When a first-time customer walks in, Jack and I smile and say hi in confidence that this is the start of a beautiful relationship. We’re proud of our bookstore, and its reputation for dealing honestly with people who bring in “old” books for free evaluations. We keep the store cheerfully clean, cozy and welcoming (as opposed to fully alphabetized and sterile, Jack says) whether you’re buying, browsing, or just in for some kitten cuddling.
And yeah, we have a reputation for being cuckoo for cats. It’s a fair cop.
But every once per 300 or so encounters, instead of returning this welcoming smile, the person looks back through squinted eyes and says something like, “You charge $3 for a Western? That’s too much. I can get them at the Goodwill for $1.”
Uh, no, you can’t because our Goodwill NEVER has Westerns, as you well know as a fan of the genre. Goodwill has romances ten for a penny, but no Westerns. Or desirable science fiction.
Once someone picked up a value paperback ($1 each, 6 for $5) and sniffed. “I see you changed your pricing. These books used to be 4 for $1.” (Hmm, you’d think I’d remember that, but I don’t.) “Everybody’s in it for the money these days.”
Or even, “Tell me exactly the value of each book I traded in, because that doesn’t seem like enough credit” when we’ve just given them $20 for a box that includes 27 battered children’s books and 3 Norton anthologies we’ll be selling for a quarter each.
Ask a small business owner if she’s in it for the money, and she will pee herself laughing. Let me tell you, there are HUNDREDS of dollars to be made in used book sales!
No, mom-n-pops tend to be in business as family tradition, or to be our own bosses, or because we literally love and are happy around what we sell or do. We just want a graceful sufficiency existence off the rat race treadmill. Had we wanted to make money, we’d have gone into health insurance.
Sometimes it’s evident that customers consider statements like those above preludes to haggling, but Jack and I see them as flat disrespect for local businesses. When haggling is done with mutual respect on both sides, it’s actually fun. It is not fun to deal with people who walk in saying they expect us to join the rest of life in ripping them off. Rather kills the kindness instinct, don’t you know.
Still, sir or madam, you have our deepest sympathies, and let us make you a cuppa–or show you the door, as you prefer. ‘Cause we’re not a corporation–no matter what the federal government says, they’re not people until they have feelings. We are real people, with real feelings, and real pride in our work. We respect out customers.
Which is why we don’t take no shit off them, should the occasion arise. Thank you.