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Strike At The Strand
April 11, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

The workers at Manhattan's famous Strand Bookstore are currently in conflict with management over a severe new contract that radically reduces benefits. Bookstore employee and cartoonist Greg Farrell has decided to explain the conflicts and background of the problem via comic book.
posted by The Whelk (63 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
How long until Half Price Books arrives in Manhattan?
posted by Yakuman at 9:27 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That two tier contract is par for the course... lower benefits more for new hires, but keep them decent for the existing employees. You will get a lot more votes for that contract than the one that hurts everyone.
posted by smackfu at 9:32 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess they didn't get enough votes with that, which is a credit to the current workers. I hope they're able to get some better terms.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:34 AM on April 11, 2012


Is a strike planned? Should I stop buying books there?
posted by orrnyereg at 9:47 AM on April 11, 2012


This is nothing new. I've never understood how unions can "protect wages" when their members offer nothing more than the next person on the street offering to work for less money (with bookstore experience from Borders, even!). Going on strike seems ridiculous when the employer can simply fill every union worker's place in a matter of days from people looking for jobs at market wages.
posted by saeculorum at 9:48 AM on April 11, 2012


Going on strike seems ridiculous when the employer can simply fill every union worker's place in a matter of days from people looking for jobs at market wages.

The Strand is more than a place to buy books -- if it weren't, it would already be out of business thanks to Amazon, just like countless other independent bookstores. The workers are counting on ownership not wanting to sully the Strand brand by making its patrons cross a picket line to buy books they could get online for less money.
posted by Etrigan at 9:51 AM on April 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


yeah good luck with that guys.
posted by H. Roark at 9:51 AM on April 11, 2012


Going on strike seems ridiculous when the employer can simply fill every union worker's place in a matter of days from people looking for jobs at market wages.

It costs employers time and money to train employees for almost any job.
posted by drezdn at 9:51 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How do I make the comic book version big enough so I can read it?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:52 AM on April 11, 2012


How do I make the comic book version big enough so I can read it?

Scroll down.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like The Stand and I hope it stays in business for a long time but it's always seems so baroquely inefficient. Every time I've gone there (and I used to live 3 blocks away) the store seems to have about twice the necessary number of staff on duty as compared even to other independent bookstores (Barnes and Noble seems to get by on about 1/4 of the EEs/customers ratio, Green Apple Books and City Lights in SF have 1/2 or fewer). The store is huge yet whole wings are empty (I've spent a lot of time in the Transportation and True Crime sections for example).

I'm surprised The Strand even partially sponsors an employee health plan and I'm glad to hear workers are happy enough that people stay for years. I do appreciate the work of curating suggested books and carrying a huge selection, but the whole store feels like an anachronism, more of a hobby than a profitable enterprise. I got the same feeling from CBGB shortly before it closed when they stopped enforcing the entrance fee for all but sold out shows.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How do I make the comic book version big enough so I can read it?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:52 AM on April 11 [+] [!]


Your web browser might be "zoomed out" a bit. Try hitting CTRL and the + key a few times to zoom it back in.
posted by ben242 at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2012


Yep. My sister says its been really frustrating. I think their last agreement expired a few months ago.

When she started working there and mentioned she was in a union and "couldn't get fired" it blew my mind a little.

Also: she reports that johnmc is "nice"
posted by hellojed at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2012


I think it's shows what a sad state of affairs the workers of America are in that most people don't understand how a union functions and why they are so good to have.
posted by fuq at 9:57 AM on April 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Going on strike seems ridiculous when the employer can simply fill every union worker's place in a matter of days from people looking for jobs at market wages.

Ah, that doesn't work as far as skilled, experienced labor is concerned. In manufacturing or broadcasting, the learning curve for scab workers might be high enough to present a setback for the employer; with shipping and distribution, the specter of liability in an accident or mishandled delivery could prompt negotiations, rather than substitute workers.

