7 Things Bookstore Employees are Sick of Hearing
1. I don't know the author or the title of the book I'm looking for, but I will insist on describing the entire plot to you.
Ah, how helpful. Unless I both a) have read the book and b) remember the plot, I have no idea how to go about finding this book that you so desperately seek. If it's a current bestseller and I have read about the plot online or have heard my coworkers discussing it, perhaps I'll be able to help. But that's a long shot. It also does no good to tell me that the author was on Good Morning America yesterday or that your Aunt Betty read the book and really liked it. I don't watch Good Morning America, and I'm pleased your Aunt Better enjoyed the book, but that unfortunately does not help me. If you are so intent on finding the book, run a quick Google search before coming in. That will save us all a bunch of headache, and I'll have a better chance of helping you find the book you need.
Some days, this expression is very frequent
2. I don't remember the title or the author, but I remember the cover was blue.
Oh, okay. I'll just type that into Google, bring up a list of all the blue covered books ever published, and we'll just go through them one at a time, shall we? I know you said that you are in a rush and you have a doctor's appointment in half an hour, but we've got to find this book, because it is so important to you that you don't remember a single thing about it. It also does no good to describe the dimensions of the book or estimating the number of pages. When your daughter showed you the book she wanted for her birthday, perhaps it would have been beneficial to write it down.
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3. I'm looking for a present for my grandson. He's eleven.
Parents and grandparents seem to forget that members of their brood are really, truly people. It is not widely known that children are actual individuals with their own personalities, interests, and senses of humor. Just because I liked this particular book when I was eleven doesn't mean that your grandson will necessary like it. Instead of just telling me his age, tell me what he likes to do. Does he like to play sports? What's his favorite subject in school? Is he interested in video games? What does he want to be when he grows up? If you tell me these things, you and I will have a better chance of finding a book that he'll like.
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4. Do you have the fifth book in this obscure series in a genre that you don't read?
Ok, let's break this down. Do you know the author or the name of the fifth book? What genre is the series? Sometimes people will pick up a book and ask me how they can find out what's the nth installment in the series. Most books have a list in the first few pages detailing all the books in the series as well as other works penned by that particular author. Looking at that list and then looking at the books on the shelf in that area can often do a lot to answer your question and in a lot less time than it would take to flag down an employee.
This is my face when someone calls in during the busy hours and asks me to find a dozen books for them
5. When do you think you'll get this specific book in?
Perhaps this isn't as frustrating a question in, say, Barnes & Noble. But at a used bookstore, when we get most of our books from the public, there's really no way to know when we'll come across this one specific book that you want. A lady called in and asked if we had a book, but unfortunately, we didn't. She then asked me when's the next time she should call back and check, to which I had no concrete answer. I am not clairvoyant. The best I can do is give you an idea of how often we see the book in store, or I could see if I can order it and have it shipped to you. Then we can go from there.
Sometimes it helps to imagine lighting the customer on fire
6. Is this book appropriate for a fourteen-year-old?
This is another question that has no right answer, and it presents the assumption that all fourteen-year-olds are at the same maturity level. Instead of just telling me the age of your child, grandchild, or what have you, tell me how strict his or her upbringing is. What other books does he or she enjoy reading that have been deemed appropriate? What topics are off limits? As a kid, I was a precocious reader and was allowed to read pretty much whatever I wanted. My family also just didn't pay much attention to what I was reading or watching, and I turned out (mostly) okay. But I don't want to assume that this fourteen-year-old will have the same background that I did, and I certainly don't want to put you in a bad position. Give me more information so I can help you pick something that, in the correct context, is appropriate.
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- Retail Comic | A Comic by Norm Feuti
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7. You're running the cash register, and there's a long line, but could you take a moment to help me find these nineteen books?
No. I'm sorry, but no. I have been given a specific task, and that task is to accept money from people who are waiting in line to give it to me. I'd be happy to page up another employee, but please be cognizant that you are not the only customer in need of assistance right now. Also, nineteen books is a bit too much. You'd never go to the supermarket, hand your grocery list to an employee, and wait while they ran around and filled up your cart for you. So don't do it in a bookstore. Look around a bit and do your own research. The good thing about bookstores (and any store, really) is that the items are organized in a way that is easy to understand and navigate. Try looking at signs and labels. And keep in mind that a lot of sections in a bookstore are arranged alphabetically. If you still need help, we'd all be happy to assist you.
Some parting thoughts and a disclaimer
This was primarily written as just a bit of catharsis during the busy time that is holiday shopping, and it is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. We love helping customers find a book they are looking for, but keep in mind that we have to have the time to assist other customers, too. We might not have twenty minutes to spend trying to help you remember the name of a book that you forgot. During the holiday season, it's important to be considerate of others and to be patient with those who are trying to help you.