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Bookselling Madness

A few bookseller friends of mine shared a link to this blog, where an author and bookseller in England shares her crazy stories about customers that pop into her bookshop. This, of course, led me to find this one, and this one, and this one as well... All of which have inspired me to remember a couple of my most stunning moments in the customer service industry. Most of them aren't as good as the ones I've linked, but it's worth a shot to share them anyway.

For this first one, I had been a supervisor at my store for three days. On this particular day, our sales manager was giving me some time at the information desk, and a man, whom we'll call crazyface, walks up.

Me: Hello there, what can I do for you?
Crazyface: (very politely) Well, I just wanted to let you know that (switches to screaming, face contorting slightly, hence crazyface) YOUR FUCKING BUDDHIST SECTION SUCKS!
Me: *blink* *blink* *glance to sales manager, who looks just as stunned as I am* I...I'm sorry you feel that way. What exactly is wrong with it?
CF: *still screaming* YOU DON'T HAVE ANY OF THE TITLES I'M LOOKING FOR!
Me: O...kay. Let me see here.
At this point, I open the title look-up screen and proceed to search for five titles for the man. All of them were just sold in the last couple of days, and we had more copies on the way. When we reach this conclusion, I share that information with him.
CF: WELL THEY'RE ALL GREAT BOOKS! YOU SHOULD HAVE LIKE FIVE OF EACH OF THEM IN STOCK, ALL THE TIME!
Sales Manager: Well, sir, since they all sold so quickly, we probably will get more of each when our re-stocking order comes in.
Me: *nodding* Absolutely. In the meantime, would you like me to order them for you? That way we can be sure they'll come in quickly and can call you when they get here?
CF: FORGET IT! *throws up hands and storms out of the building*
Sales Manager: Well. He was mighty Zen.

That was probably the worst customer moment I've had, but here are a couple of others...

Customer: Where is your non-fiction section?
Me: Well, what type of book are you looking for?
Customer: Your non-fiction books.
Me: Ok, but what topic?
Customer: Can't you just tell me where it is?
Me: Ok, do you see the books up there labeled "Fiction"? (customer nods) And the ones near them that say "Romance" and "Science Fiction"? (customer nods again) Okay, everything there is fiction. Everything else in the store is non-fiction.
Customer: Smart-aleck.
Me: I'm really not trying to be. Non-fiction just means "not made up". Are you looking for a book on science, or computers, or pets? (I'm trying really hard to remain helpful here)
Customer: The books about people's lives! (very exasperated expression on her face)
Me: (blink) Biography? Right this way.

Customer: I'm looking for a Celtic (pronounced it Seltic) book.
Me: Hmm. Celtic (pronounced it Keltic) history is going to be in with European history.
Customer: Actually, it's pronounced Seltic.
Me: Actually, it's not, unless you're talking about the sports team.

I would like to state that I am not making the following conversation up...
Customer: I'm looking for a book.
Manager: Okay, what can you tell me about it?
Customer: It was blue, and I saw it on that table a couple of months ago.
Manager: Uhh, all right. Is there anything else you can tell me about it?
Customer: It was blue... There were words on the cover.
Manager: ...
Customer: Do you have any idea what it is?
Manager: Do you have any idea how many books fit that description?

Customer: I'm looking for a book I saw on Oprah.
Manager: She's had a few on recently, do you remember which one it was?
Customer: Well, I remember that it was about a woman, and she had a daughter named Pearl.
Manager: Oh! That's Mother of Pearl by Melinda Rucker Haynes.
Customer: Hmm. No, I don't think that was it.

Of course, though I've had so many experiences with the madness that is customer service, every once in a great while, I've had the honor of touching someone else's life in a good way. On this particular day, my mom happened to be visiting the store so we could go to lunch together when a customer approached me near our Education section. This woman looked to be in her mid-thirties, nicely dressed, but her face betrayed a sense of exhaustion.
Customer: I'm wondering if you can help me.
Me: Sure thing, what do you need?
Customer: Do you have any books for parents who are looking for ways to get their kids to do their homework?
Me: Hmm. That's a tough one, but let's take a look.
As we are looking the shelves over, and I come to the conclusion that we probably don't have quite what she needs, she explains her problem.
Customer: It's just that my son... He's really smart, you know? Always does well on his tests, but his teachers constantly complain that he daydreams in class, he never does his homework, stuff like that.
Me: I see.
Customer: I'm sorry, I shouldn't be dumping this on you.
Me: Well, actually, to be honest, he sounds a lot like me when I was in grade school.
Customer: Really? Did your mother ever just want to grab a hold of you and shake you?
Me: She's right here, so let's ask.
I introduce them, and leave them to chat for a bit while I go clock out for my lunch. My mom suggests that she may want to look into what my parents did with me; I was placed into an alternative-curriculum set of classes that were more hands-on and active. It made studying more interesting because I could see the practical reasons for me to learn these things.


The customer left, thanking my mom and I, and I went on without thinking about it again. Then, about six months later, I'm working at the register and a familiar woman comes to the line.
Customer: Hello. I'm not sure if you remember me, but I talked to you and your mom a while back?
Me: Oh, yes, I do remember! How have things been?
Customer: Well, I wanted to thank you. My husband and I found a school here in town that has a more hands-on teaching style, like you suggested. My son's never had a better report card in his life.
Me: That's wonderful. I'm so glad it helped.
Customer: I am too. Please thank your mom for me, too, will you?
Me: Absolutely.

And when I think back on all of the crazy things that customers have said or done over the years, I come back to that. And I remember why I've loved being a bookseller.

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