A is for alphabetizing, the simplest and yet most challenging of frontline bookseller tasks. It’s on every day/s “to do” list, yet will never, ever be truly done.
B is for Board Books, which exponentially expand each buying season. As the phenomenon of childhood compression continues, longer and longer stories are reduced to cardboard pages with flaps. Where do we shelve the Touch and Feel version of the City of Bones series, now?
C: Camp care packages, the salvation of the July end-of-day ztape, as padded envelopes are filled and mailed to Lake Mosquitogotcha, replacing the weekly shopping trips for wrapped birthday gifts.
D is for deodorant. If you are a shopkeeper who has NOT had to have this conversation with an employee during the warmer days of summer, you are either very new or very lucky.
Employee scheduling, this time of year, requires the patience of a cat herder, the dexterity of a spider monkey to manipulate the online scheduling app, and a steady supply of both post-it notes and Pinot Grigio. Yes, I got the note about your family reunion, your aunt’s wedding, the college orientation part 1 AND 2, and those last minute concert tickets. Warped Tour? Meet Work Schedule.
F is for frappuccino and all the other large cups with domed lids, straws, and just enough liquid left inside to be knocked over into a sticky little mess when abandoned. These cups litter our store like…
Goldfish crackers, the caloric currency of the stroller set, so ubiquitous and plentifully dropped that even ants disdain them.
H is for hot. It is. We have air conditioning (most weeks). We win.
I for Ice Cream, which is permanently, I mean it, banned from the shop henceforward.
JuneANDJuly… which run together in one glorious period when our store is full of…
Kids! All day! Much too late in the evening! Teenagers in daylight! Toddlers after dark! All manner of kids, with no school, no practice, no schedule…. just hanging out or riding their bikes over to visit. Soon, too soon, they will all disappear into minivans and SUVs, shuttling between carpools and activities, only to appear for brief periods on Saturday mornings on the way to birthday parties, or right after their dentist appointment next door.
L for lightning, thunder, and torrential downpours of rain, followed by days of flooded parks and closed pools. Not great for tomatoes, but terrific for both book sales and our collection of discarded and forgotten umbrellas. (Lost and Found overflows, too.)
M is for mice (see Goldfish Crackers, above).
Novels, of the graphic variety, are flying off the spinner this summer. Clearly, we need to rethink this category’s space allotment in the store. We’ll get to that, right after we replace that…
Old credit card processing terminal. SHHHHHH!!! Don’t tell anyone! That was not an invitation for eleventy million phone calls from credit card processing companies, who “just want ten minutes, while they’re in the area” to discuss our fees and percentages. Let’s just change the subject, shall we, to….
Potty training: a project more frequently attempted in the summertime, when extra clothes are optional, schedules are more flexible, and nursery school admission requirements loom on the horizon. While I have never met a child who learned to use the potty from a book, we stock every title we can find, and plunge ahead.
Queries, questions, and quandaries from customers new to the shop, vacationers, and visiting grandparents. “Yes, we wrap. Yes, it’s free. The bathroom? In the back, on the left.”
Reps, on their summer tours, cars full of fall ARCs and swag and gossip. Good for long bookish conversations, backlist promotions, and cocktails after closing.
Storytimes! Full to the brim (if it’s rainy or terribly, terribly hot) or deserted if it’s the day-after-the-4th or just perfect pool weather; summer storytimes are longer, more varied in age range, and often full of grandparent caregivers who just need 20 minutes to sit down.
T is for teens, slipping in and out of the back room to return ARCs and reviews, selecting another title to read, and pausing just a moment to check out the new squishies and putty. We love our teen summer book reviewers, their terse comments (“this book… well, it ended with the guy dying, and that sort of sucked. But it was pretty good anyway.”)
UPS regular driver, how I miss you! We are blessed with a pro… who is frequently called away in the summer to handle open routes, and leave us with new delivery staff in brown, carrying just 9 of 16 boxes in the expected shipment… and nary a packing slip in sight.
VACATION (which I already took, and it was wonderful, and I want to go back, right now).
Where is Waldo, anyway? He’s everywhere.
XIV, because it’s our 14th summer in bookselling. We’ll just keep practicing until we run out of stuff to read, ok?
Y is for yellow, that cursed color in retail. While books with yellow covers do just fine, in most other merchandise, yellow is the last-bought, left behind, stepchild of the color assortment. Sunny yellow pails, totes, clay and tschotchkes fill the table at the sidewalk sale.
Zoom….. the speed of another summer season turning the pages toward the chapter called “Back-to-School.”