Seeing Exceptions
SECOND HAND: but still valuable

I took a book from a used bookstorewithout paying for it.

No, I didn’t steal it.

The book seller had gone home for the day and there was no price on the guide to Britishbirds, trees, plants and animalsso I didn’t know how muchto leave for it.

This happened at a National Heritage site in England.

Most of the books were priced between P10 and P40, which is cheapby local standards.

I’d been looking for a combined nature guide for quite some time so I decided not to risk leaving it behind for someone else to buy… but I intended to go back to pay,and that’s what I did two weeks later.

When I found the man in charge, he said he remembered the book and thanked me for coming back.

The fact that the shop’s doors had been left open after hourshad led me to expect that kind of reaction; but then he told me the priceof the book was close to P100.

I wasn’t expecting that. It was twice as much as the most expensive price I’d seen – and there were some beautiful books in there including a clean edition of one of those Okavango photo books that costseveral hundred pula in Botswana’s tourist shops.

My guide was not in that class and I felt like I was getting ripped-off,but I didn’t say so. I just handed over the cash.

I’ve shared this tale about my book shopping adventures because I think it raises some interesting questions about how we react as customers.

The trend these days seems to be for people to want to maximise money-making opportunities, and I think that’s what happened when I went back to pay for the book.

This approach is often seen as good business and many people do not object.

The problem with it, however is that seeing things that waymight have encouraged me to go back after hours to pinch another bookbecause I felt I’d already paid for two… or maybe to take two so that I would have had an even better deal.

Interestingly, though, ‘every man for himself,’ didn’t seem to be the guiding principle behind the National Trust shop.

There was a notice inviting visitors to look through the collection after hours and leave money on the desk if they wanted to buy anything, and I would have done that if the book I took had been priced.

The prices were very reasonable and there was an extremely good collection so I was happy to make the eight-kilometre round trip walk again to pay for the guidebook and maybe buy something else.

As it turned out, though, it wasn’t nearly as easy to go through the collection on a weekend because the place was packed with customers.

Maybe that means trusting people and not trying to take advantage of themis an even better business approach.

It certainly worked on me and I’m guessing it worked on the other return customers. The trick, however, is for people to see the bigger picture and recognise exceptionswhen they happen.

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