From the ideal reader in the last post to the worst in this one: all too often I see evidence that I don’t have the kinds of readers and customers I want. There’s always been hate email, of course, but I also see signs of something even more poignantly awful: people who actually like what they find here, but for the wrong reasons. For instance, they want to buy my books because they think I’ve got secret knowledge I’m going to share, a miracle cure for their pain (and some are outraged by the “scam” when they can’t find what they were hoping for). I even see evidence that some people seem to buy my ebooks essentially because I “told” them to: because there was a button that said “Buy Now,” so they just did it, like the hapless victims of a Jedi mind trick. “This is the product you are looking for!”
For a few minutes this week, I was a fly on the wall for one of the worst possible kinds of potential customer: someone who didn’t know what he was buying, why he was buying it, how to buy it, or even how to call for help. So how do I know this? Because I received a five-minute accidental voice mail from him.
He called me three times, failing to communicate anything meaningful each time, and then — stumped by the advanced technology of voice mail — he just left the third call open while he continued to talk with his wife about my website and how to buy one of my e-books. He was desperately hopeful, but equally irritated because he had no idea how to get what he thought he wanted. It was shocking. It was heart-breakingly, cringe-inducingly bad. It was like satirical sketch comedy about someone profoundly ignorant, but without any jokes.
I’ve always known that such customers exist, and probably more of them than I want to know, but I’ve been sheltered from the reality of it. Eavesdropping on one of them was a bizarre, disheartening bucket of cold water.
Of course, everyone who works directly with the public sees exasperating customers every hour of every day. The only strange thing here is that I am 99.9% sheltered from it by running a virtual bookshop!