May 24th, 2005

books

Anon

So the other day I mentioned that I was allowed to leave work early on Saturday because the MOD was worried that I was going to murder someone. Time to explain that cryptic comment.

Last Friday, K assigned me the task of comprehensively re-organizing the computer section according to the corporate merchandising guidelines. I generally like this sort of assignment, because it allows me to indulge in a couple of my favorite activities: sorting things into categories, and putting things into alphabetical order. Unfortunately, I'm not allow to decide for myself what category the books belong in; that's determined at the corporate level by a team of trained chimps.

No, wait: there's no evidence that they've been trained, especially where the computer section is concerned. In some cases, the categorization seems to be done entirely at random. Books on Cascading Style Sheets, for example, can be found in any of eight different categories, including web programming/HTML, Internet/web design, web graphics/desktop publishing, programming/other, and (my favorite) databases/other. It angers me to see such sloppy categorization.

What's even worse is that I have to put the books where the labels say they have to go. The rationale is that if a customer comes in looking for a specific title, and the computer tells us that it can be found in one particular category, we won't be able to locate the title if it's been shelved in the "wrong" place. Which is true, but it completely screws over those customers who just want to browse through the books on a particular topic.

Friday wasn't so bad, because I was working in the programming/database aisle, and the books therein are relatively hard to miscategorize. When you have a book called, say, Teach Yourself C++ in 21 Days, it's not that hard to figure out that it belongs in the programming languages/C/C++ category. (Not hard, but not impossible either, he hastened to add.) From there I moved over to business applications, to repair the damage done when I moved all the books on Microsoft Access out of that section to the databases section. Again, it's a hard section to screw up, because it's obvious to almost anyone that books on Microsoft Word belong in business applications/Microsoft Office. When that was done, I continued down that aisle, taking care of operating systems, Macintosh, and general computing. That took me through mid-day Saturday.

Then after lunch I turned my attention to the center aisle, which contains web programming, networking, web graphics, Internet, and certification. And that's when I started pounding my fist on the counter and kicking the shelving cart in frustration and anger. It was there that I discovered the CSS books were divided among eight different categories. That about half the books on web design were in the Internet section, with most of the rest ending up in web programming—which two sections were located on opposite ends of the aisle. That well over half of the books shelved in the Internet section were, in fact, categorized elsewhere. And so on. I begged the GM to let me impose some logical order, arguing that by strictly following the corporate categorizations, we were failing in our mission to provide great customer service, which he didn't buy. Finally I just threw my hands up and resolved that if they wanted me to use the corporate categories, I would do so. Even if it meant shelving a book about Flash in with the books on Adobe Acrobat. Even if it meant recognizing a category that, according to the merchandising guidelines, didn't exist (like Internet/web programming). If I couldn't make it right, I would make it authoritatively wrong.

Fortunately, I was partnered with someone to finish the job on Monday, and his cooler head prevailed. He convinced me that if a book was listed in a category that was no longer recognized in the merchandising guidelines, we should put it in a category that was. (The Internet/web programming books, for example, went into the appropriate subcategories in web programming.) We also figured out a way to place the Internet and web programming sections on adjacent shelving units, so that most of the web design books would at least be near one another.

So that project is done, and I ended up not murdering anyone, so that's good. And the computer section looks really good, if I do say so myself. It still bugs me that so many of the books are miscategorized, but I'm trying not to let it get me down.
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