I am (–or used to be) a voracious reader. When I was younger, I was an avid collector of various ‘pocketbook’ series: Sweet Valley, Buffy, Harry Potter, etc. And now that I am a great food enthusiast, I look for cookbooks, magazines, and humor. So, naturally, I lived and breathed National Bookstore. It was almost impossible for me to describe my delight when I got to go there every couple of weeks to pick out the book of my choice.
Unfortunately, I don’t have so much time to read now. But when I do try to buy a book, I get dismayed by the fact that NBS isn’t what it used to be. –I could be wrong though, perhaps I don’t remember the way things were and that that is really how they’ve run things since the beginning.
The service isn’t so helpful. Yesterday, I was in the Robinson’s Galleria branch, not knowing what to get. I found the database computer (the one in the middle of the room, not behind a the customer service counter) unmanned, so I decided to look for the poetry books myself by typing the word ‘poetry’ on the search field. The results came out, and I browsed a list of books from both international and local authors alike. A moment later, I found the middle-aged saleslady standing behind me looking rather impatient.
Saleslady: Ano po ‘yon? (What is it?)
Me: I’m looking for a book of poetry, but I haven’t really decided what to get. Do you have Filipino poetry books?
Saleslady: Foreign authors lang po meron namin. Walang local dito. Doon po. *points to something at the bottom of 3 shelves away, serious look still on her face* (We only have foreign poetry authors. No local ones. Over there.)
Me: Ok. Thank you.
*Note that the computer database said that there were several local poetry books.
Funny enough, today I found myself in the Main branch of NBS with a friend who was looking for a book from the Filipiniana section. I asked the cashier ladies to help me out, since there was no line on that floor and they weren’t doing much. The cashier searched her computer briefly and said, “Paki check na lang po doon.” *points to shelves of the Filipiniana section* (Please check there.)
I know people don’t really try to make it an issue in the Philippines and maybe it’s because NBS is a supposedly simple and no-frivolities/it’s-all-there bookstore, but the service is really lacking when compared to Fully Booked where friendly members of the staff go as far as to personally lead you to the right shelf and pull the right book out.
Also, I’ve noticed that NBS Ali Mall isn’t categorized all that well. I thought it was because of the renovations they recently did to the store, but it’s been a couple of months and books of certain categories are still not organized according to the author’s last name. It sounds so geeky of me, I know, but imagine looking for a CD in your favorite music store and finding out that they don’t even bother to sort according to the artist name. Wouldn’t you be upset too?
Update May 17, 2011:
I went to NBS Market! Market! on Sunday (May 15) because my mom needed some white pencil things. Upon arrival, I decided to take my chances in looking for a book that I wanted to read, so I asked a nearby salesgirl to point me in the direction of the Filipiniana section. Instead, she asked for the title of the book I was looking for. I was pleasantly surprised, since the service seemed promising. And then, the kicker: Apparently, the whole Filipiniana section was “displaced” (i.e. not in their proper shelves).
I gave her the title and she proceeded to the customer service section, while I stood there waiting and found another computer database close to where I was standing. Upon checking, I found that, this time, the computer was for customer use because of the fancy, user-friendly lay-out.
According to the computer, my book could be found in Shelf No. 9. Alas, because of the displacement, the idea of Shelf No. 9 was a myth. The salesgirl eventually came up to me and looked at what I was looking, and we both saw that the book was out-of-stock. I asked her to point me to the Filipiniana section, nonetheless, since I figured that I might as well see if there were other titles that would interest me. She smiled apologetically and pointed to the general fiction section… Ah, there it was, the Filipiniana section wedged between some Neil Gaiman books and other general fiction books.