Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 23, 2018


St. Martin's Press: Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Waste of Space (Moon Base Alpha) by Stuart Gibbs

St. Martin's Press: Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

Shadow Mountain: Ashes on the Moor (Proper Romance Victorian Series) by Sarah M. Eden

St. Martin's Press: Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles #1) by L. Penelope

Other Press: Eventide by Therese Bohman

Quotation of the Day

Book Trade: 'This Great Labor of Love & Faith'

"When all else is gone, it is stories that can save us. Ambiguity and complexity are at the heart of human condition and now more than ever we need writers to remind us of this.... We are the custodians of empathy, the gateway to otherness. [It is writers who can show] how it feels to be someone else, or to believe something else. This sometimes horrifies us, but it is the best books that take us to these places.... Long live stories, the written world and the publishers who believe in it and booksellers who press it into hands of readers, agents who help writers up and everyone else engaged in this great labor of love and faith."

--Writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson in her keynote speech at the Scottish Book Trade Conference in Edinburgh (via the Bookseller)

Disney-Hyperion: Willa of the wood by Robert Beatty


News

Elliott Bay Book Company Landing Next Year at Sea-Tac Airport

Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash., plans to open a bookstore at Sea-Tac Airport in 2019 in association with the Hudson Group. Located on the C Concourse, the store will feature "our staff recommendations, bestsellers and our beloved Northwest authors and titles as well as the latest releases you can grab when making your next connection," said Elliott Bay general manager Tracy Taylor.

The Hudson Group has similar joint airport relationships with other independent bookstores, including Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.; Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif.; Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo.; and Bookworks of Albuquerque, N.Mex. Hudson and Hudson Booksellers have locations in more than 80 airports and other transportation centers across the country and offer a wide selection of books.

The Port of Seattle, which operates Sea-Tac Airport, has been putting an emphasis on adding local and women- and minority-owned businesses, particularly food retailers. "From kiosks to in-line stores, we are excited to offer customers more choices for dining and retail at Sea-Tac Airport, to build a platform for local chefs and shop owners who celebrate the Pacific Northwest, and to recognize equity and sustainability practices that passengers can feel good about supporting," Port of Seattle Commission President Courtney Gregoire told South Sound magazine.


Soho Crime: Death Comes in Through the Kitchen by Teresa Dovalpage


The Brain Lair Bookstore to Open in South Bend, Ind.

The Brain Lair Bookstore will open this November in South Bend, Ind., "selling high-quality titles for children and young adults that foster inclusivity, empathy, and community," Bookselling This Week reported. The store name is an anagram for "The Librarian," as well as the handle for owner Kathy Burnette's social media accounts and blog. Currently she is working on setting up a series of local pop-up shops, including one on April 28, Independent Bookstore Day.

"Connection leads to trust leads to empathy. Inclusive books are important for all of us because we value and absorb the things we read and hear," said Burnette, who has worked for 16 years in the city as a teacher/librarian. "The more we learn about each other, the less we fear the unknown. The Brain Lair Bookstore will allow me to start with diversity but focus on inclusivity....

"I've also been looking at a lot of what We Need Diverse Books is doing, as well as this nonprofit that's looking to publish new indigenous voices. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and most of the books we had in school did not represent who we were. I was lucky I could still find role models, but I think because we are so isolated today, kids need to see themselves in books so that they can have something aspire to."

Kathy Burnette

The Brain Lair will offer a few adult books and some non-book items. It will donate books to local groups, pursue volunteer opportunities, offer discounts to teachers and college students, develop a reading wellness campaign, make connections with local schools, and host community events, BTW noted. Burnette also wants to launch a teen festival and hopes to host workshops to introduce local teachers to diverse books they can teach in their classrooms.

Burnette recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000, about a third of her startup costs. She currently "has a few locations in mind for the store and will work there full-time once it opens, first with two volunteers from the library and eventually with paid employees," BTW wrote. She also plans to attend the Paz and Associates Bookseller Boot Camp retreat in August and has applied for a scholarship to Children's Institute in June.

