|Tip of the Week||April 9, 2012
Volume: 2 | Issue: 14
Over the past few weeks we’ve had a few calls about how to best manage the processing of returns. In all honesty there’s no real shortcut or set in stone method to doing returns… it’s whatever works for your store.
Mosaic Books, our sister bookstore, processes returns 3 times a year. To begin with, we establish an “age” of items to look for (so everything received before a date we establish – say, 4 months ago). Then, the staff goes to work systematically scouring the shelves, looking at each item and examining the book label to determine in which month and year the item was received. We try to be super-organized, having some staff dedicated to this task (while others mind the store) and using a checklist of areas of the store to make sure that all areas are examined. All items after our chosen date are pulled from the shelves and brought in an organized manner to our receiving area, where two experienced staffers make the final decisions about what goes and what stays.
Generally speaking, we return most of what is brought off the shelf. Our thinking is that even if it is hot selling title, we’ll return the old stock and re-order what we need. This pushes back the next “return by” date for the item and helps keep the stock looking fresh and not shopworn.
Those items that do stay are brought back into the store and re-shelved. (This is also a great opportunity to take the manpower you have and clean and dust those shelves, re-organize the books and just generally spiff up the store!)
Meanwhile, back in receiving, the books are organized into piles by supplier. We then scan books into 5 - Returns one supplier at a time, and when the claim is processed, we remove our book labels, box them up, and send them away. It’s really important to check and double check quantities and titles as the returns are being processed to make sure there are as few errors as possible. You also want to consider which suppliers accept returns without a re-stocking fee, and make sure that you are returning items to suppliers who accept returns! Teamwork is essential here. We usually have one person scanning the items into BookManager while the other is systematically de-labelling and packing boxes. Then, when we print the claim, we do another quick check and count to make sure there are no errors. That said, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll get some items back. No one is perfect.
Now, there are obviously times when we process returns outside of the larger semi-annual “purges.” We have some local suppliers to which we can return anytime, because the shipping is minimal, so we’ll process these as we get a pile for them. When a hardcover is replaced by the paperback edition, we will pull the hardcovers off the shelf and return them. And if an item is received damaged we’ll process the return right away.
That said, our method of going through all the shelves in our store at least 3 times per year accomplishes a more thorough “cleansing” than using reports alone, because we know that we have physically gone through and touched every single item in the store. It’s amazing what you find mis-shelved, hidden on the bottom shelf, or tucked in behind the extra large mapbooks! By doing the returns regularly throughout the year, and by going through the store thoroughly, we ensure that we catch all of those “forgotten items” before they are too old to go back (and put them back in their place if they are to stay). The reports in BookManager are a good starting place but we never rely on them as the “end all, be all” for finding items to return.
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