With retail, however, a cynical employer could place a skeleton crew of inexperienced individuals in front of a monitor and have them manage or update inventory accordingly. This works better with big box stores, however, since the sheer volume of customers, non-organized applicants, and purchased goods can keep things afloat for awhile. In the Strand's case, it's more a matter of an old-fashioned staring contest; the number of specialized categories (like out of print titles and foreign-language texts) may be enough in the union's favor, though time will tell.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:00 AM on April 11, 2012


Going on strike seems ridiculous when the employer can simply fill every union worker's place in a matter of days from people looking for jobs at market wages.

Also, people have forgotten what happens to dirty scabs who cross the picket line. I would never hire and would prefer not to work with someone who's been a scab. It shows they are willing to throw teamwork under the bus for a trivial and short-term personal gain.

Also also, "The strike, brought to you by the people who brought you the weekends" don't forget the unions got you your 5 day workweek so unless you hate all your free time on Saturdays, yeah, some appreciation would be nice.
posted by fuq at 10:01 AM on April 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


Also: she reports that johnmc is "nice"

I think love is in the air!!
posted by orrnyereg at 10:01 AM on April 11, 2012


ben242: Your web browser might be "zoomed out" a bit. Try hitting CTRL and the + key a few times to zoom it back in.

Incidentally, hitting Ctrl-0 will reset it to the default, 100% level, so you're not left guessing what the original was.
posted by gilrain at 10:01 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Strike or no strike, their vision of Strand as a Very Special Literary Unique Snowflake Experience for customer and employee alike isn't coming back any time soon, because the articles make it pretty apparent that current management want less mystique, more moolah.

Not surprising. Also not surprising that union-busting is part of their strategy to achieve this, since if they're more intent on shaving expenses to the bone and coasting on brand reputation than packaging the store as a radical departure from typical book retailing, that's a logical step.

Any business that does its best to ditch older, experienced, higher-salaried workers and replace them with young high-turnover types is sending up distress flares. (I'm looking at YOU, corpse of Circuit City.)
posted by delfin at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


ben242: Your web browser might be "zoomed out" a bit. Try hitting CTRL and the + key a few times to zoom it back in.

Incidentally, hitting Ctrl-0 will reset it to the default, 100% level, so you're not left guessing what the original was.


But for the comic page, a bigger-size version is printed below the tiny-size one, so one merely has to scroll down in the browser window.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2012


Also: she reports that johnmc is "nice"

I think love is in the air!!


jonmc is a happily married man, but I'm sure he'll appreciate the compliment. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure he'd consider "nice" a compliment. Paging jonmc!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of unionized workers in NYC (in the unlikeliest occupations), and I certainly wouldn't set foot in the Strand again if they hired scabs.

Great comic.
posted by Mavri at 10:04 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the comic:
The company has cited a poor economy, the rise of the Kindle and a seven percent decrease in sales since 2009 as reasons for necessary cost cutting.
Okay. That seems reasonable. Unfortunately, the employees' counterargument appears to be a non sequitur.
The employees have responded by saying, "What about us? You think it's cheap to live in New York City?" It is not. Many of us are drawn here from across the country to live in this beautiful, disgusting cultural center of the universe. Many of us came armed with college degrees in art and literature and the load of debt we took on to pay for them. (That's a story for another comic.) All this is what made us attractive hires in the first place. Should we not be compensated for our knowledge and appreciation of their product? Wouldn't Duane Reade be a better store if each employee had a degree in pharmacology?
Well...yes. It would, but that doesn't seem to be the pertinent question. If sales were decreasing at Duane Reade then the pertinent question would seem to be, "If we improved the stores by hiring PharmD graduates, would that increase sales sufficiently to cover the added cost?" Because if not, then Duane Reade still has a problem and needs to find a different solution.
posted by cribcage at 10:05 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've never understood the allure of Strand. It reminds me of a Home Depot, except that parts of it are impossibly crowded with people, and others are creepily vacant where I fear that I might be murdered there, and not found for many days. Is it because they sell their NYU-fashionable tote bags?

