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Archive for March, 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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The Game Exchange

These days, there really aren’t many locally owned game stores. Ones that are worth going to, that is. GameStop and various other corporate entities have really put these mom and pop game stores (where everybody knows your name) out of business. We gamers know the sad reality of the situation. But as luck would have it, the intrepid folks over at The Game Exchange don’t seem to have gotten the memo; they’re still going strong.

The first thing you see upon entering The Game Exchange is the extensive DVD section.

The store’s most common customers are actually hunting for DVDs, the lively young fellow named Anthony informed me. Anthony Arnold has been working at The Game Exchange for a year, and remembers the place’s earlier location in the Mountaineer Mall. After Walmart left the mall, so did The Game Exchange, ending up in its current location near U.S. Cellular in Sabraton, which looks something like this on a map.

Hey, the map worked today! Moving on.

I feel very confident in saying that The Game Exchange boasts the largest variety of gaming items in the area, from last-gen classics to current marvels, from NES games to DS games and everything in between. Dragon Age 2 sits near a counter full of Game Boys and their respective games. The store isn’t hard up for the latest and greatest titles.

Yet it is the selection of PS2, Xbox and Gamecube games that most impressed me. There are some truly fantastic games in the bunch, and I only wish I had time to re-enjoy some of these newer classics.


As I was talking to Anthony, a regular customer named Dave took notice and offered his two cents.

“Here, they really care about the games and they talk to you. It’s fun,” he says, with a few games in hand.

The Game Exchange is currently owned by Ryan Richards, who bought it from his brother Blaine Richards. Both brothers routinely work in the store here in Morgantown too, eschewing any notion of a hands-off approach.

“We’re in more contact with our customers because we don’t have as many employees. We’re a closer-knit family,” Anthony said, with a glimmer of pride. “We can work with you to get you what you want.”

Anthony searches for a game at a customer's behest

But Anthony was not the only denizen of The Game Exchange available for questioning. As it happens, there is another business within the game store. Nick Ely, friend of Ryan and Blaine Richards, came to an agreement with the Richards brothers.

Nick Ely in his natural habitat

He now runs N3RD Computer Services, a tech support / computer repair service for PCs and Macs (he’s Apple certified!), which is housed in The Game Exchange’s Morgantown shop. That said, Nick’s choice of location was more than mere pragmatism; he is also an avid gamer, preferring classics, but willing to give his heart to any worthy RPG that crosses his desk (we talked about Dragon Age for a while).

And truly near to my heart, the store has its own blog, with promotional info as well as brief game reviews, although these tend to fall into the “Wall of Text” category. As does Nick, with his all-too-appropriately named blog n3rdvana. Give the man credit where it’s due, he can work a theme.

So there you have it, Morgantown game fans. An honest to goodness well run, well stocked and well staffed local game store. They’re open 10 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday. Now go forth and patronize the store, for it is a local business which does not compromise gaming expediency in any way shape or form.

As I was leaving, Nick caught my attention and asked if I solely focused on video gaming. I hadn’t really thought about it, I said, and then he smiled. What did he suggest I cover?

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Links
The Game Exchange on Facebook
The Game Exchange Official Site
Nick’s n3rdvana Blog
The Game Exchange Blog

My blog (couldn’t resist)

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By Alex Wiederspiel

West Virginia senior journalism student Jared Ramos is no stranger to the student recreation center. He can usually be found in downstairs weight rooms on the weekends. During the week, Jared frequents the treadmills, which are littered all throughout the three floors of West Virginia’s lavish workout facility. Jared’s a former high school football player and he was grateful for the chance to stay in shape.

“A lot of people go to college and gain weight. They call it the Freshman Fifteen, but I’ve seen people gain more than fifteen pounds in freshman year.”

When Jared was first starting here, he would try to lift every day. The hardest part for Jared (who is a television journalism student), was finding a way to fit it into his schedule.

“Classes, social life, and extra curricular activities have a way of pushing working out to the side. But it’s something that you need to do.”

Another obstacle for Jared, along with many people at West Virginia, is how crowded the student rec. center can become.

“During the week the place is packed between the hours of three and nine. I hate waiting to use equipment. That definitely turned me off of working out at times.”

But staying in shape is an important thing for Jared. Even if he has to go at odd hours of the night, early in the morning, or somewhere in between a class to avoid the high traffic times, he does it. He recognizes that he feels good when he’s in shape, and more importantly he feels good that he’s staying healthy. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of early deaths in this country and he’s not planning on joining that statistic.

WVU's Student Rec. Center

“It’s scary. There are so many different ways out there to pollute your body that even if you think you’re eating well you should still work out.”

The recreation center provides exactly what people who are trying to stay in shape are looking for. The four floor facility offers a diverse spread of activities. The ground floor has a rock climbing wall, ping-pong, basketball courts, a very large weight room, and treadmills for those interesting in some cardio. The first floor has even more basketball courts, badminton, and racquetball courts. The second floor has a second, smaller weight room, equipped with a plethora of different styles of treadmills. The highest floor is a track. Students can use any of these features as long as they have a valid student ID. Guests can get in for a ten dollar fee.

And to top it all off? A snack bar on the first floor that features delicious combinations of protein shakes, protein bars, pepperoni rolls, and other snacks. It’s a lifestyle that thousands of West Virginia students participate in to varying degrees. Jared says the hardest part is meeting people who have never even been to the student recreation center.

“You need to get off your lazy ass and go get yourself healthy.”

