Monday, August 29, 2011

Pet Peeves

I realize that with what I am about to type I am not going to make many friends, and in fact may make some people angry. However, one of my most annoying personality traits is that even if my opinion will make me unpopular, I'll still voice it. Feel free to yell at me in the comments...
We're a Bookstore, Not a.....PetsMart
One of my biggest pet peeves is animals in people places. Unless that place is specifically designed to cater to animals, or has expressed some sort of pro-animal, pet-positive attitude, I really feel that the furry things should stay outside.
Now- to clarify – I do not hate animals. I currently live with a cat, and my roommates and I are puppy shopping. I tend to make ridiculous, high pitched noises in pet stores at the various small furry things that I want to take home and cuddle. I regularly shopped at a bookstore that owned one very well-behaved cat, and I liked browsing the bottom shelves with the shop cat on my lap. And I enjoy seeing dogs out on walks and playing in the park. It's adorable. So please don't think I spend my spare time kicking puppies and throwing things at kittens. I don't.
However- when I am at work in a bookstore I should not have to clean up dog poop. I shouldn't have to shout over the sound of your dog barking, or on one occasion, someone's parrot squawking from their shoulder. And if your dog is being carried around in a purse that cost more than I make in a month, I should be allowed to openly laugh at you. Then perhaps kick you. Not everyone likes animals, and most people assume that going in to non-pet related stores means that they won't have to deal with the huge dog in the cooking section getting too close. I had one little girl leave the store I worked at in tears because she was scared of dogs and the other customer refused to leave her “baby” giant lab out in the car.
The incident that turned this annoyance into a rage-inducing pet peeve was when a customer came up to me for help with a giant snake wrapped around his body and slithering out of the neckline of his shirt. I am not ashamed to admit that when the snake popped his head out and started angling towards me I screamed like a little girl and ran to the back room as the snake's owner laughed at me. I refused to come out until he was gone and have had a strong(er) resentment towards animals in people places ever since.

Now- I will make an exception for service animals. That's a completely valid reason to have a dog with you at all times. I will also allow any animals that possess the ability to read for themselves. If your cat needs a copy of Crime and Punishment to round out his Russian collection, then by all means bring him in. (Then explain to me how you haven't capitalized on your pet's amazing abilities.) However, I have yet to find a justification for Princess FiFi, your incessantly yapping pet cotton ball with legs, spending time in a bookstore.

And – in case it was unclear – there will be no (non-service) animals allowed in Bibliophiles. (Except for the basement full of attack ponies.)

BookWench just finished reading Throne Of Fire – The Kane Chronicles 2 by Rick Riordan, and I'm now in the library looking for more books on Egyptian mythology.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Come to Bury Caesar...

Before we get into the thrust of the post I want to apologize for taking the last couple of weeks off. I have been packing and moving myself across the country. I'm back on the west coast, living in a reverse Three's Company situation. I'm sure the trials of living with two guys will come up later, or possibly spin off into a new blog called What is That Smell?. I'm still a little stressed and out of sorts, but I'm ready to hop back into the world of BookWench.  And now back to our regularly scheduled program...

As anyone who's looked at any sort of book/business news in the past few months well knows Borders Books filed for bankruptcy and is now in the process of shutting down their hundreds of stores across the country. It's caused a lot of mixed emotions for me, as I worked for that company through college and for many, many years afterward. I worked at three of their stores, in three different cities, and it played a significant part in my adult life. And, as awful and annoying as most of the stories I tell from those stores are, I am sad to see it all come to an end.

I am not, however, surprised. As I got higher up in the management echelons of the company the cracks in the logic and flaws in the plan became larger and clearer. It's never a good sign for a business when one of their employees with a Theatre degree can point out their poor fiscal decisions. (Seriously, I haven't taken a class that involved math since my senior year of high school, and I could see that the numbers were not adding up in a positive way.) We all knew the ship was sinking, it was only a matter of when the final wave would take it under, and honestly, it lasted much longer than any of us really expected it to.

As with any company I saw a lot of things go wrong (most of which have/will appear on this blog.) I worked for some truly terrible managers, saw some really bad decisions being made, and saw the company drift away from the love of unique books and intelligent staff that had made them a success in the first place. But despite all of that, it had moments of being a great place to work.

