Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bookseller on the edge

I try to avoid blogging about work, particularly my part-time job, but sometimes a girl suffers through a night that pushes her to the edge. For those of you who haven't gathered, I work part-time in a bookstore. I chose the gig because I, like so many of you, love books and thought it would make such an interesting second job (if you've got to have one). What I didn't take into account was all of you...the customer*. You have managed to turn what could have been an interesting, fun job into a twisted version of American Gladiator where I continually battle the dim-witted and inconsiderate. This is Custer's final stand, my last ditch effort to give all of you fellow 'booklovers' some advice on the dos and don'ts upon entering a bookstore.

Rules for not getting cut at a bookstore (in no particular order and in no way comprehensive)
  • Do not treat employees like idiots or pieces of shit. 60% of us work full time jobs, many in positions you would kill for.
  • Do not ask where the nonfiction section is. 80% of the store is nonfiction.
  • Knowing that a book is blue or that an author's first name is John is not helpful.
  • Realize you are fallible and probably have early onset Alzheimers. What you swear is the title is generally not the correct title.
  • I am not a librarian, and, while pretty damn handy, I will not do your research paper for you (unless exceptionally hot and nice).
  • Do not pay by check and spend 10 minutes writing it out. There is a line forming behind you. Get a check card and welcome yourself to the 21st century.
  • Do not spell words like 'the' and 'apple' for me. See the first bullet point.
  • Do not get angry when we don't stock books on topics like pacemakers from the 1930s. A bookstore is all about stocking things that should sell. You are one of 2 people on the planet who want that book.
  • Do not assume that because you saw it at our online store we have it in stock. An online store is a huge warehouse that can grab virtually any and everything available. A physical bookstore cannot stock the universe.
  • Do not kid yourself and think that we care if you threaten to shop at a competitor. Please. Honor them with your presence.
  • Do not "make yourself at home". You are in a place of business. It is not ok to sit down, take your shoes off and put your nasty toes in the chair. It is also not ok to pack a lunch, play cards on the floor, etc.
  • Do not destroy property you don't own. Your cheap ass probably won't buy the book, so don't (1) break the spine, (2) set a sweating drink on the cover, (3) use the book as your hard surface for writing, (4) allow your child to "play" with the books...you get the picture.
  • Do not pick up a book (or anything) and then set it down right beside where you got it or even slightly eskew. Why? Whhhhhyyyy? I don't have OCD, but this doesn't make any sense. Are you so dumb that you already forgot where you got it from? Is putting something in a straight pile so much harder than ensuring it's crooked?
  • Do not assume that bookstore and library are synonymous. It is not ok to take a stack of books to the cafe or a random corner and copy information from them. It becomes even less ok when you leave them in a huge pile for me to clean up (you inconsiderate fucker). Along a similar vane, we do not have a copy machine for you to use (we are a bookstore intent on making money...duh), nor do we appreciate you "borrowing" a book for 29 days and then returning it (that's special shout out to all computer sons of bitches).
  • Do not make the assumption that I am a babysitter or will in any way care for your children. I shouldn't have to be the one telling them not to climb on the shelves like monkeys or stopping them from running out the front door. It shouldn't be me telling them that books are not toys and threatening to lock them in jail if they continue to destroy public property. There are horrific people in this world, and it is your job to ensure your child's safety and that they are raised to be proper human beings. If you leave this to me, they will learn words like dumbass and mother fucker.
  • Do not interrupt me while I am helping another customer. You are no more special than they are, so be considerate and wait your turn.
  • Do not touch my computer, mouse or anything else. See bullet on personal property.
  • Do not take nudie magazines and erotic literature into the bathroom. If you can't afford to buy it and take it home, then jack off to your imagination.
  • Do not look at me incredulously if I do not know who wrote an obsure 18th century Russian text or the name of that song with the lyrics 'heart' and 'love' that's always on the radio. You have your interests; I have mine.
  • Do not take your bad mood, personal pettiness, etc. on me. I am not a rug and will look you in the eye and tell you exactly what I think of you. If you think threatening to have me fired has an impact because I expect to be treated like a human is going to do something, see the first bullet point again.
  • Do be considerate and patient. Also, words like please, thank you, and I'm sorry still go a long way.

*It isn't just the customer. The corporate bullshit of a "big box" store like Barnes & Noble will also take the wind out of anyone's sails. However, my day to day dealings with the average joe is so much more frustrating than my battles with the man.


  1. Thank you god! Now if only we could post this in the store...

  2. manohman I am in LOVE with this post!!

    I want to post this everywhere as a warning to all the stupid customers I face whenever I walk into my store.

    This shit should be on a T-Shirt!!!

  3. I am SO sick of people treating me like I'm stupid. I, of course, don't expect customers to know my background or that I DO know who wrote that obscure classical piece, but when I say, "It's Josh GROBAN" and they're like, "nooooo, I think it's Broban!" I want to hit them. That stupid CD was a bestseller for ever, of course I know it.

    The worst is if you work in the Cafe. People really treat your poorly over there.

