Friday, November 02, 2007

Essential Bookselling Traits

(inspired partly by a very strange conversation that I had with Faye).

A booksellers job is harder than you think. Not only do you have to sell books to people, you also have to decorate things with bits of cardboard, lift heavy weights, have the kind of brain that can solve complex crossword puzzles when all the clues are missing and also read minds.

You must not react angrily when a customer calls you a liar because the book they want to buy is only in hardback but they've seen it in paperback somewhere else, oh yes they have! Or they read in the paper that the new Anthony Horowitz book is out today and the fact that you only have it in hardback is obviously some kind of a con. I really thought that this particular customer was going to explode with indignation. In the end she just stormed out of the shop - and then came back today and bought it, from me, pretending that she didn't know who I was... "I saw this yesterday but didn't think your colleague could be right when she said it was only in hardback" - MY COLLEAGUE??? That would be the OTHER tall blonde girl we have on the staff, the one that is also me...

As well as the thick skin needed to deal with those people you also need actual thick skin. This is because the biggest enemy of the bookseller is papercuts - on my worst day I had a total of 15, that's including the one just above my right eye where a shelf strip whipped up and caught me. All those nice bright pieces of cardboard that you see, actually covered in blood smears on the back. (but we make a point never to bleed on the actual books).

The genius mind is needed to help out all the people who come in asking for that new book "about tractors", "the blue one that was on tv last night", "those bikers, the hunky ones", "that one about him off the telly, you know, the tall man" (answers at the end). This does often give a sense of achievement as you've been able to work out exactly what these people are talking about.

Heavy lifting comes in not only with lugging piles of books about the shop attempting to make neat piles on tables. The tables and browsers have to get there somehow after all. That 7ft tall dumpbin in the kids section? Dragged up the stairs by me and Faye (she pulled, I pushed) and then dragged into place by Chris as our arms had turned to jelly.

Heavy lifting is also needed when you are carrying one of those big armfuls of books and then a little voice says "Do you work here?" One day I will answer "No, I'm a shoplifter", but until then I will say yes and listen to their enquiry and then find them the book they want, all without putting the armful of books down because if you dare to do this the customer will look at you with disgust and decide that you are being rude.

Rude is something you cannot be when working in a shop. When customers walk past the big obvious pile of the new Ewan McGregor/Jeremy Clarkson/Wilbur Smith/Martina Cole and say "Do you have the new Ewan McGregor/Jeremy Clarkson/Wilbur Smith/Martina Cole book?", and you point and they say "Where?" and you walk over to the big pile of books and get one for them and they don't bother to say thank you and just sigh because it took you all of 10 seconds to walk over to the pile next to the customer and hand it to them, but you took too long....

Yes I have had one of those days...

So, to recap. Hide like a rhino, genius brain, very strong, ability to keep a smile on your face while you're wishing that they'd never been born.

Then you smile and say "Next please. Can I help anyone?"

"about tractors" - A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.
"the blue one that was on TV last night" - Planet Earth.
"those bikers, the hunky ones" - Hairy Bikers (not Ewan McGregor, lose five points).
"that one about him off the telly, you know, the tall man" - Paul O'Grady.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Oh. I just got all nostalgic. I miss working in a book store with all the tragically dim customers and the :(

(and I didn't realise the new Anthony Horowitz is out already!!!)