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Santa Blogs X

Dear Santa Blogs:

Just like you, I feel it is perfectly appropriate to send people secondhand books as gifts. Sometimes, though, I don’t like the recipient to know I bought the book at the Newberry Book Fair, and go for the ones that are still shrinkwrapped. I don’t like to make things difficult for you, but how’s about putting all of those in a special section for people like me?


Dear Thrifty:

I hate answering a question with a question, but what sorts of things do you propose for people you DO like to make things difficult for? I’m sorry, but sorting by newness is not a thing I think the Book Fair can incorporate.

But you’re right: nothing says love and generosity like shrinkwrap. A lot of people are so impressed by it, in fact, that they never disturb the wrapping, and I get a bunch of books donated which have never been opened. These have certain advantages: such books won’t have any inscriptions like “To Little Moo-Moo from Big Hee-Haw”; they will not be missing any pages (unless they came like that from the factory, in which case the shrinkwrap shows it isn’t MY fault), and they won’t have had bookmarks stuck inside, so I don’t waste my time hunting for fifty dollar bills.

Still, shrinkwrap presents a certain quandary for the Book Fair manager. Do I leave it on or take it off? A shrinkwrapped book cannot be priced in the upper right corner of the first whit page. Oh, yes, I can just use a sticker. But though leaving the shrinkwrap alone tells the customer the book is new, it also means the customer can’t look at it without ripping off the shrinkwrap. Customers do like to look at what they’re buying before laying down that hard-earned four dollars.

Retail operations have it easy: they can open one copy, allowing people to glance through and then buy the wrapped copy. I can’t do that in most cases. And I know my customers. Some of them are so conscientious that would never disturb that shrinkwrap except at a time of national emergency. Others will rip it right off and throw it on the floor. Which means that sticker with the pricetag on it is now as gone as Grover Cleveland. So quite often I will save them the trouble by ripping off the plastic, pricing on the first white page, and moving on. I lose the newness but I may gain a little rest from “Where’s the price on this?” come July.

Records are another matter. A LOT of people opened their records (LPs, albums, those big round things we used before there was the Cloud) by just slitting open the shrinkwrap at the open end of the jacket but leaving the shrinkwrap on to keep dust off the cardboard. I try to rip as much of this away as I can when pricing records. Many records have been nicely protected: the whites are whiter and the brights are brighter on the jacket art. In some cases, though, dust and mold have gathered under the plastic, and throwing it away leaves the jacket cleaner than before. Some shrinkwrap has yellowed with the years, and removing it makes the record look better. (Angel Records for some years used a shrinkwrap that cracked and stuck to the cover: amazing stuff: makes the record look thirty years older.) And they do call it shrinkwrap because it shrinks. When it is whole, it shrinks evenly in every direction, but when slit at one end, this removes tension there and the shrinkwrap starts to shrink again from top to bottom, gradually bending that vinyl record into a letter C. (Proper record collections averted this by simply having so many records crammed into one cabinet that there wasn’t room to bend, but you can’t have that every time.)

All this information on shrinkwrap at the Book Fair is probably more than you expected, Thrifty, but consider it a gift. A very inexpensive one, and not even secondhand. (Unless you print this out and give it to someone else. In which case, you should know they do sell shrinkwrap machines for home use. Might solve ALL your problems.)

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