Nowhere To Go But Up

Josie Leavitt - February 11, 2011

I’m cataloging my Thursday. I walk in, late, not having had breakfast (note to self: never do that again) and barely make it to my office, right behind the register, before my beleaguered staffer says,”Jos, when you have a minute.” We’ve worked together long enough that I knew something was up. I patted my hot egg sandwich goodbye and went on the floor.
A customer was trying to return two books without a receipt. I looked up each title to see if they had been purchased the week prior for her daughter’s birthday. They had not.  So, now I’m just being nice by even considering the return, but it sure wasn’t seen that way.
Next, I check my inventory levels for each book, thinking if they were low, I could just accept the return. I had just received five of one of the books and one of them I was out of. I explained that I could only take one of the books back. The customer said, “But you can sell it.” I tried to explain that with the return I was essentially giving her $10 on the off chance that I could sell what would be my sixth copy of that title, and that’s just not going happen right now.
The tension was slowly escalating as the customer kept questioning me about why I wouldn’t take the book back. It was all I could do to not shout: THE BOOKS WEREN’T PURCHASED HERE. Inside I kept thinking, why am I even having this conversation, again and again? And why am I trying to find a compromise with this customer who clearly thinks I’m trying to cheat her. Finally the point got through and JP, my stalwart staffer, rang up her returns plus several other items.
Well, the customer didn’t believe her total when we said it was $37. She got mad all over again. I went through it item by item with her looking at the screen. She still didn’t believe it. Poor JP resorted to using a calculator to show her how it all came to $37. I couldn’t help but add, “You know, the computer’s pretty good at math.”
JP and I had a good laugh about this and we both thought the day  had nowhere to go but up. Well, not so much. Later I was speaking to a local school librarian, who was in the middle of a Scholastic book fair, about a possible author event when I asked if we could talk about the possibility of our store doing a book fair for the school. I was met with a clipped, “Absolutely not. The last book fair you did we lost $700, because we had to pay for missing books.” Wow. Was  expecting to hear that, especially since the book fair in question was 12 years ago, and we split the cost of the missing books, so everyone lost money on that one. And it doesn’t change the fact that $700 worth of books went missing.
Needless to say that kind of attitude does not endear itself to me, or the authors I have access to. We live in a small world and common courtesy goes a long way. Clearly, I’m still fuming, but I’m still laughing at the absurdity of the day. Here’s hoping Friday brings genuine laughs.

7 thoughts on “Nowhere To Go But Up

  1. SuzzyPC

    Oh Josie, I hope your day, & Flying Pig’s are looking up! A pox on the “bad”, unreasonable customers & thanks unending for those who support our local bookstores & businesses & make us smile!

  2. Laura

    I customer came into my store and wanted to return a book that his wife had given him for his birthday. Well, this man was a neighbor and although he didn’t recognize me, I recognized him and his wife. I had seen her a few days earlier strolling down the street with an Amazon box! I checked our inventory and sure enough, there hadn’t been a copy of the book sold by us. When I declined to accept the return the book, he got kind of nasty and asked that didn’t I want his business. Well, I got pretty annoyed at that and so I said that I didn’t care for threats. We were at a standstill when he called his wife. She must have told him about the Amazon purchase and he immediately backed down. He bought several items and even came back later to purchase more. If the book was something that I thought we may sell, I would have taken it back. It was an older title and pretty obscure.

  3. Jerri Patton

    I work at a book store, today a person was scanning a book with her phone to find out where she could get it cheaper. I think we’re all doomed.

  4. Carol B. Chittenden

    And the thing is, it’s impossible to make, much less post, rules that will apply to all these situations. We do try, and we set a pretty high bar (must have been purchased here, etc. etc.) which allows us to bend the rule when we feel we could do so without taking a loss.
    We just lost the sale of 200 copies of a book because we couldn’t match someone else’s discount and the school district was pinching pennes — yet they’re willing to go for hardcovers of a title that comes out in paper in May!
    The elements in these decisions aren’t entirely rational ones, so stick to your guns, get their respect as well as their love, and know you did the right thing.
    And yes, chocolate.

  5. Maureen

    I want to weigh in on the book fair debacle. To be off $700 means someone was not taking care of inventory return. I have been on both sides of the equation, as both a volunteer at the book fair, and the corporate sales person for a bookstore, the one providing the books. I was in the position where I was providing YA books for a K-12 school, and Scholastic was the provider for the elementary school books. I made sure as both a volunteer and book seller, that I was the one who packed up the books from the fair, to make sure that every book came back to the store that was not sold. It is time consuming, no doubt, but worth it when the numbers came out and everyone was in agreement.


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