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Business - Out Of Stock Or Want Book

( Originally Published 1912 )

Every store, little or big, and especially every department of a big store, must have a "Want Book." In some stores they call this an "Out of Stock Book." All through the day as a clerk finds that the goods which are called for are out of stock, she writes it in this book. The checks are torn out of the book at the end of the day and run over by the head of the department. No matter how many times a day a clerk may have a call for a thing she must make a record of it, because the head of the department would act very differently if during the day five clerks had each had six calls for an article than if only one call had come. Naturally if a number of calls were received, the clerk would not wait until the end of the day, but would immediately call the head's attention to the demand.

Advance Order Book

What would happen if a customer asked a sales-man for a certain article and he looked and found that it was out of stock, and she said, "Please take my order for it, and as soon as it comes" (or, on a certain date) "send it to the address given; they are for a Christmas present" (or Easter gift, or a birthday remembrance) ; "enclose my card with them"?

The clerk would not enter such an order simply on a blank piece of paper. That would be no way to do,—the paper might be lost, and there would be no permanent record of it ; everything would soon get mixed up if the business were run in that way.

Such advance orders are so frequent that each department is provided with an "Advance Order Book," where all such orders are entered. Such a book must be in duplicate, so that the original check can be sent to the purchasing department, to go through the regular channels of buying, and the correspondence in connection with it be handled in the proper way. At the same time, the department which does the ordering must have a record showing that its work is done properly.

Advance Payment Books

Here is a customer who makes a deposit on a suit which is being altered, or on a carpet which is being made. The store does not want to cut the goods unless some payment is made. The advance deposit, or part payment, is so common that there must be some systematic way of receipting for and holding that money. Some stores have an "Advance Payment Book" for this very purpose. Other stores make out two sales checks, one a cash sales check on which a notation is made about the balance due and the other a C. O. D. check for the balance. This C. O. D. check is kept and sent with the finished work when delivered, either at the home, or delivered in person to the customer at the store.

Hold Ticket Book

Some stores handle this in another way. They have a triplicating book with the third page of stiff cardboard, stamped "Hold Ticket," which is tied to the goods while they are being altered, or made, or merely kept in stock until the customer comes back and pays the balance.

Alteration Book

If quite a good many alterations are to be made, or a good deal of work has to be done on a garment,

will you write the instructions out on the hold ticket, or in the advance payment book, or in the advance order book? No, you will have an "Alteration Book," either in duplicate or triplicate, which is large enough to hold all of the instructions needed to guide the department making the alterations.

Supply Requisition Book

In some houses each sales book must be obtained by a requisition on the Auditing Department. Here is a careless clerk and a customer in a rush. Strange how often the two get together. The clerk makes the sale, but has forgotten to requisition a new sales book; the old one is used up, she cannot use another clerk's book without losing credit for the sale. She picks up a requisition book supplied for that purpose, takes out a requisition blank in a rush, disturbs the whole neighborhood in her effort to find the department head to 0. K. same, rings or calls frantically for a messenger who finally rushes off on the errand, swiftly when in sight, but slowly when out. Consequently, a heated and disturbed customer and an upset and worried clerk. To prevent just such annoyances and disturbances many large stores de-liver to each department the sales books that should be required for the day, keeping a record of same and making the head of department or aisle manager responsible for their safe keeping. The requisition book, however, has other uses. The department head writes down all his requirements for supplies on the Supply Department's slips taken from this book. The slips are held by the Supply Department as a voucher for the amount of supplies so required. In some stores all such supplies are charged to each department.

"Transfer of Stock" Books

Did you ever walk around in a big store and see the same goods displayed in departments in which they did not belong? Why do they scatter them around in so many different places?

This custom represents a keen knowledge of human nature. If a customer goes in any part of the store, she may see some of these particular goods which the store is trying to push because they are on display in so many different places. "Goods seen are half sold." The department to which they be-long transfers them to the department where they are displayed, by means of a "Stock Transfer Book," so that the department which owns them can keep an accurate record of them and get the goods back or credit for their sale.

