Skip

I need a book on how to actually breathe underwater.
July 1, 2011 8:57 PM   Subscribe


 
Customer: Hi, I'd like to return this book, please.
Me: Do you have the receipt?
Customer: Here.
Me: Erm, you bought this book at Waterstone's.
Customer: Yes.
Me:.... we're not Waterstone's.
Customer: But, you're a bookshop.
Me: Yes, but we're not Waterstone's.
Customer: You're all part of the same chain.
Me: No, sorry, we're an independent bookshop.
Customer: ....
Me: Put it this way, you wouldn't buy clothes in H&M and take them back to Zara, would you?
Customer: Well, no, because they're different shops.
Me: Exactly.
Customer:... I'd like to speak to your manager.


This happened to me more than once, when I worked in bookstores.
posted by rtha at 9:07 PM on July 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


What does this mean?

Customer, *inclines her head*: How are you guys doing?
Me: Oh, we're clinging on.
Customer: Oh you poor dears, it's this Kindle!
Me: Well, really, it's the supermarkets and Oxfam making people think that books aren't worth paying money for.
Customer: I hadn't thought of it like that. It is terrible, isn't it?
*five minutes later*
Customer: How much is this book?
Me: That's £10.
Customer: Could I have it for £5?


What does Oxfam have to do with book sales dropping off?
posted by sweetkid at 9:12 PM on July 1, 2011


Either I'm having a monstrous attack of deja vu or this is a repost of a much older list.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:12 PM on July 1, 2011


What does Oxfam have to do with book sales dropping off?

As I understand it, in the UK, Oxfam runs charity bookshops which take donations and sell used books cheaply, earning tremendous resentment from for-profit used booksellers.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:15 PM on July 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


Her entry on her genetic disorder is so moving and inspiring, too.
posted by theredpen at 9:17 PM on July 1, 2011


Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?

That's something I'd like to see. Not a completely insane question. Never hurts to check.
posted by marxchivist at 9:17 PM on July 1, 2011 [17 favorites]


Manager: Speaking
Customer: Heredity
Manager: Third cousin.
Customer: It was a gift
Manager: I see. Even?

posted by Mblue at 9:20 PM on July 1, 2011


As I understand it, in the UK, Oxfam runs charity bookshops which take donations and sell used books cheaply, earning tremendous resentment from for-profit used booksellers.

Whats so wrong about that?

Customer A loses physical rights to book to charityshop.
Customer B buys book for cheap.
Charityshop sells book and profit goes to actual charity.
Customer A buys book that customer B just donated.

All this is doing is taking out the middle-man here who are bookshops. The written word is what matters not really the medium its delivered upon. If publishers can figure out a way to cut out the middleman, I say do it. It'll be cheaper to the reader, and writing has the potential to be more lucrative to the regular writer.

Wait...whats wrong with that? It can't be that easy.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:22 PM on July 1, 2011


oh, what does this remind me of??

Customer: I read a book in the eighties. I don't remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?

posted by seawallrunner at 9:25 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


oh, what does this remind me of??

I Feel Sick by Jhonen Vasquez. "I'm looking for a book ... I think it was blue."
posted by NoraReed at 9:28 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Customer: Do you have any books on the dark arts?
Me: ...No.
Customer: Do you have any idea where I could find some?
Me: Why don't you try Knockturn Alley?
Customer: Where's that?
Me: Oh, the centre of London.
Customer: Thanks, I'll keep my eyes peeled for it.


That's brilliant. Now I'm imagining this person going around London asking everyone where Knockturn Alley is, then when they get blank stares, following up with, "There's supposed to be a shop there that specializes in the dark arts."
posted by brina at 9:32 PM on July 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


"There's supposed to be a shop there that specializes in the dark arts."
A Barber Shop.

posted by Mblue at 9:36 PM on July 1, 2011


on the phone
Me: Hello Ripping Yarns.


Me: "Struggling with content are we?
posted by clavdivs at 9:44 PM on July 1, 2011


Oxfam runs charity bookshops which take donations and sell used books cheaply

Isn't that what every second hand bookstore does?
posted by sweetkid at 9:50 PM on July 1, 2011


There's a book in here somewhere, doubtless to be found on Amazon amid recommendations for the equally hilarious 'Stupid customers visit the typewriter store' and 'It could only happen at Freeman, Hardy and Willis'.
posted by joannemullen at 9:57 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


All this is doing is taking out the middle-man here who are bookshops. The written word is what matters not really the medium its delivered upon. If publishers can figure out a way to cut out the middleman, I say do it. It'll be cheaper to the reader, and writing has the potential to be more lucrative to the regular writer.

