Of Manners and Scanners

Hey, some really cool person called last week to ask about coming to preview night, and actually took time to ask whether we allow people to use their scanners. (Some book fairs have, indeed, banned them.) We explained that we have not yet banned scanners, nor bought that nifty little jamming device, but we mentioned we do have people walking around trying to discourage those customers who pile up hundreds of things in a corner and then sit down to scan them at the end of the night, causing traffic jams at check-out and, of course, making sure nobody ELSE can buy them. This especially hurts when they leave what they don’t want in a pile on the floor. Messes up the Book Fair for the volunteers, the customers, and the total profits. “I know,” said the person on the scanner. “I HATE that.”

That’s the spirit. I was, turkey muffin, going to write out a lot of guidelines for customers with scanners, but they turned out to be not much different from the rules for everybody. In fact, it really does all come down to one thing. Please remember there are other people at the Book Fair besides you.

Yes, I KNOW that’s why you brought six plastic bins to pile around you so the competition can’t get at YOUR table. That’s not what I meant. I mean remember there are people just like you who also want to look at the books.

No, I didn’t mean you should bring your cattle prod to ward them off. I mean if you decide you don’t want a book, put it back where you found it. Throwing your discards on the floor damages the books and blocks traffic and MAY lead to your taking a major role in the headline “Bookbuyer Killed at Newberry!” (You may think that’ll be cool, but remember, I’ll be around to clip the headline—if I’m allowed scissors—and you won’t.)

If you pick up a CD case and the CD falls onto the table, how about putting it back in the case for the next person instead of leaving it on the table? How about moving your stroller a bit down the line, or even around the corner of the table, so other people can look at your books instead of your brown-eyed little bundle of bounce? (who isn’t for sale, so the novelty quickly wears off.) Could you please go to a locker (to the right of the front stairs, if you’re facing out of the building) and check that backpack? Some people worry about shoplifting when they see backpacks; I worry about books and customers being knocked to the floor when you turn around.

What it comes down to is that solid gold rule about doing unto others as you would…you know the words. Yes, I know it’s a competition, and the book you want may be snatched up at any moment by an undeserving interloper, but the best competitions have rules so everybody gets a fair shot at the prize. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?

Okay, fine: be that way. I hope someone whacks you with their scanner.

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