You wake up and eat breakfast. You come into the store early in the morning, restock the shelves and unlock the front door. Then you sit back in a chair and read a book throughout your shift. Occasionally you get up to help a customer find a book and you always find what you’re looking for, because you know the store like the back of your hand. Everything has been laid out perfectly. There’s also a cute cat walking around for some reason.
Ha, just kidding.
God, I wish everything stayed neat and that we had cats in the store. If I ever get to found my own bookstore, it will be dog/cat friendly. However, my ideas for having my own bookstore, well, that’s for another blog entry.
Even though it doesn’t pay well (it’s retail after all), I love being a bookseller. No, it’s not because of the employee discount. Okay, maybe a little bit. The real deal is that I’m surrounded by books and by colleagues who love books. Several of them are also writers and artists, so you sometimes find doodles and sketches in the breakroom, cashwrap or information desk. They like to hire people who are bookworms, which means we’re never lacking in recommendations. One beautiful thing is that we all got different tastes, so we work more or less like a hive mind. Aside from being a reporter, it’s the only job I’ve enjoyed because I know what I’m talking about and I want people to buy books.
Now I could write a whole book about being a bookseller – there are plenty of those books actually, fiction and nonfiction – but I will stick to four points and keep it short.
1. “I don’t know the title, BUT…”
Many customers seem to think we have bibliographies in our heads and I can’t tell whether that’s supposed to be flattering. You’d be surprised how many people come in and say, “I don’t know the title and I don’t know the author, but it’s about BLAH BLAH BLAH, do you have it?” or they add, “The cover looks like THIS.” Very helpful. Sometimes people hit the jackpot and we know which book they’re talking about, because it’s either popular or we like that genre ourselves or we just happened to shelf that book earlier. Otherwise, it’s a matter of finding the right key words as we search through the system. I sometimes even use Google. We try our best.
2. “Turns out I already have this book”
Yes, that happens pretty much daily. We get a lot of regulars and lovers of the written word. I guess they get excited sometimes. Good thing is, after they’ve returned the book, they usually buy another book – or two… or more!
3. “I seek sanctuary!”
Many people like to hang out at the bookstore and I really mean hang out. They feel like it’s a library despite the obnoxious music playing on the speakers (our playlist is supposed to be well-rounded, I guess, but I think it’s just awful and loud… anyway…). The cafe is often full and people sit around reading magazines, newspapers and books (some books they brought in, some they just bought). I often find people sitting in towards the back of the store, at the windowsill or on the floor, reading, or even younger folks doing homework. We get some homeless people visiting, too, and they tend to stay till we close. It makes me happy seeing people being so comfortable in a bookstore.
4. “Since you aren’t doing anything…”
We hear this a lot during the holidays… from people who call the store. Some people who call the store really believe the scenario I described earlier. What are we doing? Well, in addition to assisting customers, we’re shelving in-section and bargain, setting up displays, cleaning up messes, organizing the product and putting out many different things aside from books, such as bookmarks, puzzles, toys, stationary, etc.
Just to sketch a picture of the holiday rush, it’s essentially like all the other stores. We’re swamped. There’s a line at the information desk (AKA customer service) and there’s a bigger line at cashwrap. I had shifts where I never left the register. Then when I went on my break/lunch, I hid my lanyard and radio so no one would identify me as an employee and corner me. Plus you got people moving about like ants. Not to mention that many people bring their children, who… just have to touch everything. More than once, I’ve seen a parent carry their screaming child over their shoulder as they left the store. You wouldn’t think a bookstore gets loud, but it heckin’ does.
So we get busier than you would think, because, hey, people still like to read. Fridays and weekends are insane. Oh, we got book fairs, book clubs, story time and book signings as well.
And there are people who still think we aren’t busy.
I really need to crawl into bed now, because I got a morning shift and it’s now 1:30AM. You can blame it on I Am the Night distracting me. What a great show!
See you later, nerds!