Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Ecosystem of The Apple
When training new employees, I often use the analogy of Green Apple as a digestive system (nice, huh?). In this scenario, the books that customers bring into us to sell are the food. Our used book buyers are the mouth, the gateway into the store. The cave upstairs is the stomach, where the books get priced, and enter the bloodstream. The shelvers are the blood vessels, distributing the books to all corners of the store. The customers are the veins, carrying the books away. The register, well, that's the last stop before the books go out the door. And playing a vital part in all of this are the free boxes out front. No system is perfectly efficient. There is always waste. That's where the free boxes come in. Books the buyers pass on but would-be sellers don't want to cart home; books that have been marked down and still can find no buyer; damaged books. All end up in the free box. And the thing about the free box is, almost anything you put in there will disappear. Nine-year old computer book? Gone. Reader's Digests from 1973? Gone. I even bring in stuff from my house that I want to get rid of but can't bear to toss out, like old frying pans and shoes.
And a culture builds up around the free boxes. Over my years here there have been several folks who made something of a living out of our free box. If you've been to the store in the last few years, you'll most likely recognize the man to the left. He's known as The Rev (he sometimes wears a clerical collar). I don't know if he's an actual reverend or not. He also sometimes wears a Santa hat, and I'm pretty sure he's not Santa. He collects books out of the free box. I think he sells some at a flea market. He gives some away to charities. He's part of the ecosystem of Green Apple.