USA Today reported yesterday that Barnes & Noble is removing the few comfortable chairs they used to have in stores:
On a few recent trips to my local Barnes & Noble, I noticed something odd.
The comfy chairs the store used to have were gone. At first I didn’t think much of it – or at least not until I needed a place to sit and read my prospective purchase. When I asked various store associates about the lack of seating, I was met with responses that were surprising, unsettling and worth exploring more closely.
The employees – albeit not overtly — said Barnes & Noble chose to get rid of its big, cozy chairs to prevent the homeless from loitering in its stores. While they never used the term “homeless,” the employees instead referred to these loiterers as “undesirables,” or even “smelly people.”
At first glance, this story set off my BS detector. The source, location, and other details are unverified, and my experience with B&N's stores (which never had many chairs to begin with) and when I worked retail (I invented justifications for inexplicable policies) lead me to doubt the accuracy of this report.
And the comment over at The Passive Voice that "the chairs usually go about a year to nine months before the store is closed down" offered a plausible alternative. In fact, I was so sure that this was a non-story that I even sent this to B&N so they could do damage control on a bogus story.
I'm still waiting for B&N to respond, but as the afternoon wore on the story has become more and more plausible.
A couple anecdotes have come in that concur with the original story. For example, another B&N customer inferred the same conclusion as the USA Today reporter. From TPV:
This happened in my town also. Though it was not confirmed by an employee, I put two and two together. Homeless people would spend time and sleep in the store, and now the comfy chairs are gone.
And based on the report from an author who had a book signing at B&N, this was not a minor issue in certain stores:
We were assigned an area where chairs and a couch surrounded a coffee table on which my books were on display. My group included a man who had decided to sleep on the couch. As I did a little talk about the novel and answered questions, this man would interrupt again and again, telling us to shut up. Clearly we were in his way and disturbed his sleep. I asked a sales person what could be done and was told, “Nothing,” since the homeless could not be asked to move to another spot.
So at this point it looks like the story is, if not true, at least plausible.
What do you think?
(h\t The Passive Voice)
image by JeepersMedia