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Throwdown!! (Kinda long, but totally fun - for ME!)
Old 12-10-2009, 01:53 AM
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lupo pazzesco lupo pazzesco is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: San Antonio, TX, USA
Posts: 1,450
Talking Throwdown!! (Kinda long, but totally fun - for ME!)

Ok, this happened while I was at work, but these people were in no way, shape or form customers of ours. So, I think 'tis best to post it here. Bear with me, it's kind of worth it!

So, quick bit of background. We're not the only off campus bookstore. But the other one in existence is rather shady, and has some underhanded, just on this side of legal business practices. I know because I went into the store one day, looking for a book hoping to find it used because it was new only at my store, and even with the employee discount, it was quite pricey. I mention the class I'm taking, and they start trying to shove 4 books at me insisting I needed them because they were required for my class. I told them, no, I just need this one book, and it's "oh, no no, buy these, you have to have them your first day, your prof says so on the book request!" Mind you, said books have no relevance to the class I listed, and they still persisted despite my clarifying said class multiple times. Finally I got to the point where I told them, "Listen, sunshine, one of us here is lying. And it's not me."

Also, with their buybacks, they'll attempt to give the lowest possible amount they can get away with. One customer I helped yesterday came in and I offered $68 for his book. He said he'd been over there and they only offered $10. When the owner saw how upset he was, he haggled it up to $35, then pushed him to take it, swearing up and down he wouldn't get a better deal anywhere. So, we don't like other off campus store. It is now an established fact.

Fast forward to this morning. There is a duplex on the other side of a fence, on the south side of our property, which means it's directly to the left of us by our parking lot. Bossman comes in and he's rather upset, which is unusual, because he's the most mellow, laid back, easygoing boss I've ever worked with. Turns out other bookstore had set up a table on that other property, advertising textbook buybacks directly next to us. They put signs up everywhere and were trying to divert our customers to their table.

Ok, fine, they want to be competitive. Not much we can do. It's a private property next to us, technically residential duplex, but the owner gave her permission to use the property and chose not to charge them anything. Owner is a little old lady, who's looking to rent out the first level of the duplex, and try to turn it into a cozy little bookshop. Bossman says he's sure, and knows it in his bones, that other bookstore owner told little old lady, "Well, let me set up a buyback business there, to guage the traffic and demographics, and if we do well, I'll rent the property." All without the intention of renting said property. So, they've got their table up, and while bossman went out and took pictures, just for record purposes and to keep his regional manager up to date with what we deal with, there's not much we can do, because as far as we know, they're not technically breaking any laws.

And then the trash talking starts.

We get a string of customers coming in, who are upset because apparently the pushy little duo at the table (1 guy, 1 girl) started claiming that we weren't offering fair value on books, and that in most cases we weren't buy books at all. This makes bossman even more unhappy. He proceeds to call other bookstore owner, and tells him that while he respects competition, their practices are just underhanded and not right. And by the way, his employees are parked in OUR lot. So, move the cars, or get towed.

I told bossman slowly but surely, I'd bring him to the darkside. Looks like I was right because that's completely something I'd do!

Bossman calls our property manager, and gets permission to inform anyone parking in our lot to do business with the other bookstore table they would have to move, as they were not, in fact, our customers. Failure to do so would result in towing, as our lot is for customer parking only. During this, several of us brainstormed with bossman and came up with another alternate plan. Other bookstore employees were toeing really close to the line, waving their signs juuust on the side of our driveway to be considered not our property. So, we made a sign of our own, which read "Textbook Hell. We Pay More!" Our sign also pointed out that we had free games for extra cash, free fresh popcorn and free candy, plus coupons with chances to double your buyback cash. Much better than a stingy little card table out in the cold.

We sent one of our employees out with a bucket of candy, and he stood juuuust on the other side of the drivway, to still be on our property, and waved his sign around, whenever they other bookstore people did. And whenever someone stopped at the table, he loudly announced without ever moving closer, how much better our prices were, and all of the freebies. Oh yeah. Evil is FUN. So, we're approaching bookstore throwdown, and the competition is fierce. Everyone is actually starting to enjoy it, because we know we have them beat in every manner. Prices, incentives, customer service, etc.

I take my lunch break, and walk up to the local fast food joint because i forgot my lunch at home. On the way back, pushy girl from the other store's duo plants herself in the middle of the sidewalk in front of me. If I walk one way, I shove her partner into the street. If I walk the other way, I knock over her table. so I stop, and she moves in to strike. We have the following conversation, during which I speak nothing but 100% truth.

Her: Are you selling your books?!
Me: Not to you.
Her: Why not?
Me: Because you offer $10 for a book they <pointing to my store> offer close to $70 for.
Her: Oh, well if you get proof, we'll match the price and beat it!
Me: No. I've been to your store. You cheat people. Goodbye now!

I start walking, and she has no choice but to move or get plowed down. On the way to the store, I stop to talk to my CW, make sure he's holding up in the cold all right and see if he needs anything. He then informs me of how he got another customer to come into our store to sell his books, and after the games, coupons and whatnot, he ended up with $150. Pushy girl called him over, demanding to know how much he got, and when she was told, started claiming she SO would have given more, like $180 at least! CW managed to call over, still without moving from his spot, "Yeah, how can you guarantee that without ever seeing which books he was selling?"

CW also said that he was giving the candy away to whomever walked past him and pushy girl snapped at him "Those aren't students!!" CW just stares at her and shrugs, responding with, "Yeah. And...?"

