Saturday, March 31, 2012

Damnit Jim, I'm a Bookseller, Not a Therapist!

I don't know if it's like this for other retailers or salespeople, but I've notice through the years that customers tend to be very open about personal business with their booksellers. It could be that they feel the need to validate whatever kind of book they're looking for or they need reassurance. It has lead to some awkward moments however, because, like the title of this post says, I'm not a therapist. Do they tell their neighborhood grocer about these same things? Here are some of my personal stories and feel free to share any you have.

  • We have customers all the time that have books shipped to someone who is in prison. Wives sending to husbands, girlfriends to boyfriends, and mothers to sons. A mother wanted my help in selecting some self-improvement and inspirational books for her son. As I made some suggestions, she starts telling me that it isn't really her son's fault that he's in jail. He got in with a bad crowd, made some bad choices. She said that they got him into drugs. My gosh, she was on the verge of tears. I've never had to deal with a crying customer, but thankfully she pulled herself together. I did my usual "smile and nod" maneuver and that seemed to suffice. 

  • Then there was the time I nearly dissolved into tears. A woman came in looking for books on grieving the loss of a child. We didn't have that many, but they all seemed to be geared toward the mother. She was looking for something for the father. As I'm searching the database, she tells me that she wants this for her husband because he is having a hard time dealing with the loss of their baby. I express my condolences and then she says that they had twins, but only one survived. It took all I had to: a. Not hug this woman as we stood in the center of the store. b. Burst into sobs. 

  • Some customers make me shake my head, like the man who wanted books about cooking with marijuana. He adamantly told me that he was not a druggie or addict. He took it for medicinal purposes. He even took out his medical marijuana card to prove it. He kept repeating it over and over. What you do is your own business! I just sell you the book!

  • This happened just yesterday...Everyone is talking about this book called "Fifty Shades of Grey". (It's a Twilight fan fic with the names changed, people!! Sorry.) This older man called up the store and said he was looking for two books. First one was a political book that we had in stock. Then he asked for "Fifty Shades of Grey." It doesn't come out until 4/3. After informing him, I made some sort of remark about how everyone wants this book and that it apparently is "quite the saucy read." On a side note, I must say that "saucy" is a great word to use in everyday conversation. It's just fun to even say out loud. "Saucy!" Did you say it out loud? I'm digressing, I apologize. This man goes on to say that he heard the book contains bondage scenes and that he may be an old man, but he's had some experiences in his life - experiences with bondage. He wasn't too sure about it at first, he told me, but that's what these women wanted and it turned out it was a good for both of them. Are we really discussing your sexual escapades?? As George Takei would say, "Oh my."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wanna Know What Happens to Your Application?

For the unfortunate souls who never had someone sit them down and discuss the proper way to fill out a job application or how to dress or act when picking up and/or dropping off said application this is what really happens when your app goes "on file".

It goes into a veritable nether world of rejected apps. They will never again see the light of day until they are shredded a year later. You know that place your missing socks from the dryer go to? Or that hole in the desert where those old E.T. video games are buried? Kind of like that.

But before the application makes it that far, it goes through a screening process that includes, but is not limited to, pointing; giggling; ridicule; head shaking; and being passed around so other employees can also partake of the pointing; giggling; etc. Of course now there is new place your app may end up before being tossed into the filing cabinet of no return...


Position: "Fixing books" That's a first for me. I give them points for giving me something new.
Salary Desired: "$650.00" Is that a week? Per hour? I too desire this magical salary.
Don't get me started on the availability. Toward the top it also appears that under age they started to check 17, but then realized they were 18. 

You couldn't estimate a number? A while? So boys and girls, let's see how we did. Pointed - check! Giggled - check! Ridiculed - check! Shake head - check! 

I know this may all seem rather mean spirited, but I guarantee you every retail store does this in some form or another. I know of applicants at other retailers who get tossed into group interviews simply for shits and giggles! Are we horrible people? Possibly, but retail does that to you. We have to find the humor in every little thing to keep from losing what little bit of sanity we have left. 

