True Customer Tales: Mixed Bag

Today has emptied a veritable cornucopia of crazy onto my table, leaving me too baffled by variety to choose only one.

First I had a vist from Smelly Santa, in a much more manic mood than usual. He hovered by the door pouring over the sale cart for upwards of 20 minutes, an unfortunate quirk of the breeze wafting his signature cat piss and sour cheese aroma throughout the main room.

He eventually chose his two twenty five cent paperbacks and shambled to the counter.

"Heh Heh Heh! I hope this ones good...it looks good, but I'm worried about the PUBLISHER! You know?" *waving the book in question in my face*

"Mmmmm. That'll be fifty four cents."

"It looks good, but, the publisher has me worried! Heh heh heh! Did you see who published it?"

"Mmmhmm. Fifty four cents." The publisher was Harlequin, which is why it was on the quarter rack in the first place.

"They usually publish ROMANCES, heh heh heh! But I dunno, it looks good, don't it?"

"Mmmm. Six cents is your change, have a good day."

"Six whole cents! I better be careful not to spend it all in one place, heh heh heh! You know?"


Shortly thereafter a profoundly sweaty, very fey young man wandered up to the counter swinging an ipod Nano cranked up to maximum volume around by its headphone cord.

"Oh hey, I'm not looking for a job or anything, but you know this place is really messy, and, like, that's my thing, you know? I'm very fluent in the Dewey Decimal System, and Library of Congress, and I was wondering if I could just, you know, help out with shelving and organizing and stuff? Not like a job, though, you wouldn't have to pay me."

"That's not how we work, sorry. Thanks for asking."

"Oh. So...uh, are you, you know, hiring?"

"Not right now. We have two employees and zero turnover, but you can drop off a resume if you'd like."

"Oh. Okay, well, I was just asking."

He left me unsure as to just how crazy he was.

And lastly, a strange cat in his mid 50's came in with what would normally be an A+ buy, two sacks full of mostly Bukowski, Kerouac and Burroughs.

Unfortunately they were what we in the business call 'well loved'- dogeared, soiled, some with water damage, all of them with condition issues that would disqualify 99% of the books in the world from our shelves.

Unfortunately for me, they belonged to that rarefied 1%, so I had to engage Mr. Oddfellow in spite of the host of condition issues on display.

Our shop philosophy is the goodwill and positive word of mouth generated by making your first offer a fair one more than offsets the savings to be gleaned from nickel and diming people on buys. Unfortunately, it can make for a tricky interaction when you run into customers with a deluded sense of value.

So I sorted out the chaff (a couple of books by John Fante, a fine writer but not particularly saleable, a copy of Maggie Cassidy that was literally falling apart, and a Kenneth Patchen book with a partially detached text block) and made a strong offer on the rest.

"I can go $25 in cash for these guys."

I sense danger when he hems and haws, then holds up the Maggie Cassidy, with pages literally cascading down onto the counter, and says "But what about this one?"

"Ah...that one is falling apart." I say calmly.

"Oh.....right." he replies, as if I've called his attention to some heretofore invisible and unsuspected flaw. Undeterred, he hefts the Fantes. "What about these?"

"Good author, doesn't sell that great. Not something I'm paying cash for right now."

"Oh." The Patchen is next. "But what about this one? It's very collectible! He's highly sought after!"

"The condition isn't what I'd like, and I haven't noticed pristine copies selling particularly well, so I'll have to pass."

He stands there for a while, gears grinding, while I grab a stack of books to price so I can ignore his transparent cogitation.

(Bookseller Protip: Always have a stack of books to hand around the counter. The ability to become instantly absorbed and busy is helpful in a wide variety of situations.)

"Well," he finally says, pushing the rejected titles forward like poker chips, "How about all of them for $35?"

Well, how about that for crafty bargaining!

"But," I responded reasonably, "I've already turned those down- I don't want them. Twenty five is as high as I can go for this bunch."

He ended up taking the original offer, which was more than fair.
On his way out he muttered something about how he should have just sold them online, which gave me a good chuckle- I can just imagine his Utopian grading, and reaction of a poor unsuspecting Amazon customer upon receiving that copy of Maggie Cassidy.

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