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The 1¢ Book

August 18, 2009

I’ve always been a big fan of the bargain bins of the bookstores I shopped. Some of my favorite authors, I’ve discovered for no better reason than I was able to snag a hardcover for $3.99 or a paperback even cheaper. I’ve stumbled upon John Varley, Christopher Moore, Jack Whyte, Joseph Heller and Michael Crichton this way. So I’m no stranger to good values at the bookstore. But today I lucked into a deal to beat all deals.

Jeni starts a new semester on Monday, and for her history class she needed The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan. So as I headed out for a quick trip for groceries, I thought I’d be nice and run by the nearby Borders and pick it up for her. The book was easy to find, even among the relative mess of the reorganizing that Borders is undertaking. Book in hand, I looked around for 20 minutes or so, and even though I found plenty of other books that would have been worth buying, taking into account my current lack of funds along with the absurd pile of books I still have to read, I decided to stick with just my single purchase.

eganBut when the cashier rang up the book the computer alerted her that there was an identical copy of the book in one of the bargain bins. So off she went to locate it for me. She returned with the book to the right, marked down nicely from $14.95 to $3.99.

But when she rang up that book, there was a small problem. Oh well, I thought, it was too good to be true. So I waited as she called over the manager for an override. I guessed that there was some sort of error in the computer and that I would indeed be paying full price. The cashier and the manager discussed the intricacies of pricing books in the bargain section while looking the book over. Finally the manager said, “That price is probably right, all the stuff out front was marked down.”

I took this to mean that I’d get the book for $3.99 after all. I did what must have been a classic Looney Tunes double take when she gave me the grand total of 1¢.

Yes, that’s right: 1¢.

I kept the receipt because, well I’ve never actually had a receipt for anything that cost 1¢. Plus I secretly suspected that I’d get stopped and arrested on the way out.

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This content was originally posted on my own blog—a practice I don’t make a habit of. However, a computer crash (thank you Windows Update) at 2:00 AM drained the last of my patience. My post questioning the existing division lines of genres will have to wait until next week.
3 Comments
  1. August 18, 2009 1:37 am

    Do you guys have 1c pieces. In Australia, they’d round that down to $0.00…that’s kind of like a free book.

  2. August 18, 2009 2:59 am

    Agreed Benjamin. I’d love to see something I bought at Borders get rung up for 1c. I just can’t imagine that happening here.

    And on the topic of bargain buys … I got copies of Portrait of Dorian Gray and Frankenstein in the bargain bin at Fosseys (a variety store which no longer exists in Australia as far as I know) in Forbes – can’t remember how much they were now but I wasn’t actually earning money at the time so it was possible they were bought with my last $10.00 with some change to blow at the bakery next door. I still have then with their oil thumbed pages from reading them during wheat harvest.

    I also came by Nick Earls via a deal table – where I got a Ben Elton omnibus as well as the Nick Earls book. We have a book store called QBD (Queensland Book Discounters) which has tables and tables of discounted books. I have read that if your book happens to end up on one of these tables and you were paid an advance – that your publisher can actually demand back part of your advance because it is based on a percentage of projected sales.

    So while I love a bargain – part of me feels a little bad now buying stuff off these tables.

  3. janflora permalink
    August 21, 2009 10:31 am

    WoW! i love a good deal! Great story. I did not know that about the author’s advance, though. I love the bargain tables, especially because I tend to buy so many books, i need to budget, and figured that it is better to have a book bought and read than shipped back to storage and ignored. I knew the stores couldn’t be getting much from these books, but did not think the authors would actually have to pay for them! That is disappointing.

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