Wait...whats wrong with that? It can't be that easy.


Why not simply write your own books? Cut out *all* the middlemen.

Surely it can't be that hard.
posted by jrochest at 10:09 PM on July 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


From the New York Times before it brought out its coinbelt:

"He meant that while commercial booksellers like himself may get into the secondhand business for the pleasure of unearthing and selling odd and special volumes, their income relies on the steady sale of the same cheap used paperbacks that are Oxfam’s bread and butter. But unlike commercial dealers, Oxfam, as a charity, gets its inventory free. Its shops are staffed largely by volunteers. It enjoys generous tax benefits."
posted by longsleeves at 10:14 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this meme where someone asked for a sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank real?
posted by Yakuman at 10:23 PM on July 1, 2011


Every so often I start to contemplate the pleasure of opening my own small shop or business. Then lists like this one cure me of that impulse.
posted by happyroach at 10:26 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I worked in a Waldenbooks through high school and some of college. This is a favorite of mine:

Customer: I am looking for a book.
Me: Well you came to the right place.
Customer: ....
Me: ...
Customer: ...
Me: So what book are you looking for?
Customer: I don't know.
Me: Do you know the title?
Customer: No.
Me: Do you know the author?
Customer: No.
Me: Do you know what it is about?
Customer: No.
Me: Did you see it on a television show or hear about it on the radio?
Customer: No.
Me: Okay, is it fiction or non-fiction?
Customer: A little of both, I think.
Me: .... Barnes & Noble has that book for sure. We don't, I am sorry.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:27 PM on July 1, 2011 [18 favorites]


They come in all shapes and sizes. In 15 years in business, I think I got this a dozen times:

Customer: Can I have a price on 10,000 shirts?
Me: *excitedly calculates* They'll be $4.50 each.
Customer: Great. I'd like to order 36.
Me: But I just quoted you on 10,000.
Customer: Oh, I don't need them all at once.

Or its variant:

Customer: Give me the 10,000-piece price on this first 36, and I'll be back with the big order in a week.
Me: Pay the 36-piece price now, and I'll gladly discount you next week when you return to place the big order.
Customer: Never mind.

Then there's the classic:

Customer: Uh, yeah, uh... how much for a T-shirt?
Me: They vary, according to the number of colors, and the quantity. We have several price breaks.
Customer: Okay, quote me on white shirts, black shirts, 2, 3, 4 and 5 colors, at 36 pieces, 72 pieces, 144 pieces, 288 pieces, 576 pieces, and 1000 pieces.
Me: *calculates furiously for 2 hours, returns call*
Customer: Okay, give me 24 white, 1 colors.
Me: That's below our minimum.
Customer: Never mind.

Then there's the art discussion:

Me: your RGB file is out of gamut. It dulls out pretty bad when I convert it to CMYK.
Customer: Well, just print it in RGB, then.

But my favorite customer question of all time was (while standing next to me at the press, watching me press ink through a screen onto a sample print) "Does the screen just see the youth shirts and get smaller?"
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:37 PM on July 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


I love the idea of running a bookshop. It's the being a businessperson and dealing with customers part that gives me pause. Ideally I'd be Bernard Black, routinely throwing out customers but remaining open without any visible means of support.
posted by Zed at 10:44 PM on July 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


Is this meme where someone asked for a sequel to The Diary of Anne Frank real?

Well, there was this.
posted by longsleeves at 10:45 PM on July 1, 2011


Still waiting for jonmc to show up here and share...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:48 PM on July 1, 2011


This made me laugh out loud:

I happen to have EEC Syndrome, which means that I don't have all my fingers & the ones I do have are a little weird. … sometimes, if customers notice, it provides some er interesting feedback.

