015 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The smithback mentality is destroying this country. - (Anonymous) - Jul. 7th, 2015 03:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The smithback mentality is destroying this country. - (Anonymous) - Jul. 10th, 2015 09:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 5th, 2015 03:13 pm (UTC)
Barnes & Noble can't compete with Amazon and Abe books. The only solution is to go out of business.
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