RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

23 October 2008

Yet more Bastards with Bookshops


One must not forget the Birmingham dealer, who on being asked for a discount for books would tear them in half in front of the customer. What particularly irked him was the phrase 'What can you do on this?' A red mist would descend and he would reply 'I'll show you what I can do on this...' and tore up the book. One imagines that this was selective, possibly only books under £20. Not a wise business stratagem but probably quite satisfying...

Then there was the dealer who suddenly put up his stock from an average of £10 a book to £200 a book. Sales slowed down, customers got annoyed, fights broke out but business did not totally come to a halt. Every time a customer bought a book his fiendish plan was justified. Before long he was totally and utterly broke. In this business greed is the enemy of profit. This was 20 years ago. Now in the great 200 million strong bookshop in the sky (ABE) £10 books are routinely priced at £200 and if they are ex library or in unacceptable condition, quite a bit more.

Also unforgotten is the great Eric Barton and his shop in Richmond, a sort of bookselling John Fothergill who would chuck people out of his shop if he didn't like the cut of their gib. A bastard's bastard; his speciality was 18th century cricket books. When, some time in the 1970s, the writer and bookseller Iain Sinclair walked from Islington to Richmond with a rucksack on his back for his book buys, the destination of his pilgrimage was this shop. At the end of his great walk, when he entered the hallowed shop, Barton, spying the bulging rucksack, shouted at him - 'Not another bloody tourist!'

There was also the very posh shop run by well connected chinless wonders who got great books from their chum's in country houses--they would ban people who bought too many books, especially those who boasted about it and also dealers who had not been to the right schools. Lastly the bookshop in Metroland run by a British Nazi who sat with his jackboots up on the desk reading the 'Daily Sport' or 'Stormtrooper' and discouraged any punter who wasn't a bald or booted skinhead. B'stards all of them...

17 comments:

smallerdemon said...

Aw, yes, we have on on Haight Street in San Francisco.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/forever-after-books-san-francisco

Anonymous said...

I used to work at a used book store. One day a group of bus tourists came in, each one asking if I could do any better on the price. When the last one asked me, I said no again,and he proceeded to barrage me until I began to cry. I took the book and refused to sell it to him. He did aplologize, but I still wouldn't sell him the book.

sblake said...

I used to live in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney (Australia)..My local bookshop, M....... Books, is considered one of the best in Australia, unless you live locally, then you are treated by one of the owners as if you are slime that has crawled into the shop.Even though I spend over$3000 a year on books and review for magazines I was always treated with a great deal of contempt because I was not a grovelling local
It was a clever contempt because you were greeted well by the owners until you opened your mouth then it was a sneering "and what do you know" stuff.
I haven't given the name because the staff are really great and tolerate him.

Anonymous said...

Yup you should try Forever After Books on Haight Street in San Francisco--as one reviewer says 'it shows what went wrong in the Summer of Love'...worst bookshop in the city...workers and owners all bastardos!

Anonymous said...

That first example comes from 'black books' the channel 4 uk comedy.

My own point of view...what about the bastard customer's?

For example those who inevitably come in on a very quite day and proceed to yank books off the shelf at a rapid pace checking the prices...(this is because they have 'no idea' and are selling on ebay.
Pretty upsetting as they 'rape' your hard earned knowledge.)

Or maybe the old lady who comes in picks up a book priced very modestly at 4 pounds ...and then drops it in disgust saying "I think I will wait for your closing down sale my lad"

How about the repeated claims we face from those who are convinced there book is something special yet even when you tell them you really don't want to buy it at any price...continue to barrage you in the belief you are attempting to 'rip them off'.

Honestly I could go on for hours, after 20 years books dealing you have loads of this sort of thing.

Gary Piserchio said...

smallerdemon ... those Yelp reviews are hilarious in that everyone, unless you go in expecting the bookstore to be the Bizzaro World version, are so amazed at the animosity. Makes me want to go there to see for myself.

Anonymous said...

