The problem of inventory

I received an online order from a customer for a book which was listed as being available, one on hand. When I searched for it I couldn’t find it. Bugger. Going back and checking sales for the last several years I found I had actually sold the book in 2017, and failed to remove it from inventory. I notified the customer, refunded the purchase price, and apologized, but somehow that seemed insignificant and bad business practice. It was a problem of inventory updating.

This is a continual problem for me. I add books almost every day, but I sell books only occasionally, and when those occasions come I usually sell one or two or three or four HUNDRED books over the course of a couple of days. Then comes the problem of tabulating the sales, paying my consignment vendors, and removing the books from inventory. It just doesn’t always work as efficiently as I wish it would.

For those of you who’ve ordered a book and I’ve been unable to fulfill your request (as stated above), I apologize again. For those of you who are looking for a book that I say I have–in most cases I actually do have it, though with 2500+ archaeology titles on hand, it may take me a day or so to find it.

This inventory problem actually began in 2015, when I started the website. I used four separate databases as my original inventory, but those databases had multiple title duplications. I’m still recovering from that blast of duplicated downloads. I update the inventory as best I can, adding new titles, new cover images, new bibliographic information, and deleting duplications. My son says “Oh, just go through every box and list what’s there.” Easy for him to say. Every box becomes a different box every time I attend a convention, a meeting, a conference. Books travel. It just takes me some time to catch up with them. At some point I’ll have a new inventory system, and a new way of keeping my customers happy. Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.


  1. Loyd Doty on December 2, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Joe, you could possibly use the dewey decimal system to help with this. Create a master log of assigned numbers by author or title for the entire library . When one or more are sold, enter new status for those numbers on the website. You do that by creating a sorting capability by dewey number on the site. Enter it and that book comes up and you just key in status change. Your dewey number would be the category or title and the decimal would be the box number the book is stored in. This dewey decimal number then allows you to know at a glance what box the book goes back into if it doesn’t sell. Loyd Doty

    • Joe Wesbrook on December 2, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      Mr. Doty,
      Thanks for your comment. Inventory and its correctness has been a problem for me since the first day we uploaded all of my spreadsheets. At one point I even shut down taking orders on the site until I could get a better handle on it. I currently have more than 125 boxes of inventory, totaling more than 3400 entries, in the categories New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Mexico, Peru, Archaeology, Indian, Pacific, BAE, Foreign, and Miscellaneous, not to mention things like Marine Corps (honest to God I think I’m forgetting a couple). About 60% now have “good” inventories, either in photographic or written form, in spreadsheet form again, by box. Unfortunately Mexico and Peru are not in that “good” inventory category, so I have to go through every box (fortunately that’s only about a dozen boxes. Good news, bad news). Years ago my mother-in-law and sister-in-law ran a used bookstore and they literally numbered everything sequentially 1-10,000+, regardless of its category, but they were putting items on shelves and were constantly re-shelving items customers moved, picked up and put down, changed their mind on. I thought that was the dumbest system in the world but it worked for them, especially when it came time to ring the items up at the register. Ingram Book Company, the world’s largest book wholesaler, uses a computerized system to assign each book to a shelf based on the book’s size (Really. They don’t care about the title, subject, author–nothing but the size–and they keep track of their empty spaces on their shelves so they know this 6 inch or 9 inch or 10 inch book is on Shelf 1234 or wherever there’s an open space. Biography next to Photography next to How to take care of Rabbits. An astounding system that they’ve used for decades.) Until I can build or buy enough shelving to unbox everything and put it on a shelf where it’s visible, by title or author or even Dewey Decimal #, I’m stuck with my boxes, and at some point my inventory will be “complete” or updated. When I do the pop-up stores at conferences (archaeology, history) the boxes are the most convenient way to display lots of items (contrary to the picture on the website, taken at the 2019 SAA).

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