A man walks in with aroma of retired debate club arrogance. He walks over to the back issues, side stepping the CLOSED sign blocking the only reasonable path.
"Sorry," I say, "that section is closed."
"Oh, no. Really? Why?"
"I'm putting away this week's books." I say.
"That's okay. I want to look at your Iron Man and Captain Americas." which are the comics behind me when I work at the computer, in the open portion of the store.
"Sure." I say, handing him the stack.
"Are these prices firm?" He asks. "I like to haggle."
"They are." I say. "You can discuss prices with the owner but he prices them at the lower end of the spectrum because, like me, he doesn't like to haggle."
"You can't knock off, like," he swats at the book, not in a damaging way, "five bucks on this."
"Nope They're not my books to knock money off of."
He makes a face. "See, I go on Ebay, and I see these books starting at ninety-nine cents."
I make a face. "They're probably reprints. This is a fifty year old book. I can't imagine they'd start the bidding at under twenty bucks."
"They go up to eighty or ninety before I give up. I don't have that kind of money for a comic. I read them for the-- mind if I open this?" he asks.
"I read them for the stories. I'm not one of those.." he pulls the comic out of the bag, flips it open to a page, and sticks his nose All The Way In to the binding, loudly sniffing "people who buy the books for the money, I" flips to another page, sticks his nose in, and sniffs loudly "I like them for the stories."
Today is never going to end.
"Have you considered getting the collections, then? They're sturdier, you get more story."
He stops mid-sniff to shake his head disapprovingly at me.
"You kids" I'm a kid now! "trying to tell me how to collect things. I've been collecting since I was a kid" back before humans knew how to control fire, back when they viewed women as property and not people, so you know, any point in history up to this point, "I know more about collecting than you" who work in a store that specializes in the thing that I collect "could ever know. Sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifffff."
"See this one has a tear, so you should knock off a few bucks. That's how they do it on EBay. But I don't like to order from there, you never know when they smell like mildew."
"True." I say. "The thing is, the owner *has* knocked off a few bucks. He's a certified expert on grading comics. I'm not. It's why I don't haggle. But he's been working for this store for almost as long as I've been alive. And he's owned it for over twenty years."
"The Black guy?" he, of course, asks.
"One of them." I say.
"Glasses and a paunch?"
I inhale. But not deeply. Not like I'm sniffing for mildew. "Sure. So he knows all about pricing. He's one of the foremost experts in the country." This might be hyperbole. Who can quantify that skill?
"This one has a little tear in the corner, though."
I nod my head. "I know. He knows, too. If it didn't have the little tear, it would be more expensive."
"I think I could find this for ninety-nine cents on EBay."
"Then you should get it there." I say, reaching for the pile.
He says, "You're a tough negotiator."
"I'm not, though. I don't have the authority to negotiate, as these aren't my books, and this is not my store."
He pulls one of the issues back. "Alright. I'll get this one."
"That's twenty dollars, please."
He gives me a twenty that smells of mildew enough that I don't have to put it up to my nose.
"Can I have a bag?"
"Sure thing." I say. "But I have to charge you for it. It's Cambridge law."
"Oh yea. I keep forgetting that. It's a dime, right?"
"It starts at a dime." I explicitly lie. "But can go up to about three dollars depending on the quality of the bag. Ours are a quarter." you asshole.