Me: Here's your change.
Customer: Erm... just put it on the desk.
Me: Right.
Customer: You should really warn people about that, you know. It's not fair.
Me: A sign, perhaps?
Customer: Well...
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:52 PM on July 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


My RGB file is out of gamut.
How does it smell?
Terrible!
posted by schwa at 10:53 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I worked in a bookstore for a good portion of the early 90s. We regularly had to find books based on vague notions of what the book was about, or most likely, about what it looked like ('It was red and it was right there two months ago!'). Even worse, though, were the people who probably hadn't been in a bookstore in a decade, but wanted to find the book they came for all by themselves. Common questions:

"Where is your non-fiction?" (we had three aisles of fiction - the entire rest of the store was non-fiction)

"Where is your self-help aisle?"
"What would you like help doing?"
"Flying an airplane"

"Where do you keep your books about low-fat cooking written by personal chefs for celebrities?"
"In the kitchen with Rosie" is right by the front door."

I will also never forget when Rush Limbaugh intentionally under-printed his first book, then warned all his listeners that "liberal bookstores" probably wouldn't stock it, even if it was on the NYT Bestseller list. Those people were fun.
posted by Gilbert at 10:57 PM on July 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


Customer: Do you have brown eyes? *peers over at me*
Me: Yes, I do.
Customer: My mother told me never to trust anyone with brown eyes.
Me: You have brown eyes.
Customer: ..........


Aaaand Garfield version.

(sorry)
posted by MrFTBN at 10:58 PM on July 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


Customer: This book has a couple of tears to some of the pages.
Me: Yes, unfortunately some of the older books haven't had as much love as they should have done from previous owners.
Customer: So, will you lower the price? It says here it's £20.
Me: I'm sorry but we take into account the condition of the books when we price them; if that book was in a better condition, it would be worth a lot more than £20.
Customer: Well, you can't have taken this tear here into account *points to page* or this one here *points to another page* because my son did those two minutes ago.
Me: So, the book is now more damaged than it was before, because of your son?
Customer: Yes. Exactly. So will you lower the price?

Are these real?
posted by neuromodulator at 10:58 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Overheard:

Customer: Is this the first edition?
Owner: No, a first edition of Don Quixote would be in Italian.
posted by longsleeves at 11:02 PM on July 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wonder how often these clerks are tempted to fire back immediately with stupider questions. There, on the spot, escalate a game of stupid.

Customer: I'd like a book about how to become a celebrity.
Clerk: But don't celebrities come from the YouTube people?
Customer: Huh. That makes sense, how about one about how to become a YouTube person?
Clerk: Won't work. Only celebrities can make YouTube.
Customer: bummer.
posted by stroke_count at 11:13 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


So much deja vu. I worked at a major chain bookstore for three years and could've had all these conversations. And yes, they're all real. And there are worse out there.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:38 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are these real?

i have my doubts as well. some of these just seem too perfect/outrageous to be real. the garfield strip MrFTBN linked above certainly isn't easing my suspicion. i'd guess that some of the conversations actually happened, and the others.. not so much.
posted by jjoye at 11:57 PM on July 1, 2011


Just to be clear, jjoye, I made that after I read this post.
posted by MrFTBN at 12:08 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be clear, my quotes were all things that I heard regularly. I shouldn't even delve into the crazy pool, such as the people who only knew the relative dimensions of books (but not the subject matter), the people who would call you for reference information (I rattled off a bunch of state abbreviations for someone addressing wedding invites one day), or the people who showed up on December 24th expecting that you would have every coffee-table book in existence in stock.
posted by Gilbert at 12:25 AM on July 2, 2011


Just to be clear, jjoye, I made that after I read this post.

lol! bless my heart..
posted by jjoye at 12:46 AM on July 2, 2011


*getting retail flashbacks*
*closes tabs swiftly*

Customers are the lowest form of life on the planet.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:51 AM on July 2, 2011


I've trained myself to begin ignoring things the minute a Monty Python reference becomes involved.
posted by deadbilly at 1:06 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Monty Python, Banksy, Douglas Adams, all those "clever" brit types.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:52 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the idea of running a bookshop. It's the being a businessperson and dealing with customers part that gives me pause. Ideally I'd be Bernard Black, routinely throwing out customers but remaining open without any visible means of support.

What you seek is to run a bookshop that is also a front for money laundering.
posted by anonymisc at 1:58 AM on July 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Pffff. Bernard Black would never launder anything.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:01 AM on July 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


On the other hand, I once went into a bookstore with the author's full name, the book's full title, the publisher's name AND the publishing date (three weeks earlier), and asked if the bookstore had it in stock yet. The clerk yelled at me, "how the hell am I supposed to know that?!?" They are, perhaps mercifully, out of business.