"I'm hoping my store will become a place where people just come to hang out," she said. "I'm looking to create something that provides more of an experience because I think people are looking for more of that now; they want to get out from behind their computers. I'm hoping I can create a place where people can bring their families and hang out and I can talk to them and get to know them."


University of Nevada Press: Across America and Back: Retracing My Great-Grandparents' Remarkable Journey by Mary Ann Hooper


Update: Volumes Bookcafe Nears $25K on Indiegogo

An Indiegogo campaign created earlier this month by Kimberly and Rebecca George, sisters and co-owners of Volumes Bookcafe in Chicago, Ill., had reached $24,785, or about 41% of funding, as of Thursday afternoon. The George sisters still have another month left to hit their $60,000 goal.

The sisters started the campaign in order to ensure the store's survival in the years ahead, after incurring heavy costs leading up to and since the store's opening in March 2016. According to the Chicago Tribune, those costs included a "$20,000 heating and cooling upgrade" and "countless, costly plumbing fixes" for their building, which dates back to 1883.

As part of their efforts to raise $60,000, the Georges have enlisted the help of authors both local and national. The Tribune reported that Roxane Gay has donated two bundles of signed books and poet Eve Ewing performed a live preview of her new work. Other writers who have also contributed include Jonathan Eig, Audrey Niffenegger, Julia C. Johnson and Renee Rosen.

Looking ahead, Rebecca and Kimberly George plan to create a community supported bookstore program, based on the same principle as a CSA, and to begin publishing literary anthologies. The first such anthology, Bookstore Erotica, will be released this spring and is among the rewards for campaign backers.


Shelf Awareness Giveaway: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Pan Macmillan Debuts Independent Bookshop Innovation Award

Pan Macmillan has unveiled the Independent Bookshop Innovation Award, which will give seven indie bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland £1,750 (about $2,440) each "to launch a 'new and innovative project' in their store, with those focusing on community outreach or supporting new readers particularly encouraged," the Bookseller reported.

Qualified booksellers may submit a project for consideration that is either based in-store or in conjunction with a local community partner, and while it can be specific to a particular genre, it must be related to books. Submissions for the award are now open, with a May 18 deadline. A shortlist of stores will be announced June 15, and winners named September 10 during the Booksellers Association Conference in Birmingham.

"Macmillan turns 175 this year and we want to commemorate in particular the entrepreneurial spirit of brothers Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, who founded the business in 1843 by opening their own bookshop, before becoming publishers," said Pan Mac managing director Anthony Forbes Watson. "Macmillan's oldest partnership is with booksellers and we will acknowledge this special bond with the launch of the Macmillan 175 Independent Bookshop Innovation prize, which celebrates our bookselling partners today, who continue to help us find new ways to bring authors and readers together."


Notes

Image of the Day: Beloved Dog

In honor of the paperback publication of Maira Kalman's Beloved Dog, Penguin Press held a contest: submit the most adorable photo of your beloved dog on Facebook; Kalman then selected one lucky winner to have its portrait painted. The winner is George, submitted by Heidi Abrams of Shaker Heights, Ohio. George was deemed best-in-show for his pleasant disposition when faced with extreme winter gear.


Cool Idea of the Day: McNally Jackson's 'How NOT To Summits'

To "shake things up a bit," McNally Jackson Williamsburg in Brooklyn is launching its "How NOT To Summits" on February 26 with "How Not to Write that Novel: Michael Cunningham with Billy Hough.

The events coordinator for McNally Jackson, Hough is also a downtown cabaret star (Scream Along with Billy), film actor (Rampart, Time Out of Mind) and ex-punk rocker (the GarageDogs). The bookstore noted that as a writer and performer, he "realizes that most of the great lessons come not from successes, but from mistakes.... Interviewing some of the most brilliant and successful writers in every genre, the questions and conversation will tend toward common mistakes young writers make--both in composition and in business. Expect some honest recounting of early disasters (amid successes) in these writer's lives and careers."


