Running my own business, two of them, really, when you count the day job at Augusta Free Press Publishing and the nights and weekends that I spend getting the Waynesboro Generals ready for the summer, I know that times are tight, that money is tighter, so when somebody wants to do business with me, I try to make it easy on them.
Which brings me to our little run-in today with the folks at the new Books-A-Million in the Waynesboro Towne Center, who are apparently doing really well for themselves in their new location, so well that they don’t need me to spend my money there anymore, which I gather in the wake of them telling AFP Publishing to take a big-time hike.
The backstory: Because of a scheduling snafu, our magazines got back to us a day later from the printer than we’d been planning on, and this sent the publisher and the editor on the road to deliver the April 2009 edition to several of the stops on the Waynesboro route. It was kind of fun, actually, and quite educational, particularly seeing just a few returns from our dropoffs for the month of March, meaning, I assume, that people are reading us.
Books-A-Million was our last stop this afternoon, and my wife, Crystal, the publisher, was most looking forward to getting there. “They’re supposed to be putting us in a new location, a better location than we’ve been in,” she said, noting that even in a more hidden spot there in previous months we’d been doing quite well there.
First sign of trouble – we couldn’t find the rack that we’d had there for a few months now. Then we couldn’t get anybody to tell us where it was. Eventually a manager came to the front with the rack in hand and said we were out. The boss of a boss of a boss was in the store a few weeks ago, he said, and made it clear: no more free local publications.
My wife was upset, to say the least. “I don’t get this,” she said, repeating herself a few times.
I get it. We’d been given a spot near their Joe Muggs coffee shop. The former manager who approved the location for us thought it would be a good addition for customers stopping for coffee and a donut or cookie to have something to leaf through while they were snacking. I’d bet just as important was that those same customers wouldn’t be inclined to grab a magazine or book from nearby and get crumbs or coffee on a page and then return the product to the shelf when they were done.
The new philosophy, as it comes across to me, is we’re not giving space to something we can’t make money on. As a businessman, I can see where they’re coming from there, I suppose. Funny thing, though. Stone Soup Books just up the street from our office has a lot less space to work with than the new Books-A-Million, and they give us a prominent location in their store. Of course, we know the owner – who isn’t the boss of a boss of a boss, but instead this nice lady named Mary Katharine who lives in Waynesboro and graduated like me with a degree in American government from UVa. and is a political moderate from on our discussions of current events and also opens her doors to not only AFP Publishing but also one of Crystal’s business-networking groups and an informal discussion group that I meet with and anybody and everybody else with an axe to grind or a meal to eat or a book to buy or whatever.
I drove away from the Books-A-Million a bit down thinking that I’d been looking forward to finally having a supersized bookstore in Waynesboro, and, well, I can’t see myself going back there again, considering. And then it hit me. The Books-A-Million folks don’t need my money; they obviously have more than they know what to do with. That bookstore up the street, though, not only do they like it when I come back to haunt, but did you know that they have a real, live chef who will even make you a special birthday dinner if you call ahead a couple days and ask real nice?
Where do you think my book money ought to go, seriously?
– Story by Chris Graham