Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We're a Bookstore, Not A….

Welcome to a new feature here at BookWench, where I discuss various things that should not be expected of bookstores/ booksellers, but nevertheless are demanded from us.

First up – We're a bookstore not a...BABY- SITTING SERVICE.

Now – I am not saying don't bring kids to the store. I actually like dealing with quite a few of our under-12 customers because they haven't lost their enthusiasm for reading or their ability to let their imaginations run wild. It's kind of fun to find a kid a book they will love, and hopefully set them on a course to being a lifetime reader.  

Unfortunately their parents, who are adults and should therefore know better, have a tendency to treat bookstores like a free daycare. Which we are not. Most of us can barely keep track of our coffee mugs, pricing guns, and large carts full of books, much less a stranger's child we were unaware we were in charge of. At the major chain bookstore I worked at in California we had a woman leave her child in our kids section for eight hours a day while she went to work. Or at least she did until CPS got involved. . I also spent an hour at work one day in Manhattan following around a barely-able-to-walk toddler so she didn't fall down the escalator, or somehow make it outside into the insane downtown New York traffic. Her parents were unaware that she had left the area. For an hour. It terrifies me every time I think about it. Seriously people, retail establishments are not places to leave small children unattended. People will steal anything from us.
What really makes all of this grating on the retail worker is how mad parents get when you inform them that they have to stay with their children at all times. It's apparently a really confusing concept that parents are responsible for the tiny people they have brought into this world, and that the minimum wage, over-worked retail employees are not there to provide free daycare while you shop or run errands or go to work. Unless you want to pay my going baby-sitting rate (which is more than my hourly bookstore rate) I'm not going to watch your kids. For the most part we booksellers, as a group, are not appropriate child care workers. A lot of the time we're too hungover for that sort of responsibility. Plus, we tend to use adult language and naughty innuendo. (We have to stave off the rage somehow.)
I've also noticed that it is a bookstore specific problem – I never had anyone leave their kid at the Fancy Cooking Store. That would have been a better option as it had a predominately older female staff, most of whom had kids of their own. Plus, we could have at least fed the kid. I often wonder if Target has this problem. In fact, “Does this happen at Target?” may become another regular series of posts...

As a general rule, if you wouldn't leave your purse or wallet alone in our store, maybe you shouldn't leave your children.

1 comment:

  1. We had a similar problem early in my years at Borders. A man would bring his small son (maybe 4 or 5 yrs) and put him in the video area. He would grab one of the staff near the television and ask that they put in a cartoon. It took a few of these instances before someone realized the man was leaving the store once his kid was "taken care of" for a few hours. I don't think CPS was directly involved, but I'm sure they were suggested should he choose to abandon his child again. With the sheer volume of crazy and creepy out there (some who work in retail), it's insane to imagine trusting a child with strangers for a few seconds, much less hours.