Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell

When I first heard about this book through the Shelf Awareness email newsletter, I was instantly intrigued.  As someone who has worked in a bookstore since 2000, I had often talked with other booksellers about the crazy things our customers did and said.  Some annoying, some just way out there.  So I had to buy this book as soon as it came out.  Then I kept it in one room in my house that I spent short amounts of time, so that I could read the short situations a little at a time and make it last.
You would think that I would have rated it 5 stars on Goodreads, but there were a few of the stories that I didn't quite find that amusing, or really even very interesting.  But I say few, because it was a few.  Overall some of the stories were just as crazy as some that I'd experienced in my own bookstore career, and then others I just nodded and smiled as I read almost exact stories that had happened to each and every bookseller I'd worked with.

First, I'll talk about the ones that are kind of common to all booksellers I would imagine.  

The story where someone comes in and needs help with a report or paper they have due the next day, and they don't understand why you don't have the exact book they need.

Listening to people walk through the store saying, "I don't really read".  Or maybe they come and ask you for a book for a gift, and they need help because they don't read and so can't find their way around the bookstore.  I always think in my head, (but never say out loud), that if it was me, I'd not admit to people, especially while I was in a bookstore, that I didn't read.

When customers don't know exactly what book they want, but they know it had the word bear in the title.  Can we look that up for them?  Do they not understand how many books with one word in the title there will be?  And that without more clues, no way to find without spending a lot of time with them?  In fact, the bookstore where I work will only pull up a total of 125 or 150 books.  And after that, you need more words to help narrow down the titles.  And that total of 125-150?  That doesn't mean that is all the books with that word, it just means it is the first ones that our computer pulled up.

With the whole splitting of the last Twilight and Harry Potter books into 2 movies, so many people came in looking for the "part 2 books".  Didn't understand quite often that it was just one book.  *face palm*

Or, when they give you a wrong title or author, and you try to ask them if it is the one you actually have heard of or can find in the computer, and they still say no, they'll just go browse. Then, they come back holding the book, the one you told them, not the one they said, and tell you that you were wrong, because they found it.  Grrr.

Second, I 'll talk about just a few of the ones that were way out there:

At one point a kid was turning the lights on and off in the bookstore and when the bookseller asked the parent to get them to stop that, the mom said just to wait until the kid said it was day again and then he'd turn them back on.

When a customer asked if Anne Frank wrote any books after her diary.

When a customer asks to return a book because they're allergic to ink.

One more, when a customer asked if the store sold used e-books.  Just wow.

Third, just a few of the ones that I didn't think were really funny or weird:

A customer said:  "I just don't like my Kindle.  I like read books.  They are like cozy blankets to me."  What's so weird about that?  I have a Nook, and I do like it.  But I do so much more love a real book, and always will.  Sooo, not weird or funny.  Actually I kind of like this quote, it's a very good use of a simile, something I'm teaching my students about right now.  :-)

The other one that I'll point out is when a customer came to the register with a bunch of different items:  2 baby books, a stuffed bunny, and Lolita by Vladmir Nabakov.  When asked, the customer said they were all for different people.  What's weird about that?  We sell all that stuff in our store.  And especially around Christmas, if you're buying for lots of people, which I usually do, you'll end up with lots of different stuff.  So I again didn't think that needed to be included.

I won't list any more, as I really think it is a fun read.  And I'm definitely looking forward to the next one:  More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops. 

The author of this book even has a website where you can check out more funny stories as well as her blog:  This is Not the Six Word Novel.  So go check that out at least!