Things Never to do in a Bookstore

Things Never to do in a Bookstore #1

Everyone who works in retail knows that customers can be extremely difficult. You really should be a people person if you’re going to work in the retail business. I, unfortunately, am not. Which may be why people get on my nerves a lot more than they do other people. But I do know that there are some things customers do that would annoy anybody.

Just ask any cashier or associate in any retail store you walk into and they can give you a stupid story about something a customer has done that day alone. (Provided, of course they are willing to tell you and aren’t afraid of the wrath of their employer.) I have many such stories and will probably be sharing them all with you over the course of time.

I work in a bookstore, which in many ways is ideal for me (despite the fact that I’m not a people person) because I love books. You may be surprised to learn that not everyone who shops in a bookstore is as pretentious and cultured as you may expect (some people have never even heard of Hemingway; shocking I know).

While I’ve come to accept the idea that not everyone shopping in my bookstore loves books as much as I do, there are some quirks you find with EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER that just drive you insane. So, I thought over time I might try to instruct some of you in ways not to irritate the nice, friendly bookseller helping you find your books. Please don’t be offended if you do any of these things. This is purely constructive criticism (yeah, I always hated that term too).

As a Head Cashier (one step below management, which means I do all their work and mine too but don’t get paid for it) I spend a lot of time at the registers and there are many things people do while checking out that really irritate me. But the #1 thing that irritates me the most is the topic of todays “Things Never to do in a Bookstore.”

If an item does not scan, NEVER say to the cashier, “I guess it must be free today.”

I know YOU may think it’s clever, and possibly the most witty thing you’ve come up with all day, but do you know how many times I’ve heard that joke already today? I ring up on average between 50-100 customers per day, which is about half of what a normal full-time cashier can ring in a day. I’d be willing to bet at least 5-10% of those people have already tried that line. Multiply that by 5 days a week and you get the picture. I hear it A LOT. After about the second day on the job, it’s no longer funny or amusing.

Sure, you may get a really gracious cashier who is willing to still laugh even though it’s the 15th time she’s heard it today, but me? I’m not a people person, remember? I’ll just give you my forced, “Oh my god, really? You had to say that?” grin. Also known as the smile and nod (which I give to almost every customer who thinks they’re a comedian … which is almost every customer).

And this is just at a bookstore where we ring up fewer transactions than, say a K-Mart or Walmart. Imagine how many times they must hear that line every day.

So please, the next time you have an item that just doesn’t want to scan, resist the urge to joke about it. And if you must, at least come up with a more clever line, I’m begging you. Because if you can actually get me to laugh a genuine laugh then you’ll probaby be my favorite customer all day.

5 thoughts on “Things Never to do in a Bookstore #1”

  1. Damn! I did and (still do) find that a totally funny thing to say. But when you live inside your own head, the stale is fresh, the old and hackneyed is hilarious.
    (Unfortuantely now, when I am next in that situation, I will no doubt say the same thing, but will be watching for the grimace of the clerk and by doing this I will share in that person’s world.)

    (Really is stale? I hate the thought of that. But then again when I was a salesperson in a timeshare resort years ago, I used to put jokes into my presentation as a form of ‘sincerity canaries’, if I said the joke (as I had a hundred times before) and the customer laughed, I would know that I had done a good presentation.)

    As George Burns is reputed to have said, ‘once you can fake sincerity, you have it licked…’



  2. Thanks for the tip…luckily I would find that annoying, so I don’t think I’ve used it!

    I look forward to reading more posts! 🙂


  3. I always hated it when customers would say that. I don’t work retail anymore, but I still hate hearing it!!!

    Man, I really need to visit the bookstore again…it’s been way too long. Too bad my bank account disagrees with me. *pout*


  4. I’ve heard customers make that comment before and I’m sure it is more grating to the cashier than it is to the people in line! Like you, I’m not much of a people person so I don’t talk much to a cashier unless she/he starts a conversation. I figure they are there to do a job and I’m sure the people behind me don’t care to hear us talking while they wait! 🙂


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