Yesterday, on my way to Southwest Gate B5 at Reno Lake Tahoe International Airport for the short flight to Portland, Oregon, I stopped by a shop to pick up a package of pocket Kleenex. While waiting at the cash register where the clerk was ringing up a book sale, I overheard the clerk ask the customer if he was part of the Read & Return Program and would he like to check out their used books? He wasn’t, but did wonder about the plan. I turned up my hearing aids.

A used bookstore at every airport? Well, maybe not every airport, but those airports where The Paradies Shops sell books. Paradies has a program, begun in 2003, in which any book purchased at any of their airport stores, if brought back, to any of their airport stores, within six months, in good condition and with a receipt in hand, will be bought back for half the purchase price. Those returned books are then placed on a Used Book shelf and sold at half price to customers looking for a bargain on the fly. How cool is that?

The math whiz in me wanted to know where the profit is in that sort of largesse. It suggests that the markup in the publishing world is pretty high to carry a “buy back” policy which is a clear wash if you don’t count the time and effort taken by employees to process the returned books. The thinking of The Paradies Shops is that it’s “. . . part of the company’s commitment to encourage reading.”

My sense of reality also knows the program is one helluva nifty marketing tool. Regardless of the aforementioned thought, I still believe the Read and Return policy is a dynamite idea. It may be a monetary draw or even a slight cost for Paradies, but it’s great deal for the customer who’s looking for a bargain and not a bad deal for living green. Powell’s Books, quite naturally, also has a shop at Portland International, and I know they sell both new and used books at that shop, but I’ll have to see, on my way home Monday, if they have a special return policy for books bought at their airport shop. Out of loyalty, I’d pick Powell’s first, but at any other airport, I’d check to see if there is a Paradies Shop selling books.

One last thought before taking that next flight, check out the book reviews at Bookin’ with Sunny, then look for The Paradies Shops. The “friendly skies” just got a little friendlier without even leaving the ground.      — Sunny Solomon

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