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Newsletter #75 September - November, 2006

Used Book Sale

        Every year our supply (oversupply) of used books gets larger. In addition to the piles of used books to the ceiling, we've been adding boxes on the floor for the surplus used paperbacks. We now have up to 25 boxes of used paperbacks per bay back at Uncle Edgar's (with a list on the wall in each bay telling you which major author is located in which numbered box). This has made it easier for customers to find the used books they want, but has also made it more time-consuming for us to check fresh used books coming in, especially when the used book area is crowded with customers. If you are thinking about bringing in a lot of used mysteries during the sale, expect a long wait.
        All used books will be 20% off, whether you have a discount card or not. The sale includes used paperbacks, used hardcovers, used magazines, used audiobooks, used gaming books, and bagged books. The sale will run from Friday, September 1 through Sunday, September 10. We will be closed Monday, September 4, for Labor Day, but will be open our regular hours all other days. The sale will be for customers shopping in the store-it does not apply to mail orders.

Our New Computer System
by Don Blyly

        As I explained last time, with the book industry switching from the current 10-digit to a 13-digit ISBN system next January, we had to switch to a new inventory system, and had to also buy all new computers to run the new system. I came into the store at 8 am on July 4th and started switching over to the new system and left at 9:30 that evening. We've been using the new system since July 5, but it has not been a smooth transition.
        Some of the problems are what you would expect from learning a new system-the old sequence of key strokes no longer do the required task like they did for the past 6 years, and it takes everybody a little time to learn the new sequence of key strokes to do the same task. But there are also a lot of unexpected problems.
        The new charge card scanners work (most of the time) on two of the cash registers but not on the third. The barcode scanners started out not cooperating with the software, and still do not work as well as the old scanners on the old system. Another irritating problem is that the new system is so darned slow, even though the new processors are at least 10 times faster than the old computers and we ran all new network cables 10 times faster than the old network cables. Even the vendor's support people have commented on how extremely slow their software is running on the computers they supplied (and we've checked for viruses and not found any). With all the problems we've had with both the software and customer support, I have no idea when we'll try to use their software to get a shopping basket installed on our website.
        The change that will affect customers the most has to do with the discount card for in-store purchases. Before we computerized, the discount cards were sold for a rigid 3 month period, with everybody's card expiring on the same date (such as July 31). When we computerized 6 years ago, I asked the software supplier if we could start selling the card for a flexible 90 day period, so that everybody got a full 90 days regardless of when they bought the card. I were told that the software was not capable of doing that, but it was easy to continue doing things the old way and have the computer turn off the discount for everybody on the same date. When I was reviewing a demo model of our newest software, I thought I saw a way to switch to a flexible 90 day period, but the salesman assured me that was impossible, but we could continue to use the rigid 3 month period. After I bought the system, the person in charge of helping with implementation assured me that it was impossible to have the computer easily turn off everybody's discount on the same day, but it was easy to switch to a flexible 90 day period and have the computer automatically turn off the discount 90 days after purchasing the discount card. As soon as we started using the new system, we started selling a new flexible 90 day discount card, but I'm not sure if the software will really work as advertised. I've figured out how to make it work for a rigid 3 month period, and we might have to switch back to that if the software fails to operate as promised with the flexible 90 day period



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