19 August 2014

Bizarre Customers: Face-Palm Installment

Ugh, it's been one of those weeks again.  I've got two coworkers out this week, which means I'm spending more time on the sales floor, less time at my desk.  This could be why there seems to be a proliferation of bizarre customer interactions this week.  Now you, too, can delight in my experiences because I will share them with you.  Sharing is caring. Isn't that what they say?

Man: Hi, I'm here to see Nancy about selling used books.
Me: Yes, she's in her office.  Do you need help bringing in your boxes?
Man: No, I just have the one book to sell her.
Me: Okay, I'll page her...[talks to Nancy]...She'll be here in a minute
Man:Oh.  Should I go get my book?
Me: You don't have it with you?
Man: No, it's in my car across the street.  Do you think I should go get it?
Me: No, that's okay.  Nancy specializes in buying invisible books.  No need for her to actually see it.

Lady on phone: Yes, I'm looking for recent published books for my book club to read.  They can't be longer than 250 pages.
Me: Do you have any preference for content, as long as the length of the book meets your requirements?
Lady: No. We just don't want to get bogged down in long books.  Anything is fine.  What would you recommend?
Me: Well, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is quite short.  It's even less than 200 pages, and it's pretty new.
Lady: That's a strange name for a book.  And it might be too short.
Me: Okay. Um, how about The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy? It's just over 200 pages and it's brand new in paperback.
Lady: That title sounds familiar.  I think we may have read that one already. What's it about?
Me: It's about several characters, separated by time and place, set over the course of several decades, and eventually the reader discovers what connects these characters who seem quite separate on the surface. It's only been out in paperback for a couple of weeks.
Lady: Well, that doesn't sound familiar, but I still think we read that one already.
Me: How about The Orphan Train? It's just over 250 pages, and it's been out about a year already, but I've heard back from various book club members that it was great.
Lady: What is that one about?
Me: It's based on the period of US history when orphans were removed from urban centers like Boston and New York and sent west on trains to be adopted by families.  Their stories were often full of hardship, as more often than not, they were put to hard work by the families.
Lady: That sounds too sad.
Me: Well, what kinds of books does your book club usually read?  I've got some lighter fare, but they're all around 300 pages.
Lady: [with great exasperation] No, I told you: no more than 250 pages.
Me: And nothing sad?
Lady: Are you making fun of me?
Me: No, ma'am.  But maybe if you came in to the store I could put together a stack of books for you to look at.
Lady: No, that's too much work.  I'll just see what Amazon recommends. Thank you for your help.

Lady: I'm looking for a chapter book for a four year old boy.
Me: Great, let's look over here.  Is he reading already? Or are you looking for something that someone else can read aloud to him?
Lady: Reading aloud--maybe a couple of chapters each night before bedtime.
Me: *Shows her various books from different series: Tashi, Ninja Meerkat, My Weird School, Magic Tree House, Heroes in Training, Lulu & the Brontosaurus, etc*
Lady: The pictures in these aren't very good.  I'm afraid he'll get bored.  Don't you have any picture books?
Me: Yes, we have a very nice selection of picture books.  Would you like to see those instead of the chapter books?  They won't have as much text in them, so you won't be able to stretch them out over the course of several nights.
Lady: No, I want to see your section of chapter picture books.
Me: Well...we have a number of graphic novels, but they're written for older kids, so there's chance the content won't be appropriate for a four year old.  Maybe Zita the Spacegirl? Or the Lunch Lady series?
Lady: No, I don't want him reading those comic books.  I don't like those.  What else do you have?
Me: [!!!]  Well, perhaps you'd prefer browsing our picture books, but as I said, they don't have chapters. [Shows her a variety of picture books]
Lady: These picture books don't have many words.
Me: [Thinking: you complete and utter idiot]. Here, try Skippyjon Jones. It's got more words.
Lady: Hmmm...too many words, I think.

Me: [Aside: like that scene from the movie Amadeus! "Too many notes."] Ummm...okay.Well, how about a wordless picture book? That way the four year old can "read" the story to you. [Shows her the beautiful picture book, Journey.]
Lady: Perfect!
Me: [Aside: so basically you wanted the complete opposite of what you said you wanted. Great. Thanks for wasting my time.]  Can I gift wrap that for you?