I've done retail, and I certainly know it's a rough job; but while lists like this are sometimes funny, "customer" does NOT equal "stupid", any more than "sales clerk" does.
posted by easily confused at 3:03 AM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Library stories:

1) A patron is looking for Jimi Hendrix guitar tablature.

Me: Well, we don't have any here, but there's one at the central library. Can I put it on hold for you?
Patron: That would be great.
Me: I'll just need your library card.
Patron: Oh, I don't have a library card. Because when I get books, I don't want to bring them back. I want to keep them.

2)
Patron: Do you have a book on the Vitamin war?
Me: I'm sorry, say again?
Patron: The Vitamin war?
Me: Could you spell that for me?
Patron: VIETNAM.
posted by Jeanne at 3:47 AM on July 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


The I'm-looking-for-a-book-it's-blue/red/green thing happened all the time when I worked in a library, and almost every set of bookshop memoirs includes a version. The earliest I'm aware of is a George Orwell essay called "Bookshop Memories" from 1936:
For example, the dear old lady who ‘wants a book for an invalid' (a very common demand, that), and the other dear old lady who read such a nice book in 1897 and wonders whether you can find her a copy. Unfortunately she doesn't remember the title or the author's name or what the book was about, but she does remember that it had a red cover.
Given that it's such a common request, colour is clearly one of the key attributes that a lot of people use to index books in their heads. It's certainly not useless information: if you remember oh, that good game design book, the orange one and scan the game-related shelves, finding the book you're after may well be easier than if you remember only the title. There are certainly libraries and bookshops that do have cover colour as a search field.
posted by severalbees at 4:04 AM on July 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


One time, when I was working at the buying desk of our used bookstore, this middle-aged dude walked in. He had hair that looked like the plastic hair on Lego figurines, only less realistic. As he got closer, I could see in his eyes that he was totally crazypants.

He stepped up and said "I wanna sell some books." Then loudly said "I'M FROM BROOKLYN! JOHNNY PODRES!" And during the whole transaction, He'd end every sentence by announcing his birthplace and naming a Brooklyn Dodger. My boss who was nearby finally couldn't take it anymore and said "I'm from the Bronx. Pipe down!"

"You're from the Bronx, Huh? Bet you like the Yankees. Me, I'M FROM BROOKLYN! ROY CAMPANELLA!..." and on and on.

Haven't seen him for a while, I kinda miss him.
posted by jonmc at 4:27 AM on July 2, 2011 [25 favorites]


"DO you have a copy of Glorious Knitting by Yasser Arafat?"

I would totally buy that.
posted by martinrebas at 4:53 AM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oxfam and middlemen
I don't get how this is cutting out the middleman. Oxfam is setting itself up as another competitive bookshop, with prices far far lower than anyone else; prices it can set because it gets free merchandise and tax breaks.

It's rubbish in a lot of ways: I support the work of used book shops, and don't want to see them die. I also support Oxfam and don't like to think of all the money they're throwing away selling £5 books for 10p.
posted by bonaldi at 4:56 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I remember, now, how terribly embarrassed I was to have to ever be a customer after I finally got the hell out of working in a bookstore cafe in 2006. I feel overprivileged again.
posted by Because at 5:14 AM on July 2, 2011


Me: Hello, Ripping Yarns Bookshop
Man: Hello, is that Ripping Yarns?
Me: Yes, it is.
Man: Are you there?
Me: How do you mean?
Man: I mean, are you at the shop now?
Me: Erm... yes, you just rang the number for the bookshop and I answered.


In all fairness with some smaller / independent shops it isn't clear... is this the owner / manager's cell phone? Is it forwarding to his home / some other location? I have stood outside of an apparently closed shop and had exactly this conversation.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:19 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, I have to tell this one:

Me: Hi, I was trying to find a biography of Golda Meir?
B&N partner: Ok, just let me check the system . . .
Me: Thanks
B&N partner: Hmm, there don't seem to be any.
Me: Really? That seems rather odd?
B&N partner: Maybe you could write the first one!
posted by MeiraV at 5:27 AM on July 2, 2011


Me: Would you like a bag? We've got plastic and paper ones.
Customer: Well I would have asked for a bag, but you said 'plastic bag' not 'pla[r]stic bag', so now that you've said that I don't want one.
Me: I'm not sure people say 'pla[r]stic bag.' Also, I'm from Newcastle so I say 'bath' not 'ba[r]th'.
Customer: Clearly you're uneducated.


