Black-owned bookstore speaks out over angry emails from customers: 'Please bear with us'

Alex Lasker

The operators of the only Black-owned bookshop in Boston have asked patrons for their patience and kindness as the store works tirelessly to fulfill a slew of new orders amid the growing demand for books about the Black experience in America and a huge push to support Black-owned businesses.

Clarissa and Leonard Egerton, who have owned and operated Frugal Bookstore for the past 12 years, say they have been inundated with orders for the same 10 titles over the past few weeks as rallies continue across the U.S. in protest of systemic racism toward the Black community, Boston.com reports.

Credit: <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/gofundmecomHelpFrugalBookstore" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:GoFundMe" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">GoFundMe</a>
Credit: GoFundMe

In an email sent to customers on June 22, the couple wrote that while they understand customers wanting to check in on the status of their orders, they still request to be treated with respect as they work to deliver in-demand books that have already “sold out nationally.”

“The majority of emails we are receiving are encouraging and very fair, you would like to know the status of your order,” the Egertons wrote in their message, which was shared on Twitter by a customer. “We are also receiving a number of disheartening emails asking us to cancel orders and refund payments, criticisms about how slow we are and that we have poor customer service because we have not answered an email.”

“We do hope each and every one of you who has shown us support by purchasing through our website believe we are not accepting your money with the intention to keep it and not send out your orders,” they continued. “Seventy-five percent of the orders are for the same 10 titles, and those titles were quickly depleted from bookstores across this country. We have since learned that we are not the only Black-owned bookstore receiving tremendous support and thousands of orders for the same titles. The publishers of the titles in demand had to go to reprint which is taking some time but they are beginning to trickle in to us.”

“We have hired a fulfillment company to assist us with catching up, you will receive your orders,” the email ended. “We humbly ask that you PLEASE bear with us. Thank you!”

Twitter users were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the customers vilifying two Black business-owners over their slightly delayed service — the same customers who were apparently seeking out popular anti-racism literature, which has been flying off shelves in light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, in hopes of learning to better advocate for the Black community.

“Feels indicative of the way people are wrongly thinking about anti-racism, like, ‘if i only had this book i would be an anti-racist but until then i am cursed,'” wrote Twitter user Bradley Babendir, who shared the initial screenshots of the email. “Just read a different book in the mean time there are lots of books.”

“I can’t stop thinking about this!! People complaining about customer service at the black-owned indie bookshop from which 20,000 of them simultaneously ordered the magical books that will make them not racist…bc orders are delayed!” wrote New York Times reporter Caity Weaver. “Send the unracism books IMMEDIATELY, fascists!”

“So all these jerks thought ‘I’m going to support a local Black owned bookstore with my dollars but not with my common courtesy and patience.’ WTF?” said another user. “Dig deeper people! Be an actual ally.”

Books about race relations in the United States and the struggles of the Black community have been quickly selling out following weeks of social unrest across the country, Rolling Stone reports.

Some popular titles — including Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and even Sesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” — gained traction after appearing in a number of social media guides as suggested reading material on the current social climate.

If you found this story helpful, read about this Black business owner’s decision to omit “Black” from her bio

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