Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hobson's Choice

For ten years I tried to track down a copy of DAVY CROCKETT by Constance Rourke, but this 1935 Newbery Honor Book seemed impossible to find. Then one day, to my great surprise, a signed copy of the book turned up on the internet. An even bigger surprise: the used bookstore selling the volume was only a couple miles from where I live! So I contacted the store and said I'd come in and pick up the book in person.

I was already familiar with this bookstore, which was located in the downtown shopping district of the next town over -- right beside the dollar movie theatre. On hot summer evenings, when the quest for cheap, air-conditioned entertainment made the ticket line stretch all the way to the corner, the bookstore owner would sit outside his shop with a banjo and entertain the folks waiting for the show.

I went to pick up the book on a Saturday afternoon, hours before the twilght double-feature, so found the bookstore owner inside, puttering around his shop. He took DAVY CROCKETT off the hold shelf, but then hesitated before he handed the book to me. "There's one small problem," he said. "When we list books online we put a higher price on them. We listed DAVY at fourteen dollars. But this is how much the book would cost if a customer just walked in and found it on the shelf." He turned to the front of the book and showed me the price that was marked in pencil on the half-title page: $10. He said, "Do you understand my dilemma? You found the book online and agreed to pay fourteen dollars for it, yet here you are in person to pick it up...."

He stood waiting for an answer -- or an argument. Considering I'd been looking for the book for ages, and considering this was a signed copy, I really wasn't going to argue over four dollars. I said, "That's fine. I'll pay the fourteen dollars."

He looked away and quickly rang up the sale, suppressing the smile that no doubt broke out as soon as I left the store; after all, it's not every day that a customer buys a $10 book for $14.

I thanked the man and took the package, suppressing my own smile until I got outside the store.

After all, it's not every day that a bookstore sells a $75 book for $14.


Anonymous said...

Peter, I can see that @#$%-eatin Sheldon grin on your face. I would like to tell you of a book I read today that awakened, burnded and teared my eyes more than once. The Tale of Alice's Quilt, by Jennifer Blomgren. It might be more of a girly/kids book but I loved it.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely track down a copy of THE TALE OF ALICE'S QUILT! Thanks for reading my blog.