14 December 2010

'Tis the Season: That's more like it

The season is heating up - customers, customers everywhere and nary a place to walk without running into/over someone.  All the phone lines are blinking angrily and everyone has "Just one question" which is best interperted as 100 questions and 10 minutes of time.

Elderly lady on the telephone: "I'm looking for Packing for Mars by Mark Twain."
Me: "Packing for Mars is by Mary Roach - it's a science book about space travel."
Elderly lady on the telephone: "Are you sure it's not by Mark Twain?"
Me [grrrrrr....]: "Yes, I'm sure.  In fact, I'm looking right at it."
Elderly lady on the telephone: "Oh....does Mark Twain have a new book about Mars?"
Me: "Uh, no.  Mark Twain's autobiography was recently published according to the tenets of his will."
Elderly lady on the telephone: "Oh...does he talk about Mars in that book?"
Me [holy crap]: "I'm not sure, I'm not that far into it but this is Mark Twain and I suppose he can talk about whatever he wants in his own autobiography." [pause] "Are you perhaps thinking about A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court?  That one is about a man who travels back in time to Camelot."
Elderly lady on the telephone: "Is that one new?"

Graduate student-aged man: "I'm looking for a book but I don't know much about it so this could be hard.:
Me: "Shoot."
Graduate student-aged man: "The title is The Immortal Life of something something something..."
Me (and the two other booksellers at the desk with me, in unison):  "Henrietta Lacks"
So I fetched the book off the table and he asked: "So what is a hard question?"
Me: "A hard question is 'Do you have this book I saw six months ago? It's blue.' And it turns out the book they want is actually yellow and we haven't had a copy in the store in three years."
Graduate student-aged man: "People really ask you things like that??"
Me: "Yep.  All the time."
*fer shiz*

On Friday I was working with a customer in a wheelchair - it was so crowded it was easier for me to run around and bring everything to her than try and navigate all the people since no one seemed terribly interested in making way for her.  On my way back, I was stopped by a middle-aged man:
Him: "Hey, I have a question."
Me: "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm with a customer right now. [Gestures toward my customer] If you'll wait at the customer service desk a bookseller will be with you shortly." [The customer service desk is maybe 15 feet away across the aisle]
Him: "But it won't take long - that other person can wait."
Me: "I'm sorry but I don't think it would be polite of me to assume that." [And walked the last few feet to my customer who made a very loud fuss about how nice it was to have booksellers who give such wonderful personal service...the man had the good sense to look embarassed before slinking off to the customer service desk]

I was accosted by a teenage couple who proceeded to pick each others' teeth with their fingernails while I looked up a book for them.  I am not kidding.  I stared at them until they stopped then I handed them the bottle of hand sanitizer to use.  The epidemiologist in me was winning that one no matter what.

Last night, the manager did a final sweep of the store and then locked the doors at close - she announced on the PA that the doors were locked and what closing tasks each person was doing.  Turns out we almost locked a customer into our store.  I only found her because she scared the hell out of me - she just popped out of the gift section while I was gathering up some new titles for display and asked if I had a magnetic dart board. [We don't]  I pointed out that it was well after closing and that I'd be happy to see about ordering a magnetic dart board...I was gesturing toward the front doors and trying to call the manager at the same time.  We finally got the customer checked out but none of us could figure out how we missed her in the first place.  None of us had seen her come in and she didn't make a peep when the "Doors are locked" announcement was made - she was so "meh" about it.  I'm pretty sure I would squawk loudly were I locked in a store as a customer.

A few choice bon mots:
  • "I'm looking for a book in a series.  I don't know the name, or the author, or what it's about...where do you keep your series?" [sigh]
  • "Do you have something that would make my parents happy?" [Er....]
  • "Do you have books about that woman who says Brett Favre sent her naked pictures?" [said with waaay too much enthusiasm]
  • "You close at midnight, right?" [Hellz no]
  • "Can I print my paper on your computer?" [Guess who...it's finals week here]
  • "There's something unidentifiable on a shelf." [We couldn't determine if it was mud or a chewed wad of tobacco or poop or what....it was about eye-level on a shelf and none of us were willing to examine it closely.]


  1. Came over from Bookfan (and her scrumptious presents!!!) Love this post.

  2. These just kill me. I can’t believe you didn’t physical assault more of these customers. I would have had a hard time not slapping them.

  3. @Avid Reader - I do a lot of dep breating...some days. Other days we just happen to have a cardboard crusher for recycling the shipping cartons...so we go in receiving and thow boxes around/into the crusher.

  4. I'm just impressed you managed to figure out that the book was really yellow, meaning you... identified it. I tip my hat.

    I remember as a kid I wanted to work in a bookstore, but it seems somewhat exhausting...

  5. @Biblibio - that one was more of a generalization, but often...the book isn't close to the color/location the customer remembers so we get to play 20 questions! Sometimes we figure it out, sometimes the customer is diappointed. Working at the bookstore is tiring but sometimes it's really rewarding (those stories aren't nearly as funny, tho).