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A Firsthand Account Of The “Frenzy And Chaos” That Was Harper Collins’ Warehouse Sale

Posted on June 26, 2016 in Books, Culture-Vulture

By Mayuri Ghosh:

Very few events *read – SALE* would serve as an incentive for me to wake up at 6 AM and head out to a place quite far from my house – Faridabad. One of them was the recently held ‘Warehouse Sale’ by the Indian subsidiary of the well-known publishers- Harper Collins (HC) on June 24.

The capital has seen many book-sales in the past and they seem to pop-up every now and then at your favourite bookstores. But, it was a different deal altogether this time.

How could it not be?! It was a Warehouse sale! Which meant that the prices were unbelievably slashed and you wouldn’t mind cutting off that last pizza for the month to get your hands on brand new paperbacks and coffee-table editions.

The details for this ‘Warehouse sale’ were released earlier this month on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. HC India, in its statement on these platforms said that the warehouse sale was more of a charity-sale event as it promised that 20% of the sale proceeds would go the well-known non-profit – ‘Frendicoes’, that works for animal rights and welfare.

What caught the attention of thousands of bibliophiles were the prices that HC India had released for their collections on various online posts. Paperback titles were priced at 25 INR, Hardbound titles at 50 INR, Collector editions and Coffee-Tables were astonishingly priced at 100 INR. The otherwise expensive book-sets were being sold at 90% discount which made sure all of us who were saving up to purchase the complete collection of ‘Game of Thrones’, swore by our lives to be present there for the sale!

So on the grand first-day of the sale, I hauled myself to the venue an hour–and-a-half before the sale was set to start, which was 10:00 AM. The venue was the warehouse of HC India, located in an industrial area in sector 27B of Faridabad, Haryana. A kutcha lane from the metro station led to the gates of the warehouse where we were met with the HC staff who asked us to note down our names and contact numbers on a sheet of paper. As expected, I joined the queue inside with some 50-60 people, most of whom seemed to be in delirium or extremely pumped up about the sale. More and more people joined in by the minute. We were met by one of the warehouse managers – Mr. Arvind, who gave us a sort of a pep-talk ‘before the battle inside’. We were told that there are several copies of most of the paperback editions and might be lucky to come across some rare editor’s editions.

harper collins crowd
Crowd outside the warehouse.

Though the time set for the gates to open was set at 10 AM, but upon seeing the crowd that was swelling up, the manager let the gates open at 9.40 AM and the initial batch of 300 people were let in by a roll-call of their names. As soon as I stepped inside the warehouse, I witnessed the frenzy and the chaos exhibited by the buyers.

Some had come with suitcases, some with backpacks and empty cartons. For a minute, owing to my incapability of registering chaos, I stood there and looked around myself. With a few of the staff members inside, people were seen running first towards the book-sets to pick up the much-awaited ‘Game-Of-Thrones’ collection. Much to my disbelief, this particular stack of GoT book-sets were pounced upon and were over in the initial 10 minutes. I reminded myself why I was there, and immediately started picking up titles by some of my favourite authors. The warehouse was divided into two sections. The larger one, which was a non-air-conditioned zone, had most of the book-sets, paperback titles of foreign and Indian authors and stacks of coffee-tables. But, to our disappointment, none of the titles were pre-segregated in the order of their genre which made it difficult to locate them and hence added to the chaos. The other section of the warehouse, which was air-conditioned, housed children books, anthologies and political readings. The warehouse, as told to us had a capacity of 300 people at a time, but I have to disagree with that. Most of the buyers had cartons and suitcases with them, which made the narrow lanes quite difficult for one to negotiate the space.

Some staff members were replenishing the stock immediately when an area would clear. One could not take more than 2 copies of the same book but people were seen piling books into their cartons and some picked up whatever they could find. Since, all the titles were literally sold at throwaway prices, the upper limit of purchase being set at 5000 INR meant that one could fill at least four large suitcases with books!

This being the first warehouse sale organised for the general public by HC India, clearly some things seemed unplanned and muddled. The prime one being the billing and cash counters. For such an enormous crowd of 300 people in one batch, there were only two billing points with a total of 3 staff members for billing and a only a single payment point which had two officials accepting the payments in cash and credit cards. These billing and payment points were oddly placed and led to tumultuous scene at the exit. The staff also seemed very confused but then they kept adding volunteers at these points to facilitate the billing and payment procedure.

As soon as I took the exit from the warehouse, I could see a sea of people waiting outside the main gates of the warehouse, standing in the scorching sun and heat. While, inside the gates in the main arena, another batch of 300-400 people were waiting to be let inside the warehouse. The manager, by then, failed to get the crowd queued up before they could enter the warehouse. Though, people from the new batch were continuously trickling in depending on the number of people who were exiting the warehouse.

What I managed to purchase.
What I managed to purchase.

The worst scene was outside the main gates of the warehouse, where the sea of waiting buyers were made to stand in the scorching sun without any provisions like water or shade and that led to some unfortunate incidents like people fainting and being subjected to extreme exhaustion in that heat. But, overcoming all of that, most of the people got their hands on amazing titles and were seen heading to the metro station or to their respective vehicles with suitcases, backpacks, cartons brimming over with books!

After such a gruelling adventure, I finally boarded a cab with a smile and my backpack full of classic titles, some coffee-tables and an Editor’s Hardbound edition of ‘The Complete Chronicles Of Narnia’. Amidst the beads of perspiration, the cab-driver could see me smiling at my victory!

Featured image source: Urvashi Chaudhary/Facebook.

Banner image: Harper Collins Warehouse sale event page/Facebook.