The Unsold

April 10, 2011

I hadn’t planned on visiting the Border’s Bookstore Going-Out-Of-Business Sale yesterday.  I already have multiple stacks of “Must Reads” that extend from floor to ceiling.  Yet, when I saw the dancing sign-holder with his red and white poster board announcing 30 to 50% price reductions, the steering wheel magically turned right into the parking lot.  

A few new releases and best seller Must Reads came to mind as I trekked toward the store entrance.  I had little hope of finding ”Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand or “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins still in stock.  When I got to the front door, my hopes of finding a bargain were further dashed by the fine print under the sale sign that indicated exceptions and exclusions apply.  I considered avoiding all temptation and turning away then and there, except for the lure of possible discounts on travel guides.  We already had purchased two guidebooks, but I confess I am an information junky when it comes to planning vacations.

The travel books were all 30% off.  I glanced through the France area.  A book on Normandy caught my eye, but we’ve already scheduled a guide for that excursion and I knew lugging an extra book halfway across the world was not going to happen.  In the Spain section, there were two specialty books, one for Barcelona and one for Madrid that grabbed my attention.  We already had a general Spain guide, but city-specific guidebooks might prove worthwhile.  The Madrid book was beautiful with numerous color photos.  It was also a bit pricy.  Despite the appealing content, however, this book had seen better days.  The lower right cover had a giant crease and the pages were bent, like an over-shuffled pack of bridge cards.  It seemed reasonable to me that the book’s condition should warranted an extra discount .

The checkout line wasn’t as long as I feared and three clerks moved product in quick succession.   The couple in front of me was even empty-handed and moved to the central register and proceeded to explain about an out of stock book order.  The dark-haired clerk at the closest register finished with her customer, but did not call me over.  I waited patiently while this clerk went over to the  explained to her coworker at the central register that the store could not order a book for th couple.  The Helpful Clerk calmly explained to Ms. Bottomline that she’d spoken to these customers earlier and had already gotten approval from upper management.  Ms. Bottomline did not look pleased as she waved me to her register.

I handed over the Barcelona book, then showed the flawed Madrid book to her and asked for a price break.  Ms. Bottomline explained in an unapologetic tone that under no circumstances would additional discounts be given.  This seemed like a foolish business decision to me.  What were the odds that anyone would a) wander into the store looking for a guidebook on Madrid and b) be willing to accept the regular discounted price for something that probably belonged in a second-hand shop? 

I shrugged.  Ms. Bottomline had saved me about $20 and had actually done me a favor.  We are only spending three nights in Madrid and two days activities are already planned.  I knew I could find enough information in my Rick Steve’s Spain guidebook to plan our trip.  I really didn’t need this book.  

I handed over the battered Madrid book, explaining I did not wish to purchase it.  Ms. Bottomline frowned and placed the Madrid guidebook on a stack of about five other unsold books next to her cash register.   I wondered what would happen to the unsold Madrid guide.  Would it be resold on the internet?  If so, would the store owner try to pass it off as in “good” condition or be honest and list it as a “fair” quality?  I hope that if the book is deemed unsellable that they will at least donate the book to a library rather than toss the pages into a recycle bin.   

What would you have done in this situation?  Would you have purchased the book at the regular discount or would you have walked away as I did?