The more I think about what they were doing with those covers, the more horrifying the weapons I imagine being crafted from them.

§ December 22nd, 2014 § Filed under retailing, sterling silver comics § 7 Comments

So I was asked to participate in one of these “know the new business” questionnaires for the county’s main newspaper, and just yesterday it was posted to its website (no idea if it’s in the print edition). It looks like it was slightly edited for space, which, in a shock twist for all of you I’m sure, I may have run off at the mouth keyboard a bit. It’s nice to get a little more local attention, and hopefully that turns into even more business heading my way.

My favorite response to my store of late was from a seven or eight-year-old boy, who took a couple passes around the interior of the shop and said the following to me, as immortalized upon my Twitter:

Excellent. My plan to bend the will of local youth to my nefarious ends continues apace.

Speaking of the Twitters, I was reminded by another fellow’s posting about having to ship, on occasion, items from our store to prisons. Blogging brother Tim noted that would make an interesting topic of discussion right here on Progressive Ruin Dot Com if I hadn’t discussed it before. I don’t believe I have, but to be frank, there’s not a whole lot to say about it, “he said before expounding upon the subject for several paragraphs.”

There may have been others, but there are two customers to whom I remember shipping items. One was a incarcerated fellow who, via a relative who’d come into the store, asked for a new Diamond Previews every few months or so. The only real requirement I recall was that the package feature a store shipping label of some kind on the outside.

The other, the one referenced in my Twitter posting, was a person who wanted Dungeons & Dragons gaming books. Like for the previous prisoner, a store shipping label was required on the package. However, in addition to that, I was told I needed to mark the outside of the package “HOW TO PLAY BOOKS,” which I thought was an odd way to phrase that, but maybe “GAME BOOKS” wasn’t descriptive or specific enough. Now, it’s been a while, but I believe another requirement was that only paper could be used for packing material. I don’t know if a specific type of paper was required, or forbidden…like, I could only use plain brown paper versus newspaper, but I’m pretty sure it was “paper,” versus, say, styrofoam peanuts, which I wouldn’t blame them for refusing because oy, what a mess.

One thing I do remember being told by the person arranging for this transaction in-store was that the hardcover D&D books would have those covers stripped off by the staff receiving and inspecting these packages. Apparently they didn’t want anyone with ill intent getting their hands on these bookcovers and…well, I wasn’t 100% sure what they’d do with them, honestly. I suppose they could theoretically be made into weapons. I wouldn’t one of these covers jabbed hard into my neck or any other softer bits edgewise…it probably wouldn’t kill you, but it would probably make you not want to do anything other than kinda lay down for a bit and try to not move. Anyway, I didn’t ask, and now I’m stuck relying on my imagination, picturing Sing Sing in flames, rioting prisoners armed with shanks carved from copies of Monster Manual II. But the reality is more likely dudes kinda bummed that the books had to be ripped apart, but figuring that was a small price to pay for some healthy distraction in an unhappy place.

I’ve only had limited experience with shipping to prisons, so those are my two examples of the processes I had to follow. Anyone in a retail position who’s had to do something similar, I’d be interested to hear about it.

7 Responses to “The more I think about what they were doing with those covers, the more horrifying the weapons I imagine being crafted from them.”

  • Corey says:

    The store I work at ships comics to prisons, too. 100 Bullets seems to be a popular choice. Apparently, the graphic violence was fine, but the guy putting the packages together had to draw Sharpie bikinis over all the naked breasts before sending them off.

  • swamp mark says:

    I do that with my wife.

  • Willa G. Cartwright says:

    Absolute Brilliant!!!!!

  • Rich says:

    I have had trouble shipping books to prisons. The items get returned to me frequently. The most recent time I sold a book (Vampirella Archives Vol. 1) to someone who provided a prison address I wrote to ask them the specific requirements to avoid a return. All I was told was to include an invoice so it’s clearly shipped from a “store” (though I’m a lowly Amazon marketplace seller). The buyer told me that his sibling had been in six institutions and all had different mail rules. No wonder it’s confusing.

    Avoid a life of crime, kids. It’s easier to get your mail.

  • Tenzil Kem, Esq. says:

    I had a college friend who spent about five years in a prison run by the State of Alabama. While incarcerated, he asked me to send him some D&D books to help pass the time, but these kept getting returned to me. I eventually had to photocopy each of the books and mail him the photocopies rather than the originals. But hey, he got what he wanted & I ended up with some new D&D books!

  • David says:

    Stripping the covers of prison books gets a nice long treatment (with full explanation) in Tom Wolfe’s “A Man in Full”.

    TL;DR: the cardboard can be turned into a makeshift knife (or used as the handle for one).

  • Jeff Nettleton says:

    I worked for Barnes & Noble for many years and shipped to prisons and jails frequently. The rules varied between correctional facilities in the same state, let alone across the country (and even more between state and federal institutions). In general, most will not allow hardcovers. I suppose weaponization could be an issue; but I think some of it has to do with providing hiding places for contraband (plus the notes from above). Spiral bindings were also a no-no. Nudity was definite problem and subject matter could be, especially sexual content. Heaven forbid anyone relieve a little aggression in a more peaceful manner! Anyway, the shipping label was a necessity, though what constituted that could be up for grabs. I once got packages returned to us that were never shipped from my store. Turned out someone tried to beat the system by Xeroxing one of our business cards and using that as a label to ship stuff. We had to indemnify ourselves with customers in regards to the material actually being given to the inmate. We had tracked books to institutions; but the recipient never got them; either because the officials seized it, were ticked off at the guy, or someone in the facility stole it. Our local city jail would allow magazines, but required staples to be removed and , again, no nudity. I had a tattoo magazine returned, not because anyone was nude in it, but because there was a photo of someone with a tattoo of a nude figure.

    We occasionally got letters, asking for catalogs and some managers would toss them; or, at least, ignore them. We didn’t have a catalog; but, I would print up title search results and send those on, with a letter outlining ordering terms and shipping timeframes. Most never resulted in any responses; but, I did have one inmate regularly send requests for material and checks drawn on his prison account. I always looked upon it as part of my duties as a bookseller; but, on a more cynical level, I figured if the person ever got out and tried to massacre the store; I might at least get a bit of mercy for helping the guy out. Well, not really; but, being nice sure felt like it at least bought you some karma points.