Day in the Life: The Wall of Unavailability

cup-of-coffee11I am in the habit of getting up in the mornings, making the coffee and checking my email. This particular morning there was an enquiry – not an order – an enquiry. It looked innocent enough. I had described the book as VG/VGand the potential customer wanted more information. OK. No problems.

This is what he wrote: …you have the book listed as VG/VG. How does this differ from mint? Any tears in the dust cover (sic)? How are the pagesany yellowing? Is the binding tight?

Drawing on my reserves of patience I replied, explaining the difference between mint, fine, and very good. In polite tones, I further explained that there were no tears, no yellowing and that the binding was tight. I wondered, as I wrote, why it hadn’t occurred to him that if the book had exhibited any of these faults, I would have noted them. Oh well, let it pass.

I then made a very close inspection of the book and decided that the top edge was very lightly discolored and that, because the book had recently been in a plastic sleeve, there were some barely noticeable tape marks (with no acid stains) on the inside of the dj and the front cloth. I told him all this. But I was sticking to my story — it was very good copy. I then suggested that if he was looking for a mint or fine copy this was not the book for him. Furthermore, I wrote (and getting into my stride now),the book was uncommon and that a copy better than the one I had would fetch a much higher price. Take that, Mr Question Man!

He replied: I take it that the tape marks are on the inside of the dj and so not visible on the outside of the dj? Has the plastic cover got stuck to the dj? Is the dj creased or not?

No, No, and No, I replied, drawing on extra reserves of patience. He then tells me that he is interested in purchasing the book with shipping (he lived in Canada–was he thinking of buying it without shipping? I wondered).

Then he wondered if I had any experience in shipping books and would the book be well-packed so that the spine and corners would not get dented.

Yes, I replied, I have done this sort of thing before. Fine, says he, I will fax my cc numbers.

I waited. Nothing. Then, a few days later, another email. It began : One last question… Now he wants to know how the dj was taped to the book originally? What can he mean?

I sat down to create a reply while simultaneously searching for any last remaining reserves of patience. I found a tiny amount – just enough. But then the unexpected – another enquiry for this book! I had been mucking about for days on end with no result and now someone else wanted the book.

This is what I did: I emailed the second enquirer and said that the book had been ordered (but not paid for ) by someone else and that he could have the book if the first sale fell through. I waited a few more days for Mr. Question Man to fax his details but nothing came. I emailed the second enquirer and told him he could have the book. He emailed his details straight away. I could hardly wait to get the book packed and sent.

Then I emailed “he-of-a-thousand-questions” and told him that as I hadn’t heard from him for a week, the book had been sold to someone else. I wondered what sort of reply I’d get. I was surprised when he said that he was quite happy and didnt mind at all! Did he want the book in the first place? I don’t know. But I do know that if he tries it again, I will happily introduce him to my most recent construction: THE WALL OF UNAVAILABILITY!


The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

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