Chapter 376 Bookseller Faux Pas, Read All About It

Yes, that’s right. I’ve committed another bookseller faux pas. (I didn’t think there were that many left that I hadn’t already committed, but it turns out that there are new mistakes to be made every day.) πŸ˜‰

I consider myself to be a fairly organized individual. With a husband, two kids, and a mother-in-law, and everyone’s schedules and activities, I have to be organized. I always assumed that my organizational skill spilled over into my book business, but today I discovered that I may have been too hasty in arriving at that conclusion.

When I buy books, I catalogue them in my computer. In the event that I buy many books at once, I have a special bookcase for the as-yet uncatalogued items. They remain there until they are priced and catalogued.

Sounds pretty organized so far, right?

When cataloguing a book, I even enter into the computer record where the book is shelved. That way, when someone orders the book, I can easily look on the computer to see where I have shelved it. Additionally, I only have about 12 bookcases in my houses, so there are only so many places a book can be. It’s shouldn’t be too hard to find a book even if it’s location isn’t noted in the computer.

It seems like a logical system to me.

But just a couple of days ago, my system was tested and found to be sorely lacking.

A customer ordered a book from my website. Happy to receive an order, I immediately emailed the customer telling him thanks for the order and that his book would ship first thing the next day. I then went to the bookshelf to retrieve the book only to find it missing from the shelf where my computer indicated it should be. I spent a considerable amount of time checking all of my shelves, but could not locate the missing book. I checked my computer again — there no record that I had sold the book, and I didn’t recall selling the book and shipping it.

What could have happened?

When I travel to book fairs, I take my books and my book cases with me. That means that when I return home, the books don’t always get put back exactly as they were before I left for the fair. I re-shelve everything after a fair, but sometimes, in order to make room for new acquisitions, shelves get re-arranged. I don’t usually go back to my computer to note the re-arrangement, because it’s only a few books that get moved each time. Perhaps I moved the book to a different shelf and hadn’t noted it?

I checked every shelf. Again.

Still no book.

Luddite that I am, I keep paper records as well as computer records of all my invoices. I took out my 2008 Books Sold binder and frantically flipped through the pages, looking at each and every 2008 invoice, including the hand-written ones from book fairs. I enter the hand-written book fair invoices into the computer after I return home from book fairs.

At last, I found it. Way back in September at the Santa Monica Book Fair, I had sold the book in question to another dealer (along with about 5 other books). Somehow, that particular invoice never got entered into my computer after the fair (though the other invoices from the fair did make it into the computer–I think the paper must have stuck to another piece of paper and I didn’t notice).

Imagine my embarrassment when I had to contact the person who ordered the book. Mind you, I’d already sent him an email saying I’d be shipping it. Trying to ignore my shame, I let him know immediately that I had already sold the book in question and failed to remove it from inventory and that I had refunded his money. Generous customer that he is, he thanked me politely. I was disappointed to have lost the sale and couldn’t believe I could be so disorganized as to actually lose track of a book — remember, I have a very small inventory of about 1,500 books.

I am mortified that this happened. It’s a good lesson to be careful about how you keep track of your books once they are on a shelf and about how to make sure any hand-written book fair invoices make it into the computer.

Live and learn.


Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Organization

6 responses to “Chapter 376 Bookseller Faux Pas, Read All About It

  1. That is embarrassing. You need to be sure to keep the website updated as well as your paper records.

  2. WJM

    Been there, done that. I also had to cancel an order and refund the buyer lately after I, as per habit, confirmed the availability of a book and then went to find it… instead of the other way around.

    I had just seen this bloody book. I can still picture the cover in my head. I definitely didn’t sell it to anyone else, and it was still in my online inventory at the time I “sold” it. But was it where it was supposed to be, on the shelf? No, it was not. Was it anywhere else in storage? Nope. Where is the book then?

    Theoretically, Shelf 3.

    Ideally, in the hands of the erstwhile customer in Germany.

    But really, beats me. Grr.

  3. Bill

    I would not sweat this too much. As a customer I have had this happen to me when I have ordered from several long established book dealers, so it happens to the best. And as someone with books stuffed various places at home and office I have had this same thing happen when I wanted to show something off. Just a sec, I know … its here… somewhere…

  4. Thanks for letting me know I am not the only bookseller to make such mistakes. I really couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t know where one of my books were. I can “see them” on the shelves in my mind’s eye, too. It’s nice to be in such good company if one has to make such errors occasionally. πŸ˜‰

  5. Now, after this trial by fire, you’re *truly* a bookseller! πŸ™‚

  6. Wow! That’s the first comment ever from my mentor, the esteemed Mr. Z. Thanks for comment and for reading. When YOU say I’m truly a bookseller, I believe it. πŸ˜‰

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