300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Simplify by Number

This ‘300 Seconds’ piece isn’t for everybody. Some of you have all areas of your life in order and I applaud you. Instead, this task is for anyone who at the very least considered a 2018 resolution to declutter, simplify, or organize some part of your life. I call this strategy “simplify by number” and here’s how it works:

  • On the first day of the month, purge 1 item.
  • On the second day of the month, purge 2 items.
  • On the third day of the month, purge 3 items.

I’m pretty sure you can catch the pattern here. Continue to purge the number of items corresponding to that month’s date. Add up a typical month of 31 days, and you have the potential to purge 496 items.

When my self-proclaimed life coach first instructed me to try this method, I didn’t think I had 496 items available to purge each month. And I was especially fearful of failing around day 28. But then I remembered that stack of magazines growing in the corner. And the galleys I’d been needing to send to my reviewers. And my email inbox that will never be at Inbox Zero. And the duplicate files in my Dropbox. Yes. Digital items count, too.

Some of the reasons this method has continued to work for me is because I tell myself that I can skip days and pick up again when I’m able, I can start the process on any day of the month, and the daily finite number gives me a stopping point so I do not become overwhelmed.

Today is January 4. File, toss, or distribute 4 items. One could even be this email. [grin] And remember, there will always be more available to purge tomorrow. But wait until tomorrow to do so.

300 Seconds: Cash Back

300 Seconds: Cash Back

The past weekend I walked to my neighborhood wine shop to pick up a hostess gift. I was able to pay with a $20, but I walked out with a nice bottle of wine and $12 cash.

I was only supposed to receive $3 back.

Yes, I walked back in to explain that I’d been given too much change, and the clerk just looked at me like I was crazy. When he had just shoved the cash in my hand, he had no idea he was giving away the store.

This is a harried time for you and your employees, but it’s worth 300 seconds of everybody’s time to remind them of the best practices for handling money during the holidays.

  1. “Out of $10?” It’s always a good idea to say aloud to the customer the amount tendered. When the total is $9.95 and you say “out of $10?”–that’s the time for the customer to correct you if they actually handed you a $20.
  2. It’s also a good idea to rest the cash paid on top of the cash drawer–or someplace out of reach–until you count the change back. Then if a customer says, “but I paid with a $20” you can show them the actual $10 bill they handed you. After you complete the transaction, you can put the cash tendered in the drawer.
  3. This brings me to another good practice: Count back the change. Customers actually like having their change counted back, and it’s not a difficult concept to to teach your staff. If you start with the amount owed and count up to the amount paid, there’s no subtraction involved. If the amount owed is $5.63, most customers won’t mind if the coins aren’t counted back. You can place the 37 cents in their hand when you say “37 makes 6.” But when you hand over the remaining $14, they’ll love to hear the “7, 8, 9, 10, and 10 makes 20.” I promise.
  4. When the wine guy handed me a $10 and two $1s, it could be because the $10 was inadvertently placed in the $1 slot in the cash drawer. This is why it’s a good idea to have all of the bills facing up and in the same direction. It makes it easier to find any bills mixed in with other denominations.

300 Seconds: Battery Patrol

Daylight Saving Time ended last weekend, and I’m sure you saw the reminders from news outlets to change the smoke detector batteries in our homes. But I have a question for you.

Did you do it?

If you’ve been reading Books & Whatnot for a while, you know that I like to hop on the home safety bandwagon and remind you to not only check the batteries in your bookstore smoke detectors, but also check the batteries in your emergency flash lights.

Most smoke detectors use 9V batteries, but some of the newer models are switching to AA. And flashlight batteries vary so widely, it’s best just to open them and see what you need.

Since sensors in smoke detectors deteriorate, it’s recommended that you change your detectors–not just the batteries–every 10 years. If you’re at that point and you’re considering installing ‘smart’ smoke and carbon monoxide detectors — like The Nest Project, First Alert or Roost, which use wireless protocol to notify you on your phone of battery drainage DURING WAKING HOURS — be warned that if you replace one smoke detector with smart technology, you have to replace all detectors with smart technology.

For now, take 300 seconds to take inventory of your situation. And whether you spend a few minutes this afternoon changing batteries or placing a call to an electrician, hopefully you’ll end the day with peace of mind.


300 Seconds x 3

I write a lot about ‘300 second’ tasks: seemingly minor ‘to-do’ items that can really propel your marketing message a long way. It’s just 5 minutes of work, but sometimes we need the nudge to get started.

I’ve heard from many of you throughout the years that you really like the ‘300 second’ reminders.

Well, can you imagine what we could accomplish if we triple that time?

For those of you attending the Heartland Fall Forum in October, I’m scheduling ‘900 second’ appointments in my booth on Friday, October 13. We can look at your website. We can pick apart your newsletter. We can assess your social media strategy. Whatever you want.

If you’d like one of these appointments, just send me an email here. I’ll get you on my calendar and I’ll put your name on some special swag. (Although it’s not really considered ‘swag’ if only a select few receive it, huh? Hmmm.)


About Face

After inventory and rent, I’d bet your greatest expense at the bookstore is payroll. Since you invest so much in your staff, you really should let them work for you… off the sales floor.

I’m talking about showing your customers a face that goes with the name on the review or shelf talker, or the voice that answers the phone. There are several ways you can share staff images with your public, and the one I’d like to focus on today is probably the most basic: your store website.

Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, features large images of the staff on their ‘staff picks’ page. Even with the whimsy, I think I’d be able to identify the staff in the store based on these images.

Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington, also has a really nice ‘meet our staff’ page. I like the way the large staff images are accompanied by a book image and a bio.

If you do not have staff images on your site, these are two great examples of engaging photos. If you do already have images, take a few minutes and see if any need to be updated. Did you last update your image about 10 years ago? It might be time to take a new photo. You might have changed a bit since then. I’ll use myself as an example. Here are my most recent mug shots–and none of them are 10 years old:



I keep saying that books are personal. So is a friendly face.