Bookseller Celebrates Birthday by Giving Customers Presents

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Book buyers on the Coos Bay/North Bend coast of Oregon look forward to Books By the Bay owner Trish Midyette's birthday. Last November 28, she turned 36, and her patrons eagerly await her advancing years. Customers of the store know that every November 28 is declared Trish's Annual Birthday Blast, and, to show appreciation to all her customers, Trish discounts books one percentage point for each year of her life.

"Customers love this event," Midyette told BTW. "I always have a birthday cake to share. It makes them feel a part of the store -- and I occasionally get gifts, too." Midyette also noted that her birthday's proximity to Thanksgiving has an added benefit. "With so many of the large chain discounters hosting huge [sales] on the Friday after Thanksgiving, my birthday discount event makes my smaller store seem like one of the big boys, too. It's always a huge success."

Midyette, who founded the North Bend store in 1995 with her then husband, Harold Midyette (who remains a business partner), has expanded the store from a 1,000-square-foot rental space to a 4,000-square-foot space in a building that she purchased. She leases out part of the space to a coffeehouse.

Midyette held the first customer appreciation night in October 1999. The store was open for a night with refreshments and a 30 percent discount on all books. "We had 300 people in the store," Midyette recalled. "That's unheard of in a town of 20,000." After the event's success, Midyette "began to think about something we could do annually," she said. "By the end of November, people are looking for good deals. The sale is huge."

Since the sale is to reward her regular customers for their support and loyalty, Midyette advertises mainly through the store's newsletter, which has a circulation of 6,000. "There are rules…. You can't set books aside before the sale day. People really anticipate the sale. It's funny -- I see the young kids two days before, trying to hide books between the bottom of the bookshelves and the floor. They're thinking, I'm gonna stick it here and maybe someone else won't get it. The discount is not good on special orders. The event serves two purposes … customers are getting a great deal and they are getting involved with the store."

The customer appreciation sale is now a community event, Midyette noted. "People feel part of it." Not only is the event profitable, but "the sale gets rid of stock -- books I've wanted to get rid of for two years might sell. It cleans the shelves off for Christmas," Midyette explained.

Does Midyette plan to continue the event for as long as she can? Could she imagine the day when she reaches one hundred? No way. "The good news is that once I turn 40, I will get to be 40 forever since we won't be able to offer more than a 40 percent discount." -- Nomi Schwartz