Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dear, Dead, Emily Post

Went to a recently open used bookstore in another city not my own today. Wonderful location, handsome store, with uniform and attractive fixtures, decent lighting and a surprisingly wide selection for such a new shop. Naturally my eye searched out the sets. I am drawn to any uniform row of used books as a bumble bee to posies. And here there were an exciting number of sets: Poe, and Thackeray, and Kipling and Kipling, and, most attractive to me, Ruskin. Twenty some volumes; stout, brown books with multiple parts -- volumes one and two in one, three and four plus another title in the next -- it was just the thing.

I opened the first volume to the left and found an old price, $35.00 for the set, just erased, but no new price. And the old price was for 25 volumes, complete. Here there were 23. I reviewed each volume in turn, for defects and to find the present price. No defects, but no price. Hmmm. I went on, for curiosity's sake to check the set of Poe. No price, no mention of the set being broken or complete. I checked no less than four sets, and only one sported a price.

As my visit was to be brief, I asked the very nice clerk for the price. She did not know. She does not price the books. The owner prices the books. The owner was not there but would be in in by the afternoon. I left my name & number and asked to be called. I took a business card.

Hours later, when I got back to work, I found no message so I called. The owner was a charming fellow. I congratulated him on his new store, admired his collections, his tasteful appointments, etc., then I asked for a price on the broken set displayed on his sales floor. He hadn't set the price yet. He was still thinking about it, researching the possibility of replacing the missing volumes via the Internet, not sure what he would take for what he had.

New to the business or not, when one puts books out on the sales floor, not in a back room or behind the counter, those books are meant to be marked. Those books are for sale. Those books are not meant to be merely decorative, else one is not in the business of selling books but of displaying books, and that is no business at all. That is just teasing.

What's the world come to when a man can't be told he can't afford something by simply looking at the price?!

Very bad manners, indeed.

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