January 21, 2022

Miracle on Gower Street: customer pays Waterstones for 1974 books


Waterstones Gower Street: scene of the decades-old settlement. (Secretlondon at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Take it from me, book shop customers are often a curious lot.

There’s the entire-book-readers; the food leavers; spine breakers; letter writers; queue jumpers and, my personal favourite, the “take every book in the section off the shelves, browse them all but buy none”-ers. Now, there’s a new category to join the ranks: the late settler.

On Saturday, Waterstones in Gower Street, London— the biggest new and second-hand bookshop in Europe, no less—tweeted about receiving an “incredible” letter from a particularly shy anonymous customer, who had a charming confession to make:

Dear Waterstones team

In 1974, I forgot to pay for a few books, its [sic] been a long time and with inflation the cost could be around £100, so I sent you £120 to make up for the none [sic] payment.

Sorry to come over all sincere but that’s just bloody lovely, isn’t it.

The Waterstones team confirmed they planned to “pass on such a lovely gesture we will be using this payment to make a donation to @Booktrust … we hope that our anonymous customer of yesteryear approves and might even pop in again.”

So all’s well that ends well for Waterstones and their mysterious settler. Take note, entire-book-readers!



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.