Perhaps not the most eloquent, but the mantra stands true. The recreation center is open until midnight Monday-Friday, until ten on Saturday, and until eight on Sunday. If you don’t have transportation, the WVU bus service runs seven days a week, and the PRT runs every day except for Sunday.

Jared may return to this blog at some time—perhaps during the pick-up football segment.

Alex Wiederspiel is a senior journalism student at West Virginia University and sports director at U92 Radio.

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Let’s face it—Morgantown and WVU aren’t terribly friendly to those newcomers who love literature, poetry, spoken word, or any number of public engagements dealing with our written and spoken language. In fact, you could walk aimlessly around the downtown area, and if you didn’t really know what you were looking for, the most you would end up with is an armful of sandwiches and ice cream and maybe a newspaper or two.

If you walk into Colson Hall, the self-proclaimed “English Building” at West Virginia University, you’re going to see two administrative assistants behind a wall of glass. And that’s only during working hours. You might find a rack or two of the Daily Athenaeum’s newspapers, the local student rag.

Morgantown isn’t a Starbucks kind of town, either, so sniffing out the coffee, while usually a good lead, isn’t necessarily easy. You’re also not going to find students with dreadlocks on the street corner with pamphlets, a la San Diego, Berkeley, or Seattle.

You just have to know where to look. I’m still looking, and I find new information every day. If you have something to add to this list, please email me at butifandthat@gmail.com. But meanwhile, here’s a starters guide to getting in the lit scene at Morgantown, which is actually quite nice – if you can find it.

1. Go to the Blue Moose. It doesn’t have to be for any particular event. Read the scraps of paper on the boards. Talk to people. Ask about the events. Go to an open mic. Don’t expect the servers/baristas to be friendly, though. The past couple of times I’ve gone they’ve been pretty rude and have no sense of time.

2. Stop by Colson Hall, the home to the Department of English. Yes, it’s not very friendly-seeming to outsiders. You walk in and there is a large, glass wall with a couple of administrative assistants working at their desks. They’re very nice and helpful, but it’s not the best setup in the world for anyone coming in for a look-see. They also stash the literary rags in the grad student mailbox area, which is off-limits to outsiders. Your best bet is to ask about events from one of the assistants. To the right of the door, as you walk in, is a reading room which hosts readings from time to time. The faculty are mostly located on the top two floors.

3. Go to the Wise Library. Great little events happen here often. The English department will sometimes host a guest author/poet in one of the reading rooms that house the Appalachia collections, on the third floor. Don’t use the elevators to the front of the building. You’ll never get there that way. You have to go to the back of the library and take the stairs or the elevator. As with all things, you should start at the local library. Seriously.

4. Have a cup of crappy coffee at Eliza’s Café. Located on the fourth floor of the Wise Library, most students don’t even know it exists until their third or fourth year of college. You can chat away in their café, but keep in mind you’ll have to pool together several tiny tables to get a group discussion going, as their setup only seats two at a time. It’s fun to sit in the sunning window on the southwest side.

5. Want to get into the thick of the news? Go to Martin Hall, home to WVU’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism. It, too, doesn’t seem all that welcoming at first. The faculty and administrative assistants are friendly, but they’re tucked away. You can usually find grad students on the first floor, and they’ll chat with you about what’s going on. There’s a board for events on the first floor in the front and back of the hall.

6. Sign up on the listserv for Morgantown Poetry. It’s in Yahoo Groups here.

7. There’s a Barnes & Noble across the street from Martin Hall. You can find some local publications there, and when it’s not raining or snowing (which is only about 40 days of the year) it’s really nice to sit outside.

8. Check out the WVU calendar of events.

9. Go to the Morgantown Public Library. As the son of a librarian, I must confess that this is one of the worst public libraries I’ve been to in a town of this size. The librarians have been pretty rude to me, except for one lady from India, who is so helpful she makes the rest of the crew look really bad. They stare at you if you have a question. They never smile. They don’t answer questions without looking at you like you’re an idiot. They walk so slow time stands still. I don’t mean to be mean, but I guess you should never be rude or condescending to a blogger. All of this being said, the library is still a hub to connect to the community – even if they charge you money for checking out videos like they’re a back-room Blockbuster movie store with mean, public employees. Also check out their calendar of events online.

10. The walkway in front of the Mountain Lair has some interesting activity when it’s nice outside. You can find people peddling roasted peanuts, challenging each other to do inane activities like hula hooping, or, if you’re inclined towards speeches and other fodder, sometimes you can see political candidates speaking on the steps. Across the street, in front of Martin Hall, you can also find people reading poetry, or dancing around the trees. It’s always good to find the guys with beards and sandals, as well as the girls with armpit hair and homemade blouses and dreads. They know where to take you.

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Every Friday I will be featuring 4-5 animals from the Monongalia County Canine Adoption Center that are available for immediate adoption. This weeks animals are below:

 

Tulsa

Tulsa is a 6 year old Female Beagle. She is very loving and needs a home where she can relax and enjoy life.

 

 

Hemi

Hemi is a 2 year old Male Rotweiller mix. He loves belly rubs and long walks.

 

 

Tiki

Tiki is a Female Dachshund mix. She is quiet and would love a lap to lay in.

 

 

Almondine

Almondine is a Male Aussie mix. He is happy, active, and loves to play.

 

If you’re interested in making any of these animals a part of your family, contact Dana Johnson–Facilities Manager at Monongalia County Canine Adoption Center–at (304) 291-7267. Or visit them on River Road, Morgantown, WV 26505.

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