I don’t think we have a huge problem with theft but then again, I just don’t know. There are eight fairly sizeable rooms in the shop with thousands of books in each of them and although I try, it’s impossible to keep an eye on every book we sell. Sometimes I go to look for a book which I think we have and and can’t find it. Well, maybe we sold it, maybe not. Maybe it was pinched – who knows. “Pinched” – that’s quite a nice, soft word. “Stolen” or “theived” is probably better because it’s a horrible feeling when you realise or think that someone has stolen something of yours. Maybe it was valuable, maybe not. Maybe you had spent time repairing it, pricing it, placing it on a shelf. It cost you money. And now it’s gone. The anger and rage starts to build up inside you but there’s not one thing you can do about it – at least not usually.
Curiously enough, for an establishment which doesn’t suffer from too much theft(we hope), we have had two cases of theft discovered in the last 24 hours. One has really annoyed me and will almost definitely not been resolved, the other was annoying but was resolved within an hour with the safe return of the two books which had been stolen.
The first case didn’t involve books. I went to put on a cd yesterday evening – I thought I’d listen to some Van Morrison – but I couldn’t find the cd I wanted (the fantastic “Philosopher’s Stone – Unreleased tapes” double cd). I hunted through the piles of cds on the shelf by the stairs beside the stereo and began to realise that it was gone. Actually the piles looked a bit smaller than usual. Oh No! Where are my Dylan cds? I did a quick stock take and from what I could see I had “lost” 10 cds – 4 Bob Dylan including 3 boxed sets, 2 Van Morrison, 1 Johnny Cash, 1 Gram Parsons, 1 by the Byrds and 1 Grateful Dead. Aaaagh! Some of these were amongst my most treasured albums, 2 of them I’d only just bought a month before! I quickly rang all the shop workers in the slim hope that someone had borrowed them but as I had expected that was not the case. Well I suppose the cds were a bit vulnerable to theft but the thief must have had some neck to stand and pick through the piles to get the ones he wanted. And he did pick through the piles because the missing cds were not a random sample. He hadn’t taken any folk music of which there was plenty, no jazz, no classical, none of the downloaded albums in home-made covers. This guy had good taste – he wasn’t some wee ned who had just grabbed a handful from the top of the pile. He had taken unusual cds – “The Complete Reprise Sessions” by Gram Parsons, “Workingman’s Dead, expanded and remastered” by the Grateful Dead, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo Legacy edition” by the Byrds – this guy(or girl) knew about music. He had similar tastes to me! This made me feel sick. I felt even more sick when I went on to Amazon last night and worked out that it would take about £140 to replace them all! Well today I’ve moved the rest of my especially favourite cds to a safer place, leaving the home-made and classical and a few others which I hope no-one will have the desire to steal. I’m going to leave my vinyl where it is too as I don’t suppose anyone will have the gall to stuff a few records up their jumper where hopefully they will be relatively easy to spot.
Case number 2 happened this afternoon and did involve a wee ned or rather a wee nedette. I should have seen it coming but I like to think the best of people so I assumed that this unlikely looking bookshopper was trying to improve their education and so I tried not to judge this particular “book” by its cover. Anyway I was vaguely aware of her wandering round the shop and I was only vaguely aware of the sort of open bag she had on her arm. She eventually came up to me and asked if I bought books and showed me an oldish copy of Alice in Wonderland and a Topper Annual 1981. I offered her a couple of pounds for the Alice but she muttered something about having to talk to her dad and hurried out the door. Next thing I know of the matter was twenty minutes later when Jenny from the bookshop across the road rang up and asked if I’d had a young blonde girl in and had she bought a Burns’ Poems? I had and she hadn’t I replied and it turned out that she had gone there and tried to sell some books including the Alice, the Topper Annual, the Burns and a Tennyson, the Burns and Tennyson both having a price and code in my handwriting. On inspection of the appropriate shelves I found the tell-tale gaps where these two (not very valuable) books had formerly resided. For some reason the girl had left the books with Jenny while she again went to consult her dad who presumably knew more about these things than she did. So the books were returned to their rightful place and there the matter will presumably end.
Needless to say I’d rather the cds had been returned and the 2 poetry books had never been seen again rather than the other way round but hey, that’s life and I’ve learned a lesson or two – er, Look out for thieves or something like that.
I’ll leave you with a couple of medieval curses on book thieves which I would happily have applied to modern day cd theives, no matter how good their taste in music.
He who steals this book
may he die the death
may he be frizzled in the pan…
Steal not this book, my worthy friend
For fear the gallows will be your end;
Up the ladder, and down the rope,
There you’ll hang until you choke;
Then I’ll come along and say -
“Where’s that book you stole away?”
For him that Stealeth a Book from this Library,
Let it change into a Serpent in his hand & rend him.
Let him be struck with Palsy, & all his Members blasted.
Let him languish in Pain crying aloud for Mercy,
Let there be no Surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution.
Let Bookworms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not,
When at last he goeth to his final Punishment,
Let the flames of hell consume him for ever & aye.