Isn't just me either. A friend of mine who worked at a famous Southern bookstore visited a while back, and she was excited to go there. She left being disgusted at how poorly it is set up and operated.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:09 AM on April 11, 2012


We may want to forgive jonmc if he doesn't comment in this thread. He certainly has his own opinion but probably can't make it Internet Public without offending bosses, co-workers and/or both (and based on what we know of his personality, yep, probably both).
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:11 AM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not a non sequitur if you think companies owe their workers more than the bare minimum, and the 7% number says nothing about what their profits are, even with a decrease in sales. Sad to say, companies are rarely going to pay their workers a fair wage, and they're not going to forgo even a few pennies of profit unless they have to. Unions are there to make sure they have to.
posted by Mavri at 10:11 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's also possible that jonmc isn't posting because he's at work.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:16 AM on April 11, 2012


Mavri: But that's why this conversation is so absurd, isn't it? We don't know what financial state the Strand is. Maybe the owners are raking in the dough and want even more money for themselves. Maybe the owners are losing money currently and need to decrease wages to avoid having to close the business. All we know is that the union and the owners have different ideas about what the business needs to do to survive. Both parties are acting in their own self-interest. I don't know how anyone can say that one party is more in the "right" than the other. The union and the business are just conducting a business transaction with each other.
posted by saeculorum at 10:19 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every so often I read something that causes me to realise how odd America looks from here (the UK), from me it was this "decrease the number of personal days a worker can take, to five from nine" The legal minimum leave in the UK is 28 days.
posted by Gilgongo at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a non sequitur if you think companies owe their workers more than the bare minimum

Which is a noble notion until your sales are being heavily poached by companies that DO spend the bare minimum.

That's not to say that Strand management aren't being very aggressive in 'modernizing' the old employee-friendly business model, because they are. However, the staff should be careful not to overvalue themselves as Literary Connoisseurs, lest they hear a variation of the old Branch Rickey line: "We're losing money with you. We can lose money without you."
posted by delfin at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Also prior to this thread I had always assumed The Strand just hired a bunch of NYU students P/T and for minimum wage.)
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:24 AM on April 11, 2012


I worked at The Strand for 5 1/2 years, it was my first "real" job after college. I was a member of the Union. The one thing that strikes me as hilarious is the Union employees claiming that they offer amazing customer service and are part of the "experience". Strand employees have always prided themselves on being mean and surly, and they used to win polls for meanest employees in NYC.

The Strand is a pretty awesome place to work to be honest. The pay was decent, you get vacation, free health care and a flexible schedule. Going two a "two tier" system would be terrible, and I understand why the employees would fight that. Then again, realistically the web has changed the book business a lot in the last few years, and it might be possible that The Strand really can't afford to pay people the salaries they previously did. While I was working there (early 2000's), there were a ton of union old timers making $18-26 an hour to stock shelves and work the register. While that is awesome for the employees, it has to be tough on the bottom line. This honestly feels like a bunch of young kids with no real work experience in the real world playing Jimmy Hoffa.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


There may be plenty of reasons to join or support a union, but saying, "support unions, they gave us the 5-day work week" is kind of like saying, "vote Republican, they freed the slaves."
posted by math at 10:29 AM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, people have forgotten what happens to dirty scabs who cross the picket line. I would never hire and would prefer not to work with someone who's been a scab. It shows they are willing to throw teamwork under the bus for a trivial and short-term personal gain.

That's easy for you to say when it's not, for example, your kids going hungry that week or your house being foreclosed on. People take jobs in crappy situations for all sorts of good and bad reasons, and punishing scabs takes the focus off of the actual villains in a labor dispute.
posted by Copronymus at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


There may be plenty of reasons to join or support a union, but saying, "support unions, they gave us the 5-day work week" is kind of like saying, "vote Republican, they freed the slaves."

