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Archive for March 17th, 2011

HELL ON EARTH: A Harry Potter book release party

I’m sure most of you have worked in the service industry. It sucks. And usually we can thank the random, oddball customer for making those jobs suck. I’ve waited tables, I’ve sold cell phone plans over the phone, I’ve bartended, I’ve been a cook. But the best/worst customer service job I’ve ever had has been as a bookseller. I’ve heard many people tell me, “Man, I should quit my job waiting tables so I can go sell books,” and I always have to offer rebuttals. For instance, you may have to wait on a picky customer at a restaurant. But that person will usually be gone within an hour. A bookstore patron will never leave. Restaurant patrons usually come in twos or fours. Bookstore patrons are loners; solitary wolves that are usually alone for a reason. Restaurant patrons can secretly insult you by leaving you a bad tip. Bookstore patrons have to resort to much, much worse things to get “even.”

Although I haven’t been a bookseller in Morgantown, I’d have to wager that the industry is the same
everywhere. My friend, Briana, worked at a library, and she regaled me with tales of strange and unusual people. Just after she told me some stories, I read in the news about a man that was caught bathing in the library bathroom, and was arrested for possessing a few pounds of stolen cheese. My mother was a librarian for many years, and she never had a dull day. People would bring their kids to the library and drop them off … for eight hours at a time. “It’s their own government-funded daycare,” she said.

It seems that where books are shelved, strangeness abides.

So what does this have to do with Morgantown? I called and visited with and solicited the opinions of several booksellers and baristas around the area, in addition to some friends and colleagues. I gave them the chance to share some of their stories and tips about customer etiquette. Going against my journalism roots, I have agreed to keep most folks anonymous, and you can understand why. I have comments from employees at two Barnes & Nobles (University Centre and WVU), the Book Exchange, the Wise Library, and Books-a-Million. If you’re on Twitter, let me suggest following @GrumpyBooksellr—you won’t be disappointed. I’ve inserted some of his/her comments in with the rest.

Without further ado, here’s a tip sheet for customers. Warning: it’s not rated.

—I don’t give a shit if you can find the book online cheaper than you can find it here. You want it now, you buy it now. No, no we aren’t going to give you a discount.

—No, we aren’t Borders, and no, we aren’t going out of business. Yet. (Customers have been coming in asking for the ridiculous sales due to some Borders stores closing after filing for bankruptcy)

—Phone: Do you sell Amazon Gift Cards? Me: What? No. Phone: My wife has a Kindle & that would be nice. Me: I’m a bookstore, not Amazon. (GrumpyBooksellr)

—If you’re going to order a half-caf-soy-ice-frappa-crappa-macchiato-with-caramel-sauce-and-whipped-cream you best be tippin’.

—Oh, I love it when people think the café is their freaking living room. A little guy came in here the other day and spent my entire shift here. He did homework, he talked on the phone, he read about 20 magazines, he played on the Internet, he even brought some of his own food in his giant backpack. He left his mess for me to clean up, and he had folded the magazines over to read them. I think he justified this because he bought a small coffee when he first arrived. No tip.

—Dear Self-Published Author: It’s not my fault you lose money on every sale. No is going to buy your whiny self-discovery schlock for $24. (GrumpyBooksellr)

—Guys, please pee in the stand-up urinal. Flush. Wash your hands. DON’T TAKE BOOKS IN THERE WITH YOU. Gross.

—Well, it’s always frustrating when someone asks for a book they just heard about on the news and they don’t know who wrote it, what it’s called, what it’s really about. My only clue is that if it’s in the news it’s probably a new release.

—Kids should not be allowed to play “Marco Polo” in the stacks.

—It’s not a library. People can talk to each other. If you don’t like it, um, go to a library. But people probably talk there to. Maybe you should just go home.

—Please don’t put the Bibles in the gay studies section. Please don’t put the Bibles in Fiction. Please don’t put Glenn Beck in gay studies. Please don’t put Sarah Palin in Fiction. Although it’s really funny where Palin turns up sometimes.

—Me: Sure, I’ll tie up ~$300 ordering art books you may not want when you see them. No Problem. We are all about customer service.

