Like Netflix for Books

The other day I was thinking. I know, bad opening, so sue me. At any rate, I had just been to the local library to pay a late fine (all of 10 cents!), and the thought struck me; wouldn’t it be great if there was a Netflix, only for books? No late fees, keep a book as long as you like; mail it in when you’re done and they’ll mail you back a new book from your list. But what would one pay for such convenience? I was checking out options online – surely I wasn’t the only one to think of extending the Netflix concept to books? As it turns out, I wasn’t; there are quite a few businesses following the Netflix model.

Two businesses, Bookswim and Booksfree, have an actual book rental program, starting at $15 and $10 a month respectively. For that price, you can keep 2 books at a time, for as long as you want, and mail them back to get new ones. Two others I stumbled upon, PaperBackSwap and America’s BookShelf, are really more of a book sharing program than a rental service; in order to get books, you need to share the books you have currently.

My problem with both of those models is that a) I’m cheap and b) I’m possessive. I’m not going to pay $10+ a month in order to rent books, when I can buy a new book for that price. And I’ve never been the type to trade in old for new; not with video games or movies, and certainly not with books. The only time I’ve ever gotten rid of a book is when I outgrew a children’s series (The Babysitter’s Club books, The Goosebumps series).

Clearly what I need is an improvement on the current (free) library model. I can understand how it would be cost prohibitive for a library to ship books to individuals, so I understand that would probably never be implemented. I also understand that they have a finite quantity of individual titles, and can’t let someone keep a book forever when other patrons are waiting for it. What they CAN do, though, is improve their online interface and introduce a queue. In this day and age, I should be able to update my mailing address, email address and other contact information online – they have my email address linked to my library card number, as I can receive alerts when a book is due. Once the online interface is brought up-to-date, a queue of books and authors you’d like alerts for should be easily done. The “hold” system already manages this to a point – you can basically reserve up to 10 books, and you’ll be alerted when they’re available. The queue would be like a pre-hold; books you’re interested in reading at some point in the future, but not immediately. When you’re ready, you could move the book from queue to hold, and pick it up from the library when it becomes available. I don’t think these type of changes would be too terribly difficult to implement, and would go a long way in increasing the usability and convenience of the library.

Obnoxious Customers

I’m beginning to think that retail would be SO MUCH BETTER if it weren’t for all the damn customers. Today was a prime example. First story; a pair of ladies and, I’m assuming, their husbands, have a cart filled with stuff. They come walking towards the registers, and make like they’re going through. Not completely unheard of; if you’re picking up a prescription at the pharmacy, they’ll normally let you pay for a few other things there, if you’re not getting much. They’re not SUPPOSED to, as they’re not set up to do large orders, but they’ve done it before. We just ask the people going though the registers if they paid at the pharmacy, and they’ll flash a receipt if they did. So anyway, these people are attempting to head right on through the registers, and I stopped to ask them if they paid at the pharmacy, and one of the women was like “we’re going to the food court for a soda.” That’s not what I asked, now was it? I asked if you paid for the merchandise in your cart. So at this point I inform her that if she’s not paid for the merchandise, the cart can’t go past the registers. She gives me this look, like I’ve asked her to sacrifice her firstborn child, or have asked her to chew off her own arm. Yes ma’am, I’m sure your purse is so friggin’ heavy that your arm will just snap under the weight, and you’re just SO THIRSTY, but you should have thought of that before you loaded the cart up, now shouldn’t you? As she stares at me like I’m something she’s just scraped from the bottom of her shoe, she huffs off to the food court with her little entourage, leaving her cart with her leather jacket on top. So, she couldn’t possibly be parted from her groceries, but she’ll just leave her expensive coat there.

The second situation was vaguely similar. A woman came in with her children, 2 or 3 of them, and was attempting to sign for a check issued in her husband’s name (and ONLY her husband’s name). As the cashier tried to explain to her that the check must be signed by her husband in order for us to honor it, she got all snippy. Well FINE, her husband was in the car, she’d just go out and have him sign it! So we called over a supervisor to void out the order, so that we could help the other people in line while she was gone, and I started pushing the cart over to the wall, where we normally put orders that are “on hold;” for whatever reason, they couldn’t complete the order (normally running to the car for a checkbook). She tries to snatch the cart away from me, and asks me where I think I’m going with her cart. I explain to her that I’m not putting the merchandise back, but that I’m pushing it up to the wall, since she’s not paid for it, but will be back shortly. She tries to snatch it away, and said she was going to take it towards the door. Apparently SHE was planning to take her cart of unpaid merchandise and leave it, with her unattended small children, in the food court. Oh Hell No. So I tell her again, the merchandise is unpaid for, and can’t go past the registers. Besides, the order will need to be re-rung when she returns with her husband’s signature on the rebate check. So she storms out, and I lean over to the cashier. “So, odds that she’s just going to the car, forging her husband’s signature, and returning?” “Oh, I’d count on it.” Because let’s think about this; a woman goes shopping and brings her 3 small children in the store with her, but leaves her husband in the car? No, I don’t think so. I don’t know what ended up happening, as I wasn’t there when she returned, but I’m guessing she forged his name.

What is WRONG with People?

For those of you unaware, Western Michigan got hit with one hell of a blizzard yesterday. So bad, in fact, I considered calling in to work. I didn’t, but I seriously contemplated it. In the end, my need for cash won out, and I just drove really, really slow. It took me over 40 minutes to drive 10 miles, when I can normally get there in under 20 minutes. Yeah, bad. So I go to work, expecting it to be a ghost town, and there are people shopping! And not just “oh crap, we’re gonna get snowed in, we need toilet paper!” shopping; they brought the kids out, and were buying random, completely non-essential crap. I wanted to grab them and shake them; “I know why I’m here, but why in the HELL are you here?” And they didn’t even bother bundling up; I saw so many children without hats or mittens or scarves. The police advised everyone to stay off the roads unless it was emergency; the shopping malls closed EARLY (on a SATURDAY), and these people felt the need to go shopping?

In a separate rant, I really dislike people who haggle. Haggling has it’s place, but not generally in retail. The prices are posted for a reason. Sometimes the prices change, but the price of certain items never changes. So don’t try to convince me that a $4.99 item is really $3.99; read the sign. Oh, and after I have someone fetch the sign to PROVE the price, and you decide you don’t want the item because it’s too expensive, please don’t pay for your $20 order with a $100 bill. It just makes you look cheap, and pisses me off.