What’s That Smell?

Josie Leavitt -- February 7th, 2013

This is not a question many non-food businesses want to answer. A bookstore should smell crisp, like brand new books. There shouldn’t be a smell that makes people ask you to identify it. Sadly, this week we battled this kind of smell. It assaulted you when you first came in and only grew stronger the farther into the store you went.

Monday found me almost gasping by the end of the morning. I spent much of the day on my knees sniffing corners and air ducts to search for the offending odor. After a half hour of sniffing, I was certain that the smell was a dead animal, probably a mouse. Sadly, the mouse seemed to be in the heating duct. So, picture this: every time the heat turned on, the dead mouse smell intensified. We tried turning the heat off, but then got too cold. We turned the heat up and then opened a window.

Finally, we contacted our property manager who couldn’t get anyone here until Tuesday. My brave staff endured the odor while I found a sudden and urgent need to run errands. Tuesday found staffers placing dryer sheets in heating vents. So now, we’ve got eau de dead mousie with a touch of Bounce. Everyone left the day with a massive headache. The exterminator came and within minutes had identified the source of the smell. Sadly, it was in a wall, so there was little to do. He did have a magic bag of minerals that he placed above the bookcase that should absorb some of the odors.

To diffuse the nastiness of the smell we’ve created a game for customers: if you can correctly identify the source and location of the odor, then you get an extra discount. Most who have played along can guess the source (one of the hazards of country life is the occasional dead creature in a wall) but none has correctly guessed the location. I feel like meeting the odor with good humor is the only way to make it better.

I decided to write the rest of this from home. My eyes were burning.