A Holiday To-Do List

Josie Leavitt - December 17, 2009

It’s the holidays and all booksellers are harried. I thought I’d take a moment to give readers an insight into what a busy day at a small store is really like.

The store opens at 10:00 a.m., but I try to get there by 8:00 to get caught up with what didn’t get finished the night before and to work on my to-do list.

This is the list:

– Check website for overnight orders and get the books ready to ship

– Follow up on all the back-ordered special orders. This involves calling all the distributors to find out when they’ll be getting the books, making notes of that and calling all the folks who have books in limbo

– Change the out going store answering machine message to reflect what’s on sale

– Print out what sold yesterday and order what we’re out of stock on

– Anticipate what I think people will want for the weekend. This includes holiday books, hot books, newsletter restocking, and staff favorite handsells. This is the part of ordering where I need to think. I need to really look at what’s been selling, what folks have been asking for and what I feel like we have to have to successfully recommend books over the weekend.

– Work on a purchase order for the distributor I think will have the highest fill, or the one I have the most credit with.

– Send the order by noon to get it the next day.

– Shelve any books that didn’t get shelved yesterday because our usual 11 a.m. delivery arrived at 5 p.m.

– Call the special orders who didn’t get notified yesterday that their book(s) came in.

Here’s what happens.

– I get to work, coffee and yummy breakfast in hand, at 8:20. I go in my office, such that it is, and check the website and store email.

– I print out the orders from the website and start building my purchase order.

– At 8:45 I answer the phone and help a customer find a book whose title he doesn’t know, can’t remember but has to have. After five minutes I find it, only to be told that he’s going to call around and see if another store has it in stock.

– At 8:52 I hear knocking on the front door. I open it and let a very grateful customer in. She picks up her special order and a few stocking stuffers and then asks for recommendations for her great-uncle who loves nautical history. 

– The phone rings with an elderly woman wanting to have us send a gift certificate to her grandson and could we make it out to Boomer, Love Gogo and Paw Paw (I love the nicknames grandparents have; I find it a lovely window into the family. Plus, it’s fun to write. )

– The man calls back and says no other bookstore has his book whose title he still can’t remember, and he’d like me to order it for him. I take all his info and add the book to the purchase order.

– The two staffers on with me that day, arrive, and bring with them three customers.

It’s 9:30 and my store is now full of customers in varying states of shopping/ordering experience. Pretty much, customers in the store trump all else. I don’t really take a breath until 11:45 and I realize a carefully thought-out purchase order isn’t really an option. Right now it just needs to get done by noon. So frantic staffers are trolling the aisles shouting titles at me, or tossing lists at me that I’m furiously getting into the computer. 11:50 a.m. comes around and I send the order. I get the confirmation back at 11:52. I take a breath and start another purchase order.

It’s barely noon and my list is now scrap paper with random phone numbers, partial titles and coffee stains. The best thing is the store is slamming busy with happy customers, the staff and I are working really well together, and someone brought in sugar cookies since we know lunch won’t really happen until 4.  And there will be another hopeful list tomorrow morning.

2 thoughts on “A Holiday To-Do List

  1. Kate Forsyth

    Thank you so much for this insight into a day in the life of a bookstore! It was really illuminating. You’re really thinking on your feet, aren’t you? What would be fascianting to do is have a day in the life of a writer, a day in the life of an editor, publisher etc etc, and follow a book’s journey from idea to a book in a reader’s hand. If you’d like me to supply the day in the life of a writer, I’d be happy to! many thanks, Kate Forsyth – http://www.kateforsyth.com.au

  2. Cynthia Compton

    Oh, Josie! You forgot that the toilet backed up at 11:45am, and only management knows how to use a plunger. Let’s not forget the beautiful baby that you held for half an hour while mom wrangled the older siblings through purchases for their class book exchange, and the delightful half hour with the reluctant 3rd grade reader, who has to finish AR reading/testing by Friday. Then there was that brief visit with the harried mom who is doing the class holiday party, and needs a funny story to read aloud, that “won’t take too long.” Add a couple of phone calls from credit card processing companies who are prospecting for new business (who changes processing companies in December??????) and helping that delightful great grandmother who only buys books for gifts (bless her) but uses a walker and is hard of hearing. We are so blessed to have the jobs we do — who else is as happy to be this tired at the end of the day in December?


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