My, Mrs. Bourne has been on a rampage lately.
posted by psoas at 5:35 AM on July 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


I need a book on how to actually breathe underwater.

Coming To Cinemas This Summer...

A Q U A M A N
A Lame Superhero Deserves A Lame Origin Story
posted by ZsigE at 5:36 AM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anyone who enjoys this thread should watch Black Books. On the double.
posted by Lisitasan at 6:10 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


*snarfle*
posted by doublehappy at 6:17 AM on July 2, 2011


I've done retail, and I certainly know it's a rough job; but while lists like this are sometimes funny, "customer" does NOT equal "stupid", any more than "sales clerk" does.

I think you miss the point of blogs (and threads) like this -- they are to blow of steam and recount funny stories, not give an accurate and balanced view of what a day in a bookshop is like.

Me: These two then?
Customer: Yes.
Me: Did you find everything you wanted?
Customer: Thanks, yes. I really like this writer, and the other one you recommended to me last week. There's a couple that I will be back for next week just before my vacation.
Me: I'll let you know when the new Tim Powers comes in next month.
Customer: Thanks! I'm really looking forward to it.
Me: Enjoy your reading!
Customer: Have a good day!

...doesn't make for all that entertaining reading, does it?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 AM on July 2, 2011 [20 favorites]


Anyone who enjoys this thread should watch Black Books. On the double.

Anyone who has worked in a serious bookshop, knows how many booksellers are alcoholics, and has had a friend and colleague drink himself to death in lieu of getting treated for depression should definitely not, though.

Ugh, I shouldn't piss on the show, but I can't watch it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:26 AM on July 2, 2011


This is amusing and smug and all but a more likely scenario is:

Customer: Do you have any books that are good to read?
Salesperson: ....
Customer: Like...a good novel or some short stories by a talented author?
Salesperson: We have the new Jeremy Clarkson.
Customer: Ha, good one!
Salesperson: ...
Customer: Could you maybe look something up for me?
Salesperson: Our system's down and doesn't work even when it isn't. Did you want a crystal healing cookbook? We have plenty of those.
Customer: No, could you just direct me to Classics?
Salesperson: Like DVDs instead of Blu-ray?
Customer: No...like...Dickens and Tolstoy and the like. Homer? God, Austen?
Salesperson: Is that the new one by the guy from Fleet Foxes?
Customer: Just...never mind.
Salesperson: DON DELILLO IS MY FAVOURITE!
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:29 AM on July 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Black Books is a fantastic show incidentally and way better than The IT Crowd.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:35 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?

That's something I'd like to see. Not a completely insane question. Never hurts to check.

posted by marxchivist at 12:17 AM

Great. Now I will be spending my entire day imagining books that were never written that I would like to read:

Shirley Jackson's Dystopian SF Book*
Dorothy Sayer's Female Detective series.
Jack London's book about Deadwood
P.G. Wodehouse's novel about Internment Camp




*I was going to say Jackson's Post-Apocalyptic Book but The Sundial falls into that category.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:41 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Search by spine color, kind of a proof-of-concept.
posted by gimonca at 6:41 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Customer: Do you have any books that are good to read?

FWIW, in my experience as a bookseller, that question is often the prelude to 15 minutes of pure customer service hell. I usually answer it with "Well, what's the last book you read that you really liked?", which gets me a few minutes of reprieve.
posted by mediareport at 6:46 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings about Black Books. The first few episodes were so over-the-top that I didn't really enjoy it, but then it became hilarious. Then it went downhill fast. Never did finish watching the 3rd series. Still, it introduced me to Bill Bailey and he is a fantastic comic that mesmerizes me when he is playing himself on nonfiction shows.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:46 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's rubbish in a lot of ways: I support the work of used book shops, and don't want to see them die. I also support Oxfam and don't like to think of all the money they're throwing away selling £5 books for 10p.

Actually what they charge is bang in line with prices on abe, they filter out the good stuff to sell online, and they throw away tonnes of books that aren't quite clean enough for their shelves (after ripping the covers off). The charitable status, free stock and volunteer staff mean that when Oxfam moves into a town, second-hand bookshops close not long after.
posted by Leon at 6:57 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hola! I have returned from the Spanish mountains, where I like to sort of pretend I'm a cowgirl. It was muchas fun [and perhaps a little too much sun: 40 degrees, bloody hell!]. I got to eat lots of paella, relax a bit, we swam in rivers like this, and I got a heck of a lot of writing done.

