This is a different sort of post – not a review or a specific topic, but simply prompted by wanting to share with you what happened to our warehouse a couple of months ago. Late in August, a bunch of kids went on a rampage around the downtown area of Aurora, Ontario, where our national warehouse is located. We know they were kids as they were caught on security video, but they were wearing hoodies so they couldn’t be identified. They vandalized a number of businesses and also tried to set some buildings alight, and they broke into our warehouse which we share with a number of other publishing companies. Their aim wasn’t to steal – it was simply mindless destruction, and having failed to set the books alight they went around with fire extinguishers and sprayed them all over the ‘picking’ area of the warehouse where the books are stacked on open shelving ready for picking and packing orders. All the books on the shelves were damaged – either smoke damage and/or residue from the fire extinguishers.
Because there were a number of different insurers involved (different for each publisher, for the warehouse people and for the building owners) it took about 3 weeks of wrangling for them to come to an agreement on whether the books were salvageable. In the end it was decided to destroy the damaged books and pay to replace them. By the time that had been done, then the facility thoroughly cleaned (including shelving, floors, ceilings and ductwork), then fresh, undamaged stock brought in and got ready on the shelving, we were unable to ship for about 6 weeks.
As we twiddled our thumbs waiting to get back to work, my colleagues and I mused over the fact that the kids didn’t try to steal anything – they just got a kick out of destruction, and in particular in destroying books. We were united in one thought – these kids’ parents can’t have read to them when they were little or they wouldn’t have been out there indulging in mindless vandalism. I was put in mind of a comment I once read from a police detective – he noted that never, in his long career, had he been called to a scene of domestic violence in a home that was filled with books. Books and ideas are great civilizing influences and I remain utterly committed to spreading a love of literature, one book at a time.
In terms of impact for our company, we’ve lost 6 weeks of sales but our insurance covered the lost stock. Because we didn’t carry huge quantities of our French and Spanish stock, most of it was out on the shelves rather than with our bulk stocks (which were in another part of the warehouse and survived), so our French range is greatly reduced, at least for the time being. However, our Spanish stock was wiped out so other than what I currently have in my personal stocks we no longer have any Spanish titles.
I just wanted to share this with all you fellow book-lovers – I’m sure you’ll share my dismay at this mindless destruction. The vandals almost certainly didn’t spare a minute’s thought or empathy for all the loss and damage caused to other people – ranging from layoffs and lost hours for the warehouse staff, the lost business for all the book companies (who don’t work on a high profit margin to start with) and right down to lost income for lots of hard-working individual booksellers who were unable to earn anything for six weeks.
Anyway, we’re up and running again, our English titles are almost fully re-stocked and the warehouse is nearly caught up with the backlog of orders, so we’re pretty much back to normal. I approach our busy season with a renewed determination to bring books, ideas and a love of learning into children’s lives.