There is a regular loiterer who is programmed to show up whenever I realize I need to use the rest room. He does buy things from time to time, but mostly he wanders around the old art books and previews for an hour or so, brings a stack to the counter and asks me to hold on to them. Last week, his pile was large enough that I needed to fill up a second bag. While cleaning the special order box, I found a third bag, which had been in the box for a couple of months, so I relocated all the books from the original bag to the shelves, and put the new bags in the special order box.
This morning, as soon as my body noticed the copious amounts of Arnold Palmer, he walked in and made his way to his corner. A few minutes later, he walked up with one of the books I’d reshelved.
"Did you get a new copy of this?"
"No." I smiled. "Sorry, I had to put some of your books back. We have a very small space, and you had a bag that had been back here for a couple of months."
"Oh. But I want this book."
"Do you want to buy it today?"
He stared at me. “No.”
"Ok, well, you can go through these bags, and figure out which books are the ones you most want to buy. I’ll be happy to keep the two bags behind the counter for a week or so, but I don’t have room for a third bag." I wave my hands at the back shelf. It was clear that I didn’t actually have room for two bags, nevermind a third.
"Well, since you don’t have room for them, can you give them to me for half price." He stared at me again.
"No. Anything that doesn’t fit in the bags, you either need to buy, or else I have to put them back on the shelf. But any time you buy something, you can put something new in the bags. You just can’t exceed two bags. We don’t have room."
Continued stare. “But you would if you sold them to me for half price.”
"And I would if I gave away all our books for free. But then the store would go bankrupt, and there’d be no place for you to store your bags at all." I smiled.
"The guys at *Other Store I Used To Work At* let me keep as many bags as I want." He said.
This is not true. Even a little. “Well, if you’d like to pay for the books, you can store your bag of purchased book in their store.”
Continued staring.”What if I pick them up tomorrow?”
He won’t. “We’re unlikely to sell these books you want to add to the bags by tomorrow, but if we do, you can buy some of the books in the bag, and I can order the books on the shelf for you. Again, if there are books on the shelves that you’d rather have than the ones already behind the counter, I’m happy to switch them out. It doesn’t matter to me which books are in the two bags behind the counter, just that there are no more than two bags of books behind the counter for you.”
"Ok." He picked through the bags and handed me all of the books back, plus the ones from the shelf.
"These aren’t all going to fit in the bags. Hand them to me in the order in which you most want them. What’s left over have to go back on the shelves, unless you want to buy them now."
Continued retaliatory smile. (Is it a a coincidence that retaliatory looks as though it contains the word “retail”?)
He began handing me books. The bags reached capacity. “Ok, They’re full.”
"And this book." he said.
"It won’t fit." I said. "Sorry."
"Can I get it for half off?"
"No." It was my turn to stare.
He flipped through a pile of old Previews comics.
"Those," I said, "I can give you a deal on. $1 for every old Previews, and fifty cents for every old Marvel Previews. But I can’t give you that deal on the new ones. The new ones are full price."
"I’ll get these, then." He handed me a bunch of the Previews.
I rang them up. “That will be *not the dollar amount he was expecting*.”
"You said they’d be a dollar for the big ones and fifty cents for the small ones."
"Except the new ones." I said. The new one is $4.50."
"Can I see them all again?"
I handed them to him. He handed them back. “Just these.” It was the same pile of comics he just handed me, so I repeated the price I already told him. “Why is it so expensive?”
"One of the books is new. It is $4.50. The rest I’m giving you for a dollar a piece for the big ones, fifty cents for the small ones. Together they cost *price*."
"Ok, I won’t take that one." He pointed at one of the smaller comics
"Ok." I sighed. "hat will be *same price minus fifty cents*."
"Look, this is the book that costs $4.50. Do you want to buy it today?"
"Let me see it." He took it out of my hand and flipped through it. "I’ll take it for a dollar."
"It is $4.50"
I smiled again. “I thought we were saying random numbers. The book costs $4.50. Unfortunately, that’s not negotiable. If you would like to buy it, you have to give me $4.50 for it. If you do not want to buy it, I’ll put it back on the shelf for you, as there’s no room for it in your bags.”
"I can only afford to buy ten dollars worth of books."
"Ok." I took the $4.50 book and a couple of the dollar books and the rest of the amount in fifty cent comics. "You can get this pile OR" I took the $4.50 book out and made a pile of other books that totaled ten dollars, "this pile. They each total ten dollars. Which would you rather have?"
"Can I get that book," he pointed at the $4.50 book, "and the pile over there." He pointed at the pile that, on its own cost $10.
"Yes, but it will be $14.50 which is more than ten dollars."
"Can you hold on to the $4.50 book for me?"
"Only if I take out the same size book from your bags behind the counter. I don’t have room for the books you already want me to hold, plus that book."
There was more shell gamery where he made an attempt to either grift or confuse me. I did not succumb. Eventually, he ended up with a pile of books that equaled ten dollars. It did not contain the $4.50 book, which I set aside for reshelving.
"I’m sorry that you guys are so low on space."
"Thanks." I said. "That will be ten dollars."
He handed me a hundred dollar bill. “Can you make change?”