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."


  1. Oh, people tell us all about their lives over in teh cafe too! It doesn't usually get that interesting though!

    When I worked at a college bookstore, a woman once told me that she just got divorced so I said "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." but she happily said "No, it's a good thing." What do you say to that? Congratulations? It seems wrong to congratulate a failed marriage.

  2. I guess it's kind of like working in a bar, where drunk people tell you their life problems only at least there, you can blame it on the alcohol.