Wrapping it Up

Josie Leavitt -- December 17th, 2012

I must confess something. I don’t really like wrapping books. Of course we offer wrapping, you have to this time of year. As much as I don’t like to wrap, I do like to see the look of utter relief on customers’ faces when we offer to wrap their books. I wrap quickly, somewhat sloppily, and am forever not doing enough curling ribbon.┬áThis year I got smart and finally took up the offer from a friend to come in and wrap on the weekends.

Sue not only likes to wrap, she’s good at it. She came in at 9 on Saturday to wrap the books that folks bought to give to kids who are getting food shelf baskets. There were two completely full-to-the-brim boxes of books that customers had picked for a range of kids from babies to teenagers. I have to confess she did something that in the 16 years I’ve had the store has never occurred to me. She pre-cut sheets of paper. Our “wrapping station” is not one where the paper is hung on the wall in a cutting dispenser looking all tidy with ribbon hanging off a dowel ready to measured out — no, that would be too easy. Our wrapping station consists of massive rolls of wrap on the back counter and the floor that you need scissors to cut. Sue just cut about 20 sheets of the snowflake wrap, and then cut them in half (gift wrap often comes in 24-inch widths, which make it very wide for books) and set about to wrap in a very efficient way. I marveled at this and shook my head. It’s shocking to me how often the utterly obvious can just escape me. Pre-cutting and then cutting in half the too-wide paper made wrapping go very quickly. What took her an hour would have taken me at least twice that.

We’ve never had someone at the store whose main job was to wrap. So this weekend every customer was asked, “Would you like that wrapped?” and just about every customer said yes. Sue was flying most of the day. Having her wrap freed the rest of us to handsell books, which is really what we do best. I know I love getting my presents wrapped before I leave a store. It’s just one less thing to do during this very busy time of year. One thing I’ve heard over and over this year is how time seems to be sneaking up on people. Maybe it’s the lack of real winter weather, but folks appear to be behind this year. People are scrambling, and being able to help them get on with the rest of their shopping knowing that the presents are ready to go under the tree is a lovely thing.

David, our high school staffer, just learned how to wrap and he’s getting good at it. We were all talking about wrapping and he said in response to me saying I’ve been wrapping books for 16 years, “I’m 17. I’ve been wrapping since Wednesday.” That might have the best laugh I’ve had in weeks.

8 thoughts on “Wrapping it Up

  1. Carol Chittenden

    Wrapping pays for itself: while we’re wrapping, people are still shopping. About a quarter of the time they find something else they need.

    By all means do get a cutter or cutters and have it/them mounted on the wall near your wrapping surface. It’s worth 20 points of blood pressure right there!

  2. Erin

    Around here, there are a lot of nonprofits who set up in bookstores to wrap the books for “free” in exchange for customers making a small donation to the charity. I believe the bookstores provide the wrapping paper, but the charity provides the volunteers to do all the wrapping.

    A lot of bookstores have charities sign up for a different night/day of wrapping for each one. Then, the charities reach out to their donors and supporters to get them in the store when they’ll be there wrapping. Seems to be a win on both sides.

  3. Laura

    I love, love, love wrapping children’s books. Especially picture books and especially the ones I have personally chosen for the customer. It pleases me to no end :)

  4. JessB

    I love to wrap books! It was one of my favourite tasks working in a bookstore, and I still love giving them as presents, because they always look so nice and tidy when they’re done.

  5. Becky

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand wanting to have a store wrap your gifts for you. Not that I love wrapping presents myself, but I worry that if I did that, I would take the thing home, hide it with everything else, and forget what the heck it was. Then I’d have to unwrap it, and would end up having to re-wrap it myself anyway.

    1. Bob

      At the store where I work, we offer to put removable labels on the packages with the recipient’s name or the name of the book. Also, we don’t do ribbons or bows!

  6. Christie

    I admit my wrapping leaves much to be desired. (I manage to tear the paper corners while wrapping books.) I’m impressed over the curling ribbons you even attempted. Now most gifts go in a christmas bag hidden by scrunched colored tissue paper and a tag on the handle.

  7. PAGE TRAYNOR

    I love to wrap books. First, it means I’m giving books, probably to people who want them which always makes me cheerful. Also, they are rectangles which are easy to wrap.

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