Tuesday, 15 May 2007


Mrs W has asked us to sell 30 copies of a book that Dig wrote ages ago to her company. This is a disaster. We do not sell books. We tried and then we gave up, because, quite frankly, bookselling is something we are rubbish at.

Sometimes we still get foolhardy adventurers who travel to the company website where they will encounter a big sign that says, in short, 'Push Off! We do not sell books!' I would like to add, 'Go to a proper distributor who does not have to look after argumentative triplets all day long, or nick it from the library'.

However, if the foolish idiot is really determined, they will work hard to find our address, probably somewhere hidden in an obscure serifed typeface at 2pt, and they will send us a nice letter and a cheque for £15.99. This is also a disaster.

For a start, when a cheque arrives here, no-one notices, because no-one opens the mail. Well, we do, eventually, usually if there's a visitor and we need to see if we are going to have the bailiffs call while they're here, or if the gas or electricity supply might be disconnected before they arrive and we can't make a cup of tea without a primer stove and a candle. In effect, we are simply not very good at any form of household management involving paperwork.

If we do open the envelope, and a cheque falls out, we stare at it and Dig says things like 'Put it in the shredder'. When I say it will cover the cost of three bottles of cheap wine from Chile, and all we have to do is go to the Post Office, Dig starts to roll his eyes around and tut.

Here's why. The poor foolish twit who wants the book will have asked for a book which we won't be able to find. We'll have a few copies somewhere, sure, but they could be buried in the Mr Trebus piles that have now built up floor to ceiling.

If we do find a copy, it will be one of the boxes the printer dumped, or where he did a cheap deal out the back door with us for twenty quid for the run-ons. It'll be the copies where the green print went a bit funny on the cover or the ones where the pages haven't been cut properly or the box where the mice went to have babies.

So we will have a mouse-eaten/funny green/badly cut book and we need an envelope. Oh dear. We're too mean to buy envelopes - sorry, environmentally conscious - however we will have some envelopes where we scribble out our names and write in the new receiver, but that doesn't look very good if you're selling things. So that will lead us onto Viking suppliers for a box of envelopes. Actually, they might be so delighted at our returning custom they might throw in another free coffee maker that breaks down on cup number two just like they did once before.

If we do, by some miracle, manage to marry up the book and envelope, three months after the cheque for £15.99 arrived, then Dig has to find the right folder on the computer where all the purchase orders, invoices and receipts for books are kept. This was probably on the old computer system; we won't be able to remember what the file was called or the files won't open, and if they do it will be gobblydegook inside. If we manage to create a new receipt, by then we will have lost the address of the idiot who wanted the book in the first place four months ago.

After another week or so, we might get down the post office with the envelope, the book, the address and the paperwork inside. If we are really motoring, I will also manage to get to the bank to cash in the cheque for £15.99 before the six month date limit expires.

Then the trouble starts.

Everything has to entered on Dig's accounts. This is a real big disaster area. I mean, real BIG. We still have not sent in the accounts that we get fined for in January if we don't get them in by the 31st. Was that January 2006 or January 2007? I ask Dig. Since he no longer answers questions about the accounts, and I no longer dare ask, we're not actually going to find out the answer to that one. The accountant no longer asks either. He just smiles when Dig turns up with some boxes and then charges a lot of money to make the fines go away for another few months. So the foolish twit who wanted a copy of Dig's book has now entered the great accounting mountain which will wend its way to the accountant, probably between 2009/2011.

All of this will have taken probably six hours of our time spread over the six months. Say we modestly charged out our time at £50 per hour, we're looking at a £300 loss for a £15.99 gain (a proportion of which will be taxed).

So I can understand Dig's reluctance. I'll concur and pretend the cheque never reached us, and drop it in the shredder. And if the maniac who wanted the book in the first place is so very desperate that he feels he must visit the office to buy a copy here and now, we'll just have to hide behind the sofa when he calls.

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