If you want to read more horror stories about applicants, I suggest checking out an excerpt from The Bloggess' upcoming book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened. She used to work in Human Resources and she shares some of her experiences. Hilarious! I look forward to reading the whole thing when it comes out next month. Here's the link : 

Another piece of advice: Don't wear your "F**k Authority" t-shirt when you drop off your application.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mall Fashion or Signs I'm Getting Old

I've worked in a mall for the last 13 years and I've seen more butt crack than I have ever cared to. Big ones, small ones, some as big as get the picture. Nothing brightens my day more than turning a corner into the Bargain section and seeing someone's ass. I don't want to see it nor do I want to see the top of your thong either!

Just say no.

I also don't understand the tiny jean shorts with the pockets hanging past the cut. It seems very tacky to me and the first thing that pops into my mind when I see girls wearing them is trailer trash. I don't mind the jean shorts without the pockets hanging down and if you have the figure for it. I myself rocked the Daisy Dukes from time to time back in the day.

They're escaping!

The surest sign that I'm getting old is how often I mutter under my breath about someone's hair. I say things like, "What the hell are you thinking?" and "Why did your mother let you out of the house looking like that?" Things I know my mother said about me, my brother, and I'm sure my peers. We had huge bangs, crimped hair, and ponytails everywhere but the back of our head. My brother sported a giant spiked mohawk that changed color all the time. I understand now the anxiety my mother felt when we had to drive my brother somewhere and people would stare.

Awesome bangs plus a perm!

Now, I see kids with hair hanging in front of their eyes like a shaggy dog or spiked up on all sides like they just stepped into a wind tunnel. There's one guy that I see all the time with long hair that he manages to tease up and hairspray off the back of his head to epic proportions. I wish I had a picture of him. Some days he looks like Blanka from Street Fighter and other days like Londo from Babylon 5. Sometimes he's with friends who all have their hair done the same way! His hair is clearly the biggest so I guess that makes him the Alpha or whatever. I'm all for freedom of expression and all that jazz, but I just don't get it. I somehow think Jersey Shore is to blame. I think they're to blame for a lot of things.

Blanka & Londo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Geeks: The Next Generation

My daughter just turned 7 and over the years I've experienced several, what I call, "geek parent" moments with her. These little moments make my geeky self proud. Let's start at the very beginning. To be perfectly honest, her name has a geek origin.

Recognize her? If you do, greetings fellow gamer. If not, let me introduce you. That is Cammy from the video game series Street Fighter. There, I've come clean. My daughter is essentially named after a video game character. While playing the game, I always thought that Cammy would be such cute nickname for a daughter. That lead me to Camylia, which can be shortened down to Cammy, though we tend to spell it Camy. She does not have blonde hair though.

Here are some other "geek parent" moments:

  • When she was about 2 or 3 years old I asked her, "Where does Captain Picard live?" and she pointed to the large picture of the Enterprise hanging on the wall. Yes, we have a picture of the Enterprise in our living also lights up. Nearly brought a tear to my eye.

  • There was another time when I asked what we should watch and she said, "I want to watch Star Trek." Tears again.

  • Through the wonders of late night public television she has discovered He-Man and She-Ra, so she wields her plastic sword and cries, "For the honor of Greyskull!" I dug out some of my old She-Ra dolls and gave them to her.

  • When given the choice between a Build-a-Bear Happy Meal Toy or a Star Wars one, she chose Star Wars. She also has a "light saber" toy that she told her friends at school about prompting an argument over whether or not girls can like Star Wars. Camy said she told the boys that Star Wars is indeed for girls too. Hell yes, young padawan!  

  • Anytime she sees me watching a tv show or movie that looks remotely medieval or fantasy-like her first response is, "Are you watching Lord of the Rings again?" She doesn't quite have the patience for those movies yet, but she does like the earlier Harry Potter movies.

