Sunday, December 30, 2007

Random Observations and Rantings

Since I started this blog in part to rant about working retail - because I quickly learned that one cannot actually rant to family or friends about working retail (at least when one is middle class) because it will inevitably lead to various iterations of "yeah, but..." - I thought I'd kick off my last week as a bookseller with some random observations/advice from working at a bookstore:

1) When giving a title/author over the phone, always say it slowly and enunciate. The person you are speaking to doesn't have the option of going to the other room where it's quieter.

In fact, this is fairly good advice in the store as well. Your title/author may sound perfectly logical to you, but I promise you that unless you are asking for a bestseller along the lines of The Secret or The Da Vinci Code (NOT the latest one week bestseller from Douglas Preston), your friendly neighborhood bookseller is not likely to hear "for a fueding once more" as "For a Few Demons More."

2) Whoever decided that women are not as visually stimulated as men has never had to clean up the teen mag section of their local bookstore/supermarket. If those 13 year olds thought they could get away with it, those pictures of the Jonas brothers on their walls? Would be completely buck naked. I swear, it's like they have to go over every single inch of every single one of those things every month just hoping they'll get some skin this time. (btw, whotf r jobros n e way?)

3) The most recent issue of Bitch? We got enough to warrant a full, unencumbered, out to edge, front row, eye-level slot on the magazine rack this time. awesome

4) When looking for a book in the children's section with "love" in the title, have either the exact title or the author. Preferably both. "But I saw it at Walmart and it had a cover with bears hugging..." Does NOT cut it and will just make me hate you. Do you have any idea how may books we have in the store that fit that description? Much less in the search database?

5) Do not, under any circumstances, answer "Are you finding everything ok?" With "Not my wife/husband/friends!" Your friendly neighborhood bookseller may cease to even remotely friendly at this point. And I swear, if one more person answers with "Not my kids!" I swear I am going to smack them. How the fuck am I supposed to know you mean your 16 year old and not your 4 year old? On second thought, I think I'm just going to look all panicked and immediately ask for a detailed description of the kid(s).

6) That "never" goes double for making cracks about stuff being free when we can't get the scanners to work. Making fun of us isn't going to endear you to us or make us think you ought to have your own sitcom. We are just going to think you are a jerk and pathetically unoriginal.

7) It's also not funny or nice when you joke about working at a bookstore actually entailing work. That's right up with there with the people who proclaim "I'd love to work here! I'd read books all day!" (You can do that now, you know...and get paid pretty much the same.....since you'd be fired before your first day was over. Presuming you made it past the interview.....)

I know it sounds like you are being sympathetic, but all you are doing is making more work for me - because yes, smiling while I pick up, for the umpteenth time, the dozens of millimeter thin chapter books that someone decided would stand upright on a shelf - that is work. Especially if what I am pretending to smile at is someone commenting on how much my job must suck while they just stand there and watch me do it. That's why they can fire me for simply failing to be friendly enough.* So, I may not hate you as much as I hate the idiots that decide to answer "can I help you?" with a question that belongs in Deep Thoughts, but I certainly don't think that you are funny. And if you are trying to be kind, you are failing miserably.

8) Speaking of jerks and jokes made at the expense of people who have very little power - I stopped laughing at your dumb jokes last year when retail ceased to be my primary source of income. Yeah, you don't like that too well, do you?

9)'s two days before Christmas, and we consistently do several thousand better that just about any other bookstore in the area on a normal day. We don't have shit. (No, seriously. We ran out of Goosebumps books this year, of all things.) Yeah, I know that the Riverside store does. Riverside still has copies because no one shops at Riverside. Why? Because they don't answer the effing phones for one....but if you'd like me to call them and have them put it on hold for you....

10) It's two days until Christmas. And Christmas is on a Tuesday this year. That makes today a Sunday. No, we cannot order it today and have it in before we close at 6 pm tomorrow.

11) "But it's cheaper on the website." Yes, that's because the website does not involve paying people like me.

12) I don't expect you to take my advice, but when you ask for it, and both I and the preteen fantasy fan** standing next to us advise you not to give your nine-year old daughter Tolkien as her first fantasy novel, I am a little miffed that you go ahead and get her The Hobbit anyway.

Now I, personally, loved The Hobbit at the tender age of 9***. However, I'd already read A Wrinkle in Time (et al), The Chronicle of Prydain, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Princess and the Goblin****. I may have even read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. In other words, lots and lots of fantasy books that actually have girls in them. But, please, do go on ahead and make your daughter's first introduction to fantasy a book that doesn't just feature a male protagonist (as does The Chronicles of Prydain) but is pretty much devoid of women and girls altogether. I'm sure that will go over quite well. Especially since it was clear that she would be reading it, rather than the two of you reading it together.

The Hobbit rocks. It also seems to think that girls are creatures more mythical and less likely than dragons. Methinks there are better first fantasy novels out there - for boys and girls. But wtf do I know.

13) Dear god, either my coworkers don't know the alphabet or they don't even bother to look. (Which, ok, Christmas, I can't really blame them.) I finally found 1 of our 2 copies of A Companion to Wolves next to The Princess Bride. I suppose I ought to thankful that it was in SciFi/Fantasy.

That's all for now, but I'm sure I'll have more. :)

*technically, I think I need to do more than that, but they can certainly cut my hours to the point where they might as well have fired me.

**I was initially just going to answer his question of "which cover would she like better?" Because I know better than to argue with customers that have that look in their eyes. The "I loved this as a kid and my kid will too!" look. (Yes, and that story your tell you kids to make them go to sleep will one day be a bestselling picture book!)

It was the 12 (?) year old girl that overheard our conversation that first suggested he pick something else.

***I may have actually been 10. But the point still remains.

****Too bad we didn't have that one in stock, I might have been able to persuade to him to see reason by telling him that George MacDonald's children's books were an inspiration to Tolkien. It also would have been fun watching him pretend to have already known that. Cuz tons of boys read MacDonald's stories nowadays.

And yes, I know I'm assuming that I know his daughter better than he does. But if he wasn't sure about the gift, he wouldn't have asked me for advice in the first place. He didn't give a damn about the covers, he just wanted me to tell him it was a fantastic idea. And possibly to brag about his daughter's literary feats.

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