6.10.2005

Engendering trust

There are a lot of things to love about Barnes & Noble. The stores expertly merge the coziness and complexity of an old world bookstore with the efficiency and clarity of a modern retail environment. The store is a wonderland of learning. People browse for knowledge on gardening, travel, self-help, the civil war. You almost feel like "Wow, everyone who shops here is a good person." And then you go, "I'm shopping in here too, I must be a good person!"

I think there's something Barnes & Noble does to make you feel like a good person. They trust you. Here's how: in the entrance to the store, there's the outer doors, then there's that little room with shelves of books, and then there's the inner doors. Inside the inner doors is the scanner.

So those books are just sitting there. How easy would it be to steal one? Ummm, very. No scanner, no sales clerks, the front door two feet away.

But people don't steal them. Why? First, they tend to be lame books that we don't want anyway. But second, I believe that this entranceway engenders trust with the store's patrons. It says "We're gonna put this nice big shelf of books past all of our security measures, and we are still confident that you will come in and shop and pay like a normal person."

The shelves feel almost like a garage sale, or a book fair from my childhood, where everything is laid out, and it's just assumed that people won't steal. Other stores have video surveillance and loud scanners that beep and massive plastic tags on the items. And that's valid - security is a huge issue in the world of retail, where inventory shrinkage is a real problem. But Barnes & Noble manages to deal with security - they do have a scanner, after all - yet still make you feel trustworthy.

If you are made to feel like a thief, you will be more inclined to steal. Likewise, if you are made to feel trusted, you will act trustworthy. Maybe that's why B&N shoppers seem like good people. Within those four walls, at least, they are.

3 comments:

george said...

This reminds me of an experimental grocery store in Germany about 8 years ago (and it was rolled out in England a while back too). The idea was to allow for people to self check their shopping as they went, there by avoiding the lines at the end of the trip. The scanner was a part of the cart.

'Shrinkage' reduced after the introduction.

gone said...

suggestion: since you are in chicago (i'm just outside) you should start hitting up some more unique stores and serve up some more local flavor. i'd love to hear about the furniture and clothing boutiques in wicker park, or some of the ethnic joints in uptown, ukrainian village, or humboldt park. i'd read it and have more to comment, for sure! (just a suggestion, not a criticism...great blog idea)

KayseaLove said...

WOW!! Once again you are so right on your observation. No wonder I love that store and blow my entire paycheck on empty journals... only to have them collect dust on my shelves as I spend countless hours online reading and writing in blogs. (Damn the trust they infuse!!!)