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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Incompetence or dishonesty?

Note to whoever charted the course of Angus & Robertson into administration:

   Thank you for managing your company so badly that you couldn’t see its crisis coming from much further away than you did. Then again, maybe you did see it coming and decided to let someone else take the rap.

   Today I tried to buy a book with a gift voucher that was a present to me from a friend. The local A & R franchisee was unable to honour it, owing to incompetence or dishonesty on someone's part. Mine was a paltry loss, if you can call something like this a personal loss. Mind you, there were gift vouchers to the value of $9 million around the country also dishonoured. That’s seems as close to theft as it gets in my opinion.

   No use blaming your local franchisee. It’s not their fault and there’s nothing they can do about it. I was way more sorry for the one here than for myself.  Last week, they honoured $1500 worth of gift vouchers and then discovered that A&R in the hands of the administrator now refuses to reimburse them. Think of how many books you would have to sell as a retailer to make a PROFIT of $1500. Lots, particularly in a small town like ours. $5000 gross, I'd guess. They worked hard all last week to give A & R a $1500 donation....

   Even worse, the local franchisee told me that just a fortnight ago, A&R allowed them to pay for the renewal their franchise for ten years, and that franchise is now worth who knows what? Nothing, possibly. Poor sods.

   So here's another local business stabbed in the back with little recourse. I imagine they are also under rental contract from their landlords for quite some time in the future, and that will have to be paid regardless of the local business's capacity to trade. Their outlook is bleak indeed.

   Frankly, I don’t know exactly who’s to blame, but if it was someone who didn’t see it coming and didn’t move fast enough to save the franchisees then they don’t deserve the salary and perks they've been getting for years. If it was someone or some group who DID see it coming and deliberately ignored it, they deserve to have their personal assets frozen and suffer along with (or instead of) the people who put their trust in them.

   Yes, times are hard for the printed book trade. But hey, eBooks have been around for quite a long time, and as a manager if you didn’t plan for this change in customer behaviour, then you’re totally incompetent. Not, let me add, are eBooks likely to be the only problem. But what I suspect is that you’ll get off OK while the people who trusted you will foot your bills.

   In the end it’s no skin off my nose, as technically I didn’t actually lose anything, though my friend would be disappointed to know that the gift voucher they paid good money for turned out to be worthless. Not that I’ll tell them, of course, but it’s time the people who should know better and didn’t have integrity or professionalism to deal with it got their comeuppance.

   If you have a gift voucher from A & R, I suggest you frame it as a memento. I suppose they MAY trade their way out of trouble if people need books to read while their houses are being rebuilt, but I am not holding my breath. Even if A & R do survive, it will probably be over the prostrate bodies of a lot of their franchisees.

   Ah, and Borders, the giant bookshop, is also under administration. So the problem is endemic to the trade, yet none seems to have foreseen where it all was heading. Maybe the experts can enlighten us laypersons on what's happening - minus the excuses!

1 comment:

  1. Grr. Disgusting. And, furthermore,the GST should never have been put on books. How can I support my dear local booksellers at **READERS COMPANION** when, through no fault of theirs, books are so much more expensive there than online Book Depository? ie twice or three times the price?? Must admit I don't understand the connotations of all that.Sad about that local A&R too; it's a nice shop.


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