Jan 3 2011
08:20 pm
By: michael kaplan  shortURL

Edward McKay used to be one of my favorite spots in town, especially when I could book-browse and grocery-shop for only one parking spot. I also enjoyed the adaptive reuse of the steak house, which still had the coziness of a family business.

Things changed when McKay moved into its new warehouse on Papermill Road, a building I would consider one of the ten-worst in town in terms of atmosphere, scale, lighting, and circulation.

That's the good part.

A few weeks ago, I started cleaning house, and instead of taking Book Eddy's advice, I brought a bag of architecture books and fairly decent DVDs to McKay for what I thought might bring in at least $5 in trade credit. Six items, including three really nice books that are selling used on Amazon for about $30 (included among them Venturi's classic Complexity and Contradiction). No such luck. Two bucks for the lot. Not wanting to do any more driving than necessary, I reluctantly accepted.

So today, I had a little fun on the drive home from Turkey Creek. I brought a pile of six factory-sealed, popular VHS movies that had been given me to see what I could get for them. After a short wait, my number was called. Ninety cents for the lot - trade credit. (That's fifteen cents per video.) Apologetically, I asked for the videos back, telling the clerk that, at that price, I would donate them to the Knox County Library for its annual book sale. Looking a bit surprised, the clerk brought the videos back and carefully peeled off the $2.95 labels that had been neatly applied to each.

redmondkr's picture

Many years ago a pair of my

Many years ago a pair of my Corydoras bred and presented me with about three hundred babies, a rarity in a home community aquarium. I had bought the parents from Harry's Aquarium in Oak Ridge. I dropped by to see if he would buy some of my windfall.

As my mother used to say, he would eat a red apple!

He offered me a nickel per baby at a time when he was getting $2.95 for his. After telling him I would sooner flush them down the toilet, I depressed the market somewhat by giving away baby catfish to every friend and friend of friends who owned an aquarium - and never went back to Harry's.

j.f.m.'s picture

Hmm. I have to say I was

Hmm. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at what I got for a couple boxes of random books and videos that I pruned out after my most recent move. It was about $150 cash -- would have been over $200 trade, but I was looking to purge, not acquire. So I guess it's all down to what you're selling and the mysterious McKay formulas.

michael kaplan's picture

They have a database. It's

They have a database.

It's always interesting to watch the army of McKay pickers at the library book sales scanning barcodes with portable 'database' devices. And it's always amazing to see what they miss.

Pam Strickland's picture

My college roommate's

My college roommate's son-in-law is one of the asst mgr's, and jfm's right -- it's all about what they have, what people are asking for and what they know they can sell. It has nothing to do with the quality of the literature or music. It's the demands of the masses. The son-in-law has killer taste in music (his wife gets concert tickets for gifts that many of you would die for) and decent taste in literature, so he knows what to look for regarding his own tastes on the side, but for the stare they have some pretty strict guidelines. And they don't need too many of the same thing b/c they don't want to get stuck with it. They know what they need too many of, and it's amazing to me that they can figure that out.

Me, I hate the new store, and seldom go there. Last time was at least two years ago when a friend was here from out of town and had a list of books he was looking for. We also went to the Book Eddy that day. And Disc Exchange for good measure.

michael kaplan's picture

i agree, i hate the new

i agree, i hate the new store, and rarely go there. as for buying, i can usually find any book online for about half the price of mckay. aside from amazon and ebay, here's a book site i'd highly recommend.

Pam Strickland's picture

Truth be told, I never shop

Truth be told, I never shop online. If I can't get it local, I go chain local. I don't pay shipping ever. Old-fashioned that way I guess. With all the changes locally this week, I guess I may be changing my habits soon. I would have rather have Carpe Librum order something that was new for me. If it was used and I didn't need it immediately, I could put it on a list and wait.