Lady: Hi, I'm looking for a book recommendation.  What should I read?
Me: Well, what are you in the mood for?  Escapist? Funny? Literary? Plot driven? Mystery? Romance?
Lady: I mostly like nineteenth century literature.  I love Dickens.
Me: Okay, let me go through our classics and see what you've not read yet.
Lady: Oh, I don't want a classic.  I want something new that reads like a classic.
Me: Great!  How about Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch?  "Dickensian" is often an adjective used to describe it.  Or maybe The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.  They're both novels that have won major literary prizes.
Lady: Hmmm...No, I don't think so.  Those are too long.
Me: Okay, then.  How about The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin? It's got a 19th century sensibility to it.  Or maybe something from Sarah Waters?  She's a terrific writer, and some of her books are set in the Victorian era.  She's a writer who, like Dickens, pays attention to class and social issues.
Lady: That doesn't sound very interesting.
Me: [In other words, someone who is reminiscent of your own favorite writer isn't very interesting?]  Yes, well, perhaps you could give me a bit more to go on.
Lady: I don't have any more time to browse. I'll just take this. *grabs a Dan Brown paperback off the rack.*
Me: WTF? Yes, clearly a Dan Brown thriller and Dickens have everything essential in common.
Stop wasting my time. Stop wasting your time, for that matter. If you *want* a thriller, then just say so.  Heavens, I'm not going to judge you for wanting to read a thriller.  Or a romance.  Or YA.  Or whatever. I like to read Dan Brown, too, but generally not when I'm in the mood for Dickens.  I like to read many things, like romance and YA and essays and memoirs and travel books and really, almost anything with a narrative. That's why I work in a bookstore -- I like to read and I'm good at my job, and I want *you* to be reading, and I want you to be happy with your choice. But for the love of all that is holy, just SAY what kind of book you're looking for.  Otherwise we'll both just get frustrated.


  1. Oy. You have to wonder what these same people would do if faced with their own ridiculousness.

  2. I feel your pain Emily. When I worked in retail I worked for a lighting store and trying to get information from customers about what they wanted/didn't want was like pulling teeth. And the amount of people who complain about a $20 price tag (for a light that should last you a decade!) while also whinging about it being made in China (when we sold stuff made in Aus they whinged that it was far too pricey) was astronomical. One of my last customers ever was a brilliant example of why I got the hell out of retail.

    Me: How can I help you today?
    Customer: The bulb in my oven blew.
    Me: Did you bring it in with you? Do you know what wattage and base type it is?
    Customer: It's a miele oven.
    Me: Okay, every brand uses a range of different bulbs depending on the oven type and there are half a dozen basic bulbs to choose from.
    Customer: Don't you have a book you can look through?
    Me: A book that lists every type of oven sold in Australia and the bulb it takes? No. No we do not.
    Customer: Well I think that's really poor customer service on your part.

    1. What?! Your company didn't self-publish a book of every type of oven available in Australia and every possible lighting situation and permutation? Well, Kayleigh, that is pretty shoddy. Obvs.

  3. Sometimes there really is no answer but to boot someone else out onto the shop floor, go into the office, shut the door, slump over the desk for ten minutes and eat a cookie. In my own highly professional bookseller opinion, anyway. :P

    1. If only I'd had that option. But I was desperately craving something by the end of my shift!

  4. Just seeing the title of this post got me excited. Man, who doesn't love dumb customer stories.

    Congrats on not stabbing anyone. I mean, I assume there was some mental stabbing, but that's fine.

    1. Lots of mental stabbing. And if I hadn't had a totally adorable little boy in later that day, asking for Peppa Pig books, I probably would have succumbed to actual stabbing.

  5. Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry for your pain, but these are pretty funny. I vote we start teaching Dan Brown alongside Dickens since they are essentially the same thing....

    1. Dan Brown and Charles Dickens are *totes* interchangeable. Because obviously.

      Actually, teaching Dan Brown to writers who want to learn how to pace their plots would probably be useful.

  6. I love your stories! I think you have the makings of a cute TV mini series - you can make your asides straight to camera!

    When I was a teenager working in a cake shop on Saturdays a customer asked me what was the legal definition of Black Forest Gateau? Ummm I think legally it's a cake.

  7. I love your stories! I think you have the makings of a cute TV mini series - you can make your asides straight to camera!

    When I was a teenager working in a cake shop on Saturdays a customer asked me what was the legal definition of Black Forest Gateau? Ummm I think legally it's a cake.

  8. I feel bad laughing (since you had to actually deal w these people!) but thank you for posting, it definitely brightened my day! :)

  9. Love these -- I remember that feeling of exasperation and incredulity from when I worked in a bookstore...


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