To Charge for Wrap or Not?

Josie Leavitt -- November 24th, 2015

There has been an interesting thread in the online bookselling listserv this week: should stores charge for wrapping or not? Opinions vary widely, and we seem to talk about this every year. Being able to get wrapped presents, either for birthdays or the holidays, is a wonderful thing. It saves the customers time and money and that’s always appreciated. But gift wrapping during the crazy rush of the holiday season, and it’s a short one this year, takes up valuable staff time and let’s face it, gift wrap is far from cheap. So, what’s a store to do?The general consensus is that gift wrapping should be free. Here’s the issue with free wrapping. Good paper is shockingly expensive. While books are easy to wrap and don’t tend to be big, often customers will ask that bulky sidelines be wrapped and these can use tremendous amounts of paper. Do we charge for that? No, we can’t if we say all gift wrapping is free. But there is something maddening about trying to wrap a child’s easel (yes, that’s happened). I know I’m always appreciative when I can get something wrapped a store during the holidays as I don’t often have paper at home and can seldom find my scissors or tape, but I’m also mindful of the staffers’ time. If a store is slamming busy and I have 10 things, I will wrap them myself.

We are not a large enough store to have a dedicated gift wrapper during the holidays like some stores, nor do we have the space to create a do-it-yourself wrapping station.The issue for me and having a small store with limited space and staff is, am I losing sales because someone is tied up wrapping? If that answer is yes, then providing free wrapping is not a good decision. But if we have the time and the wrapping can be done quickly, then it’s okay. Most customers are very good about being respectful of our time as they can see we’re in the weeds, so to speak, and they’ll offer to come back for their gifts. This is the best approach. Let us wrap when we have time and then come back later that day, or even the next day, for your wrapped packages. We also put sticky notes on the books so people remember what is what.

We used to provide free wrapping for the first two items, then we’d charge 50 cents per item and donate that money to the local food shelf. This was a great boon for everyone. It’s funny, but the addition of 50 cents per book (which really doesn’t seem like that much to me) made some folks stop at two books, and others would happily pay for the extra wrapping knowing they were helping the food shelf. We are not doing that this year because there has been the expectation that all wrapping should be free.

So this year, we will wrap for free as best we can, but folks may need to wait to get their packages. This seems fair to me. Booksellers and shoppers, what are your thoughts on the gift wrapping situation?

 

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