I went to a book sale, which is just as good, especially as most of the money I spent belonged to someone else. It was the school’s money, Caroline’s school, and the Parent Association president, Susie, and I had a jolly good romp through Scholastic’s warehouse spending out some of our book fair dollars. I left Scott with the children, who did not behave, and had an impromptu girls’ day out shopping for the only product I truly enjoy buying. Scholastic has warehouse sales about twice a year to unload stuff. I’m sure it’s a combination of overstocks, returns, and items that didn’t sell, but it was pure joy for me.
The last time I attended a warehouse sale, I worked for the bookseller holding it. Not Scholastic. The evil company where dead birds used to turn up in our totes. We were a book wholesaler that sold stuff to libraries. When I first started working there, we only sold only children’s books, but the company increased in stupidity as it grew in size, and by the end we sold a little bit of everything. Which was kickass great in those semi-annual book sales, but lousy in every other way imaginable.
So I was at least moderately angst ridden when Susie and I went to the Scholastic sale, because memories of that employer stir up some very bad ju-ju for me. And there are some things that all warehouse companies have alike. For instance, this one opened into a tiny office dwarfed by the enormous warehouse, where the loading bay doors were wide open and the smooth concrete floor started at shoulder height to those of us standing beside it outside in the parking lot. Talk about flashbacks. I can remember how those giant doors looked at my former employer’s, because the boss would hold these steak luncheons where the food was prepared by a catering company who set up shop in the back parking lot.
A steak luncheon may sound like a great thing. It sure did to me when I started working there. Seriously, very few large companies offer any kind of perk like that, so I thought it was awesome that when the staff met its however-often-goals, the boss recognized and rewarded us.
Only he didn’t.
The food came not with thanks and respect, but with expectations. You would eat it and be by-god-grateful about it. Heaven help the vegetarians who requested an alternative. Safari-man verbally attacked the requesters several times before some brave soul finally convinced him it was bad policy to alienate a third of his staff when the catering company didn’t have a problem providing an alternative. And the steaks themselves were chewy and overcooked, best eaten dipped in some kind of sauce. I became quickly disillusioned with the practice.
But memories like that couldn’t deter me from a book sale. Especially not a warehouse book sale. And doubly-especially, a warehouse book sale where I got to help shape the holdings at my daughter’s school library. All day long, I was making mental contrasts between Scholastic and my former place of work, though, with Scholastic coming out way ahead of the job from hell. Even at the outset, things were different. The Scholastic office had, hanging on its wall, a note saying how many days the company had been accident free. It was over a year. Given that just about everything counts as an accident, that’s not half bad. Also given that my former employer’s warehouse was like an ongoing disaster, I was duly impressed. It is doubtful that the accident-free record was even tracked at my previous job, and it was certainly not posted in the front office if it was.
And the Scholastic warehouse was crammed with books. Far more than my former employer ever had in its warehouse at any given time, even though I’d say Scholastic’s warehouse took up less floor space. Now, I’ll agree readily that my former employer had to have room to DO more to the books than just ship them out. I worked in the cataloging department, where we created MARC records and printed out shelf tags with call numbers in the appropriate numbering system. We had to have a climate controlled environment with space for computers, printers, and desks. And the processing department had to have room to apply those tags, along with barcodes, color-coded stickers, Mylar jackets, and just about anything else the customer requested. But that did not account for the poor state of affairs in the inventory area. It was always a mess down there, thanks in large part to the intake of items being organized along some incomprehensible guidelines that pretty much required a degree to interpret.
And Scholastic’s books! Oh! They were all clean and in good condition. Not so my former employer. Books that hit the book sale at my former employer’s warehouse were always somewhat suspect, and even those that turned out to be flawless earned a degree of employee skepticism. We used to study the covers and flip through the pages for insects (living ones, not illustrations) before deciding to make even a cheap purchase. At Scholastic, though, the books were under the constant supervision of a small cadre of volunteers who also worked for schools (not for Scholastic). Therefore, they stayed off of the ground and up on the shelves. They stayed clean and well placed. And the titles were recent releases, all on sale at phenomenal prices. Susie and I were shopping with money we earned at our own Scholastic book fair, so we couldn’t actually get a lot of the added discounts, but every dollar that we earn in a book fair is automatically doubled by Scholastic, so we were already getting a pretty good price.
There were so many useful titles that Caroline’s school library needs. The library has recently been weeded, and a lot of older, abused books have been removed from the collection. Susie and I were able to snag some great science books and replace some classic fiction titles for the older and younger sets, in addition to adding a couple of series the library hadn’t previously held. We got a lot of books that will appeal to boys, which is really important since most of the school’s students are boys. (It’s a school for bright kids with special needs, and, as Susie put it, girls can have their pick, since there are so many more male than female students.) AND, we got our hands on books matching the themes given to us by the teachers and the volunteer librarian. It was such a successful haul, and we had money left over at the end for the next book fair.
But the best part absolutely had to be the $25 book boxes. There was one section of the warehouse where we could fill these boxes with as many books as they would hold and still close, and Susie and I filled two of them. Susie and I added it up later, and figured out that for that $50, we got over $300 worth of books, and that’s figuring individual book prices at their lowest possible costs. It was probably more like $500 worth of books. We had $30 hardbound coffee table sports books in there that will absolutely rock those kids’ worlds. We found Gary Paulsen, Jim Borgman, and a dozen others. There were books about Ancient Rome that matched next year’s social studies’ theme and animal books that go with just about any science unit. We were pumped.
And I kicked in $25 of my own dollars to buy a third box to donate to libraries decimated by the tornadoes. Yes, Scholastic was that amazing. They were encouraging people to buy books to help recreate libraries eradicated back on April 27. They had tables of dollar books on hand especially to encourage people to do that, and I saw that I wasn’t the only one who had bought a $25 book box to support the cause. I’m sure the company will also be adding donations of its own to those made by warehouse sale shoppers.
So, while I may not have been carted off to heaven in a golden chariot, I still got to enjoy some serious rapture today, and I cannot wait for Scholastic’s next sale. We won’t have quite so many book fair dollars to spend, but we’re still going to have an amazing time.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.