Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How Do They Earn a Living?

As a member of the PTA at our elementary school, I have volunteered to be the Book Fair Chairperson. I schedule the Book Fair, set it up when the stuff arrives, advertise the shopping days, and invite the classes in to browse and get excited about bringing their grown-up to buy them stuff. I know that last bit sounds a bit conniving, but how else are we going to make sales put books into the homes of these kids? Kidding aside, it is all about getting kids to love to read, and sending them home with a book they are interested in.

The rest of my assignment is to get volunteers to come help run the Fair and buy sell the books! I sat at the register for most of our 4 days, and I will admit, I had a lot of fun. Our first Fair, I had minimal involvement. I set it up and took it down, but I had other things at home that needed my attention, so I didn't run the fair. This time, I was there every night. I enjoyed scanning the books and making change. Another perk was that I got to see what everybody was buying. I knew what books we had for sale fairly well. But we had hundreds of titles, and there were many that I didn't even know we had. I went home each day, fairly exhausted, pondering which books I was going to buy for my household. The choice became harder and harder, because I was on a budget and I was trying hard to stick to it.

I finally settled on a few great picture books and a chapter book for my boys to share (and I couldn't pass up the  fun joke book that only cost $1). They also each got a cool science book full of experiments that kids can do with minimal adult help and minimal mess. They had to each have their own, because it was Phineas and Ferb some of the activities involved punch-outs from the book, and I decided it was worth paying for two to avoid the fight over who got which activity.

But as I counted out the cash, boxed up all the books and closed the Book Fair, I wondered how people do it. I mean work in a brick and mortar book store. How could you possibly work 8 hours, every day, in a book store and not blow your entire paycheck on books? How do these people make a living? My guess is that they aren't the bread-winners, they are the book-winners. I mean, every home needs books. How could you not have shelves lining the walls, and books stacked on every available surface? So, my theory is that the folks who work at a book store are simply there to earn their books.

Seriously. As I scanned books for our customers, I wanted many times to run and grab a copy for my own house. I might have wrapped up nearly the entire book fair to go, if I didn't have a sensible head on my shoulders (and the idea that I didn't really have anywhere to put all of them...). I don't get paid to run the book fair. It's volunteer work. But I am certain that if I did get paid, I'd take my wages in books. Because there are far too many great ones to choose from. I spoke to the previous Chairperson, and she said she spent hundreds of dollars at every Fair. She was the Chair for about 8 years. And there are 3 Fairs each school year. I had to be really careful in the selection that I brought home, just so that I didn't wish I had got that one instead of this one (or wish I didn't put us in the red). It's a good thing we only have the Book Fair for about a week. Otherwise, my wallet might be in big trouble. Nothing like limited time to make you hurry up and decide. Also, it's a really good thing that our last Book Fair this year is a Buy One Get One Free. Because then I can bring home more than I spend.

But the really great thing about our Book Fair? We sold around 600 books. That's right. 600 new books to grace the homes in my neighborhood. And that's even better than taking the whole Fair home for myself.


mom said...

Way to go! that is awesom that that many books went out to the homes around you and that you had a big part in it! I love children's books too and is is always so hard to choose.

Carrie said...

I must admit, I am impressed. Impressed at your amazing volunteer commitment but MORE impressed at your self-control. But remember, there are probably perks to working in a bookstore . . . like employee discounts, and advance copies to read so that you'll recommend to customers, and to top it off, you don't HAVE to have space at home for all those books because the store is full of full shelves that you can bask in when the need arises.
I let my kids spend an hour browsing (reading) at the Book Fair but I try to avoid looking at much because I don't have a book budget . . . then they get to buy their own pick.
I loved this post . . . the crossed out words were the best. And I am taking note of the Science Nerds Rule! book. We need one of those in our house.