In most businesses, the difference between a customer and a supplier is easy to see. As a vendor, you acquire product from suppliers, and you sell it to your customers. Both are important, but you invariably put the needs of your customers before those of your suppliers. It's just good business practice to operate that way.
With a business model such as Bucknucks employs, where it's the customers who bring in your inventory, it makes things a little trickier. The lines blur. When you bring me your books, then I am the customer and you are the supplier.
As a customer I might have demands or limitations with respect to the inventory I want, but I have to be very careful because my suppliers are also my customers.
It's a symbiotic relationship, and most of the time it works out just great. People get used to bringing in their books and walking out with some and it's easy for everyone. I really do enjoy seeing what little gems are coming in the door, and I appreciate the people who bring me stock, which is the only way I could stay in business. If people quit bringing me books, then I wouldn't last very long.
There are extremes to every relationship. I've had the person who brings in a box of dusty old tomes that are thick with silverfish and smelling of mould, who gets upset when I won't give them cash for their books. I've also had the person who donates beautiful easy to sell books and refuses to accept credit. I am amazed in both instances.
Some matters are fairly easy to negotiate. The people trying to purchase books and leave the store are a priority over incoming books. I've had the odd encounter where someone says “Excuse me, but I was first.” but for the most part people understand that outgoing trumps the incoming.
Other situations are more problematic, such as inventory control. If you bring in more inventory than you have space for, it can really mess up your store, but I don't want to inconvenience my customers either. When someone takes the time to go through their books and select some to trade, and they cart the heavy box of books to their car and drive them to me, then they do not want to be to be refused. I really do understand this.
I want to make it easy for everyone to do business with me, but I also need my store to be able to function.
It's a real conundrum. When I have put up a sign saying “no more books”, I have many people bring me their books anyway. “I know you're not accepting books right now, but...” is the mantra I hear a dozen times a day. It's hard for me, because I have a really hard time saying “no” to the people who provide me with a livelihood. I usually end up taking almost as many books when I am supposedly not accepting. So in the end the only people I am troubling are those that actually show respect for my wishes. It's not really fair to them.
I've found that the key to any complicated service relationship is in managing expectations. If the expectations are unreasonable, then the person will be disappointed. The question then is how do I manage a customer's expectation that they can bring me books whenever they want. The answer lies in a regular scheduled trading restriction.
It has to be a restriction that is easy to remember. Nothing complicated will do. In other words, it has to be easier to remember than garbage day (which I always forget). No rotating schedule. Also something that is fairly infrequent. I don't want my customers to have to think too hard when they are trying to decide whether or not to frequent my establishment.
And so we come to the decision that twice a year we will cease taking books. June and December. The sixth and twelfth months of the year, the two months with a solstice. The two months where I have to get my store ready for a season (Christmas and Summer).
I will make signs posted year round, and put the information on bookmarks that I will give to everyone, and it will be consistent, year after year. From now on. I hope it's easy to remember. In June and December, leave your books on the shelf... but PLEASE still come to the store.