Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bookstore Chronicles: Countdown to Xmas #3

A cornucopia of crazies came rollin' on in this week. Christmas is getting close and it's cold outside by NC standards, so I knew they would.

If you sell it, they will come (notice the cornucopia I chose is full of fruit).

Last week, remember how I stated that I become slightly afraid when I get called up to the front for customer assistance? That time it was Logging Lady. This week it was Calendar Guy.

I get up to the front after I hear the page, and the cashier tells me that the customer is looking for an Anne Geddes calendar. You know Anne Geddes...she's the one that dresses babies as cabbages and people think it's cute?

I notice that the customer has an Anne Geddes calendar in his hand already, and I point this out. Call me Captain Obvious.

"This ain't the right one," he replies.

The cashier shows me the picture of the one he wants and he follows me out to the calendar racks. When I say he followed me, I mean he followed me. I mean he practically glued his feet to my feet just in case I got more than two inches ahead of him.

I'm sure all of you have had an encounter with a 'Close Stander'. These people are completely missing that natural chip in their brains that tell them "YOU ARE STANDING TOO CLOSE AND THE OTHER PERSON IS UNCOMFORTABLE". They're the ones that will sit right next to you in an empty movie theater when there are 200 other seats to choose from.

I'm a person that doesn't even like being that close to people I know and like.

I'm sure I get one Close Stander a day at the store. There's one particular lookup computer in the music department that I dread using. It's the only one in the store where the screen and keyboard face towards the customer. So my back is to the customer standing behind me when I'm looking a title up for them. For some reason that gives people the green light to practically dry hump me into the desk.

Anyway, I take Calendar Guy into the section, and he's spouting off compliments about me. Conjure up a "paddle faster, I hear banjo music" sort of accent in your minds.

"You sure are a beautiful lady. You have such pretty eyes, wow you're good-lookin'! And your hair. I love redheads! You're just so beautiful. I guess I should shut up in case my wife comes up behind me. Did I mention how good-lookin' you are???..."

So everyone likes a compliment. I'm not a total dog, so I occasionally get asked for my phone number and I have to flash the wedding ring. But when a 60 year old man is following you so closely that he's practically saddling you up, the compliments become a bit creepy. Especially when they don't stop. I said thank you 5 times, and he still went on.

We get over to the calendar rack in the corner, and he was standing way too close. I backed up around the fixture, and he backed up with me. I was pretty much pressed against the wall. Keep in mind that he's complimenting me the whole time, and simultaneously telling me just how many of those Anne Geddes calendars we should have in the store.

Booksellers are not supposed to tell customers exactly how many of a certain product that we have. We are all human beings, and human beings make errors. Things get put in the wrong place and we can't find them. If a customer knows you can't find something and they've been told that there are 10 copies of it, you look like a total asshole.

"There are 6 of 'em. She told me there were 6, but I just can't find 'em. Did I tell you I think you're pretty and I want to wear your skin as a snowsuit??"

Okay, he didn't say that last part, but it sure felt like he was thinking it.

Creepy McCreeperson.

I just couldn't find him the calendar he wanted, and he finally left with the one he originally had in his hand. And I was left with the intense urge to take a shower and to write" The Twelve Days of a Bookstore Christmas".

Twelve crackheads sleeping,
Eleven children screaming,
Ten CDs stolen,
Nine customers ranting,
Eight fruitcakes raving,
Seven chairs soiled,
Six porn mags hidden,

Fiiiiive piiiink fuuuuuuuzzy booooooks!!

Four Close Standers,
Three strippers limping,
Two tattooed bikers,

...and a Frappuccino spilled on the floooooooor!

Speaking of raving fruitcakes.

The other night I was at customer service, and a dude walks up. I could tell by the shifty look in his eyes that he'd had all sorts of crazy for breakfast that morning. He sounded like Peter Lorre in 'Arsenic and Old Lace'.

"Hey, I'm sorry to bother you but I just wanted to tell you that I was outside the library tonight and I saw the eclipse and I just wanted to tell you that you had better be good yeah and I'll be good and we all need to be good so something bad doesn't happen I see you're probably busy but I just needed to tell you that and you have a good night I'm sorry to bother you..."

