Living Wage Initiative FAQ

An Overview: 

Kepler’s Living Wage Initiative was started in 2012 as a core tenet of the Kepler’s 2020 Project to restructure and transition Kepler’s to a new sustainable model. At that time, the starting wage of an entry-level bookseller was $9 per hour. 

Today, the starting salary of an entry-level bookseller is $20 per hour, and we’re so proud to have made these strides. There is, however, more work to be done. The living wage for a single adult in San Mateo county is now $34.69 per hour.

More detailed information about our Living Wage Initiative is available below in our FAQs. We appreciate your support and welcome your ideas and suggestions on continuing to move toward paying living wages. 


FAQs:

What is the Living Wage Surcharge?

  • Kepler’s adds an optional surcharge of 3% to help pay living wages to our staff. We can waive at time of sale or refund this charge up to 30 days after your purchase. 
  • We launched our living wage surcharge in 2021 with broad support from our community. A survey of our customers indicates that 95.6% of our customers support a living wage surcharge.

Is this surcharge mandatory?

  • No! Please let us know if you would like to opt out at any time. 

How does Kepler’s use the money raised from the Living Wage Surcharge?

  • 100% of the funds from the Living Wage Surcharge are used to increase compensation and benefits for all staff members. Already these funds have helped us:
    • Increase our starting wage from $16 to $20 per hour.
    • Increase our average wage $24.14 to $29.13 per hour.
    • Start a 401k program available to all of our employees with a company match.

What’s the gap between Kepler’s staff current compensation and living wages?

  • A new bookseller earns a starting wage of $20 per hour. The living wage for a single adult in San Mateo county is $34.69 per hour. There are similar gaps in compensation of more experienced staff with higher responsibilities.

Why doesn’t Kepler’s just raise prices?

  • Publishers set the price and print it on the books. This makes it logistically challenging to change the prices on thousands of books. Adding a living wage surcharge is our solution for this problem. 

How much is the 3% charge on an average transaction?

  • The average surcharge on a $29 hardcover book is $0.87. 
  • The average surcharge on a $17 paperback book is $0.51. 
  • The average surcharge on a $6 greeting card is $0.18. 

This is great! How do I opt in to support living wages at Kepler’s?

  • Simply by shopping with us! You can also join our membership program, attend our events, make a donation to our nonprofit, and encourage your organization to purchase books from Kepler’s.

How do I opt out of this surcharge?

  • Just let us know at the time of purchase. A refund may also be requested from our staff up to 30 days after your purchase. 

I would like to request a refund, how do I do so?

  • A refund may be requested from our staff up to 30 days after your purchase. Please contact us at service@keplers.com or 650-324-4321.

How else can I help Kepler’s close the gap between current wages and living wages?

  • You can support Kepler’s by becoming a Literary Circle member, shopping regularly at Kepler’s, attending Kepler’s events, donating to our nonprofit organization, and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. 

Why shouldn’t I shop for my books on Amazon and pay lower prices?

  • The money you spend at Kepler’s helps us continue our 70-year track record of being the intellectual and cultural hub for our community and support the livelihood of our hardworking staff. 

Additional Living Wage Initiative Information: 

Kepler’s Living Wage Initiative was started in 2012 as a core initiative of the Kepler’s 2020 program to restructure and transition Kepler’s to a new sustainable model. At that time the starting wage of an entry-level bookseller was $9 per hour. 

Kepler’s new leadership team realized that our biggest asset is our staff. A community bookstore will never be able to match Amazon on technology, efficiency, speed, prices, or breadth of book selection. Everything community bookstores are known for – curation, customer service, events, knowledge of books, community focus – directly depends on the caliber and energy of the bookstore’s staff.

We built support in our community by helping people understand that if we wanted to have an A team, we had to at least pay B-level wages.It was unrealistic to pay D-level wage and expect A-level performance. Since then Kepler’s has implemented several high-impact programs to improve its financials and improve wages and benefits for our staff. These include:

  • Spinning off our award-winning events program into a new nonprofit called Kepler’s Literary Foundation that’s funded by ticket sales and donations
  • Strengthening our Literary Circle membership program
  • Building a healthy Business-to-Business book sales program
  • Implementing an optional living wage surcharge

As a result of these innovations, our team’s hard work, and our community’s generous support, we have been able to steadily improve wages. The starting salary of an entry-level bookseller today is $20 per hour. The living wage for a single adult in San Mateo county is $34.69 per hour. We have our work cut out for us. We appreciate your support and welcome your ideas and suggestions.