You’ve seen this commercial, right?

The cardinal rule of advertising tells us that ads with babies and puppies are most successful, but I’ve got news for E*Trade. I can do them one better. As cute as that baby is, today I will take their key turn of phrase, introduce a new more dynamic, mature sort of character into the dialogue, and apply the concept directly to business at Books by Design. Then and only then will this commercial script reach its full potential.

You already know the key phrase… drum roll, please anyway… Dumpster Digging is FROWN UPON IN [the Books by Design] ESTABLISHMENT.

Now, let me introduce you to… drum roll, please…

Grandma Gertrude “The ‘Tude” Smith.

Let me start by saying, Ms. Gertrude is a complex character, I mean customer. I mean, character. On first impression, she could be anyone’s grandmother. Petite, has a hairdo that can only be further described as a coiffure, wears pastel sweater sets, carries a tan, leather purse with a diamond, guardian angel keychain. She’s classic.

She’s also got achy bones, rowdy grandkids, and lives on a fixed income and tight budget. She needs a deal, and she ain’t afraid to say it. Hence the nickname Gertrude “The ‘Tude,” short for Attitude.

Well, set the stage. Gertrude comes into Books by Design one day. Enormous Santa Claus sack in tow, she approaches the front desk, slightly disgruntled because she had to tote the bag all the way from the car (she has achy bones, remember?). Even the pain can’t spoil her mood though because “boy-hidy” does she have some good books to trade-in today! Now, she knows that the sign says we only take ten trade-ins at a time, but that doesn’t really count if she’s cleaning out her house, does it? [Oh, no. No, ma’am. Actually, none of the rules apply to you!] Good. Good.

She looks around the store to notice no other customers at that particular moment, so she asserts that I don’t have anything else to do and proceeds to tell me how hard she worked to get these books together because she really wants to build up some credit—aw, heck. Since I have a minute, why don’t she just go ahead and tell me the whole story, okay? [Okay.]

Pulling the books one by one from the bag, she proceeds to tell me the most fascinating, never-ending story about where she found each book. Though certainly, I will have to abridge and abbreviate the story for the blogosphere, I’ll do my best to get the facts straight.

One book was holding up the short leg of her dining room table. The next book was in the scrap paper, fire-starting pile during the recent snow storm. Her husband must’ve put it there, the silly ol’ geezer (more on him later). She can’t exactly remember where she got Book Three, but it doesn’t have a cover, so it must be one of her sister’s books because, of course, she is more careful than that with hers. The next book she pulls out is bent and tattered, but that won’t even matter when she tells me where she found it—guess. Under the passenger’s seat of her car! Imagine that! She hadn’t even ever finished it. She tried to pick up where she left off, but she guessed that it must’ve been there awhile because the story seemed out of date, and she didn’t want to read anything like that. [So she brought it to Books by Design—Yay!] Book Five was in the sticky back corner of her sewing drawer. Book Six had somehow found its way into the dog’s toy box—only minimal chewage though, and Book Seven was in an old purse. The purse was mildewing, but she took a good “whiff” of the pages and didn’t think they smelled too bad. Books Eight through Thirty Two were in the attic. Books Thirty Three through Fifty Two were from the basement. Book Fifty Three was from a friend at the homeless shelter. She volunteers there every week. When she saw her friend toting it around, she asked him what it was, and he said he used it as a pillow. She said that was the most insane thing she’s ever heard and suggested he used pine straw instead. Then she asked him for the book—I mean, she serves him sandwiches at the shelter every week, the least he could do was help her build her trade-ins up! She apologizes that Book Fifty Four has a phonographic cover—she doesn’t read those nudie kind of books herself, but some of the ladies at her quilting club do… it must be one of theirs. Finally, she found Books Fifty Five through Sixty One in the dumpster, er she means, recycling bin when she went to drop off her broken down cereal boxes (she recycles, but global warming is just a hippie fad). That’s all she guesses.


Did I think these would get her good credit? She wants good credit because she worked hard to get these together. Her silly ol’ geezer husband tried to put in some of their Lee Child and Robert Parker books for trade-in, but she told him those were their good books, and they paid too much for them to trade them in. [Duh.]

Now. How much credit do I have? Since I brought so many, can I just swap a few of them? Where are those trade paperback kind? I like those new big ones—they’re shiny.

and on… and on… and on…

By this point, I’m exhausted. Exhausted and speechless. Somehow the funny fate of this crazy cosmic universe has set up me, Tiffany Ward (the least confrontational person in quite possibly the whole entire planet) up against Gertrude “The ‘Tude’ Smith, Grits and Guns Grandma Extraordinaire. I am faced with the choice to either deny this lady the credit she worked oh-so hard to manipulate out of me and just flat out tell her that Dumpster (er, Recycle) Digging for trade-ins is FROWNED UPON IN [the Books by Design] ESTABLISHEMET—OR—issue her credit and watch her take three shiny, like-new trade paperback books from Books by Design for half (of half) price, never to be seen again—because she’d rather beat you with her tan, leather purse than trade-in her trade paperbacks—she paid three dollars in cash for those, didn’t you know she was on a budget?


Can you see where this is going? She would make an awesome character in an E*Trade commercial… or maybe a B*Trade commercial since its about trading books? Har-Dee-Har-Har-Har. Either way, I think I would get as much of a kick from that scene as I do the actual commercial with the baby…

… except that that scene is my real life EVERYDAY.

Daily I get Dumpster Diving, Budget Crunched, Heart Wrenching stories about how I should take old, out-of-date, coverless, crude-covered books for top dollar credit, so we can all live happily ever after, The End.

What’s a bookstore owner to do? Take the crap, chalk the loss? Borrow a quote from a cute E*Trade commercial? Keep being my syrupy sweet self, giving the credit and piling them up in the back room? Write a blog about it and entertain new ideas?


I’m at my wits end, and I’m officially entertaining new ideas, y’all.

[Author’s Note: As I posted this blog late last night, I am now having ever so slight writer’s remorse. Though Gertrude’s story is only inspired by real events from Books by Design, she does represent a customers base at large, and I should really be thankful for all customers–I do not want to sound otherwise ungrateful for any business. On the flip side, this blog is the one place I am air some dirty Books by Design laundry, and that’s really all I was doing. I just needed to get some business owner frustration out! For anyone I might have offended, I am sorry. I will try to use better discretion and more politically-correct story telling in the future. For those of you who enjoy being a part of my real life ride: thanks & hang on… I’m afraid it only gets crazier from here.]


2 thoughts on “Dumpster Digging is FROWNED UPON IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT

  1. I love your blogs! Don’t apologize for them at all!
    As I said before, I’m exicted about you putting these all together for a book!

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