Thursday, December 29, 2005

And They Lived To Tell The Retail Tales...
December 28, 2005

'Tis never the season: I am never so happy to be out of the retail trade than I am after this time of thankless, hectic seasonal hell with the extra aggravations of impatient customers, clueless representatives, and confusion over which holiday greeting to use. Here's a few memories and actual quotations, overheard and endured, that serve as reminders--all culled from my years in the book store business:

"Oh look, they made a book from that movie Gulliver's Travels!"

The mother so unconvinced that Mark Twain (or Samuel Clemens, even) is the author of Huckleberry Finn that she decides she needs to check with her son, who needs it for school. (Her: "No, no that's not it." Me: "Trust me, lady.")

"I know it's a part of a tri-ology."

"It's the fourth book in a tri-ology."

Cholera, Schmolera: The phone order customer service representative confirming my ISBN order for Gabriel Garcia Marquez's classic of magical realism and caloric intake, "Love in the Time of Cholesterol."

The tipsy customer, irked because we didn't have a 20-year-old out-of-print book, indignantly announcing that "Well, I guess I'll just go to your competitors Bartles and James!" ("You mean Barnes and Noble?" "Yeah, Bartles and Noble!")

"So does Jane Austen have any new books out?"

Accusations of racism because the Black Studies section is across from True Crime.

Complaints that New Age books are too close to the Christianity and Religion section.
"It's a red book."

A man buying a copy of William Bennett's Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories asked--not in an apparent tongue-in-cheek manner--if he could read the book and bring it back for a refund. I reminded him that that seemed neither virtuous nor moral, and probably not included in Bennett's lesson plans.

As purchasing manager of a technical bookstore, the few times I had to clarify with a publisher or distributor that I was not calling from either "Such-and-Such Tentacle Books" or "So-and-So Testicle Bookstore."

Request for CliffsNotes for books by such authors as Danielle Steel, R.L. Stine, Stephen King and Anne Rice.

"It's an auto-bibliography."

Diplomatic me:
--"Is it a good book? Well, it certainly sells a lot."
--"Actually, we'd prefer that you not take the books into the restroom with you."
--"Merry Christmas...oh, okay--Happy Holidays, then."--"Happy Holidays...er, yes, of course--Merry Christmas!"

...and finally--a wish we can all agree on--Happy New Year!

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