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Hi, Craig,

I read Steve's article on the FOL sales. Boy, has behavior at FOL's become a sore subject. Between "no electronics" and "no hoarding," I feel that the FOL organizers will soon have "no sales!"

Darlene and I have been doing book sales for some time. Over the past few years I can honestly say I have never witnessed some of the alleged boorish behavior that has been reported.

Sure, it's aggressive. To be sure, that first 45 minutes can be an all out battle to find that lost treasure that'll make your month. But I have never seen table-sweepers, sheets-pullers, aisles-blocking strollers or ex-NFL linebackers at work. We hit between 45 to 65 sales a year.

We have become good friends with sellers all over the east coast and mid-west. Some friendships have soured a bit over differences in buying philosophies - your brain vs. a PDA - or pulling, sorting and returning. By and large, though, we see a lot of the same people sale after sale.

Reading Book Thinker has made us much better buyers and in turn better sellers. Electronics have made our knowledge go further and faster. For example, we attend a really big sale in Pennsylvania each year. It's intense, busy and exciting. It used to take us the better part of two days to work the sale. We now do it in one. Maybe a couple of hours the next morning.

The electronics we use help us go through books we are pretty sure about, but not 100% positive. We do like to pull a bunch and then sort. However, in a sale of 500,000 books we might pull over the course of 8 hours maybe 500. That's one tenth of 1%. We will return a good 45 percent of those to the tables usually within the first four hours. I really can't buy into the no-hoarding philosophy.

Even sellers who pull three times what we do are still pulling a very smaller percentage. It just looks like a big pile of books! The complaint that hoarders take books out of circulation that other local buyers may actually want does not hold a lot of credence with me. The local people are the ones that donated these books in the first place; they didn't need or want them to begin with!

When dealers respect the books, the sale sponsors and each other, unwanted books are promptly returned for others to buy. We have even returned books to tables we didn't take after those dealers have long sailed into the sunset for the day.

FOL sponsoring groups should realize that dealers will buy mountains of books, even on the first day, even when the prices are higher, even when the crowds are bigger, if they can work with as few constraints as is reasonably possible. When FOLs make it obnoxiously hard for dealers to work, then their sales go down.

In congested sales, where there is not a lot of room, some reasonable regulations are needed. Most dealers we know respect that, deal with it and continue to return year after year. In sales where there is ample room to work but the sponsoring group has put up the "you pick it up - it's yours" sign, dealers will buy very little. Can you imagine your local supermarket manager telling a customer that the grapefruit she just picked up to examine for freshness MUST be purchased? Or the ground beef, or the tomatoes?

In a post I placed on one of the chat rooms I suggested that FOLs could eliminate some of the hoarding problems and orphaned books by charging dealers a holding fee. The dealer would pre-register and pay a steep fee to rent a space in the gym, or arena, or someplace at the sale to work. The dealer can take as many books as that area can hold. If the unwanted books are returned and the area is clean and clear, the fee is returned. If the area is abandoned, so is the deposit. Dealers get a place to work, no hassles, and FOL might pick up some extra cash.

However, my biggest complaint is the FOL sale that charges a steep pre-sale entry fee to get in but has let the sale volunteers go through the day before to take some free books as a thank you! If you're going to charge me a special pre-view fee, then don't let the help get first choice.

Dealers need to be respectful of the FOLs and their goals, other sellers and the book business. Sponsoring groups need to remember that they are in business to sell books. When the two can meet with few constraints it's a wonderful system!

Take good care.

Ted Paul

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