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


  1. And how is Mr. Oswalt's book? I think I want to read that one next.

  2. Best question ever. [this was pre9/11 mind you]

    Teen Customer: Do you have um, "A Tale of Two Towers?"
    Me: "Yes ...and no."

  3. Mr. Oswalt's book is wonderful. It's not just a rehash of his stand-up, and it is funny, sweet, thoughtful and intelligent. He is way at the top of the list of celebrities I would like to hang out and drink with.