Ho.Lee. Shit. I thought I was gonna get stabbed. He seriously was talking like that. I haven't encountered a run-on sentence like that since reading James Joyce. Joyce was kinda crazy like that. But he only had one crazy eye.

I don't know what the hell Eclipse Guy was talking about. The sky did look a little weird around sunset, it was yellowish-green...I don't know. I'm just glad the dude backed up and walked away before I had to call security.

There was porn found in the men's bathroom for the second time this week. I was shelving some books near the cafe when I overheard a customer telling this chick he was with that he had to go to the bathroom and that someone had put a stash of porn in there.

I turned around. "Did you just say there was porn in the bathroom?"

He looked at me like he wished I hadn't heard so that he could go in and look at it again. "Yeah."

I sent our assistant manager in there with a pair of gloves. He came out carrying two books. One was a large Kama Sutra photo book, and the other was "Sex For Dummies".

The Kama Sutra I can understand. "Sex For Dummies"?? Who the hell uses "Sex For Dummies" as spank bank material? "Ooh, I get all turned on by educational descriptions, semi-witty quips and crude ink drawings!" I suppose it's not that weird...after all, there are people out there who like it when people paddle them or pee on them. But I can even understand THAT more than I can understand someone getting off on "Sex For Dummies".

Why do people even need 'how-to' sex books anyway? This is one of our most popular ones:

Where's the imagination? Why don't you just ask your man what he likes? What if he doesn't want his perineum probed?? What if he doesn't want his testes tugged??

I found that book left on the Bible table yesterday. Makes sense. If you follow the book's instructions, you'll make your man see Jesus.

I've mentioned before that my company is all about freedom of speech. When it comes to books, we sell anything and everyhing.

The assistant manager and I were cleaning up near the end of the night (the same night we found the 'porn'). We were talking and this woman strides up to us.

"Hi. So I can't BELIEVE that you don't sell books by Hitler. This is ridiculous. I thought a company like this would sell 'Mein Kampf' for sure! I'm very disappointed in your company."

I'm sure the both of us looked like deer in the headlights. "Actually ma'am, we do sell 'Mein Kampf'. I'll show you where it is," I said.

Hitler Girl follwed along behind me. Thank God she kept her distance, unlike Calendar Guy.

"Well, I don't see it anywhere. It's not in your biography section. Where else would it be?"

She just kept talking and saying how disappointed she was. A lot of people buy 'Mein Kampf' and I went straight to the shelf it was on in the European History section.

I put it her hand, and she acted surprised like she had thought I was lying about having it in the store. She was delighted. Then she was quickly disappointed because we didn't have Hitler's second book.

I offered to try and order it. "What's it called?"

She looked at me like I had just asked her what year it was. "It's called 'Hitler's Second Book'."

Then she went into a lecture about how Hitler was so smart and was quoting 'Mein Kampf'. Now, I don't deny that Hitler was charismatic. Most fascist rulers are, don't ya know? How else would you get people to follow you and kill 6 million people for you? But I generally hate murderous leaders who use their charisma for pure evil and I don't go around quoting them in public places.

The assistant manager that was there with me had grown a mustache for the month of November, it's a fundraising thing that they do here to raise money for sick kids. We had been joking all month that he should shave it into a Hitler-stache. Of course he didn't do that, but he dyed it black for fun. After the woman left, he mentioned that and we laughed. Can you imagine? She would have thrown herself down on the ground in front of him in a 'we're not worthy-esque' sort of way.

This week's Wiener of the Week Winner is....drum roll please!

The Marine that was standing in the Current Affairs section with his buddy, talking very loudly about shaving his balls.


There was a family looking at books just behind Customer Service that looked up at this, over in the Marine's general direction. Then the family looked at me like, 'Aren't you going to do something about this?'

I actually had to go over and tell the Marine that if he was going to talk about his balls, he had to be quieter about it. Well, I didn't use those words, but you know.

Funniest Secondhand Bookseller Experience of the Week?

My co-worker S had a good one. I'm not quoting exactly, because I wasn't there. But she deserves a guest spot in my blog (S is a weirdo-magnet), and this is how it happens in my mind.

S: Hi there! Is there anything I can help you with?