Chelsea Green Moves Warehouse Operations

Chelsea Green Publishing has moved its warehouse operations to Books International. Effective immediately, its returns address is: Chelsea Green Publishing, c/o Books International, Attn: Returns Dept., 22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, Va. 20166. Returns will no longer be accepted at the old warehouse in New Hampshire after March 31. The office/remittance address in White River Junction, Vt., remains the same.


Personnel Changes at DK

Effective today, Kristen Fisher is joining the U.S. public relations team at DK as associate publicist. She started at DK over two years ago and most recently was marketing & PR coordinator.



Media and Movies

TV: White Fang

Netflix picked up the animated feature White Fang, based on the Jack London story, and is planning a 2018 release, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. Directed by Alexandre Espigares, who won an Oscar for his 2014 animated short, Mr. Hublot, the project's voice cast includes Rashida Jones, Eddie Spears, Nick Offerman and Paul Giamatti.


Movies: On Chesil Beach Trailer

A trailer has been released for On Chesil Beach, based on Ian McEwan's book. IndieWire reported that "just when audiences are clamoring for a contemporary Saoirse Ronan since her Oscar-nominated turn in Lady Bird, the Irish actress is anchoring another period drama, and it's not as heartwarming as Brooklyn. Ronan has an affinity for the British writer Ian McEwan, whose novel provided the source material for her first Oscar-nominated role in Atonement."

The film also stars Billy Howle (Dunkirk) "in a 'revelatory' turn opposite Ronan," as well as Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough, Emily Watson and Samuel West, IndieWire noted. Bleecker Street will releases On Chesil Beach in select theaters May 18.


Books & Authors

Awards: Lukas and Lynton; International Arabic Fiction

The shortlists for the 2018 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Mark Lynton History Prize, sponsored by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, can be seen below. Winners and runners-up will be announced March 27 and be presented at a ceremony on May 10 at Columbia.

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award:
Soul Full of Coal Dust by Chris Hamby (Little, Brown)
Eyes in the Sky by Arthur Holland Michel (Eamon Dolan Books)
No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury)
Lightning Flowers by Katherine E. Standefer (Little, Brown)
The Trials of Barbara Briggs by Susan Vinocour (Norton)

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize:
American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee (Crown)
Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (Norton)
Janesville by Amy Goldstein (Simon & Schuster)
The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham (Crown)
The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe (Scribner)

Mark Lynton History Prize:
The Thin Light of Freedom by Edward L. Ayers (Norton)
Ali by Jonathan Eig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Evangelicals by Frances FitzGerald (Simon & Schuster)
Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser (Metropolitan Books)
Stalin by Stephen Kotkin (Penguin Press)

---

A shortlist has been revealed for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The winner will be announced April 24, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted authors receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner. This year's finalists are:

The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah (Palestine/Jordan)
The Frightened by Dima Wannous (Syria)
The Critical Case of "K" by Aziz Mohammed (Saudi Arabia)
Heir of the Tombstones by Walid Shurafa (Palestine)
Flowers in Flames by Amir Tag Elsir (Sudan)
Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi (Iraq)


Reading with... Kimmery Martin

photo: Stephen B. Dey

Kimmery Martin is an emergency medicine doctor, born and raised in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. A lifelong literary nerd, she reviews books, interviews authors and works extensively with the library foundation in Charlotte, N.C., where she resides with her husband and three young children. The Queen of Hearts (Berkley, February 13, 2018) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

I keep a minimum of five books going at a time: one on my e-reader, one to read in the bathtub, one to read in bed, one in my car in case I break down and one to read during meals. (I cannot recommend this last location, however, because it leads to catastrophic overeating.) I'm reading the following: The Night Child by Anna Quinn; Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson; Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home by Lara Lillibridge; Heartfelt Prayers for Your Life Today by Robert Winfield Shaffer; and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. And I just picked up The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, so that will be my next read.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Eloise by Kay Thompson. Okay, so Eloise is not your typical wholesome childhood role model. She's the personification of trouble, employing her vivid imagination to wreak havoc at New York City's Plaza Hotel, where she lives in merry autonomy with her nanny, her dog and her turtle. I absolutely wanted to be Eloise when I was a child. I still kind of do.