Not really. Unions are not a political party and there are many different types of unions who have different goals. Unions haven't changed as much as Republicans. Maybe if unions were campaigning for longer working hours maybe the analogy would make sense, but unions are still for more vacation time, more leave time, maternity leave, etc. Republicans have actively changed many of their policies and they are a political party whose goal is to get elected. Unions are not political parties and they are not monolithic. Their purpose is to protect the interests of the workers that make up their membership. In return, members are expected to support the union in certain ways like paying dues and voting in union elections. So saying to support unions because they supported the five-day work week and continue to support reforms that benefit workers makes sense. Saying to vote Republican because they have freed the slaves is different because the party has clearly changed their position on the benefits of slavery. So I disagree with your metaphor, but otherwise we agree.
posted by fuq at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


"I wonder if Baudelaire ever had to clean up semen in the erotica section."

Possibly, but he wouldn't have made it sound like such a chore.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thing about their sales going down...when their sales go up, do they share that with the workers? I doubt it. The Strand isn't a collective.

It's bullshit that workers are expected more and more to cut back in "hard times" and take on the risk of running a business on behalf of the owners, who keep all the profits for themselves. One more way the working class is expected to sacrifice to keep money flowing upwards.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


when their sales go up, do they share that with the workers?

When sales go up, they do tend to hire more workers though. When sales go down, they lay off workers. But... if workers have job protection, and can't be laid off, then something has to give.
posted by smackfu at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's bullshit that workers are expected more and more to cut back in "hard times" and take on the risk of running a business on behalf of the owners, who keep all the profits for themselves.

By definition, profits are always kept by the owners. Employee salaries are operating costs.

The bottom line is that "hard times" are tough on everybody. When your company tells you that its sales have decreased by 7% and it needs to cut costs, then you are certainly within your rights to say, "Well, that sucks. But the same economy that cut your sales has increased my rent and my grocery bill and my health insurance, so I can't afford to be paid less than I am today. In fact, I need more." That might be true, and it isn't necessarily unreasonable.

But you have to be prepared for your company to respond, "Well, that sucks. We like you, but mathematically, apparently we're no longer a match. It sounds like you need an employer that's in better straits, and we need to find an employee who can work for less. That way, hopefully you can stay employed and we can stay in business."

Of course, I don't know that this accurately represents what's happening at the Strand. But I also don't see any basis for assuming the worst of the store's owners. The comic was written as a piece of advocacy and it contains a pretty major logical flaw, which is often a red flag that the author, for whatever reason, may not be the best source of information.
posted by cribcage at 11:17 AM on April 11, 2012


punishing scabs takes the focus off of the actual villains in a labor dispute.

How do you punish the villains without punishing the scabs? Honest question. It seems that the best, and possibly only, way to punish the villains is to stop doing business with them. Hence, no shopping at the Strand if they replace their unionized workers with scabs.

We don't know what financial state the Strand is.

No, but the union does, or should. Financial disclosure is required before bargaining (if requested by the union). All I know about what's going on at the Strand is what I've learned from the comic and some news articles. It sounds like there's some disagreement between the employees and whoever is doing the negotiating from the local. It sucks if the shop isn't getting the support they need from the local, especially when it comes to shutting down the possibility of a two-tiered system.

Speaking purely hypothetically, I can conceive of a case where a union might accept a wage freeze (if the members believe it's necessary based on the financial disclosure), but two-tiered pay and benefits is bullshit and should never be accepted by any union ever. And, yes, I know unions have accepted such systems. They just seem to me like a surefire way to to destroy your union from the inside.
posted by Mavri at 11:20 AM on April 11, 2012


> I don't know how anyone can say that one party is more in the "right" than the other.

Really? You don't know how anyone can take the side of workers over bosses? No wonder things are so fucked up in this country.
posted by languagehat at 11:23 AM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


By definition, profits are always kept by the owners. Employee salaries are operating costs.

