A Note to Customers From You Friendly Neighborhood Bookstore Clerk: Please Stop Being Crazy

For the last two years, I have worked at a cozy little locally owned Christian bookstore. It has been a mostly wonderful place to work: I’m great friends with my boss and my co-workers, and I enjoy being around books all day long. I get a nice little discount, and there is a Starbucks just two stores down. In fact, my job would be perfect if it weren’t for the customers. Seriously, people are crazy. I shouldn’t be shocked anymore by the insanity, but it still unsettles me on occasion when someone is upset that we don’t sell stamps and shoelaces, or can’t understand why I won’t watch their child while they run across the street to Taco Bell. I’ve kept it in for two years, but now, as I approach my last days here, I feel the need to inject some honesty.  So here are…

11 Things Every Bookstore Customer Should Remember:

    1. Yes, I work in a book store. No, I haven’t read every book or watched every movie or listened to every CD we sell. If you hum a few bars of a song for me I will probably still have no clue what you’re looking for, but I may be rendered deaf.
    2. Furthermore, please do not come in completely unprepared and then get upset when I can’t read your mind. Telling me the cover is blue with a woman on it, and the author’s name starts with an S, and it is a love story narrows your selection down to exactly 12,396,424,980 books. I am not God, and therefore cannot possibly know which of those blue covers is the one you are looking for. The internet might, however. Just a thought.
    3. Please don’t eat while you’re perusing books. Would you want to buy a books with the crumbs of someone elses lunch in it? I know I wouldn’t.
    4. I also know that I’m only a bookstore clerk and not a rocket scientist, but please don’t treat me like I’m dumb. Most people work in bookstores because they- *gasp*- like books! I know how to spell Hemingway, and I know what an anthology is. Unless I ask, you don’t need to spell it for me while I search our stock.
    5. Also, I wasn’t born yesterday, and, as long as I’m wearing my glasses, I’m not blind. I know when a book has been read, and no, I can’t return it for you, even if you only read the first chapter. I can’t return it, and Barnes and Noble wouldn’t either, or any other bookstore in town for that matter. Target doesn’t return books under any circumstances except a publishers error, like missing chapters. It’s not me being mean, it’s just the way the book industry works. I know this makes you hate me, but it just can’t be helped.
    6. We have probably never met before, so please don’t call me “honey,” or “sweetie,” or “dear.”  I am not a gelatinous substance loved by bears, I was not made in a confectionary, and I am not dearly beloved to you in any way. If my dad or my husband would call me it, you should not. Thanks. Also, if you call me “little girl,” I reserve the right to pretend you do not exist. Seriously, try it out. I will pretend you are invisible. What? Who’s that talking? Hello! Is someone there? Marissa, I think our store is haunted!
    7. Complimentary gift wrapping is just that- complimentary. If you think the paper is ugly, then wrap it yourself. If you don’t trust me to do it correctly, do it yourself. It’s not that hard. I’ll even give you some paper and ribbon, because, quite frankly, your hovering makes me nervous.
    8. When I tell you that everything we have is on the floor, I mean it. Your kitchen pantry is probably bigger than our back room, and, as long as you have not refered to me as “little girl,” I have no reason to lie to you.
    9. No, we do not sell porn. Thank you for asking, now please leave without touching anything.
    10. I am not a babysitter, so please keep tabs on your child. This is for their own safety. They could walk out of our store unnoticed, or climb a fragile shelf and fall, so easily. They don’t need to be glued to your side, I understand that, but your child is precious, and it makes me sad when you seem to care more about finding the perfect journal than their safety. Also, we totally get that sometimes kids are loud, but when your little angle is screaming like a banshee and tearing through the isles at top speed, no one but you thinks it’s cute. We find it obnoxious, not because we are horrible people who hate kids, but because it is.
    11. Yes, all our employees, except the Boss Man, are female. Thank you for noticing. If you think one of our workers is attractive, please look at their left ring finger. If there is something on it, do not proceed to act like you have a chance at a date. Also, do not call them  “thick,” or a “shawty,” as though those psuedo-compliments will surely convince them to leave their stable relationship and throw themselves into your arms with abandon. When your compliments don’t work, please do not start spouting off your attributes; we are all very impressed that you know Nicholas Cage and can bench press twice your weight, but we are a: working, and b: not interested and/or not single. Also, do not call and ask when your intended paramour will be working and if they will be alone. That’s just pure creepiness.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound bitter or mean. I’ve actually become true friends with many of my regular customers, and 75% of people are nice, and gracious, and normal. But sometimes that last 25%  just needs to be smacked in the face with a little truth. In love, of course. Smacked in the face with truth in love.