Your top five authors:

Tom Wolfe: Wolfe is wordy, but he's a genius at describing a scene, especially if you're partial to wry, witty commentary. He can spend two pages on a guy eating a sandwich, and you're glued to each word in amused fascination. The Bonfire of the Vanities, his quintessential saga of '80s era Wall Streeters, is a cultural masterpiece. Perhaps more than any other book, it influenced me to become a writer.

Bill Bryson: It's hard to overstate my admiration of Bill Bryson. He's a straight-up genius, able to unearth some overlooked smidgeon of history and wring fascinating relevance out of it. He writes about the coolest things: science and history and travel. Also, he is funny and curmudgeonly and unafraid.

J.K. Rowling: Because how could I not? I've read each of the Harry Potter books aloud separately to my children and never fail to be awestruck at her boundless creativity. Plus: the tweets.

Donna Tartt: While I'm happy Donna Tartt finally got the recognition she deserves with The Goldfinch, I think her other novels outshine it. Particularly underrated is The Little Friend, which I think is one of the best novels ever written. 

Neal Stephenson: Science-y and brilliant. If you're looking for an insanely good thriller, try Reamde. It's 1,000 pages long and has a weird name, but don't let that deter you. All his books are different and all are a manifestation of rare brilliance.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't know if I've faked reading a book but I've definitely faked remembering books I've read. For instance, I have no idea what The Catcher in the Rye is about, even though I've read it at least twice, so when people gush about its significance, I just nod wisely while repeating the tail end of their sentence.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku. I'm a selfish evangelist, because I have to overcome my reluctance to loan this book out in case it doesn't come back. But I've also been known to accost random people and tell them about it at length: I bring it up in financial planning meetings, in the grocery line, in the middle of Girls Night Out. The things described in this book are so remarkable, so game-changing, so utterly crucial to know that I cannot understand why everyone isn't discussing it all the time. Kaku is a theoretical physicist, but don't let that deter you: he writes in prose lucid enough for a normal person to comprehend. What he writes about in POTF is trippy beyond my powers of description. All his books are stellar (pun intended), but this one, about the coming technological changes our society faces, is in a universe of its own.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I pay little attention to covers because I'm not much of an impulse book buyer. I plan out my book purchases with lavish and nerdy detail, scouring lists and websites and magazines for recommendations. If an intriguing book makes its way onto my radar, I buy it no matter what the cover looks like. That being said, I treat my books like art--sometimes I rearrange them by jacket color or I prop up an especially gorgeous one in a place of honor. 

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm going to respond to a slightly different question on the grounds that I still don't want my mother to know about the inappropriate books I read as a teenager. So instead, how about this: as a toddler, whenever I heard the sound of a car coming up the driveway, I'd fling all my books under my crib and crawl on top of them in case someone was coming to steal them.

Book that changed your life:

Homer's Odyssey, because its timeless themes of homecoming, honor, glory and righteous wrath resonated deeply with me in my formative years. Just kidding. The book that actually changed my life is Patriot Games by Tom Clancy, which I read in college. This might seem like an odd book to inspire a literal shift in the direction of one's entire existence, but bear with me. The important thing about Patriot Games is that the protagonist is married to a badass female surgeon who impresses everyone from stone-cold terrorist killers to CIA men to the Queen of England. After finishing it, I saw no reason why I too should not be a badass surgeon and I decided to apply to medical school. Needless to say, quite a lot of effort and maturation had to occur on my part before I became a physician, but I got there in the end. Thank you, literature.

Favorite line from a book:

Oh, how I agonized over this question: it is so hard to choose just one! Many of my favorite lines from books tend to be on the snarky/goofy end of the spectrum, but in the end I decided on a line from Sophie's Choice by William Styron:

"Mercifully, I was at that age when reading was still a passion and thus, save for a happy marriage, the best state possible in which to keep absolute loneliness at bay."

Five books you'll never part with:

Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love by Hope Jahren. A lot of the books I love the most are written by scientists, or scientifically minded people. Her memoir about her adventures in botany--and friendship--is as exquisite as her intellect.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. If you like reading about family dysfunction portrayed with a keen and lacerating wit, this is the book for you.

