Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m not a patient person AT all. But ask those same people how I feel about books, and they’ll tell you that books count as one of the loves of my life – on certain days, they possibly rank up there over and above my kids! So, when I heard that Exclusive Books (SA’s leading bookseller) was having their annual warehouse sale, an event that’s fast becoming a major happening on any South African bibliophile’s calendar, I started planning ahead! With all books selling at just R20 each, it really was an event not to be missed.
So, with the sale scheduled to start at 9.00 am on July 29th, and with school drop-offs supposedly meant to be done by 7.45 (ok, so we were done by 7.48), I had plenty of time to fill up the car with petrol, fortify myself with a much-needed cappuccino from Jozi Blue (more chaotic than usual this morning), and be on my way to brave one of my absolute worst things in the entire universe: TRAFFIC!! I absolutely hate traffic! It’s related to my whole issue with not having patience. If you have no patience, then you certainly can’t deal with traffic! But … at the end of traffic there would be … BOOKS! So, traffic it would be, and off I went.
After much dreaded traffic, countless broken traffic lights (it IS Johannesburg, remember), and many, many, many circles around the block in a desperate search for parking, I joined the already lengthy queue outside the Exclusive Books Head Office and settled in for what looked to be a long wait. It was 8.50 am. Clearly the Sale had opened well before the advertised 9.00 am, but I must be honest, this didn’t bother me in the least. In fact, it only made it more convenient for those who had arrived expecting the doors to open at 9. And really, for those enthusiasts who had been there at the crack of dawn, at 5.30 am(!!!!!! I think that’s even before the crack of dawn, but I wouldn’t even know!), they deserved to be rewarded by the earlier opening time.
So yes, the wait was long, but all accolades really do need to go to the staff of Exclusive Books who pulled out all the stops to ensure that things went smoothly. I was so impressed with the staff member who brought out a chair for the pregnant lady behind me to sit on, and I think we were all duly amazed at the EB team member who came running down the queue searching for the lady who’d sent out a tweet to say she was heavily pregnant and struggling to stand for so long in the line – she was found and immediately brought to the front, as was our preggie who was standing with us and who we’d also come to feel quite protective of! EB Café made the wait even more bearable with friendly staff selling sandwiches, coffee and juices to those waiting. The payment process was a pleasure. Even though the line to pay was a long one, it moved continually, and the system was one that worked: your purchases were counted, boxed or bagged with number clearly written so that you could quickly move on and pay. It was quick and efficient.
There’s a camaraderie that exists amongst book lovers, so it was inevitable that people chatted amiably to pass the time. Maybe it was because we were there early, but there was no moaning, no complaining, no whining, absolutely nothing of the sort.
When you decide to go to a sale of this magnitude you do need to approach it with a certain type of attitude. Yes, the parking is going to be a problem, EB warned of this from the very first ad that they posted about the sale. They advised that people car-pool where possible to reduce the number of cars driving into the area. Remember, this is a commercial district. Can you imagine how completely unbearable it must be for the numerous other businesses in the area for the duration of this sale? Thank you to all of them for putting up with us!
You do realise you’re not the only one who’s going to be at this sale, right? There are quite a few thousand others at any given time who are also aiming at being there. You’re going to be waiting to get inside the warehouse – probably for quite some time. It might not be a good idea to have an important appointment scheduled for 45 minutes after you’ve arrived there. Heads up – you’re not going to make it!
And on the topic of those thousands of people … With these hordes of people sifting through the magnitude of books on offer, it really is impossible to keep things as neat and tidy as we’d like them to be. Of course we’d love to walk in and find our chosen genre all precisely laid out for us in a well-ordered and regimented format, but it’s just not in any way conceivably possible. The staff are doing their best. They are working their butts off to get those books out there and any type of order at all. And on top of that, they’re probably dealing with quite a lot more complaints than compliments while they’re doing all of that!
Don’t discount the fact that you can get a really brilliant full body work out from lifting, carrying and/or kicking a box full of books around a warehouse, and however far it takes to walk to your car! I dread to think how stiff I am going to be when I wake up tomorrow morning. But I can tell you unequivocally that it will all be worth it. I love books. I always have, and I always will.
To the Exclusive Books team, a very heartfelt Thank You from this book lover, and I’m sure from very many others who don’t say it, but who really do mean it.