Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ah, Bookstores... The Sequel

People always seem to complain about bookstores. But consider the alternative.

Think what's it's like to work in one. I've been working, in one capacity or another, in the local big bad chain bookstore in Poodledale for several years now. Yeah, one of those faceless, heartless, evil large corporate entities that don't give a damn about anything or anyone, and have put all those poor little indies run by Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa out of business.

What a crock. And a tired one at that. Book selling is a very tough, competitive business and unfortunately, simply loving books is no guarantee even the nicest, coolest, friendliest person in the world -- and I've met some pretty good folks in those small little bookstores -- can manage to run a successful bookstore.

But I can assure you that there are plenty of people working in even those big bad bookstores who love books and reading every bit as much as their customers. I know I do. It's why I love my job. And most of my customers are great.

And yet there's hardly a week goes by that I don't open up a discussion group digest or have to deal with some irate "customer" who's dumping all over us once again.

Like, for instance:
"I wanted to go to the bookstore for my birthday. I wanted to get a cup of coffee and a muffen then use WiFi to look at (some author's) webpages and see what books I could find. I am not picky what kind of book I read I will read anything! I have even been known to read a cookbook when I had nothing else. Off to the bookstore with my PDA I go. What do I find? Coffee and a muffen would set me back 10 dollars. WiFi was not a free service and I could not find any of the books that I wanted. I am not just talking about (some author's) books, I am talking about there was not one Hard back Dean Koontz book in the whole place. I miss the local used book store at the end of the block where you could just drop in and find the book you wanted chat up the latest gossip with the lady reading a romance novel behind the counter, then go home curl up in a blanket read the book all night. "SIGH" I have not tried the libary yet that is where I am heading next.
Me? All I wanted was someone who wasn't hoping to read magazines and books for free, or poach our WiFi for free (which isn't free to those who provide it) and not get their undies in a knot simply because we don't carry every edition of every book in the world (no bookstore can afford to). But if we don't have it, we'll try our best to get it for you.

All I wanted was someone who wouldn't complain about how used or online bookstores offer so much better prices (except for shipping and handling, of course). And the next time you can't find that book whose title you don't know by that "arthur" whose name you forget but it has -- maybe -- yellow on the cover, feel free to call Amazon. I'm sure they have a team of operators standing by just to help you. Or ask one of the staff (if you can find one) at Wal*Mart for help with your literary questions.

All I wanted was someone who wouldn't exaggerate to make a point. Ten dollars for a simple coffee and muffin? Yeah, right... I'd like to see the receipt for that.

All I wanted was a customer who could spell "muffin" or "library."

All I wanted was a customer who was a "customer" (IE: one who actually spends money), not a freeloader or a mooch or a squatter...

It's not a library. We don't mind if people glance through a book or a magazine sometimes, but for God's sake buy something sometimes, damn it. Don't sit there, snapping pictures of our books with your cellphone. And don't complain to us at customer service because we don't have photocopy machines, you thieving mooch.

Please treat our merchandise with respect. Put it back where you got it, if you've got the mental capacity to do so. Or at least don't dump them on the floor. And please don't use a sweating, dripping gargantuan ice-blended coffee drink as a bookmark in an $80.00 coffee table book on Andy Warhol whose protective plastic wrap you just ripped off when you thought nobody was looking.

It's not a picnic area. Don't bring your own food, you deadbeat. You want a four-pounder SuperBurger with the works, jumbo fries and a five-gallon Diet Coke to plug that annoying clean spot in your last working artery, by all means, go for it. But eat it there. Please. You keel over, I'm not sure we have enough staff on hand to be able to move your carcass.

It's not a day care centre. Don't leave your runny-nosed screaming ill-begotten brats here to raise hell while you go to Target.

And it's not an ashram. Get your fat butt off the floor. Don't sit on that convenient stack of bargain books either. We do have chairs. You wanna sit on the floor, go to the supermarket. I'm sure they'd love your business.

We're not an auditorium. So don't give me that bullshit about there not being "enough" chairs. We're under no local or state obligation to provide seating. And sometimes we have to take away chairs to -- GASP!!! -- make room for books. Deal with it, lard-arse.

If there are no chairs available, STAND (if you remember how). Or go home and wait for the casting call for the theatrical touring version of WALL-E. I hear they're looking for "humans." You'd be a natural.

Don't give me this crap about a bad back, either. If your body is in such horrible shape you have to lie on the floor, have whoever delivered you here (because of course in your delicate condition you couldn't possibly have driven yourself, right?) take you home.

Because, believe me, some of our "heavier" patrons steps on your head, you'll have head problems too.

By the way, all you blushing young brides-to-be with the foot-high stack of expensive, glossy wedding magazines you're folding, bending and mutilating: we've hired an old gypsy to put a curse on you. "May your future groom respect your wedding vows as much as you respect our merchandise."

If this curse works out, we're having her back to lay one on nursing students as well. And people interested in tattoos.

No Dean Koontz hardcovers? Does he have a new hardcover out? Or are you looking for an older title? Here's a clue: the books on the shelves? We're hoping to sell them. A book unlikely to sell is not going to be on our shelves for very long. (Which is why we carry so few self-published novels -- nobody wants them).

Unfortunately, retail space is too expensive to stock books on a whim. And a five or six-year old hardcover edition of a book readily available in paperback definitely falls into the whim category. If a book's not selling, it goes back to the warehouse. But if you want it, we can get it for you, usually within a week.

Which reminds me: the next time we don't have some TV "journalist"'s latest hate-filled screed on who is destroying America this week, please let me assure you it's not because we're part of some vast left-wing liberal/socialist/Commie/terrorist plot -- maybe we're just sold out. Or the publisher seriously miscalculated demand.

It's a bookstore. We sell books. Hell, we sell Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler and friggin' cat mysteries. So why wouldn't we sell books by Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Riley or Al Franken or whomever?

And while I understand a small but angry minority didn't like the way the last election went, defacing or turning around any book featuring Obama on the cover won't change the election results.

And referring to him as "the nigger president" tells me more about you than it does about him.

As for this mythical little used bookstore where you can gossip away with the lady behind the counter reading the romance novel, well, how nice for you. I imagine that impresses the person behind you in line. Assuming there was a line. Or is the lady reading behind the counter because she hasn't had any paying customers for two hours?

Sorry but, as I said, we're booksellers. We sell books. We're far too busy helping real, hopefully paying customers to read behind a counter. Any bookstore where the staff has time to read a book during business hours is likely going to be gone in a year. Or less, if people continue to abuse their hospitality.

So go to Costco or Walmart or wherever and sprawl on their floor, read their magazines and books and eat your "muffen." And gosh darn it, you can't beat their selection. Plus their staff is so helpful and knowledgeable about books. Why, you can get any book in the world you want as long as it was on Oprah last week.

Unless, of course, they're also sold out.

Labels: , ,