Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cherry Picker's Dilemma

Everybody likes to pick the cherries. 

If you have 10 or 20 or 100 titles that you are always looking for and, if you see any of them on one of my lists, you put together an order around them, that's not cherry picking. It's more like cherry farming. But if there is only one cherry you will pick, and you won't pick any of the other fruits and nuts, then you will probably not receive much, if any. Plenty of other customers want the same title, and they buy regularly and widely and therefore are ahead of you in the service department. 

You might get lucky. Business might be slow or the titles you want are in plentiful supply for once. And of course everybody wants to satisfy every customer on every order, 100% of the time. Nobody wants to move an order right to the bottom of the stack. It's not good or bad (well, sort of bad), it's the way things work in this overworked and understaffed world.

The same can be said for too many instructions and "offers." If a wholesaler has enough orders to sell out of the title on your order, and you're specifying a complicated series of shipping requirements and offering 75% of the asking price, your order has definitely found its way to the bottom of the stack. Neither I nor any sales rep has the ability to stop that water from flowing downhill as it always seems to do, so maybe it's time to rethink some of those persnickity habits you learned in the good old days when you and 10 other buyers on the planet were buying bargain.

The harder you make the wholesaler work to move your orders through their systems, the more likely your orders will gradually move down the to-do list. The next guy in line just wants all his books shipped when ready, via "Best/Cheapest," and will take the books he can get and send in another order next week, and the next.

The best cherries come in bunches. If you want to see everything in sets or pop-ups or about guns or Paris, you have a much better chance of getting what you're looking for than if you will only buy Gibbon sets or Colts or 1920s Paris. The remainder wholesalers and their reps need to feel there's at least a chance of a sale now and then to keep you on their radar.

I've had the occasional customer trying to bid up those cherries. This usually doesn't work. If you are willing to pay extra to get mint copies of The Lord of the Rings, and that's all you want, ever, there are still way too many other loyal customers, who buy broadly and often, who will get that cherry because the wholesalers want to keep them happy. 

There are always exceptions that prove the rule, and one bookseller's cherries are occasionally another bookseller's pits. Maybe you're really serious about it, you work it, you make sure the rep and/or the wholesaler is thinking about you next time they see that title. Maybe you say you'll buy up to 1000 copies and 1000 copies show up. That'll work. 

Generally speaking, however, your best bet to get the books you want is to buy just broadly enough so that when your cherries show up in their inevitably way-too-short quantities, you will get them. Even better, along the way you will discover a lot more cherries.
What’s the difference between a hurt & a remainder? Why is free freight not in the dictionary? Why don't remainders have remainder marks? Check out my bargain book buyer’s glossary: 

1 comment: