Unmanned book stall a hit with buyers

China Daily2020-05-14

Customers visit Meng Tao’s book stall in Zhongshan Park in Jinan, Shandong province, on April 29. ZHAO RUIXUE/CHINA DAILY

Expecting a steady flow of customers, Meng Tao made sure his book stall in Zhongshan Park in Jinan, Shandong province, was well-stocked for the Labor Day holidays.

Meng, who took over the booth in 2010, has books covering a wide range of topics, including culture, science, history, art and fiction.

But he had no intention of dealing with the customers in person as he was headed to his hometown in Dezhou, Shandong, for the extended holiday.

Instead, he trusted in the honesty of customers, his idea of noncontact born out of the social distancing required to control the novel coronavirus outbreak.

A sign at the booth tells buyers “this is an unmanned booth” with each book costing five yuan (70 cents). Buyers can scan a QR code printed on the sign to pay.

“We need to stay at home to avoid cross-infection of the virus, so I came up with the idea to leave the book booth open and let buyers pay on their own,” Meng said.

“This way works well. During the past month, I haven’t lost any books. And the unsold books are in good condition,” he said, adding he thought that no one would steal the books as they are priced cheaply.

Meng left his booth unmanned for the first time after the virus started to spread in January

On Jan 26, he closed the booth as the park was shut due to health control measures introduced to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. He reopened the stall on April 1 and decided to leave it unattended.

Meng said the results have been good so far.

“Sometimes I can get 100 yuan income in one day,” he said, adding that he goes to the booth every two or three days to replenish the supply of books.

He expects his income to increase as the virus is brought under greater control and more people visit the park.

The market area at Zhongshan Park is popular with Jinan residents, particularly those looking for vintage items, with a rich variety of goods including old coins, stone statues and calligraphy works.

“Some college students came to my stall to look for old material,” Meng said.

He plans to leave his booth unmanned. “Now I have more time to do other things,” he said.