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky. I would have thought I already know about living among baboons, because I have an 11-year-old son with a bunch of friends. Ha. I would be wrong. Sapolsky's humor, obsession and brilliance shine through every page of this touching account of his decades studying primates in the Serengeti.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. Raise your hand if you understand the intricacies of what caused the banking meltdown of 2008. No? Well, you should, and Michael Lewis is the man to explain it, because he will make it comprehensible, and also--miraculously--interesting.

Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley. It's a quick read, but for some reason I'm endlessly attracted to Buckley's caustic skewering of American spin doctors. It's satirical, it's wicked, it's decidedly non-PC and it's funny as hell.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Bridget Jones's Diary. Gah! Loooove Bridget Jones. She's so irrepressible, so adorable, so perpetually clueless--although obviously also very smart. This book makes me happy even now, but I spent the entirety of my first read convulsed in helpless laughter and suffused with sappy love.


Book Review

Review: Anatomy of a Miracle

Anatomy of a Miracle: A Novel* by Jonathan Miles (Hogarth, $27 hardcover, 368p., 9780553447583, March 13, 2018)

Cameron Harris, the protagonist of Jonathan Miles's third novel (after Dear American Airlines and Want Not), is in need of a miracle. And Anatomy of a Miracle is the funny, clever, moving story of this Biloxi, Miss., vet who returns from Afghanistan paralyzed from the waist down.

On a trip to the Biz-E-Bee convenience store for cigarettes and beer under the watchful eye of his mouthy sister, Tanya, Cameron's four years in a wheelchair come to an abrupt end when a surge from within propels him upright and walking. Told in a long journalism format, Anatomy of a Miracle reconstructs this inexplicable medical event from the before to the more bizarre after. It is a remarkable combination of medical mystery, satire and war story. Like Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, it captures the long-lasting effects of war by focusing on those for whom war is only a tangential thing somewhere far away.

An odd place for a miracle, the rundown Mississippi Gulf resort town of Biloxi "doesn't mind the smell of fish guts." When word of Cameron's recovery spreads, the town is swarmed with religious kooks and pilgrims. The local Catholic priest, who's built his parish "like a cowboy: galloping hard to drive his herd forward, hooting at the stragglers, lassoing the wayward," is one of the first to visit Cameron and cajole him into attending Mass. He's a subscriber to the "Toyotathon school of miracles: that every so often God performs a miracle as a means to fill the pews."

Besieged by the horde of tourists, the Vietnamese immigrant owners of the Biz-E-Bee fill their shelves with religious knick-knacks--although this runs off the regulars who refuse "to wait in a line five-deep to buy a can of chew... [and] walk past someone kneeling on the asphalt speaking in tongues." Even a Hollywood reality TV producer comes knocking after successfully pitching studios: "You've got your God s**t. you've got your war vet stuff, you've got America." Amid all this hubbub, Cameron's skeptical VA doctor combs the medical records to uncover the scientific reason "this one boy managed to switch his transmission out of park."

While Miles can be canny and hilarious about the absurdities of all this miracle whoop-de-do, he also steps back to explore what it might mean if one's life were suddenly changed from hopeless dependency to the freedom to be "normal" again. The backstory of Cameron's difficult life and war years are revealed through the painstaking investigation of a "miracle verifier" sent by the Vatican. Cameron and Tanya were on their own after their father ran off and their mother was killed in a car wreck. They cobbled their shotgun house back together after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Biloxi coast. A high school outcast, Cameron buried his troubles in the predictability of the military, until his life was blown apart. Although he gets a miracle he never expected, Cameron finds that a return to "normal" is not all it's cracked up to be. After the laughs subside, Anatomy of a Miracle leaves one pondering all the "what ifs" in life. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: In Jonathan Miles's third novel, a wheelchair-bound Afghan War vet stands and walks--only to find that this "miracle" has its downsides.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: At the End of the POS Line with the Last Chocolate

"Endings help us energize and elevate," advised Daniel Pink, author most recently of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, during his excellent keynote at this year's Winter Institute. I only bring that up because a couple of things that happened recently have reminded me to think again about "the last chocolate."