Why all the neagativity? Many used book dealers are courteous and interesting chaps. One of my favorites is the proprieter of Nicholar Potter bookshop in Santa Fe. Fine selection, goosd conversationalist. A great place to stop after camping in the desert, just to listen to the chit-chat going on in the next room.

Laurus Nobilis said...

When it comes to book prices, they are more expensive than they should be, because of publishers share. Authors usually get a peanuts. The absurd is even bigger with e-book that are sometimes expensive as paper books. On top of this comes the e-reader that is expensive almost as en note book.

So, I am not surprised that people are bargaining.

Anonymous said...

The Toronto bookseller whose shop sported the following sign taped to the appropriate shelf:

"Socialism. Please keep in alphabetical order."

Anonymous said...

In Winnipeg we have a wonderful, crammed to the rafters, junkshop of a used bookstore where the owner decided to quack at his customers rather than speak to them. I don't think it hurt his business at all.

Lewis said...

The first time I went into my favorite used bookstore I was looking for a few specific things so I asked about them. In each case the answer was 'Yes but it's not for sale.' I hadn't made it clear that I was not asking about his personal collection. Of course I became a regular.

Another frequent browser and myself were chatting with the owner when a very attractive young lady came in. She was greeted with a smile and an offer of help (something I've never gotten). Then she asked for Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead'.

"We don't carry that here." I think he just barely restrained himself from pointing at the door.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but I too have been driven to rip a book in half. I run a used paperback shop and an older woman came in with books to trade. They were in horrible shape, with pages falling out and several in 2 (or more) pieces barely being held together by the cover. When I very gently told her "I'm sorry, but the books you've brought in aren't in a condition we would put on the shelf..." She flipped!!! "What do you mean they're not in good shape..." and while continuing to scream at me she began pulling books (all in very fine shape) off the shelves and pointing out the terrible flaws in their condition, then throwing them on the floor. I lasted another 5 minutes trying to soothe her, until I too snapped. I picked up one of the books she had just thrown at the wall, held it up, and said "this is in acceptable condition, or was until you threw it". Then I ripped the book in half and waved it under her nose and said "This isn't!" That at least got her to stop her rampage. She seemed quite shocked at MY rudeness. She did at least grab her yucky books and leave the store. But I'm sure the only part of the story that gets relayed to all her friends is of "How Rude" that saleswoman was. I too was appaled by my behavior (but probably wouldn't do anything different if it happend again), but I'm certainly grateful that she was the only customer in the store at the time.

Christopher Foyle said...

Lord Justice Darling, a well known judge in London in the 1930s, went into Foyles Bookshop. He offered William Foyle, one of the two proprietors, 4 shillings for a book marked 7 shillings. William said to him: "My Lord, if you sentenced me to 7 years in your court and I suggested 4 years, would you agree?" Eventually the judge gave him 5 shillings.

bookinista said...

My mentor (I am an erstwhile shopowner who sells now online), the proprietor of the shop where I was first (at 25) a starving seller-of-my-books, then a trader-in, and finally a part-time employee (and all the while a customer, too, of course) was and still is renowned for his bastardity. When book-buying at estate sales and the like he knocks people away from the book tables to fill his boxes; fist fights have broken out. And in his shop, when a customer asks where _any_ title might be shelved, he will say, "I don't have it. Go to Barnes and Noble." My son, who grew up in there alongside me, has worked there now for 18 years.

Anonymous said...

Don't happen to have the phone number of the girl in that delicious illustration, do you?

Agatha Christ-Almighty said...

Portsmouth, NH has a real crazy: http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080819/NEWS/80819036

Max said...

Forever After Books is "a potent reminder of what went wrong after the Summer of Love."

Heh, I wrote that comment on Yelp. Thanks for the kudos, Anonymous.

Incidentally, Paul Collins has a few cutting words about Forever After in Sixpence House. Having it as his neighborhood bookstore possibly explains his subsequent attraction to Hay-on-Wye and its (comparatively sane) King Richard Booth.