Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bookstore Chronicles: Countdown to Xmas #4

Most of my job involves answering people's questions. Some of the questions are good, some are funny, some are stupid, and some are exhausting.

Here are a few of the most common ones:

"Where are the bathrooms?"

Ok. I can't really fault people for asking where the bathrooms are. I've had to do it in restaurants...I don't like wandering aimlessly past people sitting down to dinner. They all know you're up for a pee. And for some reason that makes me uncomfortable.

But I swear sometimes I just get tired of answering. I'd love to just say "Under the sign that says 'Restrooms.'"

"I don't know. Where am I?" [in response to us asking if they have a store membership card]

This one I DO have a problem with. How do you not know where you are??? Did you walk into the store with your eyes closed? Shouldn't the fact that you're surrounded by books be a massive clue?

The perfect gift for these people? Watch the video.

You'd be surprised at just how many people ask this question. Especially when they whip out their checkbooks. You can see them covertly trying to glimpse the name of the store on something. And if they do know where they are, they're looking around to see how to spell it. And they still spell it wrong anyway.

"Do you work here?"

This question is usually asked when I'm wearing my nametag (that has the store name printed boldly on it), carrying a huge pile of books, or using a scanner to organize a section with books scattered all around me. Sweaty, dusty, hair in my eyes, kneeling on the floor...

I'm so tempted to say 'Nope' and continue scanning. Just to see what they'd do.

"Can I check out here?" [strolling up to Customer Service]

Once again, I can't really fault people for not knowing we can't check them out there. It's not like we have any signs saying "No Registers". I usually tell people jokingly, "If there's no line, it's too good to be true."

I do feel a bit like a flight attendant though. My reply is always, "There are no registers here, but you can check out at either end of the store," whilst simultaneously pointing to either end of the store. Trust me, if you don't do the hand gestures, they just look at you with a blank stare. I almost poked my co-worker K in the eye doing this the other day.

"Kyna, where's K?"

"Um...she had to run over to the drugstore to buy an eyepatch. Sorry."


I DO fault people for getting an attitude with us because we don't have registers at Customer Service. 75% the people are very nice about it and go on their merry way. The other %25 will literally ask, "Why not?" with an angry glare.

This last week of shopping before Christmas has been the worst in terms of attitudes. I'm a veteran retail worker, so I expect it. But when it comes, you're still shocked at how horrible people can be to each other.

Saturday, I wrote a blog about it being the biggest shopping day of the year. And it WAS. Can't reveal how much money we made obviously, but I will say that it was a record for the store. We've been open for just about 3 years, and in all that time we've never made more money in a single day. It was INSANE.

Along with the sales, came the shenanigans.

There were TWO big, nasty messes to clean up in the men's bathroom that day.

If you're eating breakfast, you may want to put down that bagel for a second or continue reading this post later on.

Someone either had the stomach flu really bad, or was hungover like a mofo. I'm betting on the second one.

It looked like the possessed girl from 'The Exorcist' paid us a visit.

Like someone had puked whilst pirouetting. It was a fountain of vomit. Walls, floor, even was oozing into other stalls.

The clean-up job required two of our male employees to roll up their sleeves. They managed to clean up the mess, but the smell lingered. The morning cleaning ladies had to bleach everything the next day. I can't believe no one quit over that.

Later on that same day, I was helping customers when the boyfriend of one of my co-workers came up to me and said "Um, just letting you know there's blood in the bathroom."

Seriously. As soon as I was done with the customers, I had to go hunt down male employees again to go check it out. One of them refused to go because it involved blood.

One of our newbies volunteered to check it out (big kudos to him) and clean it up. He came out afterwards and said that it looked as though someone had cut their hand really badly, and flicked it all over the wall and urinals.

Ok, gross stuff over. You can pick up your bagel again. If you have any appetite left.

I served a few 'interesting' customers.

One old guy came up and I helped him out with his question with no problems. Sometimes I dread helping old people (I know, I'm a doucheface) because they don't know what they're looking for half the time and it takes forever. (I'm a DOUCHEFACE, I know, I know!)