Customer: Yes. I'm from New Jersey. I'm looking for a book on baby care, but you probably don't have those down here.
[ie: The South]

S: Actually we do...[S, who is from the South, finds the book Jersey Girl is looking for]

Jersey Girl: There's no box with this. Doesn't it come with a box?

S: No ma'am, I'm sorry, it doesn't come with a box.

Jersey Girl: Oh. I don't want it then.

Apparently in New Jersey, all the baby books come with boxes and they think Southerners learn all their baby care tips from the local Mountain Witch Woman. Maybe everything comes with a box in New Jersey. Like the dead bodies that the Mafia dump into the Hudson River. How do you like that false stereotype, Jersey Girl?

Christmas is next week. We're getting down to crunch time. I'm thinking of writing another Christmas song...."It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest".

(I'm oh so talented with 'Paint')


Turling said...

Sweet Jesus, I need to work in a bookstore. It would be non-stop mocking.

ONG said...

#1 - Ann Geddes creeps me out like a mutha f'er
#2 - I could write a novel about personal space abuse, especially in a men's bathroom, 'nuff said
#3 - I will investigate the book in a box deal here in NJ


Elephant's Eye said...

I'll be disappointed when Christmas shopping is over and these work experiences stop. Love your LOL writing!

Kyna said...

Turling: It's a people watching paradise.

John: If a dude stood too close to me while I was taking a piss, there would be a 'Situation'. Glad you took some time away from The Shore to leave a comment. Now run along and dispose of some bodies or something.

EE: Oh the experiences don't stop. Working in a store is the gift that keeps on giving all year round. :) I'll regale you with something from time to time...

Liz said...

Hi Kyna,

So many things to comment on...

It must be wonderful working in a store... Lol, mind, when I worked in a University I had plenty to rant about too ranging from sheer stupidity of students and even the academics!

It always seems to be the old people who stand way too close. They do it all the time in shops. If I'm with someone I always say very loudly how rude they are - sometimes even smacking me in the back with the basket. They soon back off.
Once I was in a chocolate shop buying Christmas presents... The shop is only small with two people serving, well one was busy elsewhere and left just the one person on the tills... This old man was right up humping against me, well because of him being such an ass I decided to have the chocolates iced and with messages on them!

Screw him. I made him wait an extra few minutes all because he couldn't possibly stand a mere step away from me and obviously by humping my back it would've got him served sooner!!!! Grrrrr.

Bub said...

Calendar Guy sounds a real charmer. As for Eclipse Guy - batshit crazy is a term that springs to mind.

What happens to stock that's found somewhere it shouldn't be, i.e. the bathroom? Is it marked down and sold as 'used'? Or 'soiled'? *snort* Eww.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Cracking up about the 'Close Stander'. It reminds me of something that would be in a Seinfeld episode. I definitely like my personal space and don't get how people would want to be right up close to someone they don't know.
At least work isn't boring :)

Kyna said...

Liz: You sound like Chuck lol. He'll always point out someone's rudeness. We were at my stepdaughter's Christmas concert the other night. Everyone in the audience was SO rude. I know it's a kids concert and they're not the most enthralling things to attend. But don't expect us all to be quiet for your kid's turn singing, and then chat on your cell phone or walk around willy-nilly when it's my kid's turn. Chuck was livid. And there was some guy kicking the back of his seat...I think he was this close to punching someone out.

I liked your chocolate store story :D Sorry that I find your violation kind of funny :P

Bub: It gets put in a box in the back reserved especially for product damaged 'by coffee or bodily fluids.' The sign on the box actually says that LOL. Bodily fluids or not, if we find books in the bathroom we damage them out. No need to worry that you're going to get a 'broken in' copy of the Kama Sutra. Ew.

Catherine: Yep, Seinfeld had that episode about the 'Close Talker'. This is similar, but unfortunately, us retail workers can't escape if we want to. How do you tell a customer that's going to spend money in your business, "Hey um...if you're going to hump my back, at least buy me dinner first?'

You're right though, work is almost NEVER boring. Every time I think I've seen it all, something newly weird comes walking in...

Rainforest Gardener said...

I am SOO leaving a crapload of comments here when I'm well rested tomorrow morning. Prepare for an unloading of retail baggage. HAHAHA!

Britta said...

