Sunday, November 08, 2015

My Special Love-Hate Relationship with Half Price Books Continues

Margaret Atwood 457/1000
My love-hate relationship with Half Price Books is a relatively new thing.  I've been selling books to Half Price for something like thirty years, but it is only in the last four or five years that the transactions leave me feeling cheated and abused.  The chain has it all figured out: books are very heavy and carrying around two or three dozen of them at a time is not an easy task.  So when they give you what, even in the kindest words, can only be called their usual low-ball offer, Half Price clerks know that the seller is not at all inclined to pack the books back up in order to drag them back home.  And it works...I've given in with a glare and a word or two of astonishment more than once in recent years, and have gone ahead and sold my books for pennies rather than the dollars they are worth.  I walk away muttering "never again," but a few months later there I am at the counter offering myself as just another Half Price Books human sacrifice.  But I am now confident that those days are over forever.

Today, however, I experienced the love side of the relationship.  Pricing at the chain has never been consistent, so showing a little shopping patience can sometimes yield surprising results.  And that just happened: I scored a signed and numbered copy (still in original shrink-wrap) of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood (published in 2009 by Bloomsbury of London) that was marked as a $9.99 book.  Throw in the 50% off coupon I had, and I ended up paying all of $4.98 for the book.  Is it petty to want to shout a big "Gotcha" right now?  Honestly, it's about time I got some of my money back from these guys, so I don't feel guilty at all.

But here's the best part.  The shrink-wrap I mentioned has a British price sticker on it marked at 75 pounds sterling...something like $130 U.S.  I don't know how many of the one thousand books produced actually sold for that price, but I doubt than even one other one was purchased brand new for less than five bucks.  So...gotcha, HPB, gotcha.  (Of course, Half Price probably paid only a dollar or two for the book when they acquired it.)

Presentation Box
And here's the book that fits inside the presentation box (what you can't see is the beautifully gilded endpapers on all three sides and the quality of the paper and binding).

The beautiful cloth-bound book itself


  1. Wow, you scored on that one!

    I hear you though about selling to HPB, they didn't used to be so stingy and now they give you this high handed take it or leave attitude that makes me grind my teeth every time. I have't sold anything to them in over a year, haven't been there in over a year I think. I used to go every nearly month. I don't know how they think they are doing well by alienating their best customers.

    1. Like most Half Price bookstores, our local one is set up so that it's easy to hear offers being made to people who have brought stuff in to sell. I never hear a decent amount of money being offered and often hear words of disbelief in response. But almost always, the sale goes through and HPB makes a killing on another person unwilling to carry books back home.

      I won't sell to them anymore - and I sometimes feel guilty about buying from them because I know how little they pay for so much of their merchandise.

  2. Purchased two limited signed Hillary Clinton books way way back in the day that way. Great score!

    1. That kind of score always feels good, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it just doesn't happen as often as it used to. I do remember a long time ago finding a signed, limited edition of E.L. Doctorow's "World's Fair" and a signed copy (dated November 9,1974) of Isaac Bashevis Singer's "The Seance." I still have both of them and paid $5 for the Doctorow and $2 for the Singer.

      I can easily imagine how you felt. Congrats.