As he was about to walk away, he turned and said, "Oh, I have one more question..."

Of course he did. "Yes?"

"Have you sold a lot of the new George Bush book?"

"Yes, we've sold a ton of them. It's very popular."

"You still have some?" he asked. "A lot of places have sold out."

"Yep, we still have some. We sold out a couple of times ourselves, but we have them now."

He looked as though he expected me to start gushing over it. "Have you read it?"

Sigh."No, I haven't."

"Why? You're probably just not into good leadership."

I usually keep my political opinions to myself. Politics, religion, war...I never discuss these subjects with customers. You're not going to change anyone's opinions, and it'll probably escalate into a brawl.

I had to supress the urge to reply "Good leadership?? Are we still talking about George W. Bush here?"

Instead I replied, "Well, I do appreciate good leadership. But I'm Canadian, and I spent most of W's presidency in Canada." I was trying to divert the conversation. Usually when I bring up Canada, people ask, "How did you end up here?", and so on, until we're talking about hockey or maple syrup or something.

Old Man Bush wouldn't be diverted. "Well, if you want to read about a REAL leader, you'd read this book. EXCELLENT writing. Great man. You should read it."

My co-worker C kept walking past and she had the funniest smirk on her face because she was listening.

"Like I said, I'm Canadian..."

C remarked to me later on that she'd never heard me pull the Canadian card so many times in one conversation. I just couldn't handle the Bush-love any longer than I had to endure it.

At least the guy wasn't a jerk or anything. I got one of those the next day.

At my store, we have a feature where you can go on the website, see if your local store has a copy of it, and put in an online reservation for it. We then put your name on the book, and put it on hold.

The other night I got a couple of online reservations from the same person for some kid's books. I went to search them down pretty much immediately after they popped up on the screen.

I go into the children's department and I pick out one of the books...and I start to sense someone quietly following me. Ninja-like. He didn't make a move to talk to me...he kind of just inched closer to where I was. I could see all this out of the corner of my eye.

I find the other book, and finally I turn around and there's this short, bald, beady-eyed man standing RIGHT behind me.

"Yes?" I said. "Can I help you?

He points to the books I have in my hand. "I think those are mine."

He must have made the online reservation from his phone whilst IN the store, because I had gone to fill the order immediately. "Oh, ok here you go!..." I said, and started to hand him the books.

"SHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" he says, and points angrily towards his two children, who are standing a few feet away from him. He was looking at me like I had just pissed all over Christmas.

I was PEEVED. I'm a mind reader, so I should have known those were his kids, right?

It's not my fault that he brought his kids with him to 'secretly' buy THEIR presents.

I silently held out his books and he looks even more irritated at my moronic actions. 'Well, take them up to the front!' he hisses.

Well, that's what I was about to fucking DO, idiot. Before YOU stopped me.

I just silently turned on my heel and walked away. Absolutely steaming mad. Yeah, buddy. I ruined Christmas for your kids. That's my job. You're welcome.

And then there were the ungrateful people.

My co-worker S, who I mentioned in my last blog post as a weirdo-magnet, found a credit card in the Sci-Fi section yesterday.

She brought it up to me, and I was going to go lock it in the drawer up front. My co-worker M suggested that we make an announcement in case the person who lost it was still in the store. I admit that I was a dumbass for not thinking of that, and I said it was a good idea.

M paged the person (let's call him John Smith. Ok, that's boring... let's call him Horatio Buttsmacker) over the loudspeaker, and 30 seconds later a man shows up to the desk with a teenager in tow.

"Can we help you?" I ask.

"I'm Horatio Buttsmacker." he replies.

M smiles at him, "We called you up because we found your credit card. Here you go!" She holds it out.

He isn't smiling, and makes no move to take the card. "That's impossible. That's not my card. I have my card.""

"But you said you're Horatio Buttsmacker. Look, here's your name on this card," M holds it up.

He pulls out his wallet. "But I have my card. Look, here it is." He does indeed pull out a card that looks identical. He still makes no move to take the card we found with his name on it.

