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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & Collectable Books

A Day in the Life of a Stella & Rose’s Books Partner

What, you may wonder, do you do all day???

Quite a lot as it happens!

Firstly, most importantly, I walk my dog on the way to work. Onyx is my Hearing Dog, as mentioned in previous articles, and requires her daily constitutional come rain or shine. Sometimes I arrive at the office in a bedraggled state and Onyx in an even worse state if the weather has not been kind! Fortunately, I am out of the public eye (most of the time!) tucked away in the office upstairs.

On arriving at the office at the unearthly (to me) hour of 8.30am, I generally have half an hour before the rest of the troops arrive at 9am. This time is used very wisely to make my first cup of coffee of the day. Whilst the kettle is boiling, I turn on my PC and log in to my email which is the element that is going to dictate how my day goes… what is in store for me today?

Sonia at her deskOnyx

^ Sonia at her desk; Onyx

Today (Monday), I am also greeted by 9 boxes of books which a regular supplier has dropped off for us at the weekend. These books need pricing up and a provisional offer made. These are on top of the 8 boxes of books already sitting waiting for action on the other side of the office. With help from Maria (my sister and business partner), these books are put onto shelves in the office so that we can see where we are, which, sadly, is running behind already!

I grab my coffee and then the troops arrive. After the customary ‘hello’ and ‘how was your weekend?’ greeting we all get on with the day.  

Back to my email and I am left with offers of books which people have for sale. Maria and I plough through these to find the items of interest and then work out an offer by looking at what we have sold the book for in the past and by using online marketplaces. Unfortunately, some of these offers of interest might be the nicest items but if the on-the-shelf price is too low, the offer price will be even lower, and we must turn them down. We have overheads to meet and limited space and cannot afford to have books of very little value sitting on our shelves.

Among the emails there may be acceptances of offers made previously. Sometimes these require us to organise Parcelforce to collect the books from the vendor. I always send out instructions on how to pack your boxes of books so that they might stand the best chance of arriving safely… some vendors’ interpretations of my instructions leave a lot to be desired; others use umpteen sheets of bubble wrap and a whole roll of packing tape to secure the box! There seems to be no happy medium – they are either packed within an inch of their life or packed with little to protect them. But the former is much better than the latter! We do try to re-use bubble wrap as we use it ourselves in our packing to ensure your books reach you in the condition they left us, even if they have been left outside in the rain, as sometimes happens

I also get the occasional person who wants to barter – unfortunately, this is not our way. Until we see the books, I cannot give a precise amount and when I do, that is the offer, with no bartering involved, as we pride ourselves on making a fair first offer.

Books to stock recordBooks to stock record
^ Books in the office waiting to be priced and stock recorded

Is it time for my second cuppa yet???

Answering emails, especially when the majority of those contain lists of books from half a dozen to the length of your arm, can take anywhere from 10 minutes to most of the morning or, indeed, the day (especially on a Monday when I am catching up on a weekend’s worth of email).

Having answered all emails, I then need to look at those books which have arrived and are awaiting inspection for a final offer to be made. This involves unpacking the books from the box they have been sent in which can take time depending on the amount of packaging used. Some vendors have been known to send their prized book out in just a jiffy bag – a definite no-no if you want your book to arrive with us unscathed.

Opening a parcelOpening a parcelOpening a parcelOpening a parcelOpening a parcelOpening a parcel
^ Opening a parcel of books

Some books we receive can have a whiff of cigarette smoke present or a damp, musty odour. I do try to remember to ask the question before I purchase as to whether the books are in a smoke free environment… it is a little harder to ask if someone has damp in their home… Oh, and there is the occasional squished spider or fly, sometimes both! We have even experienced finding the remains of someone’s dinner included! 😊

Once the books have been inspected, I am then able to make a firm offer, which is usually the same as the provisional offer unless the vendor has ‘forgotten’ to mention a serious fault which will reduce the price or has not realised that the book is actually signed and as such the value is more. I will revise my prices up or down depending on the condition of the books when seen.  When the final offer is made and the vendor agrees, I will then arrange a bank transfer for them. We do like to pay promptly!

Covid means the shop has been closed to the public and we have taken the opportunity to carry out major refurbishment of the building largely due to damage caused by a large tidal flood in 2020. However, the more refurbishment one does, the more refurbishment one finds needs doing! So currently I am also chasing builders and plasterers and flooring guys. We are getting there, albeit slowly.

After lunch and more coffee, I will attempt to add some new stock to our database ready for sale. I say attempt as occasionally I am distracted by a member of staff asking an obscure question, the answer to which they are unsure of. Most times they actually know more than I do, and it is fabulous to have such a strong team whom I can trust to get on with the job of sales order processing.

So, adding new stock to our database… this can take anything from 2 minutes per book to 20 minutes per book depending on the size and weight. Some of the larger books, for example The Letterpress Shakespeare books published by the Folio Society, weigh a ton and can take a while to catalogue due to the amount of strength needed to handle them! I then photograph each book I have added. For most of the books we take just one photo of book cover but for the more expensive books we take multiple photos, as potential buyers are more concerned about the overall condition of the more expensive items. We will take more photos if a customer wants to see something we have not included.

Onyx after a hard day's work
^ Onyx after a hard day's work

And – suddenly, it’s the end of the day and I have run out of time, so I clear my desk and head home, hoping for a relaxing evening as I know I will start all over again tomorrow!

Contributed by Sonia

(Published 31st Aug 2021)

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