Of course, these things don't come without cost. While it's easy to assume that a store's opulence is a sign of it's strength, often times, it's a reflection of its weakness. It's not a secret that "brick and mortar" stores like Barnes and Noble have struggled over the past ten years to compete with Amazon.com and other online outlets. As online sellers are able to offer far lower prices (due to smaller overheard and separate shipping costs), "real" stores have been forced to invest in "extras" in order to draw customers in. As a result, margins become far tighter and stores rely more and more on customers indulging in their synthesized environments.
Today, Baldwin had the chance to help Barnes and Noble, while Barnes and Noble helped us. The students (and some faculty) spent the day making B&N more than just "more than just a bookstore". For the second "year" (the first was last January), students had dance routines, mascots, Disney princess characters, arts and crafts, gift wrapping, face-painting, book discussions, and drink special set up all around the store for customers (and especially their children) to enjoy. The day worked like this: Baldwin High School's library got a certain percentage of all sales from 10am to 4pm. The trick was that customers had to ask that their sale be added to the Baldwin account. We weren't allowed to simply stand at the door and hand out vouchers, nor could we stand by the cashiers and whisper in the customers ears. We had to entice the customers to enter the store and interact with us. If a customer said "what's all this for?" we could tell them about the fundraiser, but we weren't allowed to pressure or approach them. It almost became a game of charades as we essentially dared the customers to ask us about our organizations. Their response was positive and supportive throughout the day.
The benefits (or at least presumed benefits) were two-fold. Baldwin got free money in exchange for our students' time, and B&N got customers even more engaged in their store. Many people came just to watch their students volunteer, and even purchased a book or two while they read. Customers spent 30 minutes in the store seeing all the different attractions, rather than just 10. While B&N ultimately gave us a nice donation, we gave them significantly greater sales. Who's to say who won out in the end... In truth, both sides got what they wanted.
Of course, my favorite part of the day as once again seeing the diverse mix of our school all coming out for the same event. It's not often that so many students will jump in to help out without "bonus point" or "service hours". Most students today were simply there to help because they wanted to be. For a few hours, they were more than just "more than just students."