—It’s a sex book and you’re buying it. Get over it. (On the various men that get really nervous when buying erotica or ‘how-to’ manuals)

—Dude, I really want to puke when the high schoolers come in here and make out and fondle each other. See that chair? It’s for one person, not for two people to dry-hump each other.

—Me: No, Please, kick the mud off your shoes *after* [you] get to our carpeted area. (GrumpyBooksellr)

—This isn’t the movies. There’s no need to bring your food in with you while you browse.
—I have waited tables too, and there’s something that restaurants and bookstores have in common that no one will tell you: leave your damn kids at home. We hate them. Some of them. Well, most of them. No, we hate them.

—Me: I know you’re enjoying your time here but, please, don’t whistle along with your iTunes while you read. Not everyone knows the songs. (GrumpyBooksellr)

—Hey, we love it when people think we’re the world’s greatest place to take a dump. I had a customer actually tell me we had the best public bathrooms. TMI, creeper. Please don’t use my name [when you write this]. He’ll know exactly who I am.

—For some reason a lot of Asian kids ¬ students ¬ try to order their textbooks through us. It’s really hard to explain to them that it’s best if they order textbooks online or at a textbook store. Welcome to America, home of nonsensical businesses. So if I had to give advice to customers, I’d tell them to get their textbooks elsewhere.

—Me: Don’t drag me around asking all sorts of questions about every book, then telling me you can get it cheaper somewhere else & leave. (GrumpyBooksellr)

I will take some time to regale you with my own bookstore stories in a future post. They’re awesome. Meanwhile, for those of you who stay tuned, I’m working on a Wise Library book scavenger hunt to win free hardcover and paperback bestsellers. Keep an eye out for the clues to come.

Sarah Geiger and two little Potter minions at the coloring station. This is why booksellers do what they do. Sorta.

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Saving just one dog won’t change the world, but it surely will change the world for that one dog.” – Richard C. Call

This week I thought I’d do a piece on adopting animals. According to the ASPCA, approximately 5-7 million animals enter shelters across America each year; and 3-4 million of them are euthanized—60% of dogs and 70% of cats. Most people have preconceived notions about shelters and shelter animals, which is why they choose not to adopt. The biggest misconception is that all dogs in shelters are just muts and they want a specific breed or purebred animal. But according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) 25% of dogs who enter local shelters are purebred.

So you’re thinking about getting a pet and you want to adopt, now what? Here are some tips for those looking to adopt an animal:

  • BEFORE YOU ADOPT, MAKE SURE YOU’RE FINANCIALLY STABLE. Dana Johnson from the Mon. County Adoption Center says some animal costs can be unexpected, “You know, you can go for a year without having to put any major money into an animal, but if something unforeseen or if an accident happens or a sickness comes along, you’re looking at some extra money.” This is a biggie before adopting an animal or just getting an animal in general, to make sure you’re financially ready to be a pet owner, because it is an expense. They need food, treats, toys, a bed, food/water bowls, a collar, tags, a leash, vaccinations, micro-chipping, etc.—it adds up…fast. And that’s only the beginning of it.
  • MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY IS READY FOR THE CHANGES A NEW PET WILL BRING. A furry friend brings love and adventure, but he also brings new household chores. Some dogs—especially puppies—may need a lot of attention and training, while cats thrive on a daily schedule of feeding, grooming and play. A great way to manage this is to create a schedule to share the responsibility for caring for your new pet. This will ensure that no one forgets to walk the dog or feed the cat. It will also help foster relationships between your new furry friend and everyone in the house.
  • MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE A BREED THAT WILL WORK WITH YOUR LIFESTYLE. Dana says that your lifestyle and your home have a lot to do with the breed that you plan on getting. It’s not rocket science folks; if you live in a closet-sized apartment don’t get a large, active breed that’s going to need room, like a border collie or Australian shepherd. Dana says, “It would be unfair to them, and it would be unfair to you. Because they would be wild, for lack of a better word, and it would make your life really hard if you had a dog that you couldn’t take out and exercise frequently.”
  • MAKE SURE YOU RESEARCH WHICH BREED MATCHES YOUR LIFESTYLE. Find out which breeds need certain living conditions, etc. because every breed is different. Some breeds are naturally more aggressive or high-strung than others. Breeds such as Labrador and golden retrievers are known to be more even-tempered and well-behaved around children.
  • MAKE SURE YOU HAVE TIME FOR AN ANIMAL. Dana suggests, that if you don’t have a lot of time, a cat may be better suited for you because they’re very self sufficient. If you work 12 hours a day, don’t get a small puppy that’s going to need lots of love and attention.

