I have just come to the end of a three week stint as a Temp in the Returns Dept. of a local book distributor, the Christmas and New Year period being a natural peak in their business.
I love books, handling them – flicking through them – stacking them neatly, so what could have been a pretty mind-numbing role for a while had it’s compensations, if only slight. Each returned book parcel could have held any jewel of enlightenment never previously encountered and so in a weird way it was fun. Firstly, subject matter was kaleidoscopic in it’s breadth. Everything from dictionaries to books on how to fold paper (!). Yes, I know, not origami, but just … folding paper.
Each parcel has a Returns Slip and most people would simply tick the nearest appropriate reason box for the return and leave it at that, though the person who returned the Pug Puppies Calendar was stuck without a box marked “ugly” .
The best returns notes, however, were those that gave you a little insight into the individual and their circumstance. Such as the lady who was returning a book which she had bought for her daughter who was emigrating to New Zealand and now didn’t need the book because her husband had bought her a Kindle and she had now downloaded the book and could she therefore return it for a refund and she was really looking forward to starting a new life and wasn’t it wonderful etc etc……………..
Here are some of my favourite windows through the Return Slips…
- Book returned from Dallas State Penn. marked “Unsuitable for Inmate” …. a copy of the Quran.
- Another book returned from a State Penn for the same reason …… a collection of 18th century essays on Philosophy in Spanish (!) Clearly someone in the authorisation department had a beef with this guy. It was probably the perfect width for levelling his table.
- Two books on euthanasia and assisted suicide returned……….. “arrived too late”. Oh no.
- A book on the best diet and food prep for someone fighting cancer. Returned because it wasn’t a holistic approach and including a 2 page missive on their current fight against a specific cancer that they were determined to beat without the help of these nonsense chemical drugs.
- “These illustrations are great but my kids don’t read squiggles.” The customer had received the Arabic version.
- A very angry young lady returned a cd (we processed them too). You could hear the vitriol in the large block handwriting as she quite clearly stated that she did not want what she had been sent. She had ordered Alicia Keys…. she had been sent Neil Young’s “Zuma” . Now frankly, I think someone in the packing department was trying to tell her something.
- A Handbook on Human Rights and International Law. (Why are “handbooks” often so huge ?) ………… returned “unwanted” by …… Interpol.
Everything from porn calendars to Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I felt like calling up the customer and saying “Are you nuts ?” ). Innumerable copies of Stephen King in German. Packages in bright pink wrapping paper packed tightly with packets of mini-tissues for the Unpacker with a cold coming on. Design books. Arts books. Manga. Classics. Fashion. Photography. And on ….
So when you return your unwanted Amazonian purchase or such, write a little interesting something on the Returns Slip. It will brighten up a Book Unpackers dull day .