But I am saving for an iPad to be purchased later this year, so many things could change.

michael kaplan's picture

I am saving for an iPad so am

I am saving for an iPad

so am i. i don't look forward to that day ...

and what will happen to mckay's books and CDs? it will become an antique mall ..

CathyMcCaughan's picture

or a Pawn Shop and "Cash for

or a Pawn Shop and "Cash for Gold" warehouse.

smalc's picture

I have never been to the new

I have never been to the new McKay's, but my wife says that my son, who has sensory issues, does not do well there.

michael kaplan's picture

that's a fascinating comment

that's a fascinating comment for an architect to hear. i would browse for hours at the old mckay, but this one makes me want to leave as quickly as possible.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

Very true. My Aspie would

Very true. My Aspie would spend hours in the old McKay's, but he can't get out of the current one fast enough. The lighting is harsh. The acoustics are tingy. Even the floor has gone from soft and sound absorbing to hard and cold. I suspect that going from the "somebody's basement" atmosphere to book warehouse was deliberate and profitable.

michael kaplan's picture

there's something about a

there's something about a 'warehouse' ambience that leads one to think great bargains are to be had. reminds me of hammer's or watson's-on-the-square or - best of all - klein's basement at union square in new york where bargain-hunters tried on clothes right in the aisles.

i think most shopping at mckay is by impulse; a careful check of book or CD prices online will show that most items are available at about one-half mckay prices. does anyone actually go to mckay looking for a particular book?

smalc's picture

That's what she says, it is

That's what she says, it is sensory overload.

smalc's picture

Even if they have a database,

Even if they have a database, marking up those videos from 15 cents to $2.95 is a bit steep.

michael kaplan's picture

400 CDs that I had ripped to

400 CDs that I had ripped to MP3

400 CDs for $1000? It's hard to find a CD at McKay selling for under $5. Depending on what you had, sounds like you got ripped off. Try Lost and Found Records on N. Broadway next time. Or even Disc Exchange.

michael kaplan's picture

i read it right the first

i read it right the first time: not knowing how many books you sold, i assumed the worst case scenario, where you received $0 for the books.

seriously though, knowing your fine taste in music, i have to assume there were some really good CDs in the lot ...

R. Neal's picture

a lot of WTF was I

a lot of WTF was I thinking.

I got laughed at once, literally, at a CD exchange store in FL back in the 80s. Can't remember if it was the Swing Out Sister or the Bananarama.

The Swing Out Sister CD was actually pretty good relative to most of the dreck coming out back then. I think I still have it. I should rip it.

EDIT: Holy crap. They're still around.

yellowdog's picture

Try Southland Books in Maryville

Another option for selling, buying or trading used books, and a much more pleasant place (with food and coffee and places to sit and read) is Southland Books on E. Broadway in Maryville, one block off Washington St. Call 984-4847.

pedantic's picture

Due to the possibility of

Due to the possibility of copyright or intellectual property issues, you might want to reign in your bragging rights on not loosing money when selling CDs and keeping MP3 copies.

EricLykins's picture


Jon Gord's picture

To the haters from a hater

Look I do understand that McKays has a lot of horrible prices and pretty much rip you off on the price but let's be real here don't lie about it. To th individual with the VHS tapes. One what did you expect no-one has a VCR anymore but then you went on to lie and said that they brought them back with 2.95 on them. Close but no cigar my friend. By law they have to hold them for a certain amount of days before they put them on a shelve by law to see if the item has been stolen and in holding they do not price them until the item is ready for sale. Why price an item when the price may be more valuable or less valuable when it comes out of holding which I believe is 90 days. And finally who in their right mind would leave the neon blinking sign on the item "2.95" that said hey I really screwed you over thank you and come again when your ready to be screwed over again. IT'S not good for business. Like before I think they are a rip but truth is truth and a lie is a lie. The truth would have suffice but you lied. COME ON. And for the ones who say there is no certain truth I that true?

Factchecker's picture

Funny post

Thanks for the levity. It is truly needed.

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