Aged Pages: The Kindness Of A Small Business

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Over the weekend I went to my local used bookstore (like I always do whenever I go into town). I was browsing the shelves, finding some titles that I added to my mental list to purchase at a later date. I can’t buy the way I used to lately. I used to be able to go in to the store and leave with arm loads of books. Those were the days when my wallet had money in it. Yea, those days that are only fantasy now. But that’s why I have a mental list for books. It might not be very reliable. I might not be able to tell you what on the list at the moment, but when I see something in the store next time I have money something will click.

It’s because of this lack of money that I went toward the check out counter empty handed. But I wasn’t tapped out just yet. Right in front of the counter are stacks of books. Trade paperbacks priced from 2-3 bucks. Right on top of one of the stacks I found Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays. I had found a book to buy that day. I was too curious about reading something by Crystal that I couldn’t risk it not being there the next time in the store. But I stopped myself at just the ONE book (that’s still awkward to say).

Did I mention I didn’t have money in my wallet? Well that’s a semi-truth. I have my debit card in there, but that’s VERY lacking on funds as well. I tend to keep that in the wallet when in the bookstore. Their machine’s old and temperamental. And it’s more work for everyone, rather than handing over a few bills.

I handed over the book, priced $2 (I know it’s a steal), and the owner of the store was “a dollar.” *Gasp* Ok, not really a “gasp.” This is normal. I’m a very regular customer and have been for well around 9-10 years. I normally get around a 30% discount, the same as my mom got when she worked there part-time when I was in high school. They know me. They like me. They also keep my wallet from emptying (more of the time, lol).

I started handing over my card, only to be told “Oh, just bring in a dollar next time you come through.” To which I replied a smiling thank you.

This is what I love about my used bookstore, and a few others that I have run into over the years. While the bigger reason the owner didn’t want to run my card is because it was only a dollar and that’s almost a waste of a transaction, he also didn’t ask me to come pay for the book later AND pick it up later. He allowed me to walk out of the store with it. Yes I’m a trustworthy guy and they’ve known me for years. I’ve always paid, and only on a few occasions asked them to hold a book so I can pay later. But this wasn’t really the reason he let me go. I’ve witnessed this with other customers as well. Even with purchases a little more expensive customers have been trusted to just pay later.

It’s a joy of being a small business., to me. You can really make up your own sales rules. You can put your trust in the customers and I’m sure almost all the time they come back and pay for the books. If anything they don’t because they forget, not because they are skipping out on a purchase.

To go along with this kindness that I witness every time I stop by, that discount I mentioned earlier sometimes varies in percentage. Sometimes I don’t get it (rarely) and I don’t complain AT ALL. I’ve given them a good amount of business over the years and have taken a liking to getting a few bucks off here and there..but I also don’t mind paying that extra dollar or two in the first place. There are also times when the discount is…well..breath-taking. One day I went in and found 4 of the Harry Potter books (hardcover) and another 4-5 books of some sort. I had money at the time too so this wasn’t a “large purchase.” 3 of the 4 HP books were marked $5 and the other one (the 5th book in the series) was $10 because it was a special edition with slip case, etc. In total all the book came out to around $35  I think…I was only asked to pay twenty! That’s like getting 3 of the HP books for FREE! Other times I can get a dollar book or two for free as well, when they’re really liking me 😉

What other business can be this generous to their customers. Certainly I can’t walk into Barnes & Noble, grab five books, walk to the counter, and only pay them 5 bucks. Each of those books are at least $10 a piece, if not more. And the cashier won’t be able to take pity on a local towns-person and tell him that he could just pay at a later time. Not that I expect them to actually do that. It’s not how they do business and it’s not very common. But it’s what makes me love my bookstore, and others like it.

So when you go on Amazon or go to a place like Barnes & Noble for a copy of a classic like a Jane Austen novel or a more recent classic like a Stephen King novel, please don’t let those be the first places you look. If there is a small business, a small used bookstore, in the area, please check them out first. You should find it for cheaper, first editions sometimes too. If you don’t, you’re bound to find something else worth reading and fall in love with the store itself. (For newer releases, you’ll probably not find them in a used store for a year or two if you’re lucky, so I won’t scold you for going to B&N for that :P)

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