As occasionally mentioned herein, we do get all sorts of bookmarks in our donations. These can be interesting, informative, entertaining, shocking (should’ve kept better track of those pictures), but they are seldom immediately useful in addressing the financial needs of the institution. The opportunities for blackmail seldom pan out, and people are more likely to use one dollar bills than fifty dollar bills for this purpose.
But I have found something which might, with a little work, add more to our bottom line than a yellowed treasure map. (I’d have to give the map to our Map Collection, and wait for it to be catalogued.)
It’s a folded document from another book fair, a school book fair. School book fairs are generally run by a publisher, which will bring over all its new releases and most popular titles, and set them out for the students to look through. This outfit is the one which used to send those paper catalogues to you every now and then, which you would take home and get your parents to fill out after you had checked off all the books you wanted, and they went through and edited for content and cost. Depending on the era in which you did this, you then needed to wail, “But they’re only ten cents apiece!” or “But they’re only fifty cents apiece!” or “But they’re only two dollars apiece!”
In any case, they learned what most retailers know: a catalogue is convenient, but there is no substitute for letting the customer look at the goods, pick them up, and feel their sales resistance dissolve. (Rule of thumb: if you walk into a pet store, refuse all offers to let you hold a puppy.)
This folded document is kind of an insurance policy from a Chicago school. It sets things out in black and white so all parties are protected. “My child (name) is allowed to spend (dollar amount) at the upcoming book fair. I realize I will be billed for any amount up to this maximum after the book fair, but my child will not be allowed to exceed this maximum.” I wonder how well this system worked. I wonder how the parent who used this form as a bookmark and apparently forgot about it dealt with their children when the book fair arrived and the school did not have this permission slip. I wonder, in the long run, whether more children falsified their book fair limitation document or their report card. Nowadays, of course, I suppose it’s all done online, but there’s presumably at least one experienced hacker in every grade.
You see what this could mean to the Newberry. We cannot send one of these automatically to everyone in the Midwest who might come to the Fair in July. (We’ve had customers from Tennessee and California and Colorado, after all.) But we could SELL these forms to people who applied for them.
Yes, if you were tired of having your Significant Bother bringing home a thousand pounds of books every July, you could apply to us for a form which you could sign and return, limiting your spouse to a hundred dollars worth or a hundred pounds of books per weekend. We could get your money in advance, in fact, and thus relieve your Dearest of having to carry cash or card.
Wouldn’t that cut down on our sales total, though? In the end, would this not cut back on the profit we make every year on book addicts? Of course not. That’s not the way we play.
The minute we registered your form, we would send a form to the person named in the top line. THIS form would say, “I am a grown-up of spirit and independence, and I will buy however much I like.” The fee for a license to buy books would be equal to the payment made for the previous certificate.
As an honorable business, we could stop there. But we probably would then send another form to the first person, and charge for stronger restrictions. After that, we’d send another form to the second….
Don’t glare like that. If you think Grandma and Grandpa didn’t get involved in that school book fair form, you know nothing about Chicago business practices.