Sometimes there are days when no matter how hard I try, I just cannot find a book that is supposed to be in the store. First the search is solitary: I just know the book is somewhere in the store, then after many minutes of searching, I ask a fellow bookseller for help. Then the two of us brainstorm just where the book could have gone. It gets to the point that one of is searching with the phone in a pocket so we can roam more freely and still get work done.
Such was the scene on Tuesday. Here’s the background: a customer ordered a book, the phone number we had was out of order so we set the book aside on the counter with a note to research the number. The research led nowhere, so we kept the book on the side counter. Books do not make it on the special order hold case until we’ve contacted the customer in some way. Usually, this system works quite well. We all last saw the missing book on Thursday of last week. Then it was gone. We hadn’t sold it to anyone and we only had the one copy in the store so it was still very likely it was in the back of the store by the register or the office. The customer who ordered the book called Tuesday asking for it. We took her number, corrected her customer file and told her, quite honestly that the book was in the store but we couldn’t find it.
The call from the customer mobilized Laura first to start searching. When she couldn’t find it, I got obsessed. We almost always find books after searching this hard for them. I started enlisting customers’ help. I told the two groups we had in the store that if they found the book we would give them a book of the same value, free. This one mom had her kids looking. It was actually funny how many people in the store were just standing back from the shelves scanning the books. And here’s the crazy thing: not one person found the book. No one could find it. We even pulled the counter from the back wall to see if it had fallen behind it and the wall. It hadn’t. It’s been three days and we still can’t find the book. We checked every single special order being held, in case it was accidentally tucked in the wrong place.
It got so bad I asked every customer who came in the rest of that day to look for this book and explained the free book offer. Customers were very helpful and not one of them found it either, but they did have new perspective into one of the most frustrating parts of my job: looking for books. So, here’s what I know. The replacement copy has come in but we still can’t find that book. I have not given up, as I know on some level, that book is still in the store, and honestly, I’m not going to completely relax until it’s found.