Friday, April 25, 2008

The Book Crook

It was not a stellar day for sales yesterday. Miss Prothero's Books had one Internet and one walk-in sale. I added a little more than $15 to the till. Good thing it's laughter yoga day, I told myself. At 4:30, the ladies started arriving...Diana, then Jackie, then Karen. Karen brought hats so we could be particularly silly. We were just settling down to breathing and stretching when the phone rang. I ran to answer, the feathers on my silly hat bouncing down my back.

"You open today?" the caller asked.

"Yes," I said, trying to hide my irritation. The laughter ladies were chortling without me.

"'Til when?"

"We're open until 6 tonight."

"Where you at?"

"1112 Santa Fe Drive -- " Now there were whoops of glee. Whoops of glee without me.

"What's the cross street?"

"11th," I said.

"Okay," the caller said and hung up.

I got back to laughter.

The caller must have gotten in her big white gas guzzling broom as soon as she hung up the phone. She was at the store in five minutes after her call hauling two Walmart bags of mass market paperbacks through the door.

"Hi," I said. "We're in the middle of a laughter yoga session."

"Wanted to know if you bought books," she said.

Something told me to just say no. Then something told me not to be impolite.

"I can take a look," I said. I don't know why. Mass market means mass produced, means cheap, means too damned many and cheap. The most I've ever made on a modern mass market is a little less than a dollar. Most of them end up in my twenty-five cent pile near the front door.

"What's laughter got to do with books?" my visitor asked. She did not ask in a friendly or curious way. My visitor preferred serious books, I told myself.

I pulled out nineteen volumes that I thought might appeal to the whodunit club or maybe the odd science fiction fan. There was nothing there that I wanted to read myself. A dime a piece, I told myself. I offered my visitor three bucks.

"Put those books back!" My visitor shouted. "You're the biggest crook I've ever met."

I let her get to me. I felt greedy. As if I'd stolen the books from her. As if I wanted to steal the books from her.

My visitor waved her hand at the laughter ladies. "Did you see that?" she said. "She offered me three dollars for nineteen of my books!"

There were more declarations of my evil, shysterly ways. My back was beginning to ache from being so crooked.

My visitor finally swooped out carrying her two Walmart bags by the neck as if they were cats she was going to kill for dinner.

Good thing it was laughter yoga day. The ladies and I put on our silly hats. We giggled and chortled and guffawed all of the negative energy out of the room.

Good thing the laughter ladies left their silly hats!


Anonymous said...

You're very patient. I've been dabbling in used-book-selling online, and I've seen this tendency too. People who don't understand books and book pricing and book buying get very upset when faced with the actual market value. I scan CraigsList for books being given away locally, and there are so many people who list their Stephen King and Tom Clancy hardcovers ("in GREAT condition!") for $4 apiece.

Sounds like laughter yoga day saved you.

Miss Prothero's Books said...

Not patient. Stupid. There is an antiquarian dealer in Denver who has a reputation for bringing book sellers to tears. I need to figure out how he does it.

Good luck with the online selling.