Competition may be so sharp that many lines of goods have to be sold at a very close margin. But if goods on which there is a big profit can be displayed in the above way in so many different places that a large sale results, that means a large margin of profit, which is what every merchant is trying to get.

Mark Down Book

If goods taken out of regular stock were put on a bargain counter, would they be entered in the "Transfer Book?" No, not unless they were sold at the regular price on the bargain counter, which would not be likely.

Every department is charged with the net cost of its complete stock of goods, and also with the selling price, and of course includes the gross profits which its department must make.

If a department does not find its goods selling, or has for advertising purposes cut the price of some of its goods, it must have an accurate record of the difference between the regular price and the bargain price, else that difference cannot be accounted for at the end of the year.

Paying for Cut-Prices

If, for example, the clothing department sold two hundred $25.00 suits at $18.00, there would be a book loss—as the banks call it—of $7.00 a suit on two hundred suits, or $1,400.00. The stock book must show where that $1,400.00 went. So each department has a "Mark-Down Book." Some stores call it a "Profit and Loss Book." This book keeps a record of the amount of goods on such sale, the regular price, the mark-down price, and the total amount to be deducted. If the goods are not all sold, those unsold are returned to stock. The record in the mark-down book is corrected accordingly. The original is then sent to the office while the car-bon copy is kept by that department.

Accommodation Check Book

If you bought a package in one store, had it under your arm when you walked into another store, made a purchase in the second store and asked the clerk to have your first package wrapped with the other purchase, would the clerk simply take the old pack-age and wrap it with the new without saying any-thing about it? If the store would permit her to do that, then what would prevent a confederate of the clerk coming in and making a small purchase of this clerk; the clerk would then pick up a valuable piece of silk or lace, secretly wrap it up with the package of goods purchased by the confederate, hand it over to the confederate, and the two divvy up afterwards? Don't you see that in a big store there must be a system to protect the store against such frauds?

The floorwalker carries a book called the "Accommodation Check Book" or "Rewrap Book." In big stores no clerk can wrap a package, or have a wrapped package in her possession, excepting to hand it from the wrapper to the customer.

Wrapping Extra Packages

When the customer wants a package wrapped with a purchase in the store, the clerk explains it to the floor walker, who writes an order in his Accommodation Check Book, or Rewrap Book, authorizing the wrapper to put the two bundles together. Some stores simply instruct the floor walker to tell the wrapper by word of mouth to do this. Such methods breed carelessness. The wrapper may work with the clerk in stealing goods, and say that the floor walker told her to do so. In such a case there is only the floor walker's word against the wrapper's. The floor walker might be absolutely honest and loyal, but his word would be questioned; he would have no record to prove that he was right. He might be discharged; his character ruined; a great injury done him, because he could not prove by a little carbon duplicate record that he had or had not given the order in question.

Many houses adopt a simpler method by which the floor walker or aisle manager simply puts his O. K. and initials on the sales check, which accomplishes the same result as the previous method.

Transfer of Employees' Book

"What is that?" You say, "Employees are not cloth, or groceries, or delivery wagons." Yes; they are in a big store. When you get six or seven thou-sand clerks, cash girls, wrappers, cashiers, etc., all in one place, you must issue orders to them telling them what to do. You can't tell them by word of mouth what to do. That isn't businesslike; besides, many of them could not remember two minutes what they were told. They must carry a slip of paper which is their voucher that they have a right to work in a certain department. That voucher also serves as their right to receive salary for that work. So the Superintendent has an "Employees' Transfer Book."

The department has some good employees, loyal to the store and trustworthy; but trade is slack in that department. What is the store to do—discharge them? No; it transfers them to another department which is busy and needs them. A good store always tries to keep all of its good employees that it can profitably make use of ; hence as the seasons come and go in which one department is busy and another slack, certain employees are kept on the move from one department to another.

Rover's Sales Book

Some stores handle this matter in another way. They have a certain number of "Roving" clerks who are versatile and clever ; they can sell most any kind of goods in any department. In some stores they call these clerks "expert buyers" or "customers' guides" in buying. A customer walks into a store and says, "I want to buy quite a good many things. Haven't you an expert who can coach me in the things which I am thinking of?" The store says, "Why, certainly," and sends for one of these buyers, who may do nothing else but this, or may be a buyer in the Mail Order Department, who fills orders for out-of-town customers.