"Oh, well do you have someone with you that would have a copy of your card?" Because this is obviously his effing card. His name wasn't a common name.


"Well sir...this has your name on it..." We were repeating ourselves, but what else does one say? He finally takes the card.

He turns to the teen and says, "Where's your grandma?" and strides away from the desk. I guess Grandma can't keep track of her cards very well.

No "Thank you for finding my card!" Nothing!

I should have just said, "You're right, it's my card. Silly me. My name's Horatio Buttsmacker too! What a coincidence! Sorry about the mix up. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go buy that diamond necklace I've had my eye on..."

And now it's time for the Wiener of the Week!

This week's winner is....Mullet Guy!!

Yesterday I was walking through the Sci-Fi section and spotted the most epic mullet I've ever seen in my life.

The Mullet to crush all other Mullets.

This guy had his hair shaved to within a 1/2 inch of his scalp all the way down to the nape of his neck, and then there were 2 feet of long, luxurious, curly tresses down his back.

I wish I had had my camera.

It was the kind of hairstyle that prompted one to tell everyone to casually walk past the section for a look at this thing.

My co-worker V walked up to Customer Service a short while later and we asked her if she'd seen the Mullet Guy.

She said, "You mean Billy Ray Cyrus over there?"

HILARIOUS. Business in the front, party in the back. Mullet Guy's mullet was even more extreme than Billy Ray's though, because the 'business' end was much shorter.

Funniest secondhand bookseller experience of the week?

Once again the winner is my co-worker S with Harmonica Man.

Last week, she was working when a customer rolls up.

"Hi there, can I help you with something?" she said.

"Hi. Do you play the harmonica?" he asks.

S told me later that she wasn't aware that playing the harmonica was a required skill of working in a bookstore.

"No, I don't," she replies.

"Oh," he says, disappointed."Well, do you have any books on playing the harmonica?" he continues.

"We may have a couple of them," she said. "I think there's a kit we sell that has a book and a harmonica together..."

"Good! Because I need to learn how to play it before Christmas!"

This was last Wednesday. I'm no expert on the harmonica, but I picked one up once and tried it. It's a lot harder than it looks.

Good luck to Harmonica Man, and whomever he plans to serenade with it Bob Dylan-style over the holidays.

Right now we could sell anything to anyone. People are realizing that there's only 3 shopping days left, and they still haven't gotten everything.

The other day a woman hurriedly walks up to Customer Service and asks frantically, "Do you sell Snuggies?????"

I almost felt bad that we didn't, she was so desperate looking.

"No, I'm sorry we don't. But if you're looking for the perfect gift for the Snuggie Wearer that has everything, we do sell "The Snuggie Sutra"!"

Yes, that is an actual book. If we ever find THAT one in the men's bathroom, I'm really going to fear for humanity.

But yeah...people will buy anything right now. One co-worker remarked the other day, "If the last thing we had in this store to sell was a steaming pile of crap, someone would buy it."

Cookbooks, for example. When we first set up the promo tables for Christmas, the cooking section wasn't even being sniffed at.

Now? It's pandemonium. "Shit, I don't know what to get Fred... I know! I'll get him a cookbook!!"

Three days left.

And then the REAL work starts.

Returns, returns, returns.

"Whaddya mean I can't return this board game after I opened it and played with it 20 times? What kind of return policy is that??"

Merry Christmas everyone!!! Don't let the Shifty Santas get you!!


Zoe said...

Oh, good lord, Kyna. I feel for you. May your post-holiday-gift-selling days be absent of: bathroom messes, politics-pushers, and crabby daddies... And may 2011 bring more awesome haircuts into the store, for their high entertainment value. Happy holidays ;)

Liz said...

Hi Kyna,

Amazing, simply amazing. I seriously cannot believe the rubbish you have to put up with - especially the blood and sick.

Mind I've seen some nasty blood episodes in the ladies... I don't think I need to explain what could've caused the blood to you.
Used to happen every month... A woman in a different office... We used to call her smelly woman because, well she stank and we had to assume only she could be so disgusting.

