I suppose I should be grateful that people are always trying to help. One suggestion that comes up quite often is that we improve the Book Fair by doing other things besides selling. My predecessor and I had a similar answer for this, though mine is perhaps a wee bit more profane. What it amounts to is something along the lines of “We’re here to raise money by selling.”
“Well, yes,” the helper generally replies, “But you’d get more people here if they thought there was more to do than just buy things.”
There’s never a lot one can say to these deep thinkers. I am always torn between “If they’re not buying, why do I want them here?” and “Hey wow! Anybody tell Macy’s about that? Neiman Marcus? Brooks Brothers? Here they are wasting store space by filling it with stuff to sell!” But I know, somehow, that I won’t be heard, so I go back to the receiving room and kick a few banana boxes.
One suggestion that comes up nearly every year is the Hidden Coupon idea. This is where we hide a prize in a book. People win if they buy the book. This is the Newberry Library, I’m told, so no one would ever think to go through the books and just grab the coupon, or to switch the coupon into a book they were buying anyway. I can’t figure out if this is because people who shop at the Newberry Library are considered more honest than the general public, or simply more stupid.
Helpers who think deeper, though, suggest that this ploy might disrupt the workings of the Book Fair. (Ya reckon?) So THEIR suggestion is that the prize be hidden somewhere else in the Library. “Inside a volume of an encyclopedia,” they say, “Or between cards in the card catalog, or in the tray of call slips at Special Collections.”
That wouldn’t disrupt anything at all, of course. I love this suggestion, really I do. The look on the face of our chief security officer is worth all the trouble. And then we generally agree about not letting people in a book-buying frenzy run loose upstairs.
One thing about the customers is that they ARE here to buy. They’re here for books and records and DVDs and postcards and whatever else I can slap a price tag on. And I get offers for the tables, the bookcases, the bookends, and even the stands for the subject signs. (Invented by a volunteer named Bob Lisk, may he live long and prosper. He also donated sheet music. Did I mention these people buy sheet music, too? And old encyclopedias and radio and metronomes and….)
One year a checkout volunteer came to me with a framed piece of art that had no price marked on it. (I leave the prices off certain things at the Book Fair so our volunteers get their running in even while they work.) The picture looked familiar, but I could not remember what price I’d had on it. I paused, putting on that utterly lost and bewildered face I use to fool people when I am feeling utterly lost and bewildered, and then remembered where I’d seen the picture and why it didn’t have a price. I’d seen it for years, hanging on the wall in the East Hall.
Which meant, faithful blogreaders, that this customer must have pushed aside a bookcase, reached behind it, lifted the picture off the wall, and carried it to checkout, all in perfect faith that it was for sale. We gently explained that it was part of the décor, and took it back. But, by gum, she proved that she was there to BUY.
(footnote: Sadly enough, the following year, the East Hall was completely renovated when it was renamed Ruggles Hall, and the pictures on the wall were put away never to be seen again. So I could actually have sold her the thing. Which gives you some idea of what I’m there for.)