Buyers' Guides

Some stores have so many of these buyers or guides that they have a Matron of Buyers in charge of them. Such a buyer, or roving clerk, or customer's guide, carries a sales book which is distinctly different from any other sales book. This is for the purpose of identifying the sales of these buyers, yet giving the proper departments credit for their sales. Some of these roving salesmen are paid a commission on their sales, and must have some way of easily identifying all of their sales checks.

One of the advantages of these rovers is that a great many customers like to have a congenial sales person go with them and give them advice and see that they get the best attention in each department. Indeed, it is one of the real competitive weaknesses of a big store that each customer must fight her own battles from department to department, whereas in the smaller stores she can get individual personal service from a favorite sales person. This personal attention appeals to many people, and is one of the chief reasons why smaller individually run stores can hold their own against the big store.

Clerks Selling in Different Departments

Another Special Sales Book is one which is used by clerks having regular stations, but so situated as to be obliged to sell in two or more departments. For this purpose a book made along the lines of the Regular Sales Book, but having extra spaces for Dept. No. to be entered against each item, so that each department may receive the credit for sales to which it is entitled.

In a full-page illustrated article entitled, "The Hidden Machinery of a Big Department Store," printed in the New York Times, November 12, 1911, this statement is made: "A department of `Decorators' is of great importance. A great number of men and women are employed just to make the goods attractive and to give an idea how colors and materials may be combined. One large store is credited with spending on its window decoration not less than $80,000 a year."

Naturally a well-organized store would not expend $80,000 or any large sum without having a dependable system of checking such expenditures. There are two books used quite generally for this purpose. We will call the first "The Decorator's or Window Dresser's Purchase Book."

Decorator's or Window Dresser's Purchase Book

The head of the decorating department makes all of his purchases with this book. Most of these purchases are made out of the other departments. If the silk department wishes a window display, he purchases from the silk department enough silks to make the display. Those silks are returned to the silk department when the display is over. If they are in perfect condition—which is very rarely the case—the decorating department will get full credit for their return and will not have to pay for the goods. If the goods come back in a soiled condition so that they must be sold at a reduction, then the decorating department must pay the silk department for the difference between the regular price and the sale price.

Selling the Windows

On the other hand, usually a fixed price is put upon each window. The use of that window is what the decorating department has to sell. It sells the windows to the various departments. The silk department may charge the decorating department for the loss in the value of the silks displayed in the window; but, at the same time, the silk department has to pay the decorating department a fixed price for that window. Naturally, the decorating department is expected to make money on the most advantageous use of the windows. The head of each department knows that if he has a window display, he will have to pay for it. This Decorator's Purchase Book is also used for buying other materials, such as stands, mechanical contrivances, crepe paper. artificial flowers, or anything else that may be used in making a decoration.

If the decoration is made on the shelves back of the counter in a department, or any other place in the store, the operation is the same as in the window. A second book is called "The Show Card Order Book."

Show Card Order Book

This book is used for ordering the printing or painting or making of show cards for window displays. It is also for the printing or writing or making of price tickets and descriptive cards for putting on goods and all other forms of printed, drawn, painted or other tickets, cards, display cards or show cards used anywhere in the store or store windows.

Naturally the Decorating Department should come either largely or wholly under the Advertising Department. Very few of those who are not connected with advertising realize how great is the Advertising Department. It is reported that the dozen prominent department stores in New York City spend from $250,000.00 to $500,000.00 per month. This is at the rate of three to six million dollars per year. Of course, the display of goods in the departments and in the windows have much to do with the success of the advertising in the newspapers. Consequently, the Decorating Department and the Advertising Department must work in harmony.

Inasmuch as each department has to pay its own expense, including the use of the windows, it is natural that it must also pay for its own advertising. The advertising manager makes a contract with a newspaper at a certain rate per agate line per insertion of all space that he uses, provided he uses a certain amount during the year. Each department is furnished with Advertising Requisition blanks.

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