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We’ve all had wide-eyed moments when we find ourselves thinking Really, did this person standing in front of me actually just say that?  And being the customer-focused, benefit-of-the-doubt-giving, gentle bookseller souls we are, we respond with a nod and a smile and keep our sarcastic comebacks to ourselves.

The good news is I wanted to come up with a top 10 list of most stupid or insensitive comments but I couldn’t so here are the top 5 most insensitive, funny or otherwise out-there things said to me in the last 18 months – and how I would have liked to respond!

  1. “Really you just bought this bookstore now? I thought all bookstores were going out of business. Really? Isn’t everyone going to e-readers and you can’t compete with Amazon can you? Umm. Good luck with it.”

    Well when you put it that way I guess I should just lock the door behind you and call it a day. But before you leave, why don’t you buy something so you can proudly boast that said item was purchased from one of the last remaining bookstores. last bookstore

  1. “You’ve never read (fill in the blank). It’s only the best children’s book ever. How could you have never even heard of it?”

BookWeekPosterMaybe it is because there are millions of children’s books out there and if you aren’t talking about Peter Rabbit or Goodnight Moon chances are I might not be familiar with it. I’d be happy to track it down and order it though. Oh, you just wanted to pick it up today. Good luck with that.

 

3. “This greeting card is a good price point. This one however is not but I’ll buy it anyway.” Please don’t do me any favors. I can live without the $1.00 I make on that particular card if it is going to make you feel as if you are being taken advantage of in any way. And the percentage that goes to help get books into the hands of kids in third world countries, well I’m sure they would agree with you, with me…grumpyoldlady

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. “I’m not a reader. I don’t like books.”

Did you say you can’t read because the sign over the front door says Book Garden. To be fair we do sell toys, t-shirts and other items but most of them are book-related, and I have visited more than one bookstore where books are sadly in the minority.readingfordummies

5. “I’m sure I can just order it on Amazon.”

I’m sure you can too. Amazon has everything. And it does a great job of bringing the community together for poetry slams, author readings, writing workshops and kids’ book clubs. Enjoy. computersworld

Not so bad, right? I’m sure there are a few bookstore veterans out there who have funnier commentary to share so please do!

 

 

Caroline Scutt
Caroline Scutt is the co-owner of The Book Garden in Frenchtown, NJ. While she is relatively new to the retail side of publishing, Caroline’s professional writing career began in 1992 as a reporter for "Travel Weekly" newspaper and she has recently published her first novel, Some Girls.

20 Comments

  1. For some reason, even though the sign on the building says, “The Garden of Readin’, Used Book Shop & Tea Room”… and the sign on the door says, “Welcome to our used book shop”… I get questions like this about once a month:

    “So….. how does this work? Do you just sit down with the books and read them? Is it like a library? How do you make money doing that?”

    Yep. These are all my books, and I’m here all day so people can come in and sit here and read them. I do it purely as a public service, even though we have a very nice library a block away.

    You would think that ‘Used Book Shop’ would be pretty clear. Guess not.

  2. First day of business.
    Young girl sticks her head in the door and asks:
    “Do y’all sell textbooks or are these the kind of books you read?”

  3. I’ve collected many, but my favorite was:

    “Do you have Madlibs for toddlers?”

    I feel as though she must’ve been blissfully unaware that you must know the difference between a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb in order to play.

  4. My favorite comment, as a customer, was from the woman who was looking for reading recommendations but didn’t like my suggestion because the book “was too thick.”

    • You probably won’t believe that I hear this all the time as a librarian in a medical library. One of our psychiatrist residents complained when I handed him a comprehensive book on dementia, because it was ‘too big’.

  5. In my youth, I worked for years at B&N. At least once a month, someone would ask me “Where’s the photocopier?”

  6. “I’m looking for a book,” (No shit! In a bookstore?? Shocker!) “But I mean, it can just be any book, really. Just the sleeve needs to be black with a white title, because it has to go with the brand new bookshelf I just bought at Ikea.” Good Lord, woman. Just shoot in me in the heart, why won’t you? Also, ever heard of fake books specifically created for interior decoration purposes? You can find those at…say, Ikea.

  7. I’m an American bookseller with a little bookshop on the Left Bank. Some tourists, bedazzled by Paris, have a hard time believing that the person behind the desk in the shop is not actually French.

    Starry-eyed tourist: “No. Wait. You, like, live here?”
    Me: “Here, in town? No, I commute from Jersey. But it’s not so bad. I get a lot of reading done on the way in.”

  8. Lesley Lawson says:

    “How come you don’t have shopping carts?”
    Because we sell books, not toilet paper.

  9. Here’s my absolute favorite: “I bought this book at Barnes & Noble, but I don’t feel like driving over there. Can I just return it here?” Because really – what’s the difference? Tiny independent, big behemoth retailer – a bookstore is a bookstore, I guess.

    And yes, like Terri, I get asked all the time if my books are for sale.

    • Virginia Faulkner says:

      I own a used bookstore, and we had a similar situation. We accept returns without question, but when a customer told us that he had so many books that he could not check for duplicates more than once a year and wanted to return books he had purchased 12 months ago, we refused.

      We later learned that he had taken the books to a used book store a few miles away and tried to return them for a full credit on his purchase price from us.

      It does not have to be small independent/chain; it can be any two bookstores.

  10. I had a customer try to return tights and nail varnish to us. He was adamant he didn’t want Superdrug down the road.

  11. …and here I am in a developing country where people have to resort to downloading from torrents just because the books are either not available here or they’re so damned expensive! we have potential voracious readers starving for good books to read but they just don’t have money to spare to buy em. food for the family has to come first.

    • Phyllis Cohen says:

      To MW,

      Hi. Which country, and would books in English be of any use? I’m about to cull my bookshop’s inventory, and was just looking for a good place to send them.

      Phyllis

      • Phyllis Cohen: You are an angel.
        I hope that MW is able to respond to your generous offer.

        • Thank you, ma’am, but you must have me mixed up with someone else.

          No response yet, but I check from time to time.

          Other ideas are most welcome. I just bought a used-book shop in Paris, and am turning over the inventory. I can send these donated books cheaply by slow boat.

  12. “I’d like to return this book”-Hands me a VERY tattered book-”I didn’t like it”.

  13. Virginia Faulkner says:

    There is a hilarious book, “Book-Worm Droppings : An Anthology of Absurd Remarks Made by Customers in Second-Hand Bookshops,”

    The editors did a marvelous job of editing the anecdotes, which were solicited from used book stores in the UK. I highly recommend it. The sequel, “More Book-Worm Droppings,” is still entertaining, but gets a little repetitive.

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