I made so many amazing friends at those stores, even dated a few, and now live with two more. So I owe Borders a debt of gratitude for that alone. I don't think the company ever learned how valuable an asset they had on their sales floor. Every store I worked at had a really unique, weird, crazy staff that loved books. And between the lot of us you could usually find one staff member who had an insane amount of devotion and knowledge for a specific section of the store making for a better resource than Amazon's algorithms could ever hope to be. I'm not saying every staff member in every store was brilliant or patient or hard-working, but a significant number of us were, and the shift away from hiring smart people to hiring anyone really hurt them. And it was a clear shift. You could almost pinpoint the date they did away with asking book questions during the interview process. Occasionally a good one would slip through, but the awesome quirky book nerds were slowly replaced with generic retail drones.

And those people managed to infiltrate the corporate end as well. Borders was founded on this weird combination of large chain and indy bookstore ideas. They prided themselves on being quirky, and having a move varied and interesting stock than their major competitors. And it was awesome. The ease of a large store, but one that carried that weird Bukowski book, or had an extensive philosophy section. But when the plague of generic took over, and someone decided to dismiss everything that made Borders unique, it became just another place to drink coffee and pick up the latest James Patterson novel. Instead of taking pride in offering over 100,000 different titles in each store, the goal became to pack in as many copies of the 100 most popular titles. And at that point, why bother? If I can't tell the difference between one chain and another, why would I go out of my way to remain a loyal customer? There's a reason we have so many fast-food burger places existing together, and it's because I can't get McDonald's fries at Wendy's, and I can't get a Whopper at Sonic. Instead Borders took the path most travelled by, and it unfortunately led them to their demise.

I feel fortunate to have spent a few of the better years there. I learned so much, and I met such amazing people. As I sat in my new living room last night and looked at the three amazing people there with me I was saddened by the thought that the place that brought us all together didn't exist any more. And it's sad that the world lost a place to go and buy actual books. So I felt compelled to write this eulogy of sorts, and say goodbye to the company that led me to the place of writing this blog.

As always, I encourage everyone to support their local, three-dimensional bookstores. Find an awesome independent bookstore and go and enjoy a place where knowledge is readily available for purchase, and where the quirky weirdos with random arts, history, and English degrees go to find work and create a unique collective of ideas. Otherwise, we'll just be out on the streets making trouble, and the books will sit unread, and the Idiocracy will creep ever closer..
If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. 
- Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why My Liver Hates Sales....

As I mentioned in this previous post during sale weekends I keep my sanity by promising myself many, many adult beverages after work time is over. I keep a running tally on my left hand of how often I am asked the three most annoying sales questions. The questions also change depending on the type of sale and I limit my self to the top three so I don't end up dead of alcohol poisoning. I've included a comprehensive list below, and for the sanity of any retail worker during a sale, I ask that you really think twice before using any of them:

  1. Is that with the sale discount? This comes after I have given the person their total. There is a simple way to figure this out: Is the total less than the sum of the items you've purchased? Yes - Then I took off the discount. This one is especially disturbing if they're only buying one item.
  2. Is this item on sale? This question is usually asked by someone standing next to/ under/ leaning on a huge sign declaring EVERYTHING IN STORE 20% OFF. I'm always tempted to say no, they've managed to find the one item that's not on sale.
  3. Can I use this other coupon/ teacher's discount on top of the sale? No. As it clearly states on the coupon/teacher discount card/ sale signs you cannot combine the sale with other discounts. I will give you the one that saves you the most money, but let's not get too greedy. I also find that this question is asked most often by the person carrying a stack of $1 clearance items. Seriously?!
  4. Will you make sure the coupon is off the highest price item? a) The coupon states that the discount will come off the highest priced item b) Do you really think you're the only person in the 10 years the company has been running this promotion that wants the discount on the most expensive item? We've thought it through. c) And yes- I can tell which one is the highest priced item without you pointing it out. I'm pretty good with numbers.
  5. Can I use more than one coupon today? No. I hate rule-breakers. It says one per customer, you get to use one. I'm not going to stand here and do ten different transactions to validate your cheating.

Finally – I take a double shot for any person who tries to use the coupon before the date clearly and largely printed on it. Or anyone who wants the sale to start early for them because they don't want the bother of coming back during the sale and dealing with the crowds. I would like to remind these people that they are not beautiful and unique snowflakes, and the rules do, in fact, apply to them. If you don't want to fight the crowds, you have to pay full price.

Now- if you'll excuse me I have to restock my vodka supply as last week's coupon sale depleted it.