Independent Bookstore Closes Due to Minimum Wage Hike

How is minimum wage going to help people when it takes away their jobs?

minimum wage

Here is the website of one of those glorious independent bookstores. From the store’s About web page:

We love books. They’re our friends. Good books and bad books, 1st editions and beat up paperbacks. We love how they smell, how they feel, and the way they sound when you open them (A customer once said that he liked how they tasted. . . we watch him very carefully when he’s in the store). 

We read voraciously. We read over dinner and we read in the bath. We lend books and half the time we don’t get them back. We understand that the only people who steal your books are your friends. That’s OK, after all, we’ve stolen some of their books. 

We like people who read. They’re interesting and we share the same friends. We understand what we owe to people who read. We owe them our time and our attention. We owe them fair prices and an honest attempt to find the book they’re looking for (regardless of whether it is on our shelves or someone else’s). 

We run a book store. We keep it clean and organized because we like it that way and because both the books and the customers deserve it. We have lots of seating because you should be comfortable while you browse. We stay open late and wish we could stay open later. If you come in five minutes before closing time we won’t close until you’re ready to leave. 

We only sell Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Horror. We would love to sell all kinds of books but we only have so much room. If we sold all kinds of books we could only be a good bookstore. By limiting ourselves we can be a great bookstore. And, if we do our job right, perhaps we can be your bookstore. 

Come visit us. We’d like to meet you.

Doesn’t that sound amazing? I wish I could travel to San Francisco just to visit that store.

But it is not going to exist for much longer. Obviously, like many bookstores, they have had challenges in the new economy with online shopping.

But that is not what killed them. According to the website:

Throughout the years we’ve managed to plan for the problems that we could predict and, when we couldn’t plan for them, we’ve just worked our asses off to get through.  Overall, Borderlands has managed to defeat every problem that has come our way.  At the beginning of 2014, the future of the business looked, if not rosy, at least stable and very positive.  We were not in debt, sales were meeting expenses and even allowing a small profit, and, perhaps most importantly, the staff and procedures at both the bookstore and the cafe were well established and working smoothly.

So it fills us with sorrow and horror to say that we will be closing very soon.

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.  Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.

Many businesses can make adjustments to allow for increased wages.  The cafe side of Borderlands, for example, should have no difficulty at all.  Viability is simply a matter of increasing prices.  And, since all the other cafes in the city will be under the same pressure, all the prices will float upwards.  But books are a special case because the price is set by the publisher and printed on the book.  Furthermore, for years part of the challenge for brick-and-mortar bookstores is that companies like Amazon.com have made it difficult to get people to pay retail prices.  So it is inconceivable to adjust our prices upwards to cover increased wages.

The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%.  That increase will in turn bring up our total operating expenses by 18%.  To make up for that expense, we would need to increase our sales by a minimum of 20%.  We do not believe that is a realistic possibility for a bookstore in San Francisco at this time.

[See also, “How Economists Hide Damage of Minimum Wage Laws.”]

I hate that they pretend any good can come from this minimum wage. Notice what they tell us: businesses can only survive a minimum wage hike by making customers poorer. The bookstore, however, cannot  pass on the costs to customers.

So it is history. Way to go, San Francisco.

What good will a higher minimum wage do to people who can’t get employed because businesses close and who won’t be able to buy as much because prices have gone up.

This isn’t hard to figure out. Why do Liberals claim that they can’t understand it?