rules of engagement

Attention, all you dear sweet holiday shoppers.  I know you’re busy, but I want you to stop for a minute, look around, take in your environment.   You, retail warrior, are in a bookstore, and I’d like to present to you a few pieces of advice to make sure your shopping experience in my particular McBookstore is as pleasant as possible. 

Again, you are in a bookstore.
During the holidays.
Where people are doing their shopping for said holidays.

In a frenzy.

Therefore, please expect that the store will be busy… and truthfully, it will be more like an all-out literary onslaught from hell.  Don’t delude yourself and try to come in at 7:00 on Friday evening, expecting the store to be completely deserted for your shopping pleasure.  We are happy to assist you, but only after we assist the approximately 4,973 people that are in line ahead of you.  One other hint:  tapping your foot impatiently, sighing loudly, rolling your eyes, throwing your books at me, screaming for assistance like a three-year-old, or even interrupting me while I’m helping someone else will not get you assisted faster.   I promise you this, oh lovely consumer… yes, I do. 

If you are planning on purchasing a book, welcome!  We have lots to choose from.  In fact, we have so many that we know finding just one can be a daunting task.  So if you are in fact seeking a particular title, the lowly booksellers would appreciate it if you knew something, ANYTHING about the book you are so desperately seeking.  Like… the title.  Or the author.  Or what the book is about.   I know it seems crazy, but we don’t have a section devoted to the color of a book’s spine.  Nor do we arrange books according to what is on the cover, as smart as that may seem to you.  If you’re looking for a book “by that author”, “about that girl” or “that you heard on the radio/saw on tv/read about in the newspaper”,  please understand the fact that I’m only psychic on random days—so you just might be out of luck.    True exchange:  

Customer: I’m looking for a book about birds.

Me: Great—let me show you our section, it’s over this way…

Customer:  No, it’s a specific book.  It’s not really about birds, it’s more about… well, life.  It has stuff in it.

Me: Ooookayyy… well, why don’t we go over here and take a look…

Customer: No!  It’s not a *bird* book.  Hmmph. Me: Do you know the title of the book, sir?

Customer: (rolling eyes) NO.  It’s a very popular book.

Me: How about the author’s name?

Customer: (huffy) NO.  Is there anyone else here that could help me?

Me: Sir, there is not. I’d be glad to show you where I think the book you’re looking for might be, but without a title or an author’s name, or a specific description, I’m afraid I’m just guessing… (RANDOM BRAIN FLASH) Sir, you’re not by chance looking for “To Kill A Mockingbird”, are you?

Customer: (indignant) YES!  That’s the one… like I SAID.  To Kill A Mockingbird.

Me: (silent sigh) Right his way, sir. 

Once again, I’d like to mention that it is the holidays, and you are at a bookstore.  The busiest bookstore in the entire city, actually.  So there’s a very good chance that the one copy of the book you’re seeking may not be on the shelf.  Oh, the horror!  The humanity! 

Now this could be for any number of reasons: the temp employee doing the shelving might not have read the sticker correctly; it might have been knocked out of alphabetical order by a well-intentioned but lazy browser; or it might have been misplaced completely in the utter chaos that is December at a bookstore. Does this mean that our store is a travesty, filled with Hanukkah-derailing menace and Christmas-ruining meanness, specifically out to get you and thwart your quest for that John Grisham or Nora Roberts?  Oh, if it were only that easy, I would never have to sell another copy of that damned Bill O’Reilly book again. 

If you ask me for a recommendation for a gift for a child, I’m only too happy to oblige.  I love working in the children’s department, and enjoy helping customers pick out the perfect book.  And let me guess: your son/daughter/neice/nephew/grandchild is a fantastic reader, right?  Truly gifted?  A bright, phenomenal talent?  Because no one’s child is ever a moron, or reading below their grade level, or disinterested in books.  Sure.  Just don’t blame me when that copy of “Little Women” you insisted on for your five year old gathers dust on her shelf.

All clear?  Fantastic!  Now you keep on consuming, you hear?  I’ll be right up here if you need me.


6 Responses to “rules of engagement”

  1. I have so much to say that think I’m going to have to respond to this in a separate post! I actually liked Christmas at McBookstore in a sick kind of way. Since I was in the kids section, and people are DESPERATE for a book for their little geniuses, they’d buy just about anything I put into their hands. Oh, except for the woman who refused to buy Redwall for her nephew because “his daddy’s a minister. I don’t think he’d approve of talking animals.” Because we all know there’s nothing that says “the anti-Christ” more than a talking mouse.

  2. […] This is the first Christmas in six years (!!) that I won’t be in McBookstore on Sundays. And… oh well! (As I side note, I do actually miss being in the kids section, not because I long for misbehaving snot-nosed crumbsnatchers, but because I miss reading all the kids books for free.) However, my friend Kelly has brilliantly recapped what it’s like to work retail at Christmas, and oh, how it’s brought back the memories! In honor of the holiday season, a few of my favorite stories of retail chaos. […]

  3. LMB and I used to work at McBorders together, and she passed this delightful commentary along to me. I had a couple of stories I couldn’t resist adding:

    Customer: ‘I’m looking for the book “Troy.”‘
    Me: ‘The book “Troy”?’
    Customer: “You know, the one based off of the movie.”

    Customer: I’m looking for a book by a British author.
    Me: I’m sorry, we don’t segregate our authors by nationality.

    Customer: I’m looking for a children’s book by an African American author.
    Me: “Where the Sidewalk Ends” has always been one of my favorites.
    Customer: (looks at book) This author isn’t African American.

    Customer: Excuse me, I’m looking for the CD with the woman in a red dress doing this (strikes pose) on the cover.

    Customer: (upon learning that we were out of Tavis Smiley’s latest book) It’s appalling that a corporate entity such as Borders can be so blatantly racist.

    And finally…

    Customer: (upon reaching the staircase in the middle of the store) Excuse me, do you sell books here?

  4. Hilarious exchanges. I remember buying a Breakfast of Champions at a local borders.

    Cashier: That was a terrible movie.
    Me: Yeah, but it is a very good book.
    Cashier : Who wrote it?
    Me: Kurt Vonnegut, he’s from Indianapolis
    Cashier: Hmmm, I’ve never heard of him.

    Me: How can you be from Indianapolis, work in a Borders, and not heard of KV, and then paradoxically, you’ve seen this bad movie?

    Okay, I didn’t really say the last part. I just smiled and walked out of the store with my book.

  5. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked in retail, but those exchanges are hilarious!

  6. Wow. At least you know you can always get a good blog post out of it. That’s just insane.

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