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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Controlled Chaos


“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.” 

It's a temptation in our modern world of phones and gadgets to believe that everything needs to happen instantly, or it's somehow dysfunctional. ORDER NOW screams Amazon at you from billboards, whilst your phone bleeps with 1036 messages about something inconsequential. It's a reflex that's easy to understand, but that doesn't always translate well to the internal bumblings of an antiquarian bookstore. To give you an idea of the complex operations at work whenever someone places an order for a book, I've broken down the process into stages so we can all better understand each other. 

1 - The customer finds a book they like online, or in one of our catalogues. Perhaps they have a question, or wish to purchase it. They call in, and a sinister voice rustles at the other end, with the almost imperceptible lilt to their tone that suggests having to walk to the phone was a small inconvenience. 

2 - The conversation concludes, and the hunt for the book is underway. The computer is loaded up, and immediately breaks down in a new and unforeseen fashion. Attempts to print a list of locations are confounded by the printer, which was possessed by the spirit of a train driver in 1872 and has been on strike ever since. 

3 - Technology having failed, staff rush to the shelves where the book was last seen (some time in the last decade). Some are killed by landslides of encyclopedias, treacherously placed statues or the endangered species of shelf badger unique to English bookstores. These are chalked down to acceptable losses.

4 - The shelf in question is empty, or filled with books of another kind entirely. A small but fierce debate rages as to whether this was planned, or just a natural phenomena. It is decided that noone is to blame.

5 - The remaining booksellers split into adventuring parties of 5 or less, and use a combination of divining rods, highly trained bloodhounds and alethiometers to track down the book. It is found somewhere entirely unpredictable, such as on the roof, or stapled to the underside of a bookcase.

6 - The customer is contacted, and informed that the book is available. The goblins prepare to package the books and ship them.

NB - No Sotheran's staff were harmed in the making of this article. We do not actually employ goblins. (Well, not in the literal sense.) Shelf Badgers are a fiction, until proven otherwise. The printer is definitely possessed.   

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