Tuesday 25 August 2009

confessions of a pedalling book pedlar

It was about time to get out there and make sure that All Good Bookshops were properly stocked with The Bristol Downs - A Natural History Year. So I got on my bike.

First stop was a Small Independent Bookshop. They'd got in touch with Geraldine last week saying that they urgently needed six more copies of the book, so her husband Keith had dropped some in from their collection. So all I needed to do was drop in an invoice and pick up the cheque for the previous invoice which... hadn't yet been paid...

The proprietor was there chatting with the person on the counter, as I arrived on my bike. But by the time I'd locked the bike and gone in, she was no longer there.

"I'm just dropping off this invoice for the books that you received," I said; "and there is still this outstanding invoice from the previous books..."

"I'll just go and see..." says the nice young man.

I wait.

"She's just about to go out for lunch with her daughter," he said; "It's A Level results day..."

I agree to come back on Monday.

On Monday she is about to go out to lunch with her mother.

I leave my mobile number.

It doesn't get used.

Catherine had said good things about a local card shop which had taken some copies of the book last year. So I went there too. It is in a pretty affluent suburb, where the 4x4s and people-carriers roam free, and it sells expensive trinkets and posh chocolate to the sort of people who like to give expensive trinkets and posh chocolate to other people to mark important waypoints through life. It is the sort of shop I have walked or cycled past for years, without really noticing it or wanting to go in.

I explain my mission to a rather worn-looking woman on the counter. She presses a bell on the wall, and a large woman appears, advancing in a little cloud of huffiness and puffiness.

"Do you have a seller's appointment?" she asks.

I admit that I do not.

I am far too busy to see you today," she says. "You may leave samples if you wish."

She huffs and puffs back through her door.

I decide that I do not wish.


  1. Getting money out of non payers is never an easy task - at least she could afford to go out to lunch.

    Perhaps natural history just isn't fashionable this year.

  2. It always amazes me how retailers treat suppliers. I've seen it at work in big supermarkets (thinking of a couple of incidents where I've seen big ones treat people from major manufacturing companies like shit - the sort of language that would have made me get up and walk out of the room if it had been directed at me). Now it seems that even small independents have the same arrogance.

    You'd think that in these recessionary times, they might be a bit more civil? Thereagain, your customer who was avoiding you...may well be struggling badly. The independent book retailing businesss is in pretty bad shape.

  3. She was keen enough to get hold of the books, Anji; they do sell well, in that shop at least, because it's in the heartland of the book's main audience...

    ...it was only when I went looking for an indie bookshop to host a reading, Jo, that I realised how very few there are left in Bristol. On the other hand, this shop's owner is legendary for her reluctance to pay up. So I shall have to make a third visit to the shop now, for a cheque for £35... and then chase up the Great Britain people, because I dropped some books off there two months ago...

  4. Dealing with invoices always made me fell sick because of all this non payment nonsense. The most able to pay were always the most tardy.

    Caroline X