You Break It…

Leslie Hawkins - January 14, 2019

For booksellers the old¬†dictum “You break it, you buy it” would more accurately read “You bend it, tear it, stain it, rumple its pages, or crease¬†its spine, you buy it.” But that’s not very catchy, now, is it? Whether you’re selling delicate glassware or the comparatively more hearty printed book, all shopkeepers confront the problem of how to deal with damages and how best to communicate those policies to the customer.

When a large part of your customer base is made up of children and their caregivers, the emphasis is often on preventing damages, usually by trying to find a firm but gentle way to say “For pity’s sake, please watch your child.” But, you know… nicer.

Signage is but one arrow in our quiver of tactics. And when it comes to this kind of signage, humor is often a great way to get your point across without offending. In the mid-aughts I had a sign with a popular message at the time: “Unattended children will be given an espresso and a puppy.” Along those same lines, several bookstores around the country choose to invoke David Bowie’s Goblin King character from the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

Everything’s better coming from David Bowie.

Of course, rhyming is another way to soften the blow of being held responsible for your actions.

From a neighboring business. Not a bookstore, but they have a way with words!

And of course, you can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned cuteness. This sign is at our sales counter now.

Apologies for the wonky photo.

Fellow booksellers, do you have signage like this that has been particularly effective? Customers, any favorites you’ve seen while shopping?

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