At first, I thought this was an overheard conversational snippet from the bookstore!
posted by ignignokt at 7:23 AM on July 2, 2011


If a customer asked me about a red-coloured book from 1962 that was really funny, I'd just tell him/her to go ask MetaFilter.
posted by Net Prophet at 7:30 AM on July 2, 2011 [13 favorites]


Anyone who wonders if these can possibly be real has never worked a customer-facing job. I'm not saying each and every one of these is real, but I have no trouble believing they could be.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:52 AM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


When I worked in a bookstore we had an overenthusiastic customer who wanted books "in a tome." To him, every book was better if it was "in a tome," meaning a huge, fake-leather, fake-gilt-inlaid cover, maybe published by Franklin Mint, etc. I think he's the type of guy who would have wanted not only the classics "in a tome," but also Steven King, Dean Koontz and such.
posted by jayder at 7:58 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


A Lame Superhero Deserves A Lame Origin Story

I hope you are not planning on getting in the water anytime this summer, buddy.
posted by Aquaman at 8:16 AM on July 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


Customer: Ok, so you want this book?
Their daughter: Yes!
Customer: Peter Pan?
Their daughter: Yes, please. Because he can fly.
Customer: Yes, he can – he's very good at flying.
Their daughter: Why can't I fly?
Customer: Because of evolution, sweetheart.


Bravo! ::golfclap:: Bravo.
posted by Splunge at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the oddest exchange with a customer I've ever had was while working the bag check counter at the Strand Bookstore.

Me: I need to take your bag, sir.
Customer: There's a dog in the bag.
Me: What?
Customer: There's a dog in the bag.
Me: Is ... is it alive?
Customer: Of course!
Me: Should I ... do anything with it?
Customer: No, he'll be fine. He doesn't bark or anything.
Me: Okay.

Of course, the dog started barking as soon as the customer left, stopping once he returned to pick up his dog.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:35 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]




Customer: Ok, so you want this book?
Their daughter: Yes!
Customer: Peter Pan?
Their daughter: Yes, please. Because he can fly.
Customer: Yes, he can – he's very good at flying.
Their daughter: Why can't I fly?
Customer: Because of evolution, sweetheart.


I don't get what's wrong with this. Would it have been better if the parent had said, "Because of intelligent design"? Parents tell their kids outrageous lies all the time. I would have thought this crowd would be excited and pleased that a parent is injecting the discussion of evolution into conversation with their young child.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:50 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Her entry on her genetic disorder is so moving and inspiring, too.

Link? I'm not seeing it at her site.
posted by languagehat at 9:06 AM on July 2, 2011


I don't get what's wrong with this.

Yes, I think it's pure awesome. It's short, true, utterly hilarious, unhelpful, respectful, and thought provoking.

I would have thought this crowd would be excited and pleased that a parent is injecting the discussion of evolution into conversation with their young child.

"the discussion" might be necessary in the USA, where lingering denial is still culturally entrenched, but that necessity is not something to celebrate.

posted by anonymisc at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone who does not believe that every single one of these conversations actually took place has never worked in retail.

I worked in mortgage servicing, and dumb conversations were a daily thing. Here's just one, with a lady who was 3 months behind on her house note.:
"Hi. I need help on my mortgage loan. I can't afford it. [Name of another bank] is helping me out on my 2 truck loans. And [name of yet another bank] is helping me with my 2 car loans. Please don't make me pawn my tanning bed."
posted by thebrokedown at 9:10 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hal Mumkin: I though that it was wonderful reply. The golfclap was because, you know, bookstore. I tend to do things softly around shelves of books. Comes from spending an awful lot of time in libraries as a youth.
posted by Splunge at 9:11 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


turgid dahlia evidently has better luck in bookstores than I do. Most of my bookstore conversations seem to go like this:

