Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adventures in Receiving

For those not aware, Carl and I have switched positions. Carl, the people-friendly and well-read former receiver, is now on the floor. And I, the ornery and underslept floor bookseller, am now doing the receiving. Behold the great switcheroo!

Truth be told, this update is actually rather old news. I've been back here for awhile now, and I've learned quite a bit. And not just about receiving, mind you. Here's a sampling of important lessons I have learned since I started.

1. Books are heavy. Typically not by themselves, but if you put them all into one very large box, they're weighty. And then multiply that by fifteen, and you have a normal Boswell day's receiving. Just the other day, I was absolutely certain that Workman had shipped us two boxes of cinder blocks. Turns out they were just dictionaries.

2. Some publishers and wholesalers have clean, organized packing lists. And some don't. I'm looking at you, Perseus!

3. Packing peanuts may be convenient and effective, but they get EVERYWHERE.

4. Even the messiest individuals become rather organized when doing this job. I learned this lesson quickly - it only took one episode of frantically rooting through damaged books and old invoices to get to the ringing phone before I cleaned up.

5. When I worked on the floor, I typically worked the closing shift. Receiving is almost exclusively first shift work. Coffee is worth its weight in gold. Perhaps even worth its weight in Workman cinder-block-dictionaries.

6. Being a receiver in a bookstore on a Tuesday is stressful. For those unaware, new books usually come out on Tuesdays. There's a lot of flailing involved.

7. You learn a lot about each of the publishers/wholesalers and their individual ideosyncrasies. HarperCollins uses fantastic boxes, great for reusing. Baker & Taylor and Ingram wrap their shipments in plastic within their shipping boxes. MPS uses boxes that you can't break down without essentially ripping them in half. Penguin does new releases on both Tuesday and Thursday. And Norton uses those packing peanuts that I love so much.

8. Compared to the floor, there is next to no downtime. If not receiving, there are returns. If not returns, there are invoices to match with packing lists. Handling damaged books. Breaking down boxes. Taking out recycling and garbage. Never a dull moment!

9. Open the door if using Goo-Gone. It gets goop off of books better than anything, but it smells something fierce and is probably not too good for you.

10. Take pride in your work. The receiver is the first link in the chain, after all. I have a deeper appreciation for the book shop because of what I now do - there's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that I wasn't aware of. It's kind of nifty to see - and be part of - the bigger picture.


  1. ooh so true. . . from Subterranean Books in St. Louis. (Ingram IN & TN in book language!) We use lighter fluid to get the schmutz (as we call it down here) off the books. It works well but looks like the beginning of insurance fraud. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Having worked in Books for 22yrs and both as bookseller and receiver I must say I loved being a receiver. You get to see all the new books first and lifting 50lb book boxes is a great way to build up your muscles!