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Bookshop Owner Who Charges a Browsing Fee Called ‘Bookseller from Hell’

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A British bookshop owner has come under fire for charging his customers a 50-pence (62 cents) browsing fee.

But Steve Bloom, who runs second-hand emporium Bloomingdales in Hawes, northern England, says he only asks for money to find out whether visitors are serious about buying a book or not, the Associated Press reports.

The Hawes Parish Council looked into Bloom, 63, after around 20 people complained about his attitude over a period of four years, calling him “rude” and “miserable,” says the AP.

John Blackie, the chairman of the council, also described Bloom as the “bookseller from hell.” “He seems to have a strategy unlike anybody else’s,” he said, the U.K.’s ITV reports. “He charges 50 [pence], people object and he is very rude to them. He is doing a disservice to the other traders and to the reputation of the town which is very much a friendly town.”

Bloom could not immediately be reached for additional comment. However, other customers have come to his defense on the listings website Yell.

“Mr Bloom is doing exactly what a good bookseller should do — differentiating himself from the boring herd of retailers,” one supporter wrote. “He should be applauded by the local Parish Council by encouraging a different approach to customers. I shall certainly visit his shop at the earliest opportunity. Keep it up Mr Bloom, forget the apologies and stick to what works for you.”

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Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com