Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tales From the (Former) Day Job

These days I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I used to be a full-time bookseller (I still cover shifts at my old store. It's so much easier to be nice to customers when you only work a couple days a month!). This post on Publisher's Weekly made me recall the crazy questions I got.

Most customers were fine, but some were one of two extremes: either they thought the booksellers were subhuman because we worked retail, or they thought that because we worked at a popular independent bookstore, we were gods with all the knowledge in the world. There were so many "I need a book, I heard about it on NPR three weeks ago and I think it was about a war but I can't remember which one"-type requests that they're not even worth mentioning here. But we got some doozies.

There was the kid who wanted The Anarchist's Cookbook. We didn't have it, but could order it. He didn't want to give me his name and address for the order. "I'll just go to Amazon," he smirked. Yes, because when you order things online they don't require your name and address. >rolls eyes< At least I am reasonably sure he never got it and didn't pipe-bomb his school.

There was the man who marched up to the information desk and barked, "The World is Flat!" (a popular title at the time). Since he couldn't be bothered to act like a civilized person, I grinned and said, "That's not what I learned in school!" The other customers nearby laughed. He did not.

Another woman asked, "Do you have the Holy Grail?" (I knew she wanted Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which was popular after The Da Vinci Code came out). She wasn't being rude, she was just flustered, so I didn't reply, "If I did, would I be working here?".

Once a woman called and said, "What's the name of that song they play on >radio station< all the time? It's like, "Craaaaaazy...". I had no clue. I found the number of the station for her, but she couldn't believe I didn't know what song she wanted. Later a co-worker heard the story and identified the song as being by Gnarls Barkley.

There are hundreds more that I could never remember, but the above are my favorites. Are there any other booksellers out there with awesomely weird customer questions to share?


  1. Thank you for posting this; it made me laugh.

  2. I used to work in a comic book shop and you want just ONE odd story? Every day was a novel's worth of peculiar personalities of which I was probably someone else's.

    My fave story dealt with a woman who was sincerely convinced that I was personally preventing her lottery numbers from being drawn. Every day, I could expect her to come in and announce, "You're THE DEVIL!" She would repeat this every other sentence, making sure everyone inside the building could hear her.

    Over time, I grew weary of the assessment. I mean it was tough to find dates when someone heard that I was the Prince of Darkness.

    So one day, the woman entered the store, told me her numbers didn't get pulled AGAIN and that I was The Devil. I told her, "If you are right about me, don't you think I'd use my Satanic powers to enrich myself? Look, I'm still HERE!

    "Also, if I had THAT much power ... doesn't it make sense that you shouldn't annoy me?"

    I leered. She fled.