2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge

Tina has read 2 books toward her goal of 40 books.
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Monday, July 27, 2009

MUSINGS on OWNING A USED BOOKSTORE - part 4

Today, I thought I would talk about the two "touchy" subjects for me when I owned a bookstore.

The first one is that many people seemed to think that I made tons and tons of $$$ owning a bookstore. They would bring in their books - say a paperback that they paid $8.99 for and I would give them $1.50 for it (if it was recent). I would then turn around and put a price of $4.00 for it (which is half the cover price and pretty standard for a used bookstore!). Somehow, because of this, people always thought that I was making a ton of money.

However, the price difference between what I paid for it and what I am selling it for ($2.50) has to pay for: the GST (Canadian tax which is NOT waived on books in Canada - this is 7% - because believe me, the government expected to get this money back even on a used book). Yes, I know that this could be debated for years - the question being just how many times should the GST be charged on that one same book!!!! but the Canadian government didn't care and did expect their $$$$. Then, of course, I have to pay rent, city taxes (which unfortunately tripled when I bought the store), insurance (and because my store was next to a restaurant AND was in a tricky part of the neighborhood) was extremely high (I am talking in the thousands of dollars each year). Then I also had to pay for my electricity, water and garbage tax (which was NOT part of the city tax bill) and I also had to have $ to buy more inventory and oh yeah! to pay my own personal rent, eat and pay my own bills. So, really that $2.50 had to go a pretty long way.

I think one of the problems is the misconception of people and books - I think that many people have heard of these "found an old book in the attic and it was worth a bizzillion dollars" and they now all think that every book is valuable. Unfortunately, this is really not the case. I think that some of my clients thought that I had a stash of "precious and extremely expensive books" somewhere that I was liquidating on the side and making a fortune with - this was soooo not the case.

One of the problems is that Montreal is NOT known for being a "hidden treasure trove" for old and antique books. I mean, I am thinking that places like New York and Boston (where English books have alot more value and also that literature has a whole history) would be the places to go. Montreal is NOT known for its literature (especially in English) and frankly, one of the reasons we have the most horrible libraries in Canada is because Quebecois people do not read very much (I think we have some of the lowest numbers in Canada). So, really, how many great, great, antique finds am I going to make? especially competing with those guys who really only buy and sell antique books and actually have some market for them???

So, the answer is that although I did an okay living financially (and I am not talking about passion here - strictly financial) I certainly was not racking in the $$$$.

The second pet peeve I have is when I am buying books. I have noticed that there are two types of booksellers. Those that think their books are worth a mint (any book) and those that just want to get rid of their books. For those who want to get rid of their books, they often will leave them with me (or just take any offer that I make them). However, the real problem comes in when I find myself face to face with the other type of seller.

I have noticed that, in most cases, when these sellers comme in the door, they have already calculated in their own heads how much $$ I should give them AND they have already spent it in their minds. So, imagine their reaction when I say "sorry, there is not really any book here that I need for my inventory" or.... "I will give you.....$....for these" (and it turns out that this amount is way below the amount they wanted). Yikes!!! this was always the most difficult and touchy part of owning a bookstore. I can't tell you how many times I have been called a "bitch" or some other kind words because I would not buy a book from someone.

My most vivid memory is that of a guy who I would see passing on the main street at least 2 times a day every day. He was a big guy and was in his 30s or early 40s. He did not have a job. He was also not a client of mine. One day, he walked in with a box full of Buffy the Vampire Slayer books and although they were in good condition, I had not market for these at all. I told him that unfortunately I would not be able to buy his books. Well, first he got all red in the face, then he spat (spit????) at me! I mean he aimed right at me and spit!!!! He got me on the chest and it was disgusting. I immediately told him to leave as I reached for the phone to call the police (we were in the store alone). He grabbed his box and threatened to come back and break all my windows.

I was stunned and pretty scared AND on top of that, I really believed that he might break my windows - and this was a very, very scary threat - I had 4 windows and each of these were over $2000.00 each to replace (not to mention that once these were broken anyone could get into the store and do more damage or steal books). So, I have to tell you that for the next few months, I kept expecting the police to call me to tell me that my windows had been broken - and every morning when I came to work, I kept expecting to see broken windows. That was tough and very, very scary.

Needless to say, he never came back again. I have seen him once or twice on the street since then and I want to go right up to him and smack him in the face with my fist - but I am thinking that is probably not such a good idea.

7 comments:

♥ Kathy♥ said...

That guy was a total jerk. Way out of line. Hubby and I go to one used bookstore. Its a very large one. I have gone there long enough and know what books they are likely to take and which ones I should just take to Goodwill and donate. Its not that hard to pick up the phone and call a bookstore and ask before you haul your books in if they are willing to take them. It saves time and the embarrasment if they don't want the books and you have to haul them back home.

Cindy said...

Another great story Tina. That guy sounds kind of creepy with spitting in your face and I sure you must have been scared. I would have been too.

Like you said about the customers selling their books I guess they think because they paid say $8.99 that they should get almost that back when selling it but unfortunetly it doesn't work that way.

Looking forward to your next story.

Sheila DeChantal said...

WOW! That is a kind of scary story. My dream job has always been of owning a book store/coffee shop.. (If you have ever read The Three Sisters Trilogy by Nora Roberts, I picture it to be exactly like the one the character Mia owns.)

Of course.... in this book, Mia comes from a long line of good witches so when Mister "buy my books" came into the store I could just hit him with some sort of spell that would turn him into uhhhhh....glue.
LOL

Great post on used book stores. I am glad that he has not returned to your store or bothered you in any way.

Myckyee said...

Hey Tina, I really like these posts about your bookstore experiences and look forward to reading them.

I feel for you about the guy spitting at you. We had a customer in our ice cream shoppe who would take advantage of the girls working there. He would do things like eat most of a banana split and then claim it wasn't good and demand another one. Eventually my husband had to tell him not to come back anymore but I felt sorry for his young son.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, that is scary! I think most people think anyone in business for themselves is making tons of money, but I think most are just making a living.

Yvette Kelly said...

Oh boy I love these posts of yours.I have a similar problem with my very few vending machines.The mark up is really small and I think of everything in terms of "my daughter wats a pair of jeans I now have to sell 200 packets of crisps to make that up".But I have the same problem with people thinking I am making sooo much money.They look at my car(which my dad gave to me) and they think whoa!! i want some vending machines and they ask me all sorts of personal questions.It gets really embarassing.Never mind the looks I get when I tell them that it's not really enough to keep you going for an income.You need to do something else as well.They all think I am being nasty.But on the positive side most of my customers are really nice but from a different angle.I think they feel sorry for me(the ones who would rather die than cart around crisps and cooldrinks).Oh well you never win!!

avisannschild said...

Wow, Tina, what a horrible experience! And all because you wouldn't buy his books! I'm glad he never came back.

I've only ever sold books to a used bookstore once and that was because I kinda knew the owner (and I just accepted what he wanted to pay me!).

 
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