Friday, December 01, 2006

Well Hello There, Strangers

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Hope all is well with you. I would love to blame my absence on a turkey and wine induced coma, but that excuse only works through Black Friday. Nope, the reality is that I’ve just been running around doing the Christmas Retail thing so much that when I get home I’m a little brain dead, and I thought y’all deserved more than a post that consisted of “Book’s are purty.”

Um, yeah.

So, anywho, the Christmas Season is upon us and that means people shopping for books they don’t really want to pay for, books that don’t really represent the gift receiver, and felling guilty about buying books for themselves. My store has been inundated with heavy, expensive coffee table books and professional grade cook books. My sales have already been picked apart by customers looking for a way to scam more money off, and the battle cry of “What do you mean this isn’t in paperback, yet?” is heard often through the aisles. Oh, and the shoplifters have banded together to form packs that scavenge during the mall extended hours.

‘Tis the Season. Bah-Humbug.

The truth is, that I really do like Christmas. I love shopping for family and friends, wrapping presents, giving and receiving gifts and a house decorated with a tree. I love the white twinkle lights that the city puts up for the season and the distant sound of bell ringers. I just don’t love the retail half of it. The Boss—not so jokingly—always claims she must block out the Christmas from the year before because every time the season rolls around she’s shocked anew by something. I think exhaustion has a lot to do with that. Christmas shoppers, in our bookstore, can be really high maintenance.

Run here, climb that ladder there, grab this book from the back…Wait, that’s not fifty percent off? Well then, they’ll just take the one book, the easy to get book that was also the cheapest.

Or maybe they’ll still take all of them, but they really need them wrapped individually.

I have customers that are appalled just appalled at our small selection of coffee table books. Why they’re willing to drop fifty to seventy bucks on a book that may very well sit around gathering dust, when they could find something the giftee might actually read, I don’t know. And what if you gave the same person a coffee table book every year? Would they eventually build a coffee table out of the books, eschewing the actual thing? (Look, Martha, they’re table is made out of actual books? Can you believe it? I think if you look closely you can see the spine of that Paris pictorial we gave them five years ago.)

Or would they get rid of the old ones? Where do old coffee table books go to die, anyway?

Maybe they’re recycled to make tables for Starbucks.

Now I know there are people out there who collect coffee table books, just like there are people who collect cook books and other things that you might not use that often. And who am I to judge, seeing as I have a house full of fiction and nonfiction (not all of which I will reread). It’s just that I hate seeing a book matched to the wrong person, and I really hate when I get that book as a return after Christmas.

Oh boy, do a lot of books get returned after Christmas. But really, what do you expect when I’ve got business men coming in and buying twenty to thirty copies of the newest Albom or Crichton for all of their business associates and family members?

And can they have those wrapped, please?

There are high points through: watching little kids pick out what they consider to be the perfect gifts for their families, hearing that squeal that means someone has finally found the book they’ve been looking for, and the general air of excitement that people have when they find out the book they’ve been waiting for is here. Those moments are wonderful, and they really do make up for the repetitive Christmas Carols, the snarky women with their personal maids, and the people who want to haggle over the price.

Now if I can only remember to focus on that I might make it until Christmas day.

Of course, if I have another guy tell me that Star Wars book he is holding contains the sign of the devil ‘cause the blue marble he is holding divined it to be so, then all bets are off.


Kendall said...

I am scared of some of the weird stuff you have to put up with. Good luck! I rarely buy coffee-table style books, but my other half loves cookbooks, so we have a wide variety of those, some of them ridiculously large and/or overpriced. (But much of our huge fiction collection's mine, and then there are my comic I can't complain too much. ;-)

I almost never use wrapping services, esp. for books. I mean, as bad a wrapper as I am...books are the easiest thing to wrap, IMNSHO (well, any oblong hard item like that, for me anyway). It's the odd-shaped stuff that makes me long for a personal maid to do the wrapping.

Susan Adrian said...

Where do coffee-table books go to die? Boxes in my closet. :)

Robin Brande said...

" . . . the snarky women with their personal maids" and

" . . .if I have another guy tell me that Star Wars book he is holding contains the sign of the devil ‘cause the blue marble he is holding divined it to be so . . ."

Tell me you're kidding. About both of those.

Joe said...

Strangest wrapping request from my years in book retail -- the woman who wanted a set of steak knives wrapped up with the copy of THE SECRET HISTORY she'd just bought.

Little Willow said...

Good thoughts for you and your store this season. It's a crazy time.

Max said...

This reminded me of my book retail days. My first shopping season after I left the bookstore was strange because I'd gotten so used to the frantic energy of working behind the counter (I wrote about it at the time). I still miss it a little, but not too much.

Lisa Hunter said...

Where do coffee table books go? To my house. I have specially built shelves for them. I LOVE coffee table art books, and probably have as many of them as I have paperbacks.

And yes, some of us actually do read them! :-)