In retail, it’s all about the customers. They can make your day, or break it.
One customer, who taught me a lot in a single visit is a girl named Amanda. She is fourteen years old, and in a wheelchair. Her hands and head shake, so she can’t read easily, and mostly uses audiobooks. She thinks I’m really cool. Why? Because I didn’t treat her like a four year old. I didn’t address my questions to her mom. And I also showed her how to take audiobooks out from the library web site. Why would I do that when I work in a bookstore? Well, because we don’t have very many teen audiobooks, and audiobooks can be crazy expensive. And I like to help anyone who loves books that much. She was the one who told me she liked it that I didn’t talk to her in baby talk. I don’t know if I have ever done that with someone in a wheel chair, but I certainly won’t ever do it in the future. I hope she comes back – she is funny and smart, and pretty, and it’s pretty sad that people are missing that because they ignore her. She brightened up my whole week with our fantastic chat about The Hunger Games.
I had another customer today, whose name I don’t know. Let’s call him perpetually angry man. He comes into the store at least once a week, and inevitably is angry at something. He is angry because we don’t have a book he wants. He is angry because we have the book he wants but it is too expensive. He is angry that the discount card isn’t free, and the free card doesn’t give discounts. He is angry if the staff object to being yelled at. He is angry if we ask him if he wants to speak to a manager – he doesn’t, because he doesn’t want someone who can actually take action, he wants someone to yell at. He says we shouldn’t take complaints personally, and then makes personal insults – “daddy issues” is one quote. In the past, books have been thrown.
I actually had a customer buy me a coffee at Starbucks because he was impressed with the way I handled perpetually angry man – which was basically nodding for 20 minutes. I think he was impressed that I didn’t strangle the guy on the spot. I’m starting to think that some people go to places that emphasize customer service just to have someone who will listen to them vent, not because they actually want to buy something.
I am seriously considering inventing a martial art – let’s call it book-fu. All of the weapons would be fashioned from books – two books on the ends of a chain, throwing stars made from hardcovers, etc. Ideally, people hit with the weapons would become less ignorant. I think my weapon of choice would have something written by the Dalai Lama on one end, and something by Desmond Tutu on the other. People without a sense of humor could be smacked with Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore. People who are too serious could be subjected to Chester, by Melanie Watt… oh gosh, I could go on.
I’d love to hear who you’d go after, and with what books as your weapon. C’mon people, hit me (sorry, had to).