Me: Hi, do you have "Photoshop for Photographers" by J. Random Dude? I've looked on the shelves but I can't find it
Clerk: Have you looked on the shelf?
Me: Yes, I've looked on the shelf under "computers" and "photography", but I can't find it.
Clerk: Let me look in the computer. What's the name of the book again?
Me: "Photoshop for Photographers"
Clerk: Can you spell that for me please?
Me: (spells "Photoshop for Photographers")
Clerk: .....
Me: ....
Clerk: What's it about?
Me: Huh?
Clerk: What kind of a book is it? I have to know what category it might be in.
Me: Well, it's about using Photoshop to correct common image defects that photographers might encounter.
Clerk: Oh, it'll be with the computer books then. Or maybe photography. What was the name again?
Me: (spells "Photoshop for Photographers" again)
Clerk: Ah, ok, well the computer says there are 4 copies on the shelves
Me: I can't find any of them
Clerk: OK, I'll take a look and see if I can find it for you
(Clerk looks in the exact same places I did, does not find the book)
Clerk: I couldn't find it either. I can order it for you if you like - it'll take a week to 10 days, and you'll have to come back into the store to pick it up. Oh, and it's priced 30% higher than Amazon. And you pay sales tax.
Me: Why, yes please! That would be grand!
END SCENE
posted by kcds at 9:12 AM on July 2, 2011 [21 favorites]


I've worked in libraries and in bookstores. One classic, from my days at the library that served a law school:

Student: I'd like the book I checked out yesterday.
Me: ...

When I worked at a public library, librarians in the children's section were held in high regard, because they had not only mastered the "reference interview," but knew the library's holdings so well that they could recognize the book if a child could just describe it. It was akin to mind-reading crossed with a photographic memory.
posted by datawrangler at 9:19 AM on July 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


As a former bookseller and a former librarian this thread is giving me PTSD.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:11 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, jjoye, I made that after I read this post.

You can tell it's not a real Garfield strip because it was actually funny.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:30 AM on July 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Clerk: Ah, ok, well the computer says there are 4 copies on the shelves
Me: I can't find any of them
Clerk: OK, I'll take a look and see if I can find it for you
(Clerk looks in the exact same places I did, does not find the book)
Clerk: I couldn't find it either. I can order it for you if you like - it'll take a week to 10 days, and you'll have to come back into the store to pick it up. Oh, and it's priced 30% higher than Amazon. And you pay sales tax.


This. This is my experience over and over and over until I no longer look for anything at chain stores (Indie book shops are a totally different experience.) I guess if I just would be content to read the same shit that everyone else reads (James Patterson, Twilight, etc.) I would be in like Flynn.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:39 AM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


This just happened 30 seconds ago:

Customer: This is unbelievable.
Me: What don't you believe?
Customer: You don't have any pot-bellied stoves.
Me: Why is that unbelievable?
Customer: Because then I could see where I used to burn my old socks.

(No, we're not a bookstore. Egads, retail....)
posted by warbaby at 12:17 PM on July 2, 2011


I had a customer ask me were she could score some H. XEXXS had a strick policy on that.
drunks calling are the fun and can yield a nice commission. The key was the line "hey it's good to you sir and I'll through in the desk for 10% off, put it on the card, 25$ a month.
I draw the line at hugs.
posted by clavdivs at 12:58 PM on July 2, 2011


My favorite bookstore conversation:

ME: Do you have (random title)?
Seller: Never heard of it.
ME: It's reviewed today on the front page of the LA Times Books section.
Seller: We don't have it. (beat) It sounds stupid.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:01 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a customer ask me were she could score some H. XEXXS had a strick policy on that. drunks calling are the fun and can yield a nice commission. The key was the line "hey it's good to you sir and I'll through in the desk for 10% off, put it on the card, 25$ a month. I draw the line at hugs.

Wow, James Joyce was not only an author, but also has a humorous bookshop anecdote (I think..?) to share on MeFi.
posted by obscurator at 5:43 PM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's one from the library:

Patron: *hands me a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses* This was a terrible book. It didn't make any sense.

Me: I've heard it's pretty challenging. I'm an English major, so I'm probably going to end up reading it sometime in the next couple years.

Patron: I feel sorry for you. His other book was excellent. That's why I asked my wife to pick up another one by the same author.

Me: What was the other book by him that you liked so much?

Patron: From Here to Eternity.
posted by marxchivist at 6:43 PM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I worked in bookstores for quite a while. There were some idiots, and the annual street festival was disastrous - ice cream cones abandoned on books, gaaaahhh. But most customers of an independent bookseller were interesting and intelligent, and more than a few writers were patrons. If you spend your time looking for stupidity, you'll find it most anywhere. But it's much more fun and satisfying to recommend good books, and be recommended good books right back. Except for Christmas time, when it's a race to the finish.

