Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bookseller Is In - That'll be $5 Please

In the grand tradition of young Lucy VanPelt from the Peanuts cartoon strip I would love to put a little sign over my head and a tip jar on my information desk. (The $5 price tag is due to inflation...and being a grown-up) I would not charge every customer that came to my little booth, only the ones whose questions clearly exist outside the realm of normal bookstore queries. I'm not talking about “Where can I find Who Moved My Cheese?” or “Where's the children's section?” I'm talking abut the vague, no information, open ended questions that even those of us who have served our time in the book trenches, and are well-educated and well-read have a hard time answering. The customers who don't know the title, author, subject, plot, language, etc. of the book they have come to buy. The customers that take more than thirty minutes of hand holding and games of 20 Questions to conclude that they need Hamlet. People who after an hour, four rounds of 20 Questions and the help of two additional clerks STILL cannot tell you the name of the book they need, and who refuse to call someone else in their class to get the title, or go home and look at the handy syllabus that has the title written on it. (We never figured that one out, but he should have tipped us for the excessive amount of time he wasted.) The queries that exhaust the bookseller's mental list of most commonly asked for titles. These are the questions I feel I deserve earn me an extra $5. 

 My other option is to leave the customer wandering, lost amid the scary stacks of books until the Zombie apocalypse comes and the undead use their brains as an amuse bouche.

Need proof, here's a real, happened-to-me, example:

Me: How can I help you?
Customer: I need a book for school. I can't remember the title or the author, but it's about a guy during World War II and he's maybe famous?
Me (Taking my best shot):   Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel?
Customer: That's totally it!
Me (In my head): That will be $5 please.

And, as a new weekly addition to the blog:
BookWench is Currently Reading -  Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

Monday, February 14, 2011

Release the Attack Ponies!

In my many years in various aspects of BookWorld I have sometimes imagined what it would look like if I owned a bookstore. I could make all the rules, control the stock, and perhaps make the filter between my brain and my mouth out of a slightly wider mesh. It could be the literary equivalent of the restaurants that play on the schtick of having rude waitresses. At some point in this blog I will give you the full imaginary tour, but for right now, the two most important points. First, the name, Bibliophiles. Right away, you get rid of a lot of the rif-raf because they won't know what that big scary word means. And second, and most importantly: The List. What is The List, you ask? Behind the main employee desk, next to the emergency flask of whiskey, will live the gilt framed list of five questions/actions that will activate the secret trap door that releases the perpetrator into the bowels of the store where my army of miniature attack ponies lie in wait to trample them with very tiny, adorable, but deadly, hooves.

And here it is – The List:

  1. “Do you have the Cliff Notes/ Spark Notes for (fill in the blank)?” (If the title is Shakespeare, we skip the ponies and I pummel you myself)
  2. Talking on your cell phone while a sales clerk is trying to answer your question.
  3. “I don't know the title or author or what it's about, but I kind of know what it looks like.”
  4. “Can you recommend a book for a gift for my friend? I know absolutely nothing about their reading habits, hobbies, or interests.”
  5. “Do you have a copy machine? I don't want to buy the book, I just want some of the information.”

So if you should wander into a bookstore called Bibliophiles, watch out for trap doors and tiny ponies. You've been warned.

Have any suggestions for The List - leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Call me BookWench.

Welcome to the Book Wench! This initial post is mainly an introduction, which I know is rather bold of me since most of the people reading this are either related to me or very close friends. However, if this blog does become modestly successful, or you're being forced to read it by one of the aforementioned relatives/ close friends, you deserve a basic rundown of myself and my credentials as a book blogger.

So, I'm Amber. I've always been an avid reader. As anyone who has helped me move can attest to, I may, in fact, be too avid a reader/collector, as I would rather get rid of couches, chairs, desks, clothes or pets than books. Good luck finding a place to sit, but you'll never want for reading material. I even have a line from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing tattooed on my ankle. That's some serious lit-nerd cred right there. I worked at a large chain bookstore to earn money while attending New York University, getting a degree in acting. My acting degree led me to many, many more years working in various bookstores in New York, Los Angeles, and Texas. It also gave me the skill set required to act like I don't want to maim people or cry when I am asked particularly stupid questions. So I can honestly say I use my degree every minute of every working day, because there is a LOT of stupid and crazy running wild in this country.

Anyway – after regaling all of my family and friends with stories both humorous and horrifying from the trenches of book world they encouraged me to vent my spleen to a wider audience. I don't know if this is because they think I'm that funny or if they're just sick and tired of listening to me. So, it was either this, or tea parties with my small village of imaginary friends and a battered stuffed Piglet doll. After...let's just say too many years in book world I have amassed some interesting stories and a hopefully humorous take on retail/ books/ humanity at large.

I will warn you that my sense of humor tends to be...blunt. Or as the people who love me best would say, bitchy. I will freely admit to being very sarcastic, and a little judge-y. And some of the stuff I post here will definitely not be family-friendly. It's a brutal world out there in Bookland, and I calls 'em like I sees 'em.

Basically the blog postings will fall into a few categories:
      • Funny Bookstore Happenings – the odd characters (both customer and co-workers) and their activities that make BookWorld so amusing and infuriating.
      • Quotes of the Week – a collection of the dumbest/ funniest/ WTF-iest questions and statements you only get to hear while working at a bookstore. I promise that all of these will be actual things either I or my co-workers have heard, even though you will hope 90% are things we made up.
      • Retail Rules – Things that we on the other side of the counter wish the average public knew to make all our lives more pleasant. Some will be book specific, others can (and should) be applied anywhere. These may also include some basic common sense stuff that can be applied to all aspects of life, like why there should be an age limit on certain articles of clothing.
      • Book/ Author Reviews – To prove that I'm not just a ranting book clerk and to take a look at why I still love reading after working in the Book Mines, I'll include post about what I'm reading, all-time favorite books, and authors I feel should be sainted or at least read by everyone. I may also take a trip to the dark side and tell you about authors/books I do not have such happy, fluffy feelings for.
      • If I Ran the Bookstore – Tales from the imaginary bookstore I own.

So that's the idea behind the blog. Anyone who loves books, has slaved away in book retail (or any retail), or is exceptionally bored at work should find something to amuse them here. Now I'll leave you with some previews of things to come:

“Why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may, in fact, be the greatest writer ever. And, no, I'm not a huge fan.”
“The 5 questions that will get you fed to the attack ponies in my imaginary bookstore.”
“Crimes Against Literature” (This will be a multi-part series)

And from Quotes of the Week:

“Can you tell me who wrote Dante's Inferno?”