I relay what happened to bossman. He's really getting steamed with how aggressive they're getting apparently, according to another CW driving back from break, they're trying to divert cars pulling in to park near them, without even knowing if they're sellign books back. (Not sure how that worked, exactly, never got details...) So, I go start on a project bossman had for me. I head to his office a few minutes later, and hear him on the phone with someone, and the following comes out of his mouth:

"...they are conducting business in front of a residence. I just want to know if that's legal to do without a permit?"

A few minutes later, after listening to whatever he was told, he asks, "And how, exactly is that enforceable, and is there anything I can do to see it's enforced?"

Apparently bossman called the City department on them now!

Unfortunately, they packed up shortly after, we think because it was too cold for them. However, after I clocked out and was wandering around, looking for my water bottle I lost, I see an official looking guy in a jacket with a badge. The back of his jacket says something like "regulatory department" or "Regulatory commission" or something like that. See, apparently, there was an anonymous complaint about us, that we weren't legally operating as a store, so he came out to see our sales tax permit, license to sell, whathaveyou. Gee, wonder how THAT happened!

Now, I'm wandering past bossman's office, still hunting for my water, and I get called in. Regulatory rep man is standing in there, and I'm told to explain my experience coming back from lunch. He has bossman email him the pictures taken that morning, and seemed REALLY interested in the fact that some of their signs were posted not on the private property, but on the large grassy median that separates the road into the opposite sides. He also said that to conduct buybacks on said property, Other bookstore owner needed to have a special permit. it's called an itinerant vendor permit, I think. And fun little factoid. If Mr. Bookstore owner does have said permit (very unlikely) and it's his name on said permit he MUST be present 100% of the time. If Mr. Bookstore owner sends bookstore minions, that's a nono. and if mr bookstore owner IS present, but has to pee, the entire operation must be shut down whilst he's in the can.

Regulatory commission man gave bossman his personal cell number, asking if he thought they'd come back. We think yes, because it's not likely to be as cold tomorrow. he says if they do come back call him. he finds this very interesting, and he guarantees they will not want to ever come back to that property again once he's done with them. This was the most excitement we've seen at our store for a long time. When we're not being robbed that is. I kind of wish they do come back because I wanna see them get pwned. But, I'm evil like that.


Round 2!!! FIGHT!!
Old 12-10-2009, 09:37 PM
lupo pazzesco's Avatar
lupo pazzesco lupo pazzesco is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: San Antonio, TX, USA
Posts: 1,450
Talking Round 2!!! FIGHT!!

Ok, so I didn't make it in to work today, because of my other issue with getting burned and owwieness. However, I have an awesome CW who has been keeping me abreast of the updates, and I've been exercising my evilness in absentia.

Other bookstore workers showed up, bright and early, around 10-ish in the morning, and they were bound and determined to get business! whenever a car would pull into our parking lot, apparently pushy girl would wave the sign and flag down said car while it was turning in. She'd then proceed to talk to the people, through the window even, standing close enough to the car (but not in our driveway so as not to be on our property) that the people driving couldn't go forward, for fear of running over her feet. This is according to a customer who finally made it into our store. Pushy girl was also trying to get people to park and come on the other side of the fence to get them to sell books back to her, but she was cheerfully reminded by whichever CWs were out at the time of the towing enforcements, and gee, did she forget??

Of course, we weren't going to take this sitting down. Out went two of my CWs, waving our fantabulous sign from yesterday, with oodles of free candy. Bossman also took one of my suggestions from yesterday, and took out these two, large insulated thermoses we have and filled them with hot water. A few cheap to go cups and several boxes of hot cocoa mix later, they were not so subtly rubbing it in how wonderful it is that they have these hot beverages while standing out in the cold, and isn't it great how Textbook Hell is providing for both employees and prospective customers?

My CWs tag teamed, and went out in pairs all morning, taking shifts, even bossman and bosslady went out there and took a turn! When she wasn't on shift, bosslady would walk out, stand in the middle of our parking lot and just stare at the pushy duo. No menace or anything, just contemplative stare for a few minutes, enough to make them squirm uncomfortably, and walk back inside. (That was my idea, too! I feel special they're using my suggestions!)

Pushy girl decided to up the ante, though. She started calling to customers in our store that whatever price we offered, she'd beat it, no matter what, and still proceeded to claim we weren't buying back a large quantity of books. So, when customers came in cheesed off that they'd been yelled at, we cheered them up with free popcorn, cocoa, candy, and free moneys with our games. Then, when there was one or two books we weren't buying because they were old editions, bossman truly channeled me and gave into his evil side! He told these customers to go out to that table and swear we offered $50 for it, and they wanted to see how much it would be beat by, even if it was $1!

The delicious evilness comes in several layers. Allow me to explain:

Layer 1: Other bookstore buys back books that <University> doesn't need and will never use again.
Layer 2: Customers get money, other bookstore loses money, yet still thinks they are getting one up on us.
Layer 3: Bossman had called permit inspector from yesterday, and he was on his way. So, upon arrival, what should he witness, but business transactions being conducted on residential property?

CW texted me while she was on her lunch break, and told me the inspector guy was in bossman's office again, and they were talking. She overheard a good chunk of the conversation. Apparently, other bookstore decided to close up shop...after being issued citations for conducting business without a permit at a residential location. Houston doesn't have zoning, per se, but as per the conversation yesterday, you still need a temporary permit if you're going to be conducting any kind of monetary transactions, apparently.

I giggled and told my CW: "I love it! <singing> On the first day of Christmas, inspector gave to meeee...citations for doing business illegalllyyyyyyy!!"

Don't know how much the citations were, but from what I understand, both employees got one, and bookstore owner is going to be getting one as well.

I'm just sorry I missed seeing it all first hand. Stupid shower burns...
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