I buy books at Goodwill, but I think it's Amazon that has killed local bookselling.
posted by theora55 at 7:29 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


These remind me of Acts of Gord. Same idea, but from a guy that ran a video game store.
posted by meandthebean at 8:15 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised nobody's linked to OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS yet in the comments: it's a blog run by a NYC comic shop owner, with illustrated quotes from the kinds of people you get at a NYC comic book store. Definitely worth checking out.


posted by Green Winnebago at 8:16 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


http://ourvaluedcustomers.blogspot.com/
posted by Green Winnebago at 8:16 PM on July 2, 2011


Oh why not. I worked at the U. Texas co-op bookstore and a guy comes in, wants to buy something obscure with traveler's checks drawn on a foreign bank... which required ID.

He had none, muttered that he had won the Nobel Prize.

I so hoped he would pull out a medal, card identifying or such.

A science-studying colleague overheard this, look over and recognized Ilya Prigogine, approved the purchase with the checks, dashed off to get a book Prigogine wrote, got it autographed and was all kinds of gleeful.
posted by ambient2 at 11:27 PM on July 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


Guilty.

When I was 17 I forgot to take in my reading list into the university bookstore when I went to buy my course books. I asked my boyfriend to read out the books/authors on the list over the phone to me. He had to spell a few authors' names. With the new list in hand I went to the shelves and found all the books, but one. I looked for ages until I gave up and finally asked the bookseller to help me find Madame Bovary by, um, what I thought was Slaubert. I pronounced it slorbet, and helpfully added that I had looked everywhere on the S shelves. The shame.

[Upside - learned that 'f' n 's' sound the same over the phone. Downside: My soon-to-be Lit lecturer was standing behind me and corrected me. I had to face her everyday for six months as we studied the classics.]
posted by honey-barbara at 12:38 AM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I worked in a record exchange as a teenager. Aside from the drug addicts who tried to steal a box of 1970s K-Tel records, my favourite question was 'Have you got that song by that black guy?' Second was someone singing a song and saying 'It's by those two Pakis [considered a very racist term in the UK for those of Asian descent]' and it turned out to be All My Life by the black singers KCi and JoJo.
posted by mippy at 2:55 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]




Thanks, that was well worth reading.
posted by languagehat at 2:17 PM on July 3, 2011


I remember when Bree Walker, a news anchor in LA, announced she was pregnant. There was a lot of outrage over the possibility that her baby might inherit her ectrodactly. She went on to have two children and both inherited her condition.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2011


"ME: It's reviewed today on the front page of the LA Times Books section."
"Seller: We don't have it. (beat) It sounds stupid."
(What happened to the pleasant Australian girl who used to work here?)
(She's gone. They've all gone. We're back.)
(We?)
(The Incredibly Obnoxious And Anti-Literate People Who Still Unaccountably Work In Bookstores.)
posted by kyrademon at 11:10 AM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will say, as a former bookseller, that when you CAN locate "that book with the green (I think) cover by the guy who wrote that other book," based only on that description, it's an indisputable retail triumph. I lived for those moments.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


This was really a conceptual art piece, but it sounds like more booksellers might want to adapt its approach.

Alex Robinson did a beautiful two-page cartoon on questions like these in Box Office Poison. (I was able to see it by entering "self help" in the "search inside this book" function, but not quite able to post those results.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2011


Gilbert, "Where is your self-help aisle?" is funny in of itself
posted by fusinski at 8:27 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worst independent bookstore clerk moment--when two male customers launched into a violent hours long debate about the Situationists right next to the cash register. This was a cash register that I could not move away from, so essentially I was trapped there was a witness to this fight for intellectual superiority. Both made sure to make frequent eye contact with me and I shudder to think this was some sort attempt to impress me specifically! I think they only left because I had to close the shop.

I call this phenomenon of being trapped into awkward interactions with lonely customers "RETAIL JAIL."

Also, being located in LA at a time when smart phones did not yet exist, we had a lot of tantrums from people outraged that we didn't carry Daily Variety.
posted by dottiechang at 11:49 AM on July 9, 2011


Customer: What kind of bookshop is this?
Me: We're an antiquarian bookshop.
Customer: Oh, so you sell books about fish.


Ha!
posted by colfax at 4:09 PM on July 9, 2011


« Older Alex Cox's "Straight to Hell"   |   ¿Conclusion? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post