Slice and Dice

Encounters in a Bookstore #143: The Ability to Read

It’s a rare day when I take recommendations from customers. Maybe that’s pretentious of me, but to be honest, it’s also a rare day when I take recommendations from friends. Just ask how long it’s taking me to watch a friend-lended complete set of The Wire, or how many years I let go by before finally reading one of the best fantasy novels I have ever set eyes on.

Actually, better that you don’t ask.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to customers as they’re recommending something. Thus, the man buying two copies of Pete Hamill’s Forever.


Encounters in a Bookstore #86: Closing Time

There was a time in my life when I was excited at the prospect of “closing” a bar. I was in Virginia somewhere, the bars closed at 2am, we were there for last call, and then we were still there when the main lights flicked on. And then we left.

The bookstore where I work closes at 11pm. One night per week I am scheduled to work the closing shift, and closing time always seems slow to come. The hours stagger by, I lean against the cash register, someone else rearranges the bestseller wall, and the customers mosey about the store, leaving this book on that shelf and that magazine there on the floor. Maybe that plush toy gets left on this DVD rack. This cup of coffee gets spilled on those new nonfiction hardcovers.


Encounters in a Bookstore #11: A Holiday Reflection

Several months ago there was an article in a New York-centric magazine detailing the idea that mutual dislike fosters stronger friendships. For those with a sunny disposition, I can understand how this article may be puzzling. Why would people who are in bad moods gravitate to other people in bad moods? Why ever would one grumpy person find comfort in another grump.

For the rest of you—us, rather—we can nod our heads. I’d like to use my part-time bookstore job as a prime example.


Encounters in a Bookstore #294: These Coupons Do Not Go to 11

The bookstore where I work wants your email address. You will then receive about one email from us per day, most of which aren’t worth opening. But before you decline to give it to us, just remember: some of those emails will include coupons.

A while back, one such coupon was good for 40% off an educational game or toy of your choice. Like most coupons it included very fine print, and that fine print stipulated that the coupon was only good for one item per transaction per customer.


Encounters in a Bookstore #76: A Hint of Ink

At the bookstore where I work it is not unusual to deal with customers who are slightly…off. The bespectacled woman who walked in through the front doors one evening and directly to the cash line was one such individual, and she was easy to peg because of the words billowing from her mouth. She also did not bother to wait in the line, or even seem to notice that she might need to.

“I know I have to have my receipt but I can’t find it because the receipts at this store are just too small and I have about two hundred receipts in my wallet and I have to return this book because the smell of its ink makes me sick and I can’t have it in my house anymore but your return policy might be a problem although I spoke to a manager about it the other day when I had to return a different book by the same publisher that also made me sick because of the smell of the ink and what do your receipts look like?”


Encounters in a Bookstore #5: Room 513

Only after a certain amount of time has passed are employees at the bookstore where I work allowed to man the customer service counter. Answering the phones and making overhead announcements and being able to look up titles based on customer descriptions of yellow and red book covers are things better left to seasoned workers—at least two weeks of experience is required.

So three or five weeks into my stint at the bookstore, then, I was working the info desk on a weekday afternoon. At my side, over-explaining everything was my very enthusiastic coworker Chris, who has since gone on to such jobs as life coach and Trader Joe’s clerk. I had just semi-successfully transferred a call to the people working on the floor below when a woman walked in the front doors and headed directly toward our counter.