11 November 2011

Bookstore Rants

Not my image. Found at JustforScientists.com

Okay, okay, I know that everybody who has ever worked in retail can lay claim to outrageous/stupid/offensive customer stories and that booksellers have no corner on this market, but this morning I wanted to share with you a few recent encounters I've had that might make you smile.

Scenario I

Woman: I'm looking for a bestseller I read about?  [NB: She used upspeak, indicated by the question marks I'm using for her]
Me: Do you know the title or author?
Woman: No, I can't remember?
Me: That's okay.  Just tell me what it's about and I'll bet I can pinpoint it. 
Woman: Umm, it was about these children and then they grew up?
Me (in my head): So, that covers roughly 75% of all of fiction then. Are you an idiot?
Me (out loud): Hmmm, can you be a bit more specific than that?
Woman: I think they were boys?
Me (in my head): Yup, definitely an idiot!
Me: (out loud): Do you remember where or when you heard about this book?
Woman: I think it was in the newspaper a few years ago. 
Me: Can you give me anything else to go on? 
Woman: No, not really
Me: Was it The Kite Runner? It's about two boys in Afghanistan who then grew up. But in different places and under vastly different scenarios. 
Woman: Maybe.  That doesn't sound very good.
Me (pulling hair out): Why don't I just make a few suggestions for you, then?

Scenario II

Woman: I'm looking for that book about cancer.
Me: Could it be The Emperor of All Maladies, the book about cancer that just won the Pulitzer Prize?
Woman: No, I don't think so.  It's old.
Me: Is it a health book or informational books that tells you about cancer and how to live with it?  Is it a novel?  A memoir? 
Woman: I don't know if it's a novel or memoir
Me: Can you tell me a bit more about it? 
Woman: This woman got diagnosed with cancer and then her friends were sad. 
Me (in my head): So basically every book about cancer, ever written?  
Me (out loud): Anything else you can tell me?  That's still pretty broad
Woman: No, I don't remember anything else
Me: How 'bout I just make some great book suggestions for you, then?

Scenario III

Woman walks into the shop.  She's standing between a large stuffed giraffe with a yellow hat (as in The Man with the Yellow Hat) and a shelf of picture books and toys: Do you have a children's department? 
Me: Why, yes.  Yes we do!
Woman: Where is it? 
Me: Ummm, you're standing right in the middle of it.  

For reference, she was standing between here: 
4' tall giraffe with Yellow Hat (photo from store's website)
And here:

Our hard-to-spot children's department (photo from store's website)

It's too long to include here again, but I happen to have a post for Scenario IV that involved a woman looking for Shakespeare who apparently doesn't know her ABCs.  You can read it here if you'd like.


  1. Very good!

    I once did a holiday job for the local bus company. I took a call one day from a lady who asked:

    "Can you tell me when the next bus is please?"

    Me: "Can you tell me where you are, please?"

    Lady: "In my front room."

  2. Ah the fun of retail! You're nicer than me. There's a good chance I would have told the lady in the children's section that we didn't carry kids books

  3. Those're all excellent (esp. the Shakespeare one) and make me feel very superior and on my high horse about book knowledge.

    Sorry you have to deal with dumbness. :/ At least you didn't start yelling at them? That's a good thing. *Maybe*. Because maybe it'd make them reconsider their life choices if that happened. Excuse me while I go ponder.

  4. Librarians play the "what book am I thinking of?" guessing game all the time too! I've had people ask me for a certain book by saying "It's the blue one!" Okay...

  5. Ha! "Upspeak" is a new term for me: perfect.
    A friend of mine used to collect all the malapropisms uttered by his high school students; I'm guessing they could give your customers a run for their money. Me? I've abandoned the practice - at least for the moment - lest I turn cynical, which would in turn render me near-hobbled as a teacher...

  6. This was great!
    I think anytime one works a job that involves other people in any way it is possible to run into some real crazies.
    Personally, working at a hotel has really given me some odd stories to share.

  7. "Upspeak" is an actual linguistics term (law, I did love my one linguistics class. learned more there than in the rest of my grad school classes put together). It does seem to be sweeping the nation, at least amongst young people, but I was surprised to hear it in this customer who was clearly older than I am, and I'm pushing 40.

  8. Brilliant customers you've got! It must make your day. ;-)

    I checked the Shakespeare story and it's very good too!

  9. Haha! I was a bookseller for a couple of years (and summers/Christmas seasons for years). My best story cannot be shared publicly, but it involves a man carrying a yellow rose looking for the erotica section. We kept a blank book in the break room for our best stories ;)

  10. bibliophiliac, that sounds like some kind of great story!

  11. People tell me my blog is funny. I shall not tell them of yours. You have me beat.

  12. Hilarious! I am a primary school librarian, so all my customers are about five years old. Imagine some of the conversations we have when my students are trying to find a book they want to read!

  13. LOL! It's hilarious how vague people can be sometimes.

  14. This was hilarious. I can imagine how tough it must be to hold back what you really want to say to those people...LOL


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