One of the downers of running a pre-loved books store is the number of used books one sees that have, quite simply, passed their sell-by date. It is just conceivable that Guidepost Annuals will live on–after all, how can stories of angelic intervention really get old–but the Twentieth Century Books of World Records, the yearly Reader’s Digest Estate Planners, and the encyclopedias … well, the sun has set on the Brittanic empire.
Try telling that to the sweet people who lumber through our shop doors, sagging beneath the weight of a box of encyclopedias. Here are a few of our favorite “sales pitches”:
“I’ve got some real valuable old books here, from 1943, the whole set! Except for V. How much do you give for antique books?” These were World Books; on finding we did not deem his haul valuable, the gentleman protested, “But in the middle of the war and all, nobody knowing who would win, it’s gotta be worth something!”
“Hi. I brought you a 1976 set of alphabetized encyclopedias, and I’ve got a real good idea of how you can sell ’em. Find people born in 1976 whose names begin with those letters, and advertise these as gifts to their families!” (This customer was disappointed to learn she would not receive half the assumed purchase amount in cash.)
“I’ve got a set of encyclopedias in my car; can you use them? I’ll just give them to you.” When we suggested she put them on the front porch in our free bin, because with Christmas coming people would be happy to have these hardbacks to make trees and angels, the woman’s eyes took on a cunning look. “Oh, well, if people can use them, then can I have trade credit after all? I figured you’d just throw them away after I left.”
And a customer who, being told we couldn’t use them but she could leave them on the porch for people to take for free, huffed, “Well, where’s the nearest dumpster?”
Do not go gently into that good night….
(The Big Stone Celtic Festival is Sept. 22 in downtown Big Stone Gap, VA! Google Big Stone Celtic for program details.)