How to Build Good Relationships with Your Book Suppliers


Pop quiz – what is the most important resource that will allow you to sell more books online?

A free website like Bookscouter that lets you resell thousands of books for profit? Nope.

Barcode scanners like the Bluetooth Cordless Hand Scanner or the SP2100 that save you countless hours when you search for valuable books to sell online? Important, but not indispensable.

No, the most important resource an online bookseller can develop is something far more valuable than anything you can buy or find online.

It’s the relationships you develop with the thrift store employees and library volunteers by practicing good etiquette when you shop at their stores.

Think about it – thrift store and library managers, employees, and volunteers are the gatekeepers between you and all the books in their inventory. It only makes sense to develop a good relationship with these folks – one that you can both benefit from.

Yet, ironically, a lot of the book scouts I see shopping alongside me at thrift stores and book sales rarely get to know these people or treat them that well. A few even go out of their way to hide what they’re doing – as if they’re afraid that they’ll get thrown out if the employees discover they’re reselling books.

As someone who’s benefited from positive relationships with thrift stores and library bookstores, I can tell you – nothing could be further from the truth. While I have encountered a few exceptions, the majority of the people I’ve met at thrift stores and libraries have been very supportive and welcoming to online booksellers like me.

Quite a few have even offered me special discounts and privileges that have greatly increased my ability to sell books online for profit.

Here are three tips for how to develop good relationships with employees and volunteers – and how these relationships can help you out in the long run.

Introduce Yourself to All Employees and Volunteers

Do you know the names of the cashiers who ring up all your book purchases or the employees who restock the bookshelves? Do they know you by name?

You should – and so should they. Make a point of thanking your cashier by name (a lot of them wear name tags) and introducing yourself to a new manager. Once these people get to know and recognize you as a regular, they’ll be much more welcoming and friendly.

And don’t be shy about telling them you’re an online bookseller! A lot of thrift store managers are thrilled to know that they can expect to sell a lot of books to the same person week in and week out.

I once introduced myself to a manager and let him know that he could expect to see a lot of me (since his store offered a lot of good books at reasonable prices). Before I was even done telling him my name, he introduced me to all the cashiers in the store and told them to give me a 50% discount on any book I bought.

Another time, a manager at another store asked if I’d be interested in scanning through a large box of recently donated books since her shelves were overstocked. Not only did I end up finding over $500 worth of books, the manager was so happy that I wanted them, she sold me the whole box for $10.

Naturally you can’t expect these kinds of finds or VIP treatment at every store you shop at – but the fact is these stores need to sell their inventory. If you present yourself as someone who can buy a lot of their stock, they’ll view you as a valuable customer.

(Tip: If you’re comfortable with this, offer to give the manager your email address and/or phone number. I’ve gotten a lot of good tips about big book donations this way).

Practice Good Thrift Store Etiquette

A lot of book scouts I see shopping next to me follow a rather disturbing pattern (especially at big book sales). They grab books off the shelf, scan their barcodes, and leave them in large piles on the floor (yes this really happens).

I suppose they think that by rushing through the store like this, they can shop at more stores in a day, find more books, and earn greater profits.

But it sure doesn’t make them popular with employees or volunteers. These people have to reshelve these books and clean up these messes.

Be neat when you scan. If you have to take some books out of the shelf, put them back after you’re done scanning. Some book sales have large bins for customers to place their unwanted books so volunteers can re-shelve them in the right places. Use them.

Get to know each store’s policies. If you know a certain library bookstore only accepts cash, be sure to carry some when you shop there. If a store doesn’t always have enough bags for every shopper, bring your own.

A lot of store employees that offer me discounts and special deals often comment that they do this because they appreciate the fact that I’m neater and more careful with their books than other book scouts.

Ask to Visit the Storeroom and Buy Books in Bulk

A number of managers that I’ve gotten on good terms with have allowed me to visit their storeroom and scan their books before they end up on the store’s bookshelves.

Naturally, this has allowed me to find a lot of valuable books, since these are books that no other bookseller has had the opportunity to look over. Moreover the store benefits since they can sell these books quickly to me and prevent them from going into overstock.

Don’t be shy about asking to look at books in the storeroom – if the manager is open to it, you can even arrange to make this a regular visit.

Be aware, however, that visiting the storeroom is a privilege and that you should never barge into a storeroom without permission.

I once saw a book scout walk into a storeroom only to be politely stopped by an employee. The customer claimed he had permission from the manager (who wasn’t there), and when the employee said he didn’t know about this arrangement, the book scout cussed him out. He was later banned from the store.

Remember – receiving special privileges doesn’t mean you’re entitled to them. Be grateful when you get them and be polite if new policies or circumstances take them away.

Hope these tips help you build a better relationship with your book suppliers! Remember, if you’d like to receive more tips for how to sell books online for extra money, you can subscribe to my blog!

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