Monday, December 18, 2006

Manic Monday Place-holder

Level of Awakeness: Meh? Where am I?

Level of caffinatedness: half a cup and counting.

Level of relevant book knowledge floating in head: Huh?

Realization that I need to be at work in forty-five minutes? Kicking my ass.

When you're looking for help to find a book this holiday season, may I recommend avoiding the bookseller who is standing there drooling. Moisture can be damaging for your purchase.

Here's hoping the coffee kicks in soon and that I'll be semi-coherent when I get home. Feel free to post any possible column topics you would like covered in the comments.

Off to chug straight from the coffee pot.


Beth said...

Haven't noticed too many drooling booksellers in my time. Some that are not too helpful (or just plain lazy) and some that are wonderful.
I'm on my second cup of coffee - feeling somewhat human now.
Here's a question (altho perhaps you've answered it in a previous post I haven't read). What is the worst kind of customer in a book store? (And I hope you don't describe me.)

Anonymous said...

What, as an author, can I do to make the bookseller's job selling my book easier? Thanks so much, and may I recommend a 10 minute power nap in the stockroom, followed by 5 minutes of downward-facing dog? You'll be pleasant and awake.

lady t said...

Sounds like you are in desparate need of some mood music to get you going there,BSC. Perhaps this will do:

Jen said...

I worked in a Borders for almost 4 years, and only left about 2.5 months ago due to burnout and other factors. There's a variety of bad customers, but the ones that really made us upset and angry, and led to meltdowns in the break room were those who yelled at us or chastized us for something we had no control over - a coupon we couldn't accept, a special order that wasn't there, a sale that didn't work in the manner they thought it would. The worst of those lot were those who wouldn't let us get the manager to see if they could fix the situation. I'd be very surprised if you were one of those, and they aren't specific to book retail.

The specifically book retail baddies also come in a variety, but they mostly boil down to people who don't have enough information about what they're looking for:
- It's got a blue cover, and the word love in the title, and came out recently - sometime in the past 6 months.
- My grandson is 11, he lives far away, I don't know anything about what he's interested in, but he's a good reader.
"Is he into sports at all?"
I really don't know, I don't get to see him often.
- I need a book set in the 1920's for school. (the programs I used to look stuff up didn't deal at all well with this kind of thing)

Sometimes you get people looking for the impossible. I once got a request for an age-appropriate book on Bettie Page for a 14 year old. People who get peeved because you don't help them while you are clearly in the middle of helping someone else are annoying. They always begin with "I just have a quick question." If they finish that sentence with "Where's the bathroom?" or "Where's the kids section?" that's fine, but it's often something like "Where are books on real estate law?" They could be in two different places, and without more details, it's hard to appropriately direct them. Usually, my response "I'll be with you in just a moment, sir, I'm assisting another customer." would be met with "Just point me in the right direction."

If I could write an instruction manual for bookstore customers, I would include:
- Know at least the author or the title. Knowing both is better. Knowing both AND the ISBN is fabulous! Your favorite tv/radio shows have websites that probably list the information about the book you heard about on the show today.
- If you don't get to see your grandkids/nieces/nephews/random other child frequently, ask their parents for recommendations.
- Ask your teacher for suggestions when they give you a vague assignment.
- the politeness stuff - you don't need to take the entire Paris travel book section to the cafe to plan your 4 day trip, and you definitely don't need to leave it behind after you've copied lots of information out of the books without even buying a coffee, let alone a book.

By the way, this time of year the stress is more often due to the number of customers and the condition of the store at the end of the day rather than the mood of the customers. As we get closer to Christmas, people are in decent moods ("Yay, holidays!") and realize that they left stuff until the last minute, and that the fact that we're out of Marley and Me/1000 Places to See Before You Die/The Complete Far Side is not our fault. Christmas Eve customers are especially jolly, will chat with other people as they wait in line, and are usually looking for something specific.

Whew! Okay, I'm done now. :)

Beth said...

For sure - I am not one of those customers! I'm good, I'm really, really well-behaved...promise.
I actually feel badly bothering a staff member after I've spent ages looking for a book on my own. And I do know the author and title - just can't figure out how it's been classified.
Thanks for answering my question. I had no idea how stressful the job could be. Maybe it was good for you to vent?? I certainly did hit a nerve...

Jen said...

Wow, my comment looked much smaller in preview . . . :)

Beth, you're the ideal customer. You know the information we need to find the book. Don't feel bad about asking for help - that's what we're there for. I never was peeved that a customer didn't know where to find a book - I spent hours and hours at the store, the customer (even regulars!) couldn't possibly know the store as well as an experienced employee. As for classifications, they're weird, especially at the chain store level. We get the classifications from corporate, and wrong ones can take a while to change. Sometimes they even change from hardcover to trade paperback editions of the same book! If you can't figure out the right section for a book, it's probably not you. Take the real estate law book I mentioned before - could be in law, could be in real estate, which is in the business section classification-wise, but around the corner from the business section physically. Of course it's not obvious where to look, even if you know the store fairly well!

The stress is only partially customers - corporate chain bookstores have their own additional issues, and my particular store was understaffed for months. The venting was good, though. :) Don't get me wrong - I loved being a bookseller, and I got along great with most of my co-workers at all levels. I still see some of them socially. My burnout was much more related to becoming a supervisor and having little time to do the parts of the job I loved. Bookselling is better than most retail out there. Can't say I miss it a *whole* lot right now, though. :) Bookseller Chick has my sympathies.

how to furnish a room said...

I think coming in with the ISBB is more common now. I'll run through walls for someone coming in with a Chapters-Indigo (Canada, eh) printout. Ask me anything.

Eileen said...

All hail the bookseller who helped me on Friday hunt down various books, made some recommendations and convinced me that yes it was okay to buy just a couple things for myself.