SPH and Christmas

We went into Starbucks the other day and they were advertising the start of the Holiday season with snowflake decorations and Christmas mugs. It was also the first day for Toffee Nut Lattes and Peppermint Mochas. We sat by the window drinking our piping hot toffee nut lattes, the air-conditioning providing the requisite Christmas chill to the air. Outside the tuk-tuks continued to roar past in the 95 degree sun and a couple of Buddhist monks negotiated crossing the street. It was all very surreal. If I closed my eyes the flavor of the coffee said Christmas season, busy Saturday, Barnes & Noble. If I opened my eyes it was different entirely!

Speaking of Barnes & Noble, something we were always concerned about, especially at Christmas, was SPH (sales, per person working, per hour). In other words, have I had enough sales in the past hour to pay the wages of the amount of employees on the sales floor at that time. We were always looking at ways to streamline SPH. This often involved doing complicated math (which of course I love!!) to try to figure out how much sales we could expect to do in a day and how many employees that would support! I have exciting news! In Asia they have solved this problem. In restaurants and shops in both India and Thailand there are generally about three employees for every customer. If you want to try on a shirt there is someone there immediately to help you. If you set down your empty soda bottle at lunch at least two employees will rush over and fight about who gets to pick it up! The solution is simple. They can afford to have lots of employees on at all times because they only pay them a pittance! Lower wages more people, problem solved.

I am being facetious of course, as that is not a solution to the problem. People everywhere who are willing to work should be able to make a decent “living” wage. Until that happens it does take some getting used to. I am used to hunting for a clerk in a department store to check me out and flagging a waiter down to order my dinner. It can be a lot of pressure to have three people staring at you waiting for you to put down your coffee cup so that they can be the one to spirit it away!

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  • I think we should have 3 booksellers per customer on at all times. One to escort them to the section, another to put the book in their hand and a third to make cafe runs for complimentary cups of coffee while they decide whether to purchase the book or just order it on Amazon.

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