I would say, these are the major tips to look into when you’re thinking about adopting an animal. But if you’re still weary about weary about whether a certain breed is right for you, check out the ASPCA website.

All shelters are different, some require no background checks and will let you walk away with an animal that day; while others practically make you sign away the rights to your first-born child before they let you leave with an animal. The Mon. County Canine Adoption Center is among the first category. There is an $85 fee for adopting, this includes the spay/neuter and the animals first 5 vaccines; after that you’re free to walk out with the animal. Shelters that actually do perform background checks and reference checks may cost more to adopt because of the added fees.

—My family adopted our dog from our local shelter and we had to show proof of residency from like the last 7 years, receipts for proof that we paid our bills, like all this random and crazy stuff just to take this little dog home. It seemed excessive at the time, but in retrospect, it’s only for the benefit of the animal so the shelter can make sure it’s not going home with someone who’s going to deliberately harm them.—

Adoption is a great way to go. There are millions of loving animals in shelters across America waiting for someone to love them. And if this post hasn’t persuaded you into adopting, then just watch this video, I’m sure it will.

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Did you ever think that you could make a difference in the world just by drinking a cup of coffee?  Well you can at So.Zo.  So.Zo is a coffee shop on High street closer to campus.  In fact, you can find it right after Casa.  The coffee shop is owned by Chestnut Ridge Church, which first began on campus.  The church soon blossomed and thus So.Zo was opened as way to stay in root with the Church’s basis.

The purpose of So.Zo is so that students can have a place to go where they feel comfortable, partake in unorganized Bible studies, do homework, check out some of Morgantown’s local artists, and drink cheap coffee (only $1.25).

“One really cool thing that I have noticed is that kids feel comfortable enough to come here with their friends and read the Bible on their own time,” said one of the volunteers at So.Zo who declined to give his name.

I have been hanging out at So.Zo myself since I was a freshman and somehow stumbled across it (probably literally, but we won’t go there). I have always felt comfortable going there.  I love the enormous coffee mugs they give you.  One of my favorite things to do in between classes is to stop in and wrap both of my hands around a great big cup of hot tea and curl up on the couch with a good book….or you know, homework. 

One of my favorite features about So.Zo is that the business is a non-profit organization that serves to promote social justice. The coffee shop welcomes people to engage in making the world a better place. 

First of all, you are contributing just by drinking a cup of coffee at So.Zo.  All of their coffee is organically grown and the to-go cups are eco-friendly.  So.Zo also recycles, and just last year the coffee shop had hundreds of pounds of recycling. 

Secondly, So.Zo serves as a showcase for non-profit organizations.  For example, the coffee shop promotes “Dry Tears,” which is a fundraiser to increase awareness of the world’s problem with dirty water.  Did you know that 3,900 children die every day due to dirty water, according to the United Nations Human Development Report?  Every 15 seconds someone dies from a water-related disease.  That equals out to 5,000,000 million people a year dying from a water-related disease, and HALF of the world’s hospital patients.  Compare this.  According to the U.S Geological survey, the average American family uses 100-176 gallons of water a day, while the Average African family uses 5.  Doesn’t this make you want to do something?!  Go to So.Zo and buy a “Dry Tears” bracelet for $2.  All profits go towards projects gaining access to clean water.

Additionally, coming up on April 10th is the 4th annual Amizade water walk for woments rights. All you have to do is carry a bucket of water on a 1.5 (or 2, I have seen both numbers on a few different flyers) mile route walk beginning behind the Mountain Lair.  Walk in harmony with the 1.1 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe water.  For more information click here.

            This is why I love So.Zo.  I walked in and interviewed one of the volunteers, and I walked out signed up to be a volunteer.  So.Zo is a Greek word meaning “to save.”  Anyone can make a difference. It’s just a matter of wanting to, and knowing where and how to do it.  The greatest part about So.Zo in my opinion is that you feel like you are a part of an important kind of community when you walk in.  You feel welcome, and it’s a pretty common notion that others around you at least all have the same passion to pursue making the world a better place.

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