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The Haunted Bookshop Christopher Morley

The Corn Cob Club

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MEREDITH--I think Mifflin's right. You know the kind of place our shop is: a regular Fifth Avenue store, all plate glass front and marble columns glowing in the indirect lighting like a birchwood at full moon. We sell hundreds of dollars' worth of bunkum every day because people ask for it; but I tell you we do it with reluctance. It's rather the custom in our shop to scoff at the book-buying public and call them boobs, but they really want good books-- the poor souls don't know how to get them. Still, Jerry has a certain grain of truth to his credit. I get ten times more satisfaction in selling a copy of Newton's The Amenities of Book-Collecting than I do in selling a copy of--well, Tarzan; but it's poor business to impose your own private tastes on your customers. All you can do is to hint them along tactfully, when you get a chance, toward the stuff that counts.

QUINCY--You remind me of something that happened in our book department the other day. A flapper came in and said she had forgotten the name of the book she wanted, but it was something about a young man who had been brought up by the monks. I was stumped. I tried her with The Cloister and the Hearth and Monastery Bells and Legends of the Monastic Orders and so on, but her face was blank. Then one of the salesgirls overheard us talking, and she guessed it right off the bat. Of course it was Tarzan.

MIFFLIN--YOU poor simp, there was your chance to introduce her to Mowgli and the bandar-log.

QUINCY--True--I didn't think of it.

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MIFFLIN--I'd like to get you fellows' ideas about advertising. There was a young chap in here the other day from an advertising agency, trying to get me to put some copy in the papers. Have you found that it pays?

FRUEHLING--It always pays--somebody. The only question is, does it pay the man who pays for the ad?

MEREDITH--What do you mean?

FRUEHLING--Did you ever consider the problem of what I call tangential advertising? By that I mean advertising that benefits your rival rather than yourself? Take an example. On Sixth Avenue there is a lovely delicatessen shop, but rather expensive. Every conceivable kind of sweetmeat and relish is displayed in the brightly lit window. When you look at that window it simply makes your mouth water. You decide to have something to eat. But do you get it there? Not much! You go a little farther down the street and get it at the Automat or the Crystal Lunch. The delicatessen fellow pays the overhead expense of that beautiful food exhibit, and the other man gets the benefit of it. It's the same way in my business. I'm in a factory district, where people can't afford to have any but the best books. (Meredith will bear me out in saying that only the wealthy can afford the poor ones.) They read the book ads in the papers and magazines, the ads of Meredith's shop and others, and then they come to me to buy them. I believe in advertising, but I believe in letting someone else pay for it.

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The Haunted Bookshop
Christopher Morley

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