Daniel Pink

Pink cited a University of Michigan study in which an intriguing taste test was conducted at the student center. Members of Group 1 were given a Hershey's Kiss and told: "Please taste it and rate it on a 1-10 scale," followed by "here's your next one, here's your next one, here's your next one, here's your next one. Now you get five, though you don't know how many you're going to get in advance."

Group 2 was also given five candies in the same sequence, but before the fifth was distributed, Pink said they were told "here's your last one.... the only difference is the fifth one is described as the 'last one' and the other is only described as the next one. Does the fact that you identify that one as the last one affect opinion?"

He then displayed a chart showing the dramatic difference: "They rate them the same until they get to the fifth one. Whoa! People love that last chocolate. They love it more than any chocolate they've ever had. More than any chocolate anybody's had. Because given a choice, people prefer endings that elevate.... Highlight the last chocolate. I think there are a lot of opportunities for retailers to use this last chocolate phenomenon."

Pink's last chocolate theory may have come back to me because a week ago, on the same day I stood at the end of a typically epic Department of Motor Vehicles line, I also read a Forbes article by Michael Blanding headlined "People Have an Irrational Aversion to Being Last in Line."

Outside of the holiday season (Black Friday to Christmas Eve, give or take a post-holiday blowout sale on cards and calendars) and the occasional Harry Potter-like release frenzy, bookstores are not places where people tend to create massive lines at checkout counters. In my experience as a former bookseller and lifelong customer, I've observed two key patterns:

  1. Well-designed POS areas place an emphasis on the fluid movement of customers in their transition from browsers to buyers. Lines are short, if they exist, and frontline booksellers are attuned to the needs of their patrons--and colleagues--in facilitating a positive checkout experience.
  2. As a customer, I act much differently in a bookstore checkout line than I do at the supermarket, or DMV for that matter. I'm more patient. After all, I have--or should have--a book or two in my hands. I can read while waiting. And I do.

There are exceptions, of course, and not all POS areas are designed for efficiency. We do have our horror stories, booksellers and customers alike. And otherwise rational humans were gullible enough to wait in long lines outside Seattle's new Amazon Go store in order to experience the thrill of line-free checkouts. Irony lives!

"Nobody likes being last," Blanding wrote in Forbes. "We avoid picking the cheapest wine on the menu or the final donut in the box." (Daniel Pink might suggest calling it the last donut in the box.) He cited the work of Harvard Business School professor Ryan Buell, who said, "Humans are very social creatures, and we are driven to compare ourselves to others. When we are feeling bad, one way we cope is by comparing ourselves to people who are worse off than we are.... Every line has an end and there is an identifiable person who occupies it. They know they're last and everyone around them knows it as well." His paper, Last Place Aversion in Queues, investigates how operations can be designed to better engage their customers, and how operational choices affect customer behaviors and a company's performance.

Noting that by one estimate Americans wait in line 37 billion hours a year--118 hours for every person--Blanding wrote: "Rationally, you might think that the only thing that matters during those times is what's going on in front of you--how fast the cashier is ringing up customers, say, or how many tellers there are at the bank counter."

According to Buell, however, people are also concerned with what's happening behind them, especially when no one's there: "What seems to be driving this is our inability to make a downward social comparison. If I can't look behind me and see someone else is willing to wait longer than me, I start to question whether waiting in line is worthwhile."

After conducting a series of experiments regarding how being last affects consumer behavior, he concluded that being last in line had significant implications, and he recommends that service providers think carefully about how they set up their physical environments, which includes allowing customers to focus on the service process rather than the line they're waiting in. 

"Showing customers the work that's being done to serve them can cause them to mind waiting less and value the service more," Buell observed. "When a barista comes up to you in line and asks, 'Can I get something started for you?' then you feel less pain from waiting, plus you feel invested now and are less likely to give up."

Or... tell the last customer in line you're giving them the last Hershey's Kiss. Perspective + chocolate = satisfaction.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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