Thursday, August 23, 2007

Barnes & Noble Uses Liquid Soap to Destroy Books

Here's something else to break the hearts of book lovers everywhere. I do understand that Barnes & Noble is in the book business to make money, but reading how one store manager tried to destroy some 800 books while placing them in a store dumpster just rubs me the wrong way. This sorry tale comes to you from Dallas.
Jan Lawrence was just walking by as employees of a Barnes and Noble at the Preston-Royal shopping center tossed box after box of new books into the dumpster behind the store.

Sandy Torrance was on her way to visit her mother when she stopped to see what was going on.

"I made my first dumpster dive into the bottom of the dumpster and found that they had poured gallons of concentrated soap detergent all over the books so that they couldn't be resold," said Torrance. "It's just really kind of mind boggling when you start thinking about it. I think it's deplorable."
Torrance and Lawrence pulled out as many books as they could out of the dumpster, cleaned them and donated them to three local agencies.

Activity Director Pearlie Rideaux started a book club for her residents at Tremont Rehab Center in Dallas. "I'm very blessed to have these books at my facility," she said.

Resident David Habash says he visits the new library all the time.

"There are things about history, World War II, the former President Bush, things about the FBI and CIA," said Habash about the books. "I just found these things very interesting."

There were also plenty of children's books found in the dumpster. They now have a home at Buckner International.
I've often wondered about the legality of removing something from a store dumpster that way. Does discarded store property still belong to the store at that point, or not? When does the store cease to hold title to something tossed out its back door this way? Anyway, I'm happy to see that these ladies "rescued" some of the books and found new homes for them. Shame on Barnes & Noble.

The link to this story also includes a video presentation of the television news report about this incident. After watching it, I am even more ticked off that a company which is struggling to make a profit and seems to be cutting the store hours of its employees could be this wasteful. Barnes & Noble stockholders might find this interesting.


  1. This probably won't change anybody's opinion, but B&N throws books away as a last resort. We do everything to try to sell those books first... all those books in the dumpster came from one of two places.

    The first option is from the clearance table for almost a month, going from full price to half price to $1. If nobody will even buy them for a buck, these are books people don't want.

    The second option is they came from the damaged box and are, obviously, damaged.

    Most unsold books are returned to the publishers. If B&N throws a book away, they're losing money on it. It is not something that happens often, or even regularly. We try to avoid it, in fact.

    All that said, I'm not sure how I feel about throwing them away and pouring soap on them. I don't like the idea of throwing books away at all, but I can guarantee you there weren't old copies of Dickens in there or anything; they are junk books, pure and simple. Second, even the employees have to buy the books. We can wait until they're a dollar if we want, but after they're off the clearance table or in the damaged box, we can't take them. We don't have access to free books, so why should anyone else?

    Those ladies in the dumpster probably walked right past those books on the dollar table and never even considered buying them and donating them that way.

    The thing that sends alarms to my head is the number 800. Unless it was one of those B&N Mansion stores, 800 is a high number of books to be discarded at once. If, by chance, those books were discarded for reasons other than I mentioned, I'd go out on a limb and say they broke store procedure. In that case, shame on the store manager, not shame on Barnes & Noble.

  2. It boggles the mind that B&N didn't want to donate the books and even took pains to make them un-donatable. Are they so obsessed with making money off books that they can't handle the idea of anyone getting a book for free? It comes across as pure spite.

  3. Annie, those are good points but the thing that really irks me is the pouring of liquid soap on the books rather than just tossing them into the dumpster. Did you watch the linked video report that shows how happy those charities were to receive the books that were recovered? They looked to be in pretty good shape to me and there were a bunch of children's books in the mix. I don't think they were junk least not all of them.

    The video also shows the store manager kicking the camera out of the store where he refused to answer questions on the sidewalk outside. I do suspect that the jerk broke company policy and I hope that he gets what he deserves as a result because if this kind of thing is condoned by upper management there's something very wrong going on at that level.

    I just can't stomach this kind of destruction and I'll never understand why the books couldn't have simply been given to employees to dispose of or left in boxes outside the dumpster. They would have disappeared and would not have had any impact on B&N's bottom line at all.

  4. Sylvia, I think they have made themselves look very bad. Perception is important to a retailer and my perception of B&N has definitely taken a hit. I would think that this store manager has some explaining to do to his bosses and is not the most popular guy in the company at the moment.

  5. I can't believe any shop would just throw out books like that but that was an interesting explanation j.anne.

  6. I remember once browsing through a book by the convicted hacker Kevin Mitnick (I forget the title) in which he described various hacking methods that he had used. One of these was looking through garbage bins of various companies, and he said that it was legal retrieve stuff from the bins. What he did with it afterwards was a different matter.

  7. I'd rather see the books moulder in a landfill than be treated like that by a bookseller.

    I think once you've thrown something away, you have no expectations of ownership. Hence the trawling of celebrity garbage...

  8. That's interesting, Edmund, and it does make a certain amount of sense that things tossed into garbage bins and dumpster are in the "public domain." :-)

  9. Makes sense, Carrie. I'm still ticked about the liquid soap trick. That's actually what bothers me most about this whole thing.

  10. I have a story similar to this. The elementary school near my house closed, and the kids were all going to be stuffed into another nearby school. The reaction of many of the parents was to decide to homeschool their kids. The closing school simply piled all their old books into the dumpsters every day for about 2 weeks. Every evening, you could see all of these upper middle class parents dumpster diving for the materials they could then use for their homeschooling.

  11. Sure can't blame them for that. :-)

    I wonder if the old school was "in cahoots" with the parents and made sure that the books were gently placed into the dumpsters so that they could be more easily gathered up?

  12. Personally, I think they should donate the books or give them to employees. I think instead of putting liquid detergent all over the books, they should put a lock on the dumpsters. I used to work for a company that did that. That kept people from dumpster diving and leaving a mess behind. I, especially, think companies that throw away confidential information should do this or shred the papers. Anyway, I'm sorry to hear that B&N doesn't want to donate their throw-away books to help their communities. I hadn't heard about all this until I read this post.

  13. Wow! I misread this post's date. I thought it was August '08 instead of '07. (I'm tired) I wouldn't have commented if I'd known that. Here it is a year later, and I still haven't heard the news about "the detergent on the books thing." My excuse is I don't have a t.v. and I don't get the newspaper, although, I do skim it at someone else's house sometimes. I, also, just got my computer in Fall '07 so unless I went to the right blogs or had seen it on my home page news, I wouldn't have known about it anyway. Those are my excuses and I'm stickin' to them! ;)

  14. Hey, anonymous, what the Barnes and Noble manager did a year ago was disgusting and it is still disgusting today.

    Hard for me to believe that was a whole year ago...


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