Loving mullet guy, when I rented my brothers house we used to have 80's lady who lived further down our street... This wasn't retro 80's, but the original... Oh how I miss her.

Have a good holiday, and I hope people manage to calm down for you. Get those douches told next time!

Turling said...

You are the strongest woman in the world. When I become irritated, which usually only occurs when I'm conscious, my brain to mouth filter decideds to take a nap. In most meetings at work, I just stare at the table. It's safer for everyone that way.

Ok, now what blog am I at, again?

rohrerbot said...

First off, love the pic of the outdoor bathroom.

Second....snuggie sutra!!:)??? That is awesome.

Third, people are crazy....and even more so this time of year. Hang in there....I know I start to lose it around this time with the kind of things people say and do....I think being a hermit and having a good sense of sarcasm are good things to get you by in life....and it sounds like you have fun with the idiot remarks:)

Happy Holidays!!

Jayne said...

Hahahaha! I feel for you. I used to work for a major airline at a major airport in London, England - OK, I worked for British Airways at Heathrow. best question I ever had was 'How do I get upstairs?" ..I sooo wanted to say "You put one foot on one step and you put the other foot on the next step... and so on..."

Marguerite said...

3 days, good luck and hang in there!

p.s. we used to live in this small community where there was a guy with an outrageous Dee Snider hairdo that we dubbed "the Dude". Great fun making a game of checking him out in the grocery store, etc. to see what outfits he had picked that particular day (leather and rhinestones anyone?) We were doubly thrilled when he started dating his female equivalent. pure gold.

Melissa said...

I am loving your chronicles. Each day you post a new one, it's like Christmas morning. And, it's done a few good things for me.

One - made me laugh out loud (even while working when I should NOT be reading blogs) and

Two-made me pay much more attention to people when I'm out and about. I've had THE best conversations with shoppers and clerks.

Also, had this fun at a B&N. A customer was reeming out a gal at the Customer Service desk because something on sale wasn't there. The B&N assoc. explained VERY kindly and clearly the customer's options, but the customer DID NOT UNDERSTAND. (She was already in pissed off mode-too late for rational thought) After the THIRD explanation, customer was happy. And apologized....sort of..."I'm sorry I was crabby, it's just that I've been shopping all day and am very tired and this is my last stop." I rang in with, "It HAS been a hard day. Lucky for you and me, we aren't working and can quit SHOPPING whenever we want OR sit down and take a break."

Customer glared - B&N gal discreetly smiled.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Ok, Kyna, we are past the Canadian beer point now, I think you need Canadian whiskey! Hang in there and enjoy the new year! :)

Kyna said...

Zoe: I think I could deal with all the crabby people if there were no bathroom messes...yep, I think I would even trade no bathroom messes for EVERY customer to come up crabby. Merry Christmas!

Liz: I agree with you about Ladies' Rooms, I've seen some horrific scenes myself. I just want to shake the people who make those kind of messes. Vomit and shit are one have to give the person the benefit of the doubt that they couldn't control themselves and they were too sick and/or embarrassed to stop and clean it up themselves. Sticking used feminine products to the toilet seat or the floor? Which I see way more often than I should? Disgusting!! Were they born in a barn?

Turling: Well, if you're ever in a store and see an employee being abused by someone rude, please put that mouth of yours to work and put in your two cents. The employee will be grateful, because they can't do it themselves. Think of it as your Christmas present to me ;)

Roherbot: Humour and sarcasm get me through life. If I don't laugh about it, I'll cry about it. I actually really do love people, so the hermit thing is out. I always tell the Receiving Manager that I could never do her job because you're by yourself most of the day. Even if I'm not talking to someone, I still like it if I'm in the ROOM with other people.

Jayne: Haha! We all have to bite our tongues a lot, don't we? :)

Marguerite: BAHAHAHA! The Dude :D

Melissa: Shame on you for reading my blog at work!

No, not really. That makes me feel all powerful and stuff. Muhahaha!