Exactly. The owners get the rewards of running a business and they also take on the risk. Passing that risk on to the employees by cutting their compensation in hard times might be something they get away with, but it is by no means their right and employees aren't obliated to accept it with a smile because of "hard times". They're not a family. They're not in it together.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:26 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, I am stunned to find out that The Strand is unionized. I stopped going there years ago because I decided the glorious selection wasn't worth putting up with the surly, unhelpful, ignorant staff. I assumed that was because they were hiring kids and paying them too little to make it worth doing their job well. My world is slightly rocked.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:31 AM on April 11, 2012


Isn't just me either. A friend of mine who worked at a famous Southern bookstore visited a while back, and she was excited to go there. She left being disgusted at how poorly it is set up and operated.

If you want an idea of what the entirety of NYC used to feel like, before Disney took over, you go to The Strand. Many people, a good percentage of whom never lived here pre-Disney, have romanticized that era of NYC. Me, I hated it and for the exact reason you were disgusted regarding The Strand. I have friends who survived during their first years or two in NYC by working at The Strand and I know a lot of inside stories (how bout that old rat chewed wiring!) and even with that I hate the fucking Strand for both it's vibe and it's holier than thou employees (except you JonMC!). That said, I don't want anyone fucked out of a living wage.
posted by spicynuts at 11:43 AM on April 11, 2012


I worked at The Strand for about six moths or so. It wasn't a good fit for me -- I may not have been surly enough. I did, however, fit in quite well with the smoke-joints-on-the-fire-escape crew of Pearl Paint (where I was on the negotiating committee for their first union contract!).
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:47 AM on April 11, 2012


Really? You don't know how anyone can take the side of workers over bosses? No wonder things are so fucked up in this country.

Workers' demands, particularly when backed by a labor union, are not always rational or viable. All depends on who's telling the tale, and you know what they say when two tribes go to war.
posted by delfin at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2012


I wonder if Baudelaire ever had to clean up semen in the erotica section.

Well...his own, sure.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2012


By definition, profits are always kept by the owners. Employee salaries are operating costs.

Utilities are operating costs, too. I doubt Strand's owners can call up the electric company and tell them that the utility has to accept a "rate freeze" for the next two years.

Honestly, this process is playing out how it should. If Strand's owners are having trouble paying their bills, including employee salaries, then both sides need to get together and work out a deal, in the same way a struggling business can negotiate for more flexibility with its creditors.
posted by deanc at 11:55 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Many of us came armed with college degrees in art and literature and the load of debt we took on to pay for them. (That's a story for another comic.) All this is what made us attractive hires in the first place. Should we not be compensated for our knowledge and appreciation of their product? Wouldn't Duane Reade be a better store if each employee had a degree in pharmacology?

Not by me. I have absolutely zero wish to talk to the people who work in bookstores about the books on offer and actively avoid reading those little mini reviews staff put in the shelves. I want the staff in a bookstore to keep the place clean and organized, not express their literary preferences, which are invariably unique to them and of little interest to me. The idea that going to a drugstore would be a better experience if everyone had a degree in pharmacology is even more laughable.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:35 PM on April 11, 2012


I believe most all employees in pharmacies posses pharmacy degrees in most European countries, anigbrowl, certainly France.

I suppose they've stocking guy you never see, but mostly they keep this profitable by focusing on their speciality and keeping the stores tiny, about the size of a mobile phone store, with half the space off limits to customers for prescription drugs.

There is no need to hire an army of high school dropouts if you aren't running a big box store that sells everything under the sun and needs it all rearranged frequently.

I've bought used books from street sellers, especially books written in French, but almost all the $500 to $1000 I spent on books last year went through Amazon or abebooks.com to used resellers because I'd never find em' in a brick and mortar shops near me.

