Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores"

WARNING: Anything said hereafter is true and any resemblance to persons living or dead is intentional and in no way coincidental. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).

Yesterday, my brother gifted me a book (which, by the way, gains my complete and undivided attention). The book is Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell, and not only is it a rollicking good time, but it has brought back several memories from working at Barnes&Noble.

Why do we think that bookstores only attract intelligent customers?

I should mention that books about jobs have about a 50% success rate with me: when I read Waiter Rant by Steve Dublianca (a book recounting the trials of waiting tables) I was back to having nightmares about floods of customers coming in five minutes before close, near-degrading treatment for close to minimum wage, and tables of 50 people who only order water and then they're surprised when I don't seem to do anything else than refill water pitchers.

But this wasn't like that. Whenever I read something new, it would remind me of another funny story. Even better, the book is not only Jen Campbell's experiences but other bookseller experiences.  I went to her blog to read even more. You can find it on the right sidebar under the blogs I read (called "This is Not the Six Word Novel"), or here: http://jen-campbell.blogspot.com.

So, here are my own experiences of Weird (But True) Things Customers Say in Bookstores:

Customer: Where is your non-fiction section?


Customer: I'm looking for a religious book. It's yellow and has the word "one" in the title.

Me: I'm afraid I need more information to help you with that one.

Customer: My landlord knows.

Me (thinking, not saying): Good for him.

Customer: If you'll let me use the phone, I can call him and ask.

Me: These phones are for employees only, but there's a payphone by the bathrooms-

Customer: I'm pretty sure customer service means I get to use your phone.

Me: Let's go take a walk in that section and see if we can find your book...


Customer: Where are your spell books?

Me: Spelling books?

Customer: No. Books with spells in it. You know, so I can put a spell on my neighbor at 3 am and that kind of thing.


Customer: Where is your Dummies' books section?

Me: They're in section according to what the subject is.

Customer: Where's that?

Me: It depends on what subject the book is.

Customer: The subject is Dummies'.

Me: No, I mean that the Dummies' book is in whatever section that particular subject is. So if you were looking for a Dummies' book on Windows 7, it would be under the computer section.

Customer: What if I want a Dummies' book on Dummies' books?

Me: (blank stare)

Customer: Right. Thanks.


Customer: Do you have any books where the author is telling the reader a story?


Customer: Have you been to Carnegie Hall?

Me: No.

Customer: Then you shouldn't be working in the music department. Where have you been on the East coast?

Me: I haven't, but-

Customer: Then you shouldn't be working in the music department.

Me: Excuse me. I have performed several classic works like The Gloria, Handel's Complete Messiah, Mozart's Requiem-

Customer: But have you seen professional groups perform it?

Me: Yeah.

Customer: (leans forward) Who?

Me: The Phoenix Symphony, Cantemus, the Phoenix Opera-

Customer: Pfff.

Me: Can I help you locate anything day, sir?

Customer: Hmm. Where is your country section?


Customer: I'm here to pick up a special order.

Me: Name?

Customer: Candy McNumnums.


Customer picks up the new Oprah Book Club selection: ("New" meaning this was a few years ago)

Customer: Did this just come out?

Me: Yes.

Customer: Charles Dickens, huh? Did he just write it?


Customer: I have a return.

Me: Okay. Was there anything wrong with it?

Customer: I bought it for my neighbor, but then he died. I've been grieving him terribly so I haven't gone out much since he died two months ago. I would just keep it, except I already have a copy.

Receipt: Hawaii. Three weeks ago.

Me: Huh. The receipt is from Hawaii.

Customer: Well, I meant that I've been grieving him so much that I only went out of the house once.

Me: The only problem is that our return policy is two weeks with a receipt. It doesn't matter where the receipt is from -it could be a store in Hawaii or a store in Phoenix, it doesn't matter- but if it is longer than two weeks, we can't accept it.

Customer: But I was grieving! I didn't leave the house!

Me: But according to your story, you bought this after your neighbor died.
Thought: You bought him another copy after he was already dead?

Customer: I was grieving! I need to speak to your manager.


Customer: I don't have a membership card, but can we look up the phone number for my sister-in-law's Zumba partner?

*note: all caps indicate shouting

HH: I have a membership card. (Reports telephone number waaaay too fast.)

Me: I'm sorry, what was that again?

HH: (sigh) (Reports number too fast again.)

Me: Okay, that was 928-776-what?

HH: (heavier sigh) You guys at this store are so incompetent. (Reports last few numbers.)

Me: Your total today is $#.##

HH: (passes over another bag from the music department) Put that in there, too. (Swipes credit card.)

Me: I'm sorry -the computer didn't take your card. Can you swipe it one more time?

HH: Swipe it one more time? I'll swipe it TWENTY MORE TIMES!
(swipe swipe swipe swipe swipe swipe swipe)

I pass the bag over with the other bag inside.

HH: You put the other bag INSIDE?

Me: Well, you asked me to.

HH: NO, I said to put the ITEMS inside. (Fumbles with the bag.) You would make a TERRIBLE shipping clerk.

Me: Well, fortunately I don't intend on becoming a shipping clerk...

HH: Well, I don't know why NOT -it's a good JOB.

Me: Have a nice day.

HH: Have a #@%* nice day.

Okay, everyone, it's your turn: if you've worked in a bookstore, add your own funny stories. What are some Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores?


  1. Well, when i worked there, i had some odd ones as well.
    Phone call: Is this Barnes and Noble?
    Me: Yes, my name is Sarah, how may i help you?
    CC: I have to go to a wedding, what should i bring?
    Me: I'm sorry, this is barnes and noble
    CC: I know.
    Customer: So everything with a white dot is half price?
    Me: That's correct
    Customer: So the invisible cloaks are half off too?
    Customer: There's this book i want about dogs.
    ME: Ok.
    Customer: So what's the title?
    Me: I have no idea...
    (akward pause)
    Customer: So then why are you at the customer service desk.
    Me: Would you like to donate a book to toys for tots today
    Customer: Yeah, donate 3
    Me: Thanks, would you like to pick
    Customer: Enie, Meenie, Minie, Moe. The one with the tiger

  2. These are great -thanks for sharing :)

  3. I was a bookseller at Borders in DC in the mid-90's. My favorite: "Hi, I'm looking for this book. I can't remember the title and I don't know the author's name, but the cover is blue." Oh yeah, it's right over here in the blue-covered book section.

    And when I was having trouble finding the book an elderly female customer was looking for: "Can you find someone who knows what they're doing. I'm double-parked, you know." Double parked, on the street the in the heart of DC's business/banking/investment/law firm corridor. On a weekday. Yeah, that's your bookseller's problem, of course it is.

    Also, going by the area code and exchange the customer gave in your story, we're having the same weather. :D

  4. Yeah, all the time: "I don't know the title or the author, but I know the cover is yellow. Can't you do a search for that in the computer?" Mmhmm, sure, I can do a search on book covers in Bookmaster...

    Thanks for sharing, Laurie :)