Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘advice’

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.

Read Full Post »