It’s a Nice Day for a Black Friday

Josie Leavitt - November 25, 2009

Huge Black Friday Sale! For the first time in thirteen years, that’s what our ads say this week. We’ve never had a Black Friday sale before, but we thought we’d ride the Buy Local wave and see if we can’t get folks to buy books closer to home.

We are blessed with an event space upstairs, The Loft, and that’ll be our real discount area. Overstock of which we have a little (okay, a lot) will be on sale, as will coffee table books, hurts and great books that are out of print. The main store will see 20-25% off retail.

Organizing a sale this large is actually a lot of work. The Loft currently has 72 folding chairs set up, so those need to get put away, by someone who isn’t me. While I don’t play tennis, I’ve developed a wicked case of tennis elbow from shelving books for more than a decade. Consequently, I find myself unable to fold up chairs without serious elbow pain. Who knew shelving could be such a hazard?

Then we have to set up the portable tables around the room. That’s easy. The hard part comes with trying to decide what to put on sale and at what discount. Should autographed books go for 10% or 15%? Yummy treasures from days gone by that are great, but have been superseded by newer, hotter titles – what should their discount be? [Elizabeth intercedes here: we will not be getting rid of yummy treasures in favor of newer, hotter titles, but we will sell the hardcovers of books that are out in paperback now.] It’s hard to know. We’ll make our best guess on everything and then be flexible with customers who want to bargain.

With a sale come the books you never want to see again. The books you were returning that inadvertently got sent to the wrong publisher (I hate it when that happens), so they’ve come back to you and you’ve paid freight twice. Somehow these books never quite make it back to their rightful resting place because by the time you get them back from the wrong publisher, they’re now out of print. And you’re stuck with them. These are books that languish in the discount bin. Why you bought that title in the first place dogs you every day at work. These books, these mistakes, these titles that make you shake your head and chortle at your stupidity, these books have to go. We actually borrowed a tip from another bookseller who smartly had a bin with this sign: "We’ll give you a nickel for anything you take out of this bin." Worked like a charm, she said, so we’re trying it.

I’ll post next Monday and tell you how it went. But right now, Eizabeth and I get to spend the next few days going through our entire store’s overstock, deciding which books to move up two flights of stairs from our basement. I’m already tired and I haven’t even made a sale. But I know I’ll have a great turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberries to tide me over.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving, full of family, fun and maybe a few stolen hours to just sit back and read a great book between football games.

2 thoughts on “It’s a Nice Day for a Black Friday

  1. pinkofemme

    Josie, I have to say I’m curious… What do you have in the we’ll-pay-you-to-walk-it-out-of-the-store box? How did those specific books come to reside at the Flying Pig? Any good stories behind them?

  2. shelftalker elizabeth

    Pinko, in the dirt-cheap or pay-you bins are things like last year’s calendars and date books that we forgot to return in time, books on cassette, the cool literary bookmarks you thought everyone would love but haven’t moved in five years, book-and-toy combos that have lost a major part, pop-up books that don’t, etc. I’m trying to decide whether our Walter the Farting Dog, whose sound box is dead, will have to sell at 80% off, or if someone might be amused enough by the idea of Walter the Discreet Dog to buy him at only half off. Also, there are obscure books ordered by customers who never came to pick them up, or that arrived in multiples off back-order from tiny publishers, that aren’t easy to return, so you just want to get rid of them. There are books with hideous, clunky covers that may be well written but no customer will ever pick up and in fact back away from you when you try to handsell that title. These books have covers you are so sick of seeing taunting you from the shelves that you just can’t wait to boot them out the door. Then there are the books that got great reviews but seem to have an approximate readership of one—and that one is the buyer who ordered it. We give books a looooong time to prove themselves, but every item on the shelf has been paid for, so once a book sits unsold for, say, six years, it might be time to say goodbye.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *