Appendix E: Sample Bookstore Complaint Procedure

This procedure was modified slightly from one created by the Great Lakes Booksellers Association. Reproduced by permission.

In the event of a complaint about the appropriateness of stocking a particular item or of its location or merchandising, take the following steps, in order:

  1. Remain courteous, and listen to the customer’s objection.
  2. Examine the facts. Perhaps a book was shelved in the wrong section, contrary to policy. In such a case, simply rectify the situation. However, if the book was shelved correctly, according to normal practice and policies, do not do, or offer to do, anything with it, including temporary removal from the shelves or shifting to another location.
  3. If the book was properly shelved, explain store policy to the customer. Do not, however, engage in an argument or allow yourself to be drawn into trying to justify the presence of specific titles in the store except in the light of the store policy. Also avoid being drawn into giving your personal judgement of the “appropriateness” of inclusion or merchandising of specific titles in the inventory. Avoid being drawn into characterizing specific titles with such highly charged and subjective terms as “pornographic,” “obscene” or “blasphemous.” Notify the manager of the complaint and how you handled it.
  4. If the customer is not satisfied with the explanation of store policy and wants further action or discussion, refer the matter to the manager with a statement such as “I’m sorry, but I am not authorized to take any action on such matters. You’ll have to discuss that with the manager.”
  5. Contact the manager. If the manager is not available, ask the customer to fill out the complaint form.
  6. The manager should attempt to elicit the information called for in the complaint form, or simply ask the customer to fill it out.
  7. After receiving a detailed complaint, the manager should:
    • notify the customer that no change will be made, if that is clearly the right course, or
    • inform the customer that the complaint will be considered and the customer informed of the decision.
  8. Consult with other management – your board, lawyer, the CBA, BPC or other organizations – as appropriate.
  9. Decide on the proper disposition of the complaint.
  10. Make any changes. Notify the complainant of the disposition.