I donno if the Strand is really hemorrhaging money, but that happens during recessions. I dislike them trying to get more work out of their existing employees though. Instead, they should start identifying jobs that needn't be done quite so often, eventually laying off employees once they identify what activities can be reduced.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2012


I don't generally hang around talking to the staff in bookstores (although when I worked in a bookstore, plenty of people seemed to enjoy hanging around and talking to me) but I definitely appreciate the positive influence a knowledgeable staff can have on which books are stocked and how they are displayed.

If I know what I want, I can go to Amazon. If I want something that I don't yet know that I want, ah, that's when I head out to a bookstore.
posted by Joey Bagels at 1:00 PM on April 11, 2012


I doubt Strand's owners can call up the electric company and tell them that the utility has to accept a "rate freeze" for the next two years.

Demanding it probably won't work, no. But they can negotiate. "Our sales have decreased 7% in the last three years. We have been a good customer for [X] years and have paid our bills in full and on time. If we go out of business, it's worth noting that during the past five years on this block, commercial properties have remained vacant for an average of [Y] months." Et cetera.

They're not a family. They're not in it together.

I suppose that depends on the interpretation. No, owners and employees are not in a partnership. For example, if Barnes & Noble were to buy-out the Strand, the employees presumably wouldn't share directly in the windfall.

But they are "in it together" in the sense that when business is good, everybody is better off, and if the business closes, everybody is out of work. Obviously none of us knows the Strand's actual numbers, but I think it's reasonable to look around the economic climate right now and say that in the case of a bookstore, going out of business is a very real possibility. Some industry experts have said it's inevitable (about bookstores generally). Given that, I do think there is a very real element of being "in it together." The owners want to keep running the Strand, and the employees apparently want to keep working there.
posted by cribcage at 1:54 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe most all employees in pharmacies posses pharmacy degrees in most European countries, anigbrowl, certainly France.

I said a drugstore, not a pharmacy. American drugstores are like small supermarkets which sell many other items besides medical products - grooming supplies, stationary, toys, cigarettes, household items, packaged foods and so on. You don't need a pharmacy technician to buy toothpaste and the conceit that you would benefit from that is a major flaw in this guy's thinking.

I definitely appreciate the positive influence a knowledgeable staff can have on which books are stocked and how they are displayed.

Selection is an important aspect of a bookstore, but a) you don't need an arts degree for that and b) it's 50% what's cool, and 50% what you know will sell from looking at what sells already. Publishers supply most of the marketing and merchandising material for new books. As for display, all I care about is that the sections be clearly marked and the books maintained in alphabetical order. It's not rocket science.

I really, really, love books, (good) bookstores, and libraries. I spend a great deal of money on books, and go out of my way to spend it in physical stores as opposed to just buying everything on Amazon - although I mainly buy used books in person and new books via Amazon. I am the ideal customer for used and independent bookstores, because not only do I usually buy a decent amount, I spend a long time in there looking at books while holding several books that I plan to buy.

I like supporting the people who work in bookstores with my consumer dollar...but not the point of subsidizing someone paying off an overpriced and underutilized arts degree. My experience of this sort of person (which is anecdotal and based on a small sample) is that they always start conversations by telling me what they think of my selection or what else I might like. A skilled bookseller -most of whom are self-taught - starts by asking me what I like. That's what makes me come back to a bookstore. It's significant that there are 5 comments on this thread already about how surly and unhelpful the staff at this particular bookstore are.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:56 PM on April 11, 2012


Was pleased to see some ex-Stranders kicking about. Like many, The Strand is where I washed up after my big exciting move to NYC . Unless things have changed since 2001-- and it looks like they haven't-- The Strand was a fascinating picture of a mid-70's business.

Think a room full of people manually reading books to write entries (input into a charmingly archaic greenscreen application)-- think an upper two floors that are all chunkily organized warehouse, ill-lit and evil hot in the summer.

Picking an internet order-- at the time-- could take as long as an hour due to both the size of the place and the generally confused nature of the inventory process. I'm assuming they've been coasting on name recognition for the last decade.

