It’s Not Always a Good Day

Josie Leavitt - November 12, 2010

Every once in a while there are days that make a bookseller crazy crazy. Wednesday was that day for two reasons.

The first reason is the book fair we’re doing for a local school. Only two grades had notes go home to parents reminding them of the book fair so the kids came to school with money. The rest of the grades walked through with only a dollar or two. One thing the school does is have a used book fair at the same time as the new books book fair. This tradition is started to really cut into the new book fair. While I understand the allure of a used book fair for budget-conscious families, it does make a new book fair a really hard sell. A bag of a books for a dollar, or a hardcover for $17.99?  We just can’t win. Consequently, we’re not exactly selling new books hand over fist. And to top it off, several people have questioned that our giving a percent of the proceeds isn’t enough. Several people have implied that we should be giving all the proceeds of book sales to the school. While that would be lovely, we actually have expenses that need to be  paid. Expenses like the books, the staff time to process the books, the staff time necessary to return all the books that didn’t sell, all need to be factored in to the discount we give back to any school. It’s also hard to be enthusiastic about a book fair when a teacher was overheard telling a student that a book could be bought much more cheaply through another venue, rather than the book fair hosted by the local independent bookstore. Ouch. This kind of attitude flies in the face of the dedication we feel from so many of our customers, who shop us every day and continually support us and want us only to thrive.

The second thing that gave me fits was a call we got at 5:45 pm on Wednesday. A teacher called and asked about the pricing/discount we could offer on 106 copies of a book. I quickly did research and knew that this being a Simon and Schuster book, we could offer a slightly better discount because we could do a Business to Business order and get a better percentage, which I could pass on to the teacher. I called the teacher back and told her about the better discount I could offer her. Then I asked her when she needed the books. Monday. This Monday? Yes, she said completely seriously. Monday? Really? I kept asking. So, it’s now 5:45 on Wednesday and you want 106 books by Monday morning. Sure, I can do that. I could. I did it by going to a distributor, not the publisher, thus losing some percentage points. I had to lower the teacher’s discount to adjust for the change in purchasing. The teacher was very understanding about it. If everything works the way it should, we will get 106 copies on Friday.

Then the teacher asked if we delivered. I just laughed.

7 thoughts on “It’s Not Always a Good Day

  1. Misreall

    Teachers are the absolute worst. They do wonderful, difficult work, but they lose any perspective on how difficult another persons job can also be. Also, they don’t understand the concept of ‘out-of-print’ or that the prices of books change over time.


  2. Rose Joseph

    Echoing what Kitti said about the $30 pair of jeans I also wonder how people weigh the worth of a really great book for $20 vs going out for lunch and spending at least that and sometimes more.

    Josie, do you do a bookfair contract where you spell out exactly what you expect the school to do to make it a success? I suppose that’s why Scholastic brings all those throw-away add-ons just for those kids who brought a dollar.

  3. Kitti

    It’s funny how people think books are overpriced. They’ll pay $30 for a pair of jeans that will go out of style in two years, but balk at $20 for a book that can serve a dozen people over a lifetime.

  4. kidelo

    Well, at least the teacher was ordering a title that’s still in print! In my experience, some teachers never update their reading lists and are looking for titles or editions that have long bit the dust.

    I feel your pain….!


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