Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yellow Tape -- Scene of the Crime..

An ongoing observation of a street closure day.

11:00 AM.

The "No Parking" Yellow Tape is already out when I arrive this morning, but people are still parking -- about half as much.

Having good business the first hour.

12:15 PM.

Streets are emptying of cars. (1:30 cutoff.) Also done a pretty good job of scouring the streets of all human life.... Haven't had anyone in in 15 minutes.

12:30 PM.

If half the people who buy candy from Powells would also buy their kids books, I'd be sitting pretty.

Typical "quality time" visits from dads and usually more interested in what I got than the kids. Interested, but not enough to buy anything. After perusing the store, he turns and say, "Find anything?" and the kids act all confused because they thought they were here because of dad.

12:45 PM.

Lots of middle-aged couples which I immediately point to the used books. Should have a little tape-recorder that says, "Used books are on that side in front of the store for half price, new books on this side!"

Lots of requests all of a sudden for The Time-Traveler's Wife. As one guy commented, "Damn, I should have bought it sooner. Now I'll probably have to buy one with Eric Bana's mug on the cover..."

A couple of guys buying 2010 magic from me. Thought I'd convinced them there was a real shortage...then one of the guys let on that everyone "online" was sold out

1:00 PM.

Sold a couple packs of Pokemon.

Dad bought 3 chapter books for his kids, and we talked about Watership Down...

O.K. I have to admit, I'm getting the usual bunch of summer Saturday browsers...I should charge admission; I might make it as Duncan's Fabulous Pop Culture Emporium: "This way to the Egress!!"

1:30 PM.

Another fifteen minute lull. Streets now nearly empty of cars....scarfed down a couple of peanut butter sandwiches...

1:45 PM.

Funny. I've had the Big Lebowski toys in stock for a couple of years and couldn't give them away. And then, about 3 months ago, they started selling. I'm down to one last set. Guy just told me they have "Lebowski Festivals." First night at a theater and second night at bowling alleys. Who knew?

Amazing number of people (regulars, quite often) don't know about the bike race. "Hamsters in spandex going in circles as fast as they can," I say.

Looks like I'll do pretty close to my average in the first half of the day; you'll pardon me for wondering how I might have done if I had the whole day to sell stuff. We'll see, I guess.

2:00 PM.

Young lady in who said, "I passed on all the classics in high school, and now I'm trying to catch up so I don't seem like I don't know anything..." On my recommendation, she bought For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I think is Hemingway's most readable book...That why I like selling books!

3:00 PM.

Atmosphere has completely changed. No one in the door in over half an hour. I have to say, also, that I asked all the customers in the first few hours if they were down for the race, and the usual responses way: "Oh, that's what's going on?"

I'm going to give it until 4:00, and if nothing happens I'll go home and start working on my orders...

3:45 PM.

Couple of regulars in, who spent money and grumbled about the race. "If I'd known it was here, I wouldn't have come," one said. Have hit my daily average. Noticed that the owner of Ivy Manor has closed, and Wendy at the Trivia Antigues is taking her stuff in.

Also just noticed Pave was closed today.

So...4:00, it looks like. Did Good the first half of the day, at least.

(By the way, this is called the Twilight Criterion because it used to happen after know, as in TWILIGHT! Creeping promotionalism.... I'm not sure, but I think they might have broken the rules by closing the street next weekend -- if anyone wants to make a formal complaint...)

4:30 PM.

Came home. I can't believe it. One of the few times in my career when I closed within posted business hours. Anyone wants an explanation need only step into the street and get clobbered by a herd of spandex.

Can get an early start on my orders. I spend a couple hours just working up my nerve, which means I'll get going by 6:30 instead of 8:30...


Jack Elliott said...

Jeepers, Duncan -- you're the crabby old man in the neighborhood.

Duncan McGeary said... whippersnapper!

mugmkr said...

Duncan, do you think that the Cascade Classic bike race and the upcoming road nationals bike race bring in $3 million to the local economy? (As mentioned by Doug La Placa in his letter in the current version of The Source) Do these events bring money into hotels and restaurants at the cost of lesser business to downtown businesses? In other words, is there in fact a net gain to the economy from hosting these events? For the record, I'm a fan of bike racing and not at all against these great events being held in Bend. But I never thought about whether it would take business away from some. Your thoughts?

Duncan McGeary said...

You know, probably.

But my point is this constant creeping promotions. There are roughly 13 peak weekends in the summer, which we pay high rent all year to reach, and it seems like the other downtowners are determined to distract the consumer as much as possible.


There are hundreds, thousands, of 'worthy' events -- there are at least that many non-profit charity events -- and so on, and all you have to do is say yes to 13 of them and the summer is completely taken over.

Some businesses do well, some don't. But what does it say that my neighbor Pave, who as far as I know is a supporter of such events, is closed on a Saturday when they would usually be open. Is that vote of confidence? Or that just about every business on this street had closed by 4:00 yesterday. And so on...

So years ago, the city council put a limit on the number of events downtown, and -- or so I thought -- on how many times they could close the streets.

And yet, here we have yet another street closure next week.

We have a Twilight Criterion become a Downtown Criterion, starting 4 hours earlier, and so on and so forth.

It's like saying yes to one thing, and that is somehow a greenlight to do a dozen more things....the logical conclusion is just to close the street permanently, have a festival all year long, and close the stores

Duncan McGeary said...

So who is the lobby for these things.

Apparently, everyone but me.

The Public: pretty big lobby right there, huh? What am I trying to do, take away people fun? Be, as Jack says, a "crabby old man?"

The Media: who loves to cover these things, as well as advertise them.

The Sponsors: who make money from these events.

The Vendors: who love being able to pay for just a couple of weekends and get the absolute maximum number of customers without the bother of a full time lease.

I've also often said, if you schedule these events outside the "peak" weekends, then it might actually PULL people downtown.

I saying that we have absolutely no trouble getting people in on non-event summer weekends. In fact, I had a record number a weekend ago...

Duncan McGeary said...

I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only downtowner to feel this way, but they don't want to take the unpopular position.

I've given up, basically, that it's going to change.

In fact, as I said, I think it's not going to end until they have closed the streets on all 13 weekends.

So, I'm willing to discuss this in a nice calm manner. Not rant against it like I would've 4 or 5 years ago. What would be the point? It's not going to change anything.

Nowadays, I just factor it in to my plans. I try to be cheerful about it.

Duncan McGeary said...

I guess my comments are catching my real tone: which is completely fatalistic.

Like I said, that which I can't change....

Duncan McGeary said...

Unmmm......these comments ARE NOT catching my real feelings, which are fatalistic.


blackdog said...

I suspect the way this phenomenon has developed is that back in the mid-1980s when downtown was dying on the vine, the merchants were desperate to do ANYTHING to bring people downtown, so they started having special events. (The First Friday Gallery Walk was one of the first, as I recall.) And then they just sort of got carried away.

I have no idea (and it probably would be impossible to tell for sure) whether these events help or hurt downtown businesses in the long run, but one thing that would concern me is "even fatigue," i.e., the possibility that there will be so damn many of things things that people will get blase about them. I think in fact that's already starting to happen. Every weekend I'm like, "What, ANOTHER damn festival?!"