Last month, a woman e-mailed one of our employees asking for a copy of the list. This woman used to live in the area but has since moved out of state, and for a while this employee would send her copies of the list. However, a pattern emerged: the woman would ask for recommendations and for the list, but as best we can tell she never ordered anything from the store. The employee wasn't getting orders through e-mail in response to her recommendations, and there were no records of the woman buying books through our website or any receipts from shipping packages to her. With no proof of purchase, we declined to send her this year's list, citing the policy only to share it with event attendees.
The woman went nuts. She called several times trying to talk to the employee, and when that didn't work she started asking me to send her the list. She had a whole litany of reasons why we should make an exception: she lived out of state so she OBVIOUSLY couldn't attend the preview, she was a long time customer (fact check: you aren't a customer unless you actually spend money at the establishment), she sends her friends in all the time, she loves my boss' recommendations, she's willing to pay the ticket price, etc and so on.
It escalated on Saturday when I sent a response recommending our online holiday catalog and Book of the Year lists as alternatives to the preview list: in the next twenty-four hours she e-mailed twice and called three times absolutely DESPERATE for this list of titles. The boss said I had given her the answer, so I was free to ignore her, so that's what I've done.
Don't get me wrong, the list of books we create is good, but it's not as if there aren't thousands of other lists to get gift ideas from. Her reaction is mind-boggling, to be honest. If a customer makes an annual holiday purchase someone on staff would recognize her name and some sort of paper trail would exist, so it's pretty clear she's not buying the books from us.
I know some people might think, "It's just a list, why not give it to her in the name of good customer service?" Well, she's not a customer of ours and there is no benefit to us of giving her proprietary information. In fact, to do so would cheapen the gift we give to those loyal customers who do attend the previews.
Ah, well. She's not the only person picking our brains and then running off to Amazon. This time of year brings them out in droves.