It is a Saturday and I walk into this university bookshop where there are so many old and un-bought books on dusty shelves that you would almost mistake the place for a library. Just inside the main door are two women seated at a desk.
They are obviously over 50 years of age, chatting away. At some point while I was in the bookshop, I even heard them sing a religious song. I turned left into the gift shop section of the bookshop and there is an attendant there. I window-shopped for a few minutes then go into one of the books sections.
I pick up a few books, some of which I thought were out of print. Thank God this is a bookshop in an academic environment. In this books section, there are two men, also having small talks and I am told they are the ones to attend to me after I have picked the books I want to buy. They issued me receipts for the three books I eventually settled for.
They labouriously write out the names and prices of each of the books on the receipt in a booklet and tear out the original and duplicate for me. I go back to the gifts’ section and pick up a birthday card. Hmm… who still gives that out in these days of electronic everything?
You could send free e-cards by email post on Facebook, send text messages, blackberry or whatsapp chat, etc. I do same a lot. But sometimes it just feels refreshingly and oldscholarly interesting to select a nicelyworded card and sign with your hand to give to a friend.
So I am going to do just that. The attendant in the gift section also issues me a hand-written receipt for this single item I just bought.
Now I present myself, okay no, I present my receipts and all the items in my shopping bag to the two ladies by the door for verification. Each of them takes one of the two receipts and dutifully checks to see that they match the items I have in my bag.
With a red ink pen, they write the word, ‘checked’ on my original receipt and keep the duplicate as the control copy. Roughly calculated, I have spent between 20 and 30 minutes in this transaction. While there, only one other person came into the bookshop. And the staff mentioned that they will close at 1:00pm today, being Saturday.
Maybe they opened the shop at 9:00am, but not earlier than 8:00am, I am sure. I am just wondering about the efficiency of opening that shop for five hours on Saturday and having it serviced by at least five staff who, most likely, are on a full-time employment with the university. Couldn’t the job have been carried out by at most three staff?
What if (some aspects of) the bookshop’s operation were automated? Two days earlier when I went to the same shop to buy a few books, I found it frustrating having to spend such a long time standing in a single queue to pay for the few books I bought. And by the way, all my shopping amounted to less than N4000.