Are Thrift Stores In My Area
Snubbing Book Scouters?

By Joe Waynick
January 19, 2018

Some of the thrift stores in my area decided to start covering the printed bar code on the back of books with their own price tag.

In the past, they’ve always left a small sliver of the original bar code exposed so scouters like me could scan the book.

Not any more.

When I asked the production manager about the change in procedures he said floor managers were complaining because cashiers were accidentally scanning the book bar code instead of the store bar code.

I found that curious because the store scanners won’t even read EAN bar codes so I knew I was getting “misinformation,” to put it kindly.

Faced with my disbelieving questions, the manager sped off in a bit of a huff, mumbling something about he’s got work to do in the back of the store. Okay, but I was definitely left unconvinced of his reasoning.

Maybe Thrift Stores Don’t Need Us Anymore

Could it be that thrift stores in my area feel like book scouters are more trouble than they’re worth? Although I doubt that’s the case, it sure feels that way when I’m interacting with some of the store personnel.

A poster on another board once said a while back that the same thing was happening in his area. Something about scouters spending too much time in the store scanning books and blocking the isles for other customers.

I hate to think that the attitude of retail thrifts toward book scouts is changing, but it’s up to us to demonstrate our value by being good customers.

Spending too much time in the store?! I find that explanation equally preposterous. Because now you’re forced to spend even more time in the isles thumbing through the books looking for the ISBN. Smart.

Truthfully, it makes no sense at all. Especially for someone like me.

Scratching Price Tags At Thrift Stores In My Area

Exactly what do I mean by my last statement? Just this; when I encounter price tags that cover the book’s bar code, I scratch it off. Then I scan the bar code.

Horror of horrors!

Isn’t that vandalizing the store’s property? Can’t I get into trouble for doing that?

Narrow minded folks can certainly think that way. But when I’m scouting with my helpers I buy up to 200 books a day in local thrift stores.

The managers all know me (I make it a point to get to know them). No one has objected yet, and I’ve been doing it for years.

If they ever do object, I’ll remind them of my level of purchases and then discontinue the practice in that store. After all, it really is their merchandise and they can set whatever policies they choose.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep scratching—and buying all day long until eyebrows are raised by my practice.

Do These Policies Help Stores?

The question store managers should ask themselves is if covering the bar code actually helps at the register? In my opinion, it helps them very little.

Think about it, do thrift stores profit with this kind of policy?

When I take my purchases up to the register to buy, they must manually enter the sales code into the register because the bar code on their price tags are pretty much destroyed. I don’t see how that saves them time.

But it is what it is. When they tell me to stop, I will. Until then, I scratch and continue buying cheap used books. You’d think thrift stores in my area would make buying easier, not harder. Doesn’t that make sense?

What’s the Real Motivation?

Honestly, I think some store clerks, and even some managers, make it harder out of envy.

That’s right, plain and simple envy.

I have a theory. I believe that many thrift stores in my area think book scouts make a killing off their merchandise. In some cases that may be true.

But the average profit of thrift stores isn’t too shabby either. Isn’t selling to book scouts better that pulping the inventory because it sits on the shelves too long? If the store isn’t selling online themselves, then making it easier to sell as many books as possible makes total sense.

But we’re dealing with human emotions here. Not rationality. These employees have no idea how tough it is to make a living with selling used books online. If they did, they just might be a bit less envious, and a lot more accommodating. Just saying…

Good hunting!

Joe Waynick is author of several eCommerce books covering the bookselling and publishing industry. His books are available on can also follow him on Twitter @JoeWaynick.

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