Sunday, 12 February 2017

9 Things I've Overheard Whilst Working in a Bookshop

When I was tiny, my little town had a secondhand bookshop. I have vague, shimmering memories of stacks of books haphazardly balanced on any available surface, and a well-loved copy of a book about Wicken Fen which I bought there and still own today. Unfortunately, something happened - I don't know what - and the shop disappeared.

For the next fifteen years or so, the nearest bookshop was half an hour away by car, and a few impossible hours by foot...

...until a day last summer, when I woke up and scrolled through my Facebook feed like I always do, treating it like a morning paper. A post popped up, and it brought the news that a charity bookshop would be opening and that it was looking for volunteers! I messaged them without a second thought, and that was that.

Four months later, and I've learned that not only do you meet some great people in bookshops but you also overhear some funny things. Here's a few titbits for your enjoyment.


1. Do you have that little green book, the one with a stamp on it?

'What kind of stamp?' I ask.

'A South African postage stamp...' the customer says. 'I saw it on Thursday but didn't have time to look. I spoke to a lady in a suit.'

What do South African stamps even look like? I don't know. Who was here on Thursday? I don't work on Thursdays. Who is the lady in the suit? None of us wear suits. ...Do we?? I was innocently polishing a shelf. Please let me go back to polishing my shelf.

2. It's not for me...

...the man said, as he placed Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman in front of me on the counter. I didn't think it was, dude, but even if it was for you, there's no shame in it. Caitlin Moran is a legit hero.

3. These are awfully written. I don't know why I'm buying them.

This is an elderly woman who came in to buy our entire Mills and Boon stock. I try not to think about it. She has yet to buy Fifty Shades but I'll keep you updated.

4. Do you have anything on murder?

Ummm...

5. Ooh, here's another 20p, will that help?

...no? You bought something for £10 and you've given me a ten-pound note. Why do I need a random 20p? Why are you making the maths more complicated? WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF ME AND MY D IN GCSE MATHS THE CHILDREN.

6. Do you have anything on Etymology?

Hmmyyyeeeahnnnnomaybe? *frantically Googles definition for Etymology*

7. Mummy! Books about penguins!

'No, darling, they're not about penguins,' the mother laughs. 'Penguin is the name of the company that makes the books.'

8. LOVE YOU BOOKSHOP!

A little boy (who proudly told me he was 4) shouted this as he was dragged out of the shop by his grandparents, arms full of freshly purchased picture books. He's my favourite tiny customer but I haven't seen him since then. Le cri.

9. These 'vloggers' have no talent. Anyone who puts themselves in front of a camera and thinks they are important enough to do so is stupid, if you ask me. I'm telling you, Susan, normal documentaries are so much more worthwhile.

Name changed because I'm a good person. Anyway... *screams inside, has identity crisis, hides behind counter, worships David Attenborough, writes down quote for future blog post, deletes YouTube channel, deletes entire online footprint, deletes existence*

I also asked booksellers on Twitter for their weirdest bookshop experiences. Here's a few:


Tell us about your weirdest or most memorable bookshop experience!

4 comments:

  1. This post made me laugh out loud! The things retail workers hear, my goodness. I work in a small restaurant and my all-time favorite guest interaction was on a Friday night, where we were totally slammed, and this older lady comes in and gestures vaguely around and then looks at me and says, "What do you do here?" I was like, "Um, we sell food?" People are so funny!

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  2. Loved this blog post. We over hear similar things in the library all the time.

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  3. Oh my gosh, these are a riot. xD Customer service jobs always give you the BEST stories. Wow. I have friends who own a bookstore, and they're constantly posting hysterical anecdotes on their personal Facebook pages.

    (Also, random side note, but could the green book with a postage stamp on it possibly be this one?: https://www.google.com/search?q=the+sweetness+at+the+bottom+of+the+pie&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiH-sXT84vSAhVBJcAKHS5eCE0Q_AUICSgC&biw=1920&bih=971#imgrc=o2GPVMBNnBtxYM: )

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  4. I love posts and videos like these! Something about it just makes me laugh so much. The little kid who yelled 'LOVE YOU BOOKSHOP' was actually me (theoretically).

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