Financially Rewarding?

Let’s face it, working in a bookshop is not going to gain boffo sums of money for the employee. If lucky, and you are the manager, you do bring home a wage that can conceivably keep you in reading material for awhile. As a clerk, a little less–maybe paperback money. This is by no means the employer’s fault. Selling books has never been a millionaire’s domain. So why would someone choose to work in a bookstore, rather than, say, a bank, or insurance, real estate – finance jobs that are fiscally more rewarding?

Having never had experience in the financial world, or any other traditional career, I have nothing to compare it with. My in-laws are accountants with families, houses, cars, mortgages, bank accounts and s0lid citizenship. And I applaud their choices, because they made sense for them. They wanted a job that offered security and a solid purpose. And they’re good at it. Which is a major component to any endeavor. I would never be good at a job that requires math. Simple as that. My brain just can’t bother with numbers–unless how many of a certain title is needed to be ordered, how may books need to be returned, and how much the latest Ruth Rendell is going to put me out. I would think people who opt for selling insurance for example, enjoy a similar thrill when making a sale, as we do when recommending a book someone purchases. However, I can’t conceive of the satisfaction a person gets out of hedge funds, whatever they are, or investment banking. Unless they both accrue more money for not only the person receiving the service, but the financial wizard themselves. Which brings me back to, why  would I and my fellow booksellers decide this is the place for them, knowing the kind of living others make around them will never be theirs?

Sometimes, money isn’t the only issue for a worker. Oh, it’s an important one, necessary for certain. But not always the most essential. It depends on how one wants to live their lives. If, like my in-laws, you have families, supporting them is of ultimate importance. A lower income, if you are capable of earning more, isn’t a good option. I would think that anyone who wanted to earn that kind of money would not be looking at a clerk’s job as fulfilling that objective. I have a college education–which is not really all that marketable anymore, still, it goes a way towards training or education towards finance jobs. It also helps somewhat in selling books. It helps to be literate enough to known Dickens from Darwin. But that’s about all college prepares one for in terms of book-selling. I sometimes believe that booksellers aren’t schooled in the profession, so much as guided by their own need for the written word, for exposing their taste and love of it to others, and absorbing the knowledge of other book lovers within, thereby always expanding their ability to expend varied tastes. To put it bluntly–I’ve found those who prefer to handle, shelve, box, and generally live within the dust of books, aren’t souls who are inclined towards the various worlds of finance, making money for the sake of making money.

Wrong or right, that’s the type of individual I think I am. I haven’t the interest in hedging a fund,  insuring an income, or planning financially. But boy, I’m glad there are people who are, because without them, my golden years won’t be spent idly swinging on a hammock perusing the latest serial killer, but hoisting 50 pound boxes of books at the age of 90–that’s if I could still be employed by an kind bookseller. No, I need a financial advisor to work magic and create money from little money, so starving isn’t a definite possibility. I may think I have more soul, than the average financier, but they have more business savvy. And that’s a rewarding and comforting notion!


1 thought on “Financially Rewarding?”

  1. Good points, the fact that bookselling is not as lucrative as the money lending world is also found in other passions that become businesses. However, there are some strategies that can make you a good income – though you will have to find what works well in your market. I always follow the advice of looking at another business that is doing well and copying it (be nice, pick one from another town so you are not competing directly) and though Customer Service is truly the backbone of any independent retailer, in addition to having what customers actually want being in stock, I also treat everything I do as a cost/benefit analysis knowing that 20% of the customers will try to demand 80% of my attention. Though you may want to share your mutual love of books, unless there is a terrific margin in what you are selling (i.e. a Cadillac) then you should realize that the $1 for every 5 minutes of an employees time spent doing ANYTHING comes out of the profit portion of the sales. In the same vein, having excess employees to do anything in the store from dusting, organizing, shelving, or assisting customers also comes directly out of the profit. I would love to have 3 extra employees to make sure things looked perfect and everyone had total attention and assistance. But then I would be bankrupt and out-of-business very quickly. So I keep things in a state where most customers can find what they want themselves, and take up just a moment of my time to finalize the transaction. When it is slow, or I encounter a good customer that I enjoy talking with, then I will take the time to invest in both them and myself with a pleasant moment of conversation about books or something relevant, and go the extra step to ensure they are special in my store. While I want everyone to feel that my bookstore is a friendly place, and that they are important, if I allow my time to be monopolized then there won’t long be a bookstore for anyone to enjoy – even me! I am not adding this to be negative, but to state that in any business – no matter how much you love the product – business must come first, otherwise it is a “hobby”.

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