Ordering books in a Ghanaian bookshop

Despite its appearance as a modern bookshop, the Silverbird lifestyle store in the Accra Mall still does many things in what I would call a fairly old fashioned way.  Recently I had asked if they had a particular book in stock, and unfortunately the young man at the counter was not able to get anything near what I wanted.   I couldn’t see how he did his search though, so wasn’t sure whether he was just looking for what was in stock in Accra, or whether he was looking elsewhere.

I knew the particular book I was interested in had been published in South Africa and therefore figured it would be pretty easy to obtain, especially given all the South African connections at Silverbird.  Nevertheless I carefully wrote out all the details of the books I wanted and took the information with me, figuring maybe there was some sort of electronic system that staff would use to enter suggestions.  I guess I should have known better.  I was handed a rather tattered foolscap exercise book in which I was to write the details of the books wanted, plus my own name and phone number.  After I finished I asked the shop assistant what happened next, and she told me it would take time.  And when I pressed her for a timeline, she told me four months!

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.    The environment is definitely quite slick, but it doesn’t obviously go too deep.  I had already wondered why there was a security system, but the security guard sort of manually checked each bag and ticked the receipt, and on at least one occasion I saw him turning off the security gate!  I have also wondered how the choices for stock were made, and also how items are arranged.   Most of the time it is OK, but there are some surprises, and there doesn’t seem to be an awareness that the very bottom shelves are hidden if not fully stocked.

Maybe one day I will meet the actual manager to talk to him/her from the point of view of a book-loving customer.  I do have a few questions to ask, but I guess the person is not on duty on a Saturday morning?   Couldn’t they have something more than just displays?  Maybe some staff picks?  But do the staff actually read the books in stock or listen to the music or watch the DVDs?  And if staff picks are not an option maybe some reader picks?  Or would this be too un-Ghanaian?

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