Pre-printed prices on books have long been a bone of contention in the publishing world, with the issue cropping up repeatedly in the pages of the Bookseller both before and since the Booksellers Association (BA) issued its guidelines on re-pricing back in 2005, Code of Practice – Price Stickers. The guidelines for Publishers and Distributors are very clearly laid out as follows:
- If the book is likely to be priced for life, then all stock leaving the warehouse should be priced, either printed on the jacket or on a non-removable sticker bearing the publishers name, which should preferably be placed on the back cover.
- Some titles may be subject to price increases before the next reprint and may use the same cover; therefore the most appropriate method of pricing should be by non-removable price sticker only.
- Some specialist titles, eg educational material in binders packs not for direct sale to consumers, may be exempt.
- Price stickers overlaid on prices printed on the cover should be non-removable and the old price should be obliterated. Price stickers should be opaque.
- In exceptional circumstances where new stickers are overlaid on existing stickers, the new sticker must completely obliterate any previous stickers and must non-removable.
- If the sticker absolutely has to be of a removable type, then it should be possible to remove it without damaging or marking the cover/jacket.
- The price sticker should always bear the name of the publisher.
Many publishers have solved the problem by discontinuing pre-printed prices, leaving it entirely up to retailers to price stock themselves. Zondervan, however, have yet to follow suit and STL seem to be blissfully unaware of the BA’s Code of Practice, resulting in considerable embarrassment for us as booksellers:
In the last few days we are receiving copies of pre-priced books at greatly increased prices.
E.G. Purpose Driven Church priced at £8.99 now £10.49
Girlz Rock priced at £4.99 now £6.99
Jesus I never knew priced at £8.99 now £10.49.
While I agree that the publisher can set the price I also think the publisher has a responsibility to permanently obscure the old price so that customers do not fee that the shop is over charging them.
I do have a copy of Purpose driven Church where a new barcode label has been permanently stuck over the existing code and prices. This is so much better.
When we have complained to customer services all we get is a tiny peelable label sent to us with ‘publishers price’ on it. As soon as a customer peels this off they see a cheaper price underneath.
Geoff, I have discussed this on a number of occasions with Ian Matthews, the Zondervan UK rep, as it is the Zondervan books that are presenting the main problem. My understanding of the UK price marking legislation is that the practise of ‘overpricing’ in this way is illegal, and even if it isn’t, the practise presents our whole trade in a very bad light. My policy here has always been to sell the books at ‘marked price’ unless it has the permanent sticker over it. The peelable stickers sent from STL are worse than useless, as they shout ‘Peel me! Peel me!’ at the customer, and I’ve seen several curious customers peeling the things, actually on the shop floor, to see what lies beneath…….As a result of these discussions, we have had a helpful agreement that we should contact Customer Services at STL when we identify a problem, and they have then refunded the difference by creditting & recharging at the marked price. My understanding from Ian Matthews from several months ago was that Zondervan were going to discontinue the practise of UK pricemarking. However, it doesn’t sem to be happening yet!
So a simple plea to Zondervan and STL: please either do away with pre-printed prices OR stick with the prices printed OR — if you really must change them — sticker over them properly, as per the BA Code of Practice, BEFORE they leave the warehouse.