Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Yesterday, I had a customer come into the store to buy a used copy of a best-selling book that we had held back for her, after calling and informing her that we had found it. She was happy enough with that bargain, especially after she brought in a book to trade in order to bring the total price to $5.07. The book, brand new, would have cost $15.00 Yay! Then she asked about "The Tattooed Lady" by Swenson. Fortunately, I knew that she was actually looking for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Larsson. (Would Amazon have found it for her based on her data? Maybe?) That book happens to be number 1 on the bestseller list, and has been for some time. She wondered why we didn't have any used copies. Well, we do get them in, but there is a wait list for them, much like the waitlist on which we put her to find the book she just purchased. I also explained that we'd love to have a used copy for her, because we make more money on used books than new ones.

I think customers have a hard time understanding this, but it's true. Used books cost nothing except staff time to process them and the credit the customer gets. For new books, we have to pay about 55% TO 60% of the cover price just to get the book into the store, where it's a gamble that it will be bought at all. If not, then we spend money paying staff to find that book and spend money on freight to return it, for no book can stay in our store forever without selling. We need that shelf space!However, I think some customers feel that new books are a scam that we pull, charging outlandish full prices because we get every cent of that profit. Well, no. We get about 40% off that profit if we're lucky, and out of that comes rent, payroll, utilities, office supplies, fees to credit cards (a LOT!!!) etc, etc. After all, if Walmart can have low prices, why can't we? To answer this question, please look up "loss leader" and then apply to how Walmart sells books.

Anyway, I told this particular customer that since "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", alias "Tattooed Lady", was a bestseller, it was discounted 15%. This did pique her interest enough that she looked at the book. However, it was the smaller, cheaper mass market size, not the larger trade size. This was unacceptable to her. I, perhaps injudiciously, ventured the opinion that she seemed more likely to have preferred the cheap version anyway.

We love to have your book for you. If no one turns it in used (and we have NO control over this) we can either have it new (often at a discount) or not at all. We choose the option of having the new book for the customer to take, should they choose. This is not a scam; it's customer service. We are very sorry that we can't have every book dirt cheap, but selling at a loss means we won't be around very long, and we like it here.

I have seen customers come in, get all the information on a book from us, and then leave without purchasing. I'm pretty sure they're heading straight to Amazon for the best deal in the world. But see my post below for exactly how much Amazon cares about Colorado. Sometimes the bottom line isn't the last word, when making a decision. It's hard to have customers avail themselves of our customer service and leave without ever paying for that service. But that's the nature of the business; besides, we love talking about books anyway. Do think about it, though, before going to Amazon with all the information and help we just gave away for free. Whether you're after "Tattooed Lady" or "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", or "that book about the woman in Scotland", we can figure it out. And help you buy the book, if you like.

1 comment:

  1. Here's an article I bet you'll enjoy. It's about the future of bookstores, plus it has a TON of cool pictures!