As for the union stuff, good on 'em, but you don't have to be a top-notch industry analyst to grok that the glory days of book retail are receding fast.

As for the surliness, well, you spend all morning hauling crates of 20th C. vet manuals up and down stairs, then spending a couple hours in a warehouse on your knees with a flashlight-- all of this in 90 degrees and get back to me on how sunny your demeanor is.

A perfect first job, in that everything afterwards felt like cakework.
posted by mrdaneri at 4:30 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, I had always thought The Strand was a secondhand book place, and as such was dimly aware of it as a place I might like to visit one day, but looking at the website it appears to be principally concerned with new books? I consider that a bait-and-switch. There's a place in Brisbane called The Really Good Book Shop and, yeah, it's okay, but it's a mix of old and new and I go through it sometimes and grab something off the shelf and go "Hey, neat, I've been looking for this!" and sure enough it's a brand-new copy at full price. Bleh.

Better than Archives, though. One million used books, apparently, but never has anything - anything - I'm ever looking for, and when I come across something I wasn't looking for, it's as much as it would have been new. Ergo, Amazon.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:50 PM on April 11, 2012


Oh, I had always thought The Strand was a secondhand book place...

It's new AND used; AND review copies, AND remainders.

It's certainly worth a visit.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2012


Yeah, you owe it to yourself to visit the Strand. Sure the employees are surly, but so what? They have just about everything, new and used, at amazing prices; I rarely left without at least one book. (And you can say hi to j*nmc!)
posted by languagehat at 9:18 AM on April 12, 2012


Yes, is there anyplace else that sells review copies? I always found that so odd.
posted by smackfu at 10:45 AM on April 12, 2012


Reminds me of an old joke going around Atlanta about 20 years ago: "Why shouldn't the Delta pilots have to take a pay cut? Because the Eastern pilots didn't have to".
posted by kjs3 at 11:45 AM on April 12, 2012


In MeFi Projects: Strand Bookstore Labor Dispute Comics
posted by XMLicious at 1:36 PM on May 2, 2012


I've seen review copies in most used bookstores. Is the practice more frowned upon on the East Coast?
posted by drezdn at 1:54 PM on May 2, 2012


It's more that the Strand has them separated out in a big section in the basement, because there are apparently a lot of reviewers in NYC who make some pocket change by selling their copies.

(I also feel like I've seen review copies on 8.5 x 11 with temporary bindings there, but that may be a false memory.)
posted by smackfu at 6:47 AM on May 3, 2012


I was in New York a couple weeks ago and visited the Strand out of curiosity. It's a neat bookstore. I didn't notice any surly employees, but that's just anecdata. If the employees have a reputation for being mean, brusque, etc., that would seem relevant. The union can't trumpet the employees' education and expertise while ignoring a reputation for providing poor service.

Those newer cartoons posted in MeFi Projects make less sense than the original FPP. Several are just "Get to know us" without any real connection to the contract dispute, which is okay. But Deke says, "I have no problem with X, Y, or Z. It's business, I get it. But this contract containing X, Y, and Z offends me." That makes no sense. Maybe it's actually meant to parody the union's complaints? Maud explains that she and others kept working at the Strand through a transfer and says this indicates something unique about Strand employees. I don't see why. It's a common business occurrence.

The only substantive rebuttal or suggestion that I see is Jay's. He argues that if the bookstore has lost business, that fact indicates a failure of leadership and so management should be fired and replaced with a worker council. It seems to me that Strand employees must be very, very isolated from the outside world if they assume that a contemporary bookstore losing business could only be caused by poor management. It's also interesting—maybe not necessarily inconsistent, but funny nonetheless—when a group that appears to be absolutely dead-set, zero-tolerance against layoffs also appears quick to suggest, "Hey, but you could totally fire that guy."
posted by cribcage at 9:26 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


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