This is what Heaven looks like.
All the time I worked at the county, I had a mantra I repeated when days were bad. This happened most frequently when I was dealing with a problem employee (and I dealt with a few). Spouse would say, “How was your day?” and I would snarl, “I don’t need this! I could get a job in a bookstore!”
So, on Thursday I worked in a bookstore.
This fulfilled a lifelong fantasy; and as is common for those kinds of experiences, reality was not what I expected. I have a lot of practice dealing with the public, but I have no retail background, and I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to handle sales. I was handing sales pretty quickly. This is not because I’m smart, it’s because Brandy and Mark invested in an almost idiot-proof point of sale system called Basil. Brandy also made the decision to enter their books into the inventory system, which means that, unlike many used bookstores, we can tell at a glance whether we have a book. (Brandy still takes the wireless phone and walks back to the shelf to check, but I think she does that because she likes doing it.)
Brandy showed me how to list books, and it has a number of steps. Surprisingly, there is not a lot of typing. I assumed I’d be typing in titles and authors – not so. The system is tied to Amazon.com, and once you swipe the barcode containing the ISBN number, the author and title come up on your screen. You can then add category of book, state of book (very fine, fine, slight wear, etc.) comments, and sub-categories. For example, Brandy scanned in a cookbook. It was a book on appetizers. The Cooking category has several sub-categories. We chose Cooking-entertaining. The system also brings up a suggested retail price for the book. Finally, it prints out a label. Brandy runs a whole sheet of labels. Then the labels are affixed to the books, covering any previous barcode. If there is no barcode, the default position is back of the book, lower right.
If you look at the stacks on the left you will see the strands of labels festooning them.
I labeled books! I did good! I’d love to take the credit, but Brandy stacked the books in the same order as the labels. Yes, I could have messed it up, but it would have required serious inattention on my part.
Then we cleaned the books. This was a shock. We used window cleaner. (I know!) This is a pretty delicate process. I sprayed Windex onto a paper towel and lightly wiped the book, concentrating on food stains or gunk. For very stubborn gunk we used a citrus-based adhesive remover. The trick is not to rub too hard, but you can clean even paperback books this way.
Aaiiee! The books, the books!
Last, I checked inside the book to see if there was a price penciled in from a previous sale and if there was, I erased it. There were things I couldn’t get rid of, like ink marks or those indentations in the cover where someone wrote a note with ballpoint pen, using the book as a work surface – just the kind of thing I’ve done about a million times.
Look how shiny and empty!
Brandy and Mark tend to hunt for books in pretty good shape, so with a few exceptions there were no coffee rings or scorch marks. She had one Book club edition of a John Steinbeck’s book The Wayward Bus, from 1947, and it did have a coffee ring in the center of the cover. Disappointing, but the inside was pretty clean and somebody will probably buy it even in that condition, just to round out a collection.
New Arrivals, right by the door.
See the book on shoes? And the one on cars? I labeled and cleaned those!
She also had a wonderful book, Mark Twain’s The Personal Recollections of St Joan of Arc, with beautiful color plates. The book is old and a bit battered, and the adhesive has dried on the plates. They are loose, but they are all there. It is a thing of beauty, and a careful application of some rice paste or pH-neutral adhesive would fix it right up.
(Twain is reputed to have said that he was inspired to write the book because he found a broadsheet blowing down the street one day and picked it up. It was an anti-Catholic screed and excoriated Joan of Arc in particular, calling her a harlot and a traitor. Ever the contrarian, Twain immediately shifted his sympathy to the maligned underdog and started researching her, and from that came the book.)
Later, I got to alphabetize the Astrology section.
So, you’ve probably noticed a theme here; when working with unskilled labor, give them the low-skill jobs. Brandy is an excellent supervisor who figured out immediately where I could help the most.
The holiday-themed books
Lots of people came in, possibly because it was raining, and a pleasant, warm bookstore is a great refuge in the rain. We made about 12 sales, and Brandy packaged up about 15 books to get out in the mail, from online sales.
I won’t say I was great, but she is letting me come back next week.