Thanks for saving a retail employee in need :D

Ms S: Beer I have a tought time findnig, but these Americans love their Canadian whiskey, so I'm golden!

Heather at Dusty Bay said...

Now that's a good vent! Feel better? Happy Holidays, eh (that's Canadian) and keep on writing for 2011 - I love your posts!

Byddi - We didn't come here for the grass... said...

You have my utmost sympathy - I worked in retail. One Christmas and swore I'd never do it again - at a time of year when there is suppose to be goodwill to all people can really suck! BUT I'm glad to see you keep not just your perspective but your cracker sense of humor. Have a good one Kyna. Merry Christmas.

ChickenFreak said...

Giggle. I'm a long-time reader of one of the Customers Suck forums, but you're better written and funnier.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

I have no idea what to say about all of those experiences .. hum .. maybe the one about being at a huge market in Belgium with my brother and his wife visiting (brother was RCMP, retired now) but when they both dropped their jaws on the floor when we walked past the open for all eyes to see, men's rest rooms ? and saw them doing their business via public eyes .. well, I guess husband and I knew then that we had acclimated to living in Europe and not being shocked about much any more .. BUT .. your exposure to those incidents ? EEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!! LOL
The mind truly explodes .. some how I think I am with Turling .. too much informationin mind trying to funnel to mouth and shutting down with over load .. staring at walls, table or feet other than exploding!
LOL .. stay strong girl and pull that Canadian Card ALL the time that you can EH !!
Merry Ho Ho

Bub said...

The Snuggie Sutra? Really? Are people THAT unimaginative they have to buy a book? Oh. Dear. God. Having said that, I'd question my sanity if I ever bought a Snuggie in the first place. Warm? Probably. Attractive attire? Fuck, no.

Wishing you, Chuck and family a very Happy Christmas. Enjoy!

The Idiot Gardener said...

Have a good one. It's nearly over. Mrs IG has to deal with fat pikeys (think redneck ladies with body odour and bad attitude) bringing back obviously worn (and usually stained) clothes, and they want a refund because the button the pulled off is missing.

Add to that she's just found out her deputy is a thief, and I think she'd rather do another -re-Christmas than a New Year, what with the Sales and all. Still, it's only another 33 shopping days until we piss off to Sri Lanka!

Kyna said...

Heather: I DO feel better, actually :) Although the funniest story of the month came the day after I posted this, so I may do one more before the year's out ;)

Byddi: I really do love my job, I wouldn't be able to tell the stories that I do otherwise! And hey, I made it through!

Mostly. I don't think things will calm down completely until mid-January...

CF: Coming from a writer such as yourself, that's an awesome compliment, thank you! :)

Joy: I went to go pick up 3 parcels that my mum sent me at the post office this afternoon. They were all covered in packing tape covered in Canadian flags! :D

Bub: But just could meet your perfect Snuggie mate! It would be one big mass of sensual, sweaty fleece! :)

IG: I have more respect for your wife now that I know she works in CLOTHING retail. That's way harder than what I do. Food and clothes are WAY worse than selling books, in terms of dealing with customers. Jealous of Sri THAT'S some food that my tongue is not afraid of!! (but my intestines kind of are...)

Al said...

Hope you made it through until Christmas Eve without murdering any of your customers!

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Oh Kyna, I can so relate to your retail stories! Here it is a few days before Christmas, and I'm working the jewelry counter at Kohl's. A guy calls to ask if we have any jewelry on sale? Seriously? Has he never shopped there before? Everything is always on sale! Then a lady wants me to find the necklace she saw in the ad, without giving me any description whatsover. "You know, a necklace! With stones!" Funny stuff girl.

Phillip said...

This is so funny and brings back memories of when I used to work at Waldenbooks and Books-A-Million in Birmingham right after I graduated from college. The George Bush guy would have pushed me over the edge!

About the Kindle - the Nook was mighty tempting and I went back and forth trying to decide. I've always been an Amazon fan but I like B&N as well. Basically, it came down to uncertainly and money!