Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Arch-Nemesis is the Mysterious Blue Book

The first time it happened, I thought they were joking.

“I’m looking for a book,” the customer said.

“Do you have the title, or author, or ISBN?” I asked, ready to be super-computer girl.


Ooookay. Perhaps not so super-computer girl.

“But I know it’s blue.”

Yes. Blue. “Just blue?”

“Do you have it?”

No other distinguishing characteristics. Nothing but the basic color and a belief that out of the millions of books in my store my psychic mind reading abilities will allow me to find the exact book she was looking for.

Just a hint, “Well, thank goodness we color-coded the store!” is not an appropriate response.

Which I did NOT say out loud to the first customer, or even the second. I think it was the forth or fifth person who asked for a blue book that got that response.

This did not happen in the same day. They were not all looking for the same book—in fact, I’ve never had a repeat—and they were not asking for Harry Potter. One woman wanted Lucky, another Bel Canto. The gentleman and his wife were looking for a book by Sylvia Brown. Another man wanted a business book we never found. All of the books were different, unrelated, but they shared one common theme: they were blue.

And that’s all the customer could remember.

Why blue? Of all the things to latch onto, I understand why color might be a good indicator, but what is it about blue that made it the thing—the only thing—the my customers could remember?

According to About Psychology blue is the most favorite color for American consumers. Although (as a color) it represents “solitude, sadness, [and] depression” it is also associated with “wisdom, trust, [and] loyalty.” Apparently that wisdom, trust, and loyalty makes us want to consume!

Yum, books good. Lots of fiber. Er, I mean, consume as in buying, not as in eating, because About Psychology warns that “blue-colored food is repulsive to humans because when our ancestors searched for food, they learned to avoid toxic or spoiled objects, which were often blue, black, or purple. During experiments, when participants were served with food dyed blue, they lost appetite.” *

(Please note that it would probably not be a good idea to market your edible book in a blue color. You have been warned.)

Blue also has the power to make us relax (but not our throats) while becoming more productive. Perhaps this combination of productivity, relaxation, and loyalty (with just a dash of dedication) comes across in the covers of these mysterious blue books. This could be why the customer remembers the feeling the color evokes even after they’ve forgotten what it was about or why they wanted to read it.

Subconsciously they’re thinking: Why it’s relaxing, yet productive! Loyal and true. This book won’t let me down, but make me a better person!

If the subconscious spoke in full sentences (fine, partial. It’s my style people) and liked exclamation marks.

Maybe we should color code our store, or at least have a function on our computer like this site. How amazing would it be if I could just hit a button and come up with a list of blue books we could work from instead of relying on my own (nonexistent) memory and ability to read minds?

Of course, for it to work it would have to be inputted correctly, and there we run into a problem. I’m sure the data services people would start abbreviating, and I’d only get a partial list when I hit the blue button because the rest would be filed under BL, or BLU, or the word in binary (don’t make me do the 0s and 1s, please don’t), and the customer would stand there and look at me like I’m an idiot because I couldn’t magically produce the book they want RIGHT THAT MOMENT, and c’mon, you have a computer how hard can it be to find what they want!?

Maybe I should just focus on not laughing hysterically** when they ask, “I’m looking for a book…it’s blue. Do you have it?”

* * * * * *

*It would be interesting to see the stats on how the blue M&M is doing. Does it back up About Psychology’s claims or are they just another unaccredited internet site?

**Especially when I fall back on their bad habits and find myself thinking, “I can’t remember what Clay Aiken bought, but it was blue,” in response to a question posed before. For the record the book was People of Sparks (he also bought City of Embers), and I’m a big old nerd because it bothered me enough (the it being not remember the book except for the color, not the not remembering what he actually bought) to go look in the section.


Beth said...

It's ALWAYS BLUE. It is never ever ever EVER yellow or red or green or purple or black or white or anything other than BLUE. That's what always killed me. The unknown book never varied incolor. Astounding.

Anonymous said...

Too funny! I sure hope you know EVERY SINGLE BLUE book in the whole store!

People really are stupid sometimes.

So now about blue... I'm not really that into blue. It's also a "cold" color, isn't it?

I'm a purple person myself.

Bookseller Chick said...

Beth, I know. It's like no other color exists. Sometimes they claim the book is blue even when it isn't!!! The psychology behind it all must be interesting but I'm too lazy to see if I can still log in to Medline to look for an answer. I'm sure there has to be more color psychology studies out there. If only so marketers and advertisers could use it to color their products blue!!!

A#1, I think I do give special consideration to blue books as I pull them out of boxes, like I'm making some sort of mental notation for that customer, whomever they maybe, who won't remember. Blue is considered a cold color--the site claimed it stood for depression, etc--but that seems to be part of the duality of its nature: it's a cold color, but people trust it and find it comforting, it's a comforting/trust-building color but people are against eating blue food. I'm sure a more reputable source would give me more info (or if I performed a more thorough search), but I'm too lazy to really go looking. Much like my customers are too lazy to remember the frickin' title.

I, too, am a purple person. I love the color the sky turns right after the sun goes down. Beautiful dusk purple.