What Happens in a Used Book Store When It’s Quiet?

So, wouldn’t you like to know? Actually, believe it or not, I get asked that a lot. “So you probably just sit and read all day. What a job you have.” Actually no. It really is hard work. But then again it is a used bookstore so, seriously, the work isn’t all that hard. Or that bad. But it is still work. There is always books to shelve. Always. Keeping fiction in order and filling in the holes of purchased titles. Sweeping. Dusting. Slipping in reading or at least skimming a few pages.

But what happens on the days when, well, customers are far between? Say on a snowy day that no one in their right mind would be on any road except for a used bookstore owner and the postal worker? And why do we always seem to make it in? Why don’t we stay home like sane people do? Because we don’t want to disappoint customers. Those that need to have something fresh to read. To curl up on a sofa with a fresh pot of tea or a cup of steaming coffee. We don’t like to disappoint them. So we trod in and open the doors, sweep off the sidewalk, turn on the lights and sit and wait. Even if no one will show at the door at least we were open in case we were needed.

I’ve always wondered what other used bookstore owners did on those quiet days. Me? I generally do the same as always except every hour I go outside and sweep off the sidewalk leading to my door. Wander the shelves to tuck in books, re-alphabetize as needed and think that I should be reorganizing Religion and finish Cookbooks, and Gardening but well, I don’t. I’ll save it for another day. Dusting? Do used bookstore owners really dust? Doesn’t that hurt the ambiance? Just a thought. And then the mighty question, now what do I read? That took a bit until I finally settled on P.G. Wodehouse’s, Jeeves Omnibus. But then there is also Kipling and what about…ugh! That is a perfect dilemma for a used bookstore owner – settling on what next to read.

Today being a wintry day with more snow on the way tonight I posed a question to my fellow booksellers in Vermont, “Hey, what are you doing to entertain yourself on this quiet, snowy day?” Of course, I made it sound that I was quite busy – out straight – because I don’t want them to know I’m having a slow day. Kidding. I told them. I’ve had three customers so far and hoping that no one is taking pity on me because the snow has brought out tons of customers for them! Actually we are all very supportive to one another. Yes, for real. No real competition amongst us. Unless, of course, at a library sale but that’s for another story.

As I mentioned, I emailed the VABA (Vermont Antiquarian Bookseller Association) group and here is the response I received: “Right now I am busy preparing the brochure for the book fair, but I have done any and all of those things on a slow day.  The cleaning is usually the last thing, though.  Slow days are also usually when I can’t ignore the bookkeeping any more, and write up sales, etc. Tea is always much more appealing, sometimes while reading the local paper, and takes up far too much of the day,” from one seller up north.

Here’s someone just down the road from me, “Well, I’ve been repairing and cleaning some books. Starting to pack for the book fair. Dealing with several small chores that needed to get done but kept putting off. Checking facebook, checking email, and watching videos on YouTube. It’s 4 pm, and I actually have two people in the shop but they spending most of their time petting the cat! Not snowing here right now. Less than an hour to closing.”

And from some unknown part of Vermont (;-)) I received this response: “Yep!  It has been snowing here all day….winter getting in the last licks.  Did not go to the store today…schools closed, road only plowed once and the plow just went up the hill for the second time today.  So, I worked on my taxes…always a wonderful thing to do on a snowy day…and I have a little less hair and fewer dollars in my pocket after the government takes it’s cut.  I wonder if we could qualify for some of those government grants and handouts for historic preservation on Antiquarian Book Stores or something along that line…maybe even for being mentally deranged in working for little or nothing??? Thanks for the break in the boring work of doing tax forms, where completion of one form requires another form to complete the form of another form so you can do the form you started on, and those wonderful people in the Washington, DC area that work on paperwork reduction!!!!!! Best, Name withheld to protect the guilty party.

See we always keep ourselves busy even if we can’t make it into the store. But he would have if he could have I bet!

Oh! Time for me to turn out the lights and head home. Grab my book – ok, books – to read tonight and get ready to repeat for tomorrow. But hopefully busier.

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