Powell’s — Another Outlet Promoting Online Classism?

What M.A.O. said. Dave Weich can keep living in a glass tower as long he wants. But to take on the attitude that one must have a credit card in order to survive, let alone purchase books, is to subscribe to the same atavistic and paralogic thinking as doze poor peeples kints read and dere checks will bounce bekaz dey poor. Shame on Weich and shame on Powell’s for refusing to accommodate a form of payment that has been around much longer than the credit card.

[UPDATE: Dave Weich responds to Orother over at Maud’s.]


  1. I imagine the reason Powells doesn’t accept checks is the massive expense involved.

    Online stores’ margins are thin enough without having to pay check handlers. Online business can really only exist in a world of near-ubiquitous credit cards.

    Further, I think we are fooling ourselves if we don’t acknowledge that novels are mostly an item of luxury.

  2. I’d love to see demographical numbers on the population that spends a lot of time around a computer and doesn’t have, at least, a check card. I’m not sure you can even open a checking account these days without getting one.

    This sort of non-issue advocacy doesn’t help anyone. I appreciate that this is a book blog, but even within that context, there are far better causes to advocate for. Like literacy, or library funding or whatever…

  3. Total non-issue. I enjoy the blog Ed, but perhaps you should check the knee jerk reaction here. “Glass tower” is really much. Who shops at Powells or has even heard of the store? Fairly small segment of the overall U.S. population. Plus, they frequently don’t offer major discounts and are for those who can afford to not use Amazon.

    While I appreciate the nobility of books and publishing you have to realize the strains that the independents are facing. It’s extremely brutal out there. Chapter 11 in Atlanta… Keplers barely holding on… time to tacke the bigger issue.

  4. I will confess that my response here was, to say the least, a bit heavy-handed. However, the credit card-only emphasis concerns me precisely BECAUSE of the precarious existence of indie bookstores. Let’s say that half of all indie U.S. bookstores go out of business in the next five years. In rural areas, this leaves, perhaps, a Barnes & Noble or a Borders perhaps for the consumer sans credit card to go to. But, as recently seen with Laila’s book, small press books often get a tough racket when it comes to distribution at the major chains.

    So where do they turn? Online conduits, where they cannot purchase their books and contribute to the indie elements of the book publishing economy (specifically, money that goes to small presses and indie bookstores). Of course, B&N and Borders could turn around and start offering these books. But even they have paid display promotions with the major publishers that occupies sizable real estate.

    The question here is whether the 24% of the population, which Mr. Orother cited, translates into enough potential book buyers to justify the expense of implementing checks. I’m not sure how much business Powell’s pulls in every day, but I would imagine that the cost of implementing a check verification system (one that identifies account and routing number) might be minimal if enough people were to purchase books. The check situation isn’t as it once was because, thanks to a recent legislative overhaul to crack down on check floaters, a check no longer takes three days to clear. It clears instantly.

    I’ve seen a few indie bookstores in my area do away with checks completely. And I’m not sure if this is because there were too many bad checks or the accounting people need more time to deliver the checks to the banks and maintain the balance (rather than getting the purchase into their coffers immediately through a credit card) and this cuts down on payroll. (It would be interesting to determine the following ratios: good checks to bad checks, value of bad checks to value of merchandise stolen, and how bookstore purchases break down by cash, check/money order and credit card.)

    But I’m not in the retail business. Perhaps a bookseller like Megan could set me straight on all this and tell me precisely why it’s so costly to maintain checks.

  5. If people can get checks, chances are they can get one of those visa/mc debit cards which will work just fine. I was bankless for years thanks to a divorce and the fear that the ex would rob my account if I opened one. Purchasing items online was next to impossible, but I managed thanks to a little thing called a telephone and some money orders.

  6. Money orders are pretty expensive to use for anything outside of something very occasional, at least here in Canada. (It costs about $6.00 here in addition to the value of the money order.)

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