Coronavirus diary: First month

What a month. Those first few days, when we first closed, were so different than the rest. I think people were still kind of shell-shocked about what was going on, as it was pretty quiet in the store, and I just kind of did my online bookseller thing.

The last couple of weeks, however, have seen an outpouring of concern from customers. They really want us to stick around, and are going out of their way to help us. It’s a great thing to see, and really speaks of a sense of community, even though it seems as though that bond is tenuous right now with everyone isolated & isolating.

I thought, during that first week, that I’d have more time at home. I’ve been leaving at 5:00, and resumed taking Thursdays off (I hadn’t done that for a couple of months because of Jannett’s injury.) My kids were happy about that. It turns out, however, that when people come to the store to shop for books, they do a lot of work! I’m getting lists emailed or phoned in every day–for each book, it takes a minute or two to check stock, then again to check to see if we can order it, and then communicating that back to the customer. It’s good to get the money but it turns out I’m working a lot harder for a lot fewer sales. As long as this is a temporary thing, it is okay, and goodness knows we need the money. But it’s not a profitable business model for the long-term.

It’s strange not working with everyone else. There’s a camaraderie that I miss, but more than that. Sometimes, Holly and I work together for an hour or two without even speaking to each other: it’s a unified sense of purpose, and we check in with each other with some satisfaction that each is doing something to better the store.

An unexpected difficulty is my lack of ability to work on projects; especially buying, or traveling to buy books (I don’t think I’ve been to Portland for two or three months, and it’s killing me!) I finished a months-long buy last week in Salem, and that was good. But there’s a whole side of Browsers’ that’s not seen by customers, and that’s me wandering around the state scouting for books. I hope to get that back, but I first need to be able to rehire our employees!

I sent out a survey in this month’s newsletter. The number of people who filled it out is astounding–around 500. It will take me a while to digest all of that information, but I hope to post about some of the responses in a later blog.

Sunday night, I’ve been editing photos for our catalog for the Rose City Virtual Book Fair in June, but I think it’s time to call it quits and read for a little before bed…(Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle.)