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April 9, 2012

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Sleepers in bedtime stories at 24-hour bookstore

A BOOKSTORE that decided to open 24 hours in an effort to boost takings has become a popular night shelter for homeless people in Shanghai.

Following refurbishment last month, the Popular Bookmall extended the opening hours of its downtown Fuzhou Road branch.

But staff found that being open around the clock made the store irresistible to many homeless people seeking a comfortable place to spend the night.

Arriving from 9pm and staying until next morning, homeless people try to get some sleep leaning against bookshelves, in chairs or lying on the floor.

Customers have complained that it is difficult to move around the store with so many people sleeping and that snoring disturbed their browsing.

One customer, surnamed Cui, said she was surprised to find lots of people asleep on the floor when she went to the store at 7am one day.

Negotiating these prone figures to reach the books proved difficult, said Cui, so she left.

Some book lovers say they fear the Popular Bookmall will meet the same fate as the Scholar Bookstore in Pudong.

In 2005, after 18 months, it closed its all-night store that had been inundated by homeless people seeking shelter.

"I must visit the bookstore before it cancels its night operations," said a local white collar worker Emily Zhu.

Popular Bookmall management said it is hard for staff to turn out the sleepers as they are also readers.

When confronted, some insist that they are merely taking a nap before reading.

Wu Jian, director of the branch, said staff try to dissuade people from sleeping early on in the night, so as not to disturb customers.

But Wu said after 3am staff leave the homeless people to get some rest.

Wu said the store is trying to work out an arrangement so business does not suffer.

Restaurants and Internet cafes open 24 hours are other popular haunts of homeless people in the city.


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