Books

Frugal Bookstore responds after receiving ‘disheartening’ emails from customers demanding sold-out titles

In a span of three days, Boston’s only Black-owned bookstore received over 10,000 orders, largely for the same 10 books.

Leonard and Clarrissa Egerton, owners of Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, have seen a surge of support, and book orders, in recent weeks. Handout via the Boston Globe

Roxbury’s Frugal Bookstore is asking for understanding from its supporters as it handles the thousands of orders that have flooded in since the end of May, citing backlash they’ve received from impatient customers demanding titles that have been sold out nationally.

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The owners of the shop in Nubian Square, Clarissa and Leonard Egerton, told WBUR they were on the verge of closing the doors to their 12-year-old business in early May. But in recent weeks, the city’s only Black-owned bookstore has received such an outpouring of support amid the nationwide protests against racism that they’ve had to hire two new employees to keep up with the demand.

In an email to customers on Monday, the Frugal Bookstore owners said they’ve been receiving hundreds of emails a day with a variety of questions and requests, writing they are doing the best they can to answer each one.

And while most of the communications to the bookstore have been pleasant, the owners shared they are receiving “disheartening” backlash from customers demanding titles on racism that have 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 husband and wife wrote. “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.”

The Frugal Bookstore owners said that between May 30 and June 1 they received more than 10,000 orders and to-date the number has risen to more than 20,000.

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“Seventy-five percent of the orders are for the same 10 titles, and those titles were quickly depleted from bookstores across this country,” the store owners wrote. “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.”

The business owners said they have hired a fulfillment company to help them catch up on the orders, telling customers their orders will be received. 

“We humbly ask that you PLEASE bear with us,” they wrote in concluding their message to customers. 

As news of the blowback that the business is experiencing spread, other local bookstores and community members condemned the backlash.

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