    But this is a good list. I hope some people follow it!

  4. I'm considering having it make into flyers and stuck on every car window in the parking lot...or maybe one of those free bookmarks everyone seems to want ; )

  5. YES, DO IT! I will help put one on every car. It would be HILARIOUS!!!!

  6. Hallelujah! I worked for a really long time at Borders and it is unbelievable what people will do to you when you are in a service position. Same with waitressing too. I think everyone should be legally required to have at least one waitressing job and one customer service job just so that they know what it can be like. It wouldn't help everyone, but it might make a difference.

  7. Anonymous9:44 AM

    Hahahha!! Serena, you're awesome!

    I hate it when people ask me classical music questions, like, "Do you have a CD, that has that music by Mozart (pronounced Mozzart), the composer from the late 1800s? You probably don't know who I'm talking about."

    "Oh, yeah, we have several CDs with music by Mozart (pronounced Motsart), the Classical composer who lived from 1756-1792 in Austria."

    "Um, I'm pretty sure he lived in the late 1800s."

    "No, but here are the cds."

    I studied college level music for 6 years, bitch!

    -You know who :)

  8. I wish I could write phonetically to show how people mispronounce names! haha..."Dub-use-say", "batch", etc. I'm going to make buttons that say, "I know more than you."

  9. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Now I feel like an idiot because I noticed my typo. It's 1791, not 1792.


  10. This bitchy customer was asking me where the depression section was and i showed her the self improvement/psychology section and told her that books on depression were here. She looked and then came back and was like "is there a computer where I can look myself? i can't find any books in the section."
    I told her if she had part of the title or maybe an author, i could look it up specifically. She was like "can't you just do a search on the word depression?"
    I looked at her and told her that when I do a keyword search on such a broad topic it maxes out my system and it really wouldn't help her much.

    She looks at me and goes "well, that's depressing" and walks off.

    Thing is, just looking at the psychology section, several titles pop out with the word "depression" in it.

    Bitch doesn't have depression, she's got selective blindness.

    But somehow, this was all my fault. I caught her later on asking a different bookseller the same exact questions she asked me. She got the same freaking answer. Look out Borders, here she comes!

  11. Oh, and I'm sure it's even worse in the heat with everyone there trying to take cover in the AC and make that place a home. Ugh.

  12. I kick myself every day that I didn't wear a hidden mike during my 3.5 years. I could have written an entire television series AND spin offs based solely on working for the book chain...and facing premature disillusionment with the career world. After that many encounters with stupidity you just can't recall specific conversations anymore... but I know one of my favorites was this one:
    Said with frustration and a tone of voice bordering on complaint, "I see Gay & Lesbian (nodding to the gay studies section) but what about regular?"

    To which I could not respond, because I was simply at a loss.

  13. I think everyone got used to book stores being everywhere, that people now think of it more like the local library than a place of business.

  14. Stephanie4:10 PM

    Isn't that the best! My favorite was the man that came in a actually started yelling at me with things such "I can't believe we didn't carry new book by Ray Horowitz", and "how can you not have it, it's a bestseller". When I asked him what it was about he had no title, nothing. Being the one conservative working at the store I finally figure out he is talking about David Horowitz, so I ask him if it's Left Illusions by David Horowitz he said yes that's it! At least he apologized for yelling at me...

  15. OMG, I actually was going to call you after reading this. Too fucking funny! It's terrible that it's true. I've had to deal with almost every situation like the ones you've listed. Except that someone once was looking for 1700's dildo's and not 1930's pacemakers. J/K

    I seriously will help put these fliers on cars. Who's with me? I'm not a current employee, they can't write me up.

  16. It's true customers can be morons, but if the business model invites morons, then that's what you get:
    1. comfy chairs, like the kind you sit for long periods reading in.
    2. Tables (?!) with chairs around them, much like they have in research libraries for folks to sit around and look through books.
    3. Cafe often with little or no demarcation between where the "bookstore" ends and the "cafe" begins.
    4. A healthy supply of books for idiots, often named "Idiots guide to..." or "...for dummies."

  17. Cuff - You make a valid point, but even the inviting atmosphere, et al doesn't excuse most of that behavior.

  18. The chairs shouldn't be as inviting as they look...Unless you catch them soon after they've been replaced, you're likely to be sitting with someone's lice, earwax, and/or boogers.

  19. Well, I think I've only violated a couple of them. Most specifically the one where I can only offer up a vague recollection of the book and gaze pleadingly at my local bookseller employee in hopes that they've read my mind and know exactly what I'm looking for. :)

    Great post!

  20. Cuff--an inviting atmosphere doesn't excuse people taking nudie magazines and erotic literature into the bathroom. That's just gross.

  21. Thanks, that was LOL. I thought you'd mention the Seinfeld episode where George took the art book to keep him company in the bathroom, er, presumably for reasons other than the book-to-the-bathroom example you cite.

  22. this post was the anthem for anyone working retail.

    [i will also now be on my best behavior when going into b&n]