(PS: I totally stole this idea from my friend Molly, who is way funnier than I am.)


Filed under Books, Odds and Ends

17 responses to “A Note to Customers From You Friendly Neighborhood Bookstore Clerk: Please Stop Being Crazy

  1. I loved this post, though I really want to work in a bookstore sometime in the near future so it makes me a little nervous.

    One thing – you said you have 75% great customers and 15% that need to be smacked in the face…who makes up that least 10%? 😮

    I love when people working at bookstores can offer helpful suggestions, but of course I don’t expect them to know of every book published. I try to assume they are intelligent until proven otherwise, but I had one experience at Barnes & Noble where the bookseller couldn’t find the book I was looking for. They were searching on the computer based off my rough description but couldn’t find anything. Eventually we realized it was because they were spelling “Holocaust” wrong. *facepalm*

    I used to work in retail and would occasionally get people calling me “honey” or something similar. I hated it, so I feel your pain. Unless you’re a really sweet old lady or someone I know very well it comes across as condescending.

    I’m surprised someone has actually asked you to watch their child before. Bookstores =/= daycare!

    And the person looking for porn… oh boy. I never would have thought about that possibility so probably would have turned bright red and been at a loss for how to respond.

    Now I feel a little more informed about what it means to be a bookstore employee, so thanks 🙂 I really enjoyed this post for its humor.

    • Listen, Boston, I’m no mathametician! That last 10% are the people who expect me to figure up their total in my head and are subsequently dead to me. 😉

      Working in a book store has, overall been very rewarding. Working with the public, no matter what setting it is in, will come with it’s oddities, so don’t let it discourage you! I’m glad you could appreciate the humor- I was really afraid I would come across as catty.

      • Haha that’s fantastic. && I didn’t think it came across as catty. It served a purpose so it wasn’t just endless whining 😛

        The main reason I’m commenting again though is because it just occurred to me that you said this is a CHRISTIAN bookstore…oh my goodness. And you really had someone asking for PORN! AH!

      • Oh, totally. Working there made me realize that no one reads signs anymore!

  2. First and foremost: I am so jealous you work at a bookstore. It’s always been my dream to either work at a bookstore or–Ahem–open one. Secondly, this post is awesome. 🙂

  3. Marissa

    Amanda while I absolutely adore people reading about me. Your forgot to mention people calling us horrible things….ok hussy;-) ok so maybe the customer never actually said it…that we know of. But they sure implied it…and don’t forget I have been told I’m too nice so I surly hate the world…it is truly amazing that someone that has never met me knows more about me than I ever knew or will know…heck they even know where product goes and clearly I don’t…I mean who knew the onesie went with that reference book…and Starbucks cups go with that beautiful frame…hehehe your SO going to miss my smart attitude:-) I’ll be my utmost smartest self Tuesday just for you! ❤ D.G.W.

  4. Hillary Sweeney

    I loved this post! What a wonderful ending to a hectic Friday night at work. Swap book store for restaurant and you took the words right out of my mouth. Thanks for the laughs.

  5. Oh funny…I have always thought what a tough job it would be to work in retail. Being nice to people who I would imagine…sometimes just don’t deserve it. I on the other hand work day in and day out with those little banshee’s you were talking about. 24 of them to be exact. Oh the stories I could tell…
    Good luck with your new job! I quite enjoyed your post.

  6. Holli

    I thank WordPress for featuring your blog on its title page. If not, I may have gone a lifetime without finding your blog and you are hilarious! I’ll try to remember the rules next time I’m in a bookstore.


  7. Isobel

    I love this post. And I do envy your work! 🙂

    And I will keep this in mind whenever I am in a bookstore. I am sometimes guilty of #1 but I don’t really get mad or upset if I get a negative answer. 🙂

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