Let us call it what it is. The UMPH plan to close Cokesbury bookstores is repugnant, out of touch and possibly the worst business decision that I have heard lately. It amazes and saddens me that the United Methodist Publishing House (parent company of Cokesbury Bookstore) is tossing 200 years of service to our denomination out the window.
In a move to emulate the secular world, the United Methodist Publishing House is offering a new Cokesbury experience. Churches who have websites can now become a Cokesbury Affilliate with their very own virtual store. This means that a church can apply to have their very own Cokesbury Bookstore link placed on their church website. Just like secular online companies, purchases via the link will generate a commission of about 5% on qualifying items.
Speak out by signing this Change.org petition.
The United Methodist Publishing House is also assuming that all churches have access to the internet. Not so. My church is in a rural area. Our choices are dial-up or expensive satellite hook-ups. Cellular modems don't receive a stable signal. My church isn't the only one who is internet-challenged and will be unable to purchase from Cokesbury Bookstores after the closure. Where there is one, there are others.
The "new" Cokesbury experience eerily replicates the Amazon.com affiliate program that this blog is enrolled in. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being an affiliate but I can't provide you with customer service. If you don't find what you want right away, then my puny affiliate bookstore link probably won't be much help.
Brick-and-mortar Cokesbury Bookstores provide service that you can't get anywhere else. Where else can you look at altarware, a clergy robe or literature before buying it? I want to talk with someone face-to-face before making purchasing decisions for my church. The last thing that I want to do is spend forever on hold, speaking to a faceless person over the telephone who doesn't know the needs of my church or the trends in our area.
I'm as savvy as you can get when it comes to online purchases. I buy from a number of different companies and am an affiliate for more than one of and sell my own books through them. My Amazon.com purchases from have included music, ebooks and a countertop dishwasher. It also included buying a camera that didn't fit my needs, the return of a defective item (and some things that I wouldn't have purchased if I had been able to hold them first and regretted.)
My last trip to Cokesbury Bookstore cost me over $100. I went in for one $20 item. Ordering online would have taken only a couple of clicks and I would have been finished and in budget. But, staff at the store suggested a choir book and a conversation with another pastor caused me to pick up a research book. Then I saw the display of cards for shut-ins that I had almost forgotten to buy. When I got back to church, a member picked up the (suggested) choir book and liked it. Now we're buying more of them.
There is a near zero chance that this would have happened through an online link. In a way, maybe I should thank the United Methodist Publishing House for closing all of the Cokesbury Bookstores. It looks like the decision will save me a small fortune. Maybe it's not such a bad business decision after all?