  • Lastly, she plays a mean Mario Kart Wii. She's not quite as ruthless as I am with the turtle shells, but she can kick butt as Princess Peach on a Mach bike.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Where is Your Bathroom?

Public bathrooms aren't exactly my favorite place to be, unless they're the really posh ones with couches, lotions, and an attendant. I dislike the ones at The Bookstore even more so because I have to clean them and the customers that use them are, shall we say, messy. But every now and then, they can be a source of hilarity. If you hear me laughing maniacally from inside the bathroom, you might not want to come in. I may be laughing to keep from crying. Although, if you hear me giggling like a ten-year-old, that means I will invite you in and force you to look upon whatever the bathroom gods have gifted us.

Have you ever walked into a stall and seen that someone has not flushed the toilet? Or perhaps it is because whatever came out of their backside will not fit down said toilet? I always wonder what the hell that person ate. They should have left a note. 

                               Dear Fellow Bathroom User,

                               I apologize for the Redwood tree in the toilet. I tried 
                               everything but the toilet just couldn't handle it. A 
                                word of advice - don't eat (insert random stool-hardening,
                               constipation-inducing food from hell) from the food court.
                                                                                 Save yourselves!   

If you can spot the customer walking rather uncomfortably through the store, you've found the culprit. Honestly, there are times I've wondered how such things left behind didn't cause them to let out a blood chilling scream. Some of them are inhumanly large. There was one such incident where I swear a horse used our bathroom because what I saw could not have possibly come out of a human being....and it looked like they had eaten hay. Yeah.

I really love it when a customer says to me, "Your ladies room is in need of attention. It's horrible in there!" Without fail, as I'm walking to the bathroom, this scene is playing in my head:

Daddy Day Care

I walk in expecting total chaos and almost always find just a piece of paper on the floor. I'd like to see those people's reactions to when there really is poo on the walls. Yes, I know it's part of our job to keep the restrooms clean, but that doesn't mean it gives you the right to forget all common decency. If you drop paper on the ground, pick it up and put it in the trashcan. If your child makes a mess on the toilet seat, clean it up. I could go on for days....

I will conclude with a funny story that happened to me in our bathroom just the other day. I entered the stall and set my name badge and portable store phone on top of the toilet paper dispenser. I sat down to do my business. (In case you didn't know, women sit on the toilet unless they're one of those ones that like to hover.) I reach over to pull down some toilet paper and the front cover of the dispenser pops open, whacks me in the face and sends my eyeglasses flying. Ow. I put the cover back up and finish. I grab my name badge and go wash my hands. After washing, I realize something is missing.

Where is the phone?

In my pocket? No. On the floor in the bathroom stall I was in? No. In the other stalls? No. In the trashcan? No. By this point, I'm starting to lose my mind and question myself. Did I really bring the phone in here? There was no way it fell in the toilet, right? It's too big. There were a few seconds of what-ifs. I checked the office where I was prior and the phone is not there. Finally, I go back into the stall and open up the toilet paper dispenser and there it is.

Sanity restored...well...for now.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Adventures in Bookselling

I've noticed these "What I Actually Do" memes popping up all over and I simply had to make one that reflected how I feel at The Bookstore some days. Here is an explanation of my picture choices:

What my friends think I do: My close friends have heard enough of my horror stories to know how it really is at my work, but more casual ones may not. General consensus always seems to be that because I work surrounded by books that I must read them all day long. I hear it from customers all the time. "Must be so nice to work here! You get to read all these books."

What my parents think I do: I always have a feeling that my parents think my job is a lot more glamorous than it really is.

What society thinks I do: Aside from reading all day, most of society seems to think I'm there to pick up all the books they've pulled off the shelves and made a fort out of in our cafe. On the plus side, years of lugging stacks of books all over the place will strengthen your arms. Next time you're in a bookstore, check out the "guns" on those booksellers. Oh yeah.