Dear Kyna,
what a hilarious post - though I think the funny side comes only with telling, not experiencing those strange customers!
I cannot see the beauty in Geddon's pictures - I call it Kitsch.
The ManWhoStandsToNear - if somebody does (and we are not filled like sardines in a tube) I friendly say: "Sorry, you are standing a bit to near, do you mind to step back a bit?" - and mostly they do (otherwise I step back unexpectedly and say: "Sorry, stepped on your toes?" But maybe you have to behave better with customers)
Recover from those weirds and nerds - have a beautiful Christmas! Britta

CanadianGardenJoy said...

OK Kyna .. too damn funny
I'll contribute my tiny bit
#1 .. Don't let Chuckles take you to live in Europe .. say Holland .. people in Europe .. say Belgium, don't know what personal space is.. especially in markets .. hell, all of Europe .. no personal space ! They are used to sticking CLOSE to each other.
#2 .. I went to a matinée by myself a few years back (Tom Cruise science fiction one .. after all Tom Cruise IS science fiction anyways ?) .. maybe 11 people in this huge theater .. a guy (mid 20's maybe) moves from a few rows away from me to come 2 seats away from me and proceeds to take his shoes off and puts his feet on the back of the chair in front of him .. no one sitting in said chair thankfully .. but WTF ?? why did he move that close to me and then show off his FEET ? if you have any ideas let me know because to this day I still can't believe it .. I don't think husband believed me when I told him .. mind you husband is the same guy that made me move to Europe for 4 years ?? ;-)
Joy a fellow Canuck wink wink
PS Try to avoid telling me the one about the size of the feet indicating the size of the unmentionable .. he had TINY feet !

Marguerite said...

Ever notice all those Anne Geddes kid are either too terrified to move or bawling their eyes out? I almost can't pick my favourite customer this week but I think I have to go with the ball talking marine - you had me laughing out loud there.

Al said...

I am feeling creepy all over because of calendar guy.
I am sorry you had to go through that, happens all too often.
I am so glad you manage to find a funny side to all this.
I must say working in mental health or community services, staff meetings tend to be one laugh after another. I guess it is a case of if you don't laugh you are going to cry.

Kyna said...

RG: I'm glad you're on here as another bookstore worker. That way in case someone thinks I'm making it all up, you have my back. I'm just glad that you don't work at the BAM in my city though, you and me...we'd be rivals ;)

Britta: Kitsch is the word for Anne Geddes lol. And as far as telling customers that they're standing too close, I'm about to just be honest with them and tell them to give me some room. I just have to be careful, because I don't want a customer complaint about me. Sometimes even when you're completely polite, a customer will find something to get mad at you about and file a formal complaint. Then it's your word against theirs...

Joy: "Small feet, small junk" is a big myth. Trust me, I've done all the research :D

I don't think I have to worry about Chuckles moving me to Europe. He won't even move to Canada :P

Marguerite: Yep. I'm sure I've laughed at seeing a kid dressed up as something cute for Halloween. But I don't want pictures of costumed babies up on my wall all year round...just seems kind of creepy. Unless your own kid or something.

Ball-shaving Marine was my favourite too. He was hilarious without causing too much trouble :)

Al: I'm thinking that you're way smarter than I am. I really need to start writing books instead of selling them. But then, being famous brings on a whole new set of crazies. It's a no win ;)

But I do like the saying 'If I don't laugh, I'm going to cry'. I say it all the time actually lol.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Another missed opportunity. S should have replied: "Oh no ma'am, we don't put baby books in boxes in the South. You see, we ain't got much time for no book learning, whart with all the cotton that needs picking and the lunchings and all. No, we just shove the book right up our clackers and let the little one do all the learning themselves; makes them independent and all. So we find that putting the book in a box just scratches us, but I guess you city folks must have flaps like saddle bags, all leathery and all."

You see, I was BORN to retail!

Jim Groble said...

Your posts are always great reads. I'm stealing the jesus pic. You might like Hayes Carll at:

Merry Christmas and Happy new year to you and Chuck.

jim and pat

Shrinky said...

Too, too funny, and the scary thing is, it seems we have the same crazies all the world over! When I worked in recruitment I met a fair few of them, myself (sigh). What a wonderful post, love how you write. Hope you and yours have a fantabulous, gorgeriffic Christmas, bonny lass!