Recently, I had a rather interesting experience [to say the least] at a local bookstore, and I'd like to warn others about this store and its unethical business practices (this is putting it lightly until you read what really happened!).
One day, I was browsing around in 75% Off Books in the Plano Square Mall on K Ave. & Spring Creek Parkway in East Plano (Dallas), TX. I was browsing around and looking for some books for myself since being in the IT industry, I found many computer training books at low prices. Also, I was looking for Christmas presents.
While I was writing down the names of some of the titles for research, a man walked up behind me and said, "Sir - follow me." He turned out to be the store owner, Steve Reid, who owns several other 75% Off Books stores in TX. Because we were just steps away from the rear employee-only area, I followed him. But he just kept walking. I began to think, "What's going on here! Why am I following a stranger! Who is this guy anyhow!" So I stopped and said, "What's this about?"
Well he came back to me and gave me an earful. He told me that I'm obviously a reseller (a new term to me) because I'm writing stuff down, and that I'm not welcome in his store anymore - and that I'm banned! He mentioned something about lawyers, and something about mall security. Out of shock, I really didn't fight back. I guess I was just so dumbfounded that this guy would totally ban me from his store for buying his books. Another thing he mentioned was a sign on the wall that talked about his reseller policy...we'll get to that one in a minute.
After I was banned from the store, I walked out into the mall area. But then I began to think - who IS this guy, and WHY would I be just carte blanche BANNED from a public store! So I turned around and went back to ask him for clarification.
First, I looked at his supposed sign behind the register. It was very small and unnoticable. Not to mention the cashiers NEVER EVER stated the store's policy to me, despite going in there multiple days and buying very small (10 or so) quantities of books on one or two of those days (actually I bought books there for about year with nothing ever said about their store policy). In fact, about a week or so before all this happened, I tried to exchange some books (about 5). The cashier said I could not exchange or return the books, but that I could RESELL them at another store called Half Price Books. Anyhow, the sign NEVER said "Resellers are not allowed." The sign did say, "We reserve the right to ask resellers not to purchase more than 5 computer books per week." NEVER did it say resellers were unwelcome!
So anyhow, I asked the cashier for the store owner, Steve Reid. As he came out, he said, "Yes?" Then I said, "I think I need a little clarification here." With a blank look on his face, he then said, "Follow me." He proceeded to escort me out of his store, and as he did, he grabbed his cell phone and THREATENED TO CALL MALL SECURITY to HAVE ME KICKED OUT!! He also told the cashier that he was calling mall security. Why would he tell the cashier? Is the cashier complicit in this bizarre scheme to have innocent customers kicked out of his store? Anyhow, I told him I wasn't going to cause trouble or steal anything - I just wanted to discuss this issue with him! I'm not a criminal here! I was just buying his books!
As he walked me outside the mall area, he again threatened to call security. He cited his reason for banning me as being upset that some resellers would come into his store and buy mass quantities of books, and that these books would no longer be available for other customers. That's it. That's the reason he banned me. Even though I had JUST ONE BOOK in my hands! I never bought large quantities of books and was careful not to deplete any one kind of book. Not to mention that at times, they were restocking the very same books I was buying on that same day.
I calmly and rationally explained to Steve Reid that I didn't know his rules because they weren't apparent. I asked him if I could come back as a regular customer and let this just be a warning. His answer was NO. Just GET OUT OF MY STORE and NEVER COME BACK. And for what? For giving him some business by buying a few books!!
Here's the clincher. After doing some research, I found that the store owner, Steve Reid, HIMSELF is a reseller!! What retail store out there ISN'T a reseller?! Here's a paragraph from the 75% Off Books Website
"Q: How can you sell new books at these prices?
A: We mostly buy full truckloads of assorted books from publishers. Some of these books are overstocks, some were samples from big trade shows, some are books that were slightly bruised in packing or shipping. We get a substantial discount for buying this way and the publishers get to choose which books that they want to send us. Publishers have to guess at how many of a title to publish and even if a book is a great seller they might print 400,000 instead of the 375,000 that were needed for full price bookstores."
So was this lawsuit material? Was it legal for him to do this to me without provocation? To carte blanche BAN me from his store for no criminal behavior? Here's the answer.
The next day, I contacted the Better Business Bureau. I spoke with two individuals there, both who told me it's his store - his property - and that I really don't have a case here. I spoke to an attorney. He said there's really not much I can do unless he kicked me out for being of another race or being handicapped. Then I could sue for discrimination. And even though he did not abide by his own rules as stated on the sign behind the register, he has the right to refuse business to anyone for any reason. And harassment? Apparently the law does not allow for verbal harassment - only physical! Not unless the harassment was physical!
So although this guy was legally in the clear, I find it highly unethical and strange that he would ban an innocent shopper who was giving him business. But it doesn't quite end there.
Recently, I visited the same mall with a couple of associates who wanted to check out the store for themselves. I sat out in the mall while they were inside the bookstore. They reported back to me that the store owner, Steve Reid, was pretending to arrange books on tables and shelves, but he was really eyeing out customers, most likely in attempts to kick someone else out. Nice guy, huh? Not your friendly store owner greeting people and welcoming them into his store, that's for sure! Rather, he's eyeing out his "suspicious" customers who may or may not be resellers - like a lion - just waiting for that right moment to pounce and kick them out! Boy, he sure must enjoy kicking his cutomers out of his store! He must consider it an important part of his business plan. I'd call it sadistic. He enjoys being the controlling bully, but he's a fool for thinking he'll get away with this in the long term.
So as I was sitting on a bench in the middle of the mall near the vacinity of his store, I saw the bookstore owner, Steve Reid, briskly walking out of his store and into the mall area. I saw that he was looking around. Uncomfortable, I got up and went into a nearby store. I watched out of the store window into the mall area, and sure enough, the bookstore owner had walked down the mall and was now passing the store I was in and on his way back to his store. Was he making sure someone else he had just kicked out was gone? I don't know...maybe so. Did he have his eyes on me? Could be. I don't trust this guy - for obvious reasons. But shouldn't I be able to freely walk around in this mall without feeling intimidated or harassed?
BEWARE: STRONGLY consider avoiding 75% Off Books in Plano, Mesquite, Tyler, Greenville, Gainsville, and both Houston (all TX) stores!! This guy - Steve Reid - owns them all, and he's NOT NICE! Unless you want to relive the infamous "Soup n**i" episode from Seinfeld! "NO BOOKS FOR YOU! YOU COME BACK - ONE YEAR!"
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