What my boss thinks I do: Most of the people up in the corporate offices have never actually worked in a bookstore. They've never been in the trenches, as it were. "Well, why isn't this getting done?" they ask. Because I've been napping in the Fiction section. Forget the 20 other things I have to do, I'm taking a nap!

What I think I do: Bookstore - The Musical. Dancing and singing among the stacks of books a la Belle from Beauty and the Beast. This is what sometimes goes on in my mind as I'm working. Come on, I can't be the only one who thinks that the world would be a happier place if we all just broke out in spontaneous musical numbers.

What I actually do: It wasn't always this way, but let's face it, at least once a day I make that face. It's usually after seeing the fort of books someone built around a cafe table or dealing with a customer who can't understand why they can't return something they bought 3 years prior or cleaning the bathroom. 

Sometimes, I actually do sell books. My favorite part has always been helping someone find a new book to read. Not just being told a title and taking them to the shelf, but actually suggesting a book or author they may not have heard of. The best part is when they come back and tell you how much they loved the book you recommended. So among the crap (sometimes literally) I have to put up with, there are moments where I still love what I do.     


Friday, March 9, 2012

My Crazy Obsession

Since there is a TV show of the same name and it is a trending topic on Twitter, let's go with this as a blog subject.

Obsession - the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

I'll admit I have obsessions. Not as bad as some of the people featured on the show, but obsessions that sometimes effect my life. Let's go with Nightmare Before Christmas...

This primarily affects my wallet and to another extent my living space. Stick Jack Skellington's face on something and I will want to buy it. I have gotten much better recently at controlling my urges, but it is hard. Especially at Disneyland, where there is a whole store devoted to it! I've got clothing, purses, figurines, several incarnations of the soundtrack and the movie, plush, and dishware!

The thing is I don't even know when it started! Maybe that's the thing about obsessions - you are waist deep into them before you even realize it. I honestly believe that if I ever meet Tim Burton or Danny Elfman I will have a complete fangirl meltdown. That would be my Beatles moment. I fear security may need to be called.

                                          My favorite one of my collection.

I have other obsessions because why have just one, that's no fun!

Harry Potter. I don't own quite as many Harry Potter collectibles as I do Nightmare, but I have a lot. I've dressed up as a Hogwarts student (Slytherin House, ftw) and as a professor. I've had heated debates with people that think that Harry Potter leads kids to the devil. So much so that I've had to walk away before I completely lost it. Let's not forget the fanfiction! I believe that how much I'm into something is directly proportional to how much fanfiction I read.

I wonder what makes me throw myself so passionately into certain things. Is there something in my personality that makes me different? Perhaps, it is that I make my obsessions known, while others keep it hidden. I will say that it is a wonderful feeling when you find other individuals who share your obsession. There is another silver lining to having obsessions - everyone knows what kind of gift to get you.      

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So I've got a blog now...

I've decided to start a blog to house my rants, crazy ideas, and geek-outs. There will be no rhyme or reason as far as topics go, but as you can probably tell from the title of my blog, the bookstore (aka work aka seventh circle of hell aka you get the picture) will be a prominent feature.

First off, I needed a name for my little soapbox. Couldn't just call it "April's Blog" now could I? How about "April and Her Quest to Get Out of Retail" ? Nope, too long. In the end, I decided to go with a question I get asked quite often at The Bookstore, "Where is Non-Fiction?". To an outsider, you may think that this question is a perfectly valid one. To those who have known the joys of working in a bookstore, you know how annoying this question is.

Let me explain.

Most of The Bookstore is made up of non-fiction books. So the answer to that question is this:

Of course the real answer does vary. You could be responded to any number of ways.

  • "What subject are you looking for?"
  • "Most of the store is non-fiction."
  • "Well, there's some over there." points "Some more over there." points another direction
I do worry about society when after I've asked what specific subject within non-fiction they are looking for, I am told, "I just need non-fiction." You are on your own then.