The Barnes & Noble Experience

   Holy fuck! Apparently the way to get people to read shit you wrote two years ago is to not post anything on the internet for 8 months and then post a wholly unrelated christmas mix. At any rate, the infamous gawker linked to this site yesterday, so I've used the GINOURMOUS amount of traffic as an excuse to update this site a bit. I've added a ton of stories that appeared on other pages of the site, so it's all here in one place - the length of this page has doubled. All that joy. In one place. My god.

Tell all your friends to read the rest.

P.S. If one of you Gawker Readin' New York Types wants to offer me a book deal, um, you totally should.


   One of the first things I learned while working at Barnes & Noble was that you should never, ever pay for a book. You can read an entire goddamn novel in the store and we won't bug you once. If you'd rather the convenience of reading at home, simply pay for the book, keep the reciept, and finish it within fourteen days. Even if you say "I didn't like it." they'll take it back. If this surprises you, then you should be even more surprised to learn that this is B&N's version of a strict return policy; recently changed from 'If we carry it, you can return it; no questions asked.' You'd be surprised at the number of people who do this; many seemingly consider Barnes & Noble a library that just happens to require safety deposits.


   One aspect of Barnes and Noble employment that took a little getting used to was the number of non-Americans who frequent the store. Several large hotels are located close by, and consequently, people from all over the world who have traveled to Michigan on some sort of business come in looking for books. These people tend to posses varying degrees of fluency in the English language. Some have attempted to have me locate a book (in English) by its title (written on a cocktail napkin, in Japanese).

   One evening a man approached the cash register and proceeded to explain to me in broken (Yet very cheerful) English that he had been to the U.S. a year ago on a business trip, visited our store, and had purchased a book that had been bound incorrectly. He demonstrated this fact by opening the book and flipping through the pages one by one, counting off the page number as he turned each page. In areas where the page numbers were out of place he would look up from his task with a huge smile and say "Uh-oh!" After the book had been replaced, he chose another book to purchase, and flipped through each and every page of the 400+ page book to make sure there were no problems. Just think: A person's faith in American commerce completely shattered by one simple glitch in the manufacturing process.

   One fine afternoon an elderly couple approached the register and communicated the fact that there were several special orders being held for them. Upon investigating, I found a stack of Dungeons and Dragons reference manuals under their name. The (60+ year old) man expressed great joy at finally acquiring the "Advanced dungeons and DragonsThief's Handbook"

   One of the many interesting things I learned from working at Barnes and Noble is that the principal of my high school really doesn't do anything all day. He buys a few books and every few days exchanges them for new ones, blatantly abusing the store's liberal return policy. No doubt he sits in his office all day fervently reading and rejoicing at the bundles of cash he is saving by scamming Barnes and Noble Inc.

   One day, a man with a thick British accent wanted to know where something was. I was unable to determine what exactly he was looking for, however, because he mumbled like nobody's business. His sentences came out sounding like this: "Hawf eew kotini ook sunk aws? Eh?" After roughly three times through the sentence, I realized the last word was cars and took him to the transportation section. Then he said, without mumbling at all; "Cheers for that one, eh?" Yep.

   One woman asked me to look up several books on anxiety. During the entire process of looking up the titles she provided, she was drumming the fingers on one hand and twirling her keys around in circles on the desktop with the other. For five minutes straight. At least she was trying to get help, I suppose. Another woman ordered a book on coping with Alzheimer's disease and never had the presence of mind to come pick it up, despite being called twice and being sent two postcards. Guess there's not much hope for her.

   On one of my first days working at Barnes and Noble, a woman and her husband approached the information desk, and said very quietly, "That man is exposing himself to me." She was gesturing at a man sitting in one of the easy chairs that litter the store. The man was wearing spandex jogging gear and had an unfastened fanny pak on the floor at his side. He was holding a magazine against his lap in an 'I'm naked under this magazine and I probably won't buy it so you're gonna have to put away a magazine I touched with my dick' manner, and staring straight at us when I looked over. Not knowing what to do, I told the couple that I would take care of it and approached the general vicinity of the accused flasher to straighten the shelves in a 'I know your dick is touching that magazine' manner. He became visibly nervous, so I left him alone for a minute to 'pack up.' When I returned, he was gone, and the magazine lay on the chair for me to put away.

   Barnes and Noble, like many businesses, features those pens on chains at the registers. One day after ringing a customer's books and swiping her charge card, I gave her the reciept to sign. She picked up the pen, then hesitated. She looked at the pen, then straight at me, at which point she said in the nastiest tone she could muster: "This is a right handed pen. I won't use it." Granted, the pens are mounted in a traditionally 'right-handed' manner, but there was no reason she couldn't use it. The chain was long enough to enable persons of both right and left handedness to use it. I looked at her blankly for a few seconds trying to determine whether she was kidding or not. She wasn't. So I went and got her another pen. She asked for a complaint card before she left. As you've probably guessed, she was elderly. And rich.

   Once, while attempting to locate a book on Breastfeeding for an older woman, she caught me off guard by stating matter-of-factly: "It was smart of God to make the baby and the milk come at the same time." Yes. Yes, it was.

   It is late Sunday afternoon. The music department, after playing nothing but classical from 8 AM until 1 PM, and easy listening after that, is playing a promo of whatever Santana's new album is called, at a modest volume. You may be saying: 'Santana?! That's not indie rock!' My reply is this: try listening to Sarah Brightman _every day_ (after coming from a tiny record store where you had complete control over the music), and you will begin to look upon Santana as a gift from god.

Adam: (Thinking) I'm just going to stand here until my shift is over. Yeah, that sounds good.

Fucking Idiot: (late-twenties, dressed in 'It's Sunday and I'm a Yuppie-Wear,' angrily) Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you that I hate this music. It, it almost makes me want to leave!

Adam: (thinking) So leave, asshole. (talking) I'll make sure I inform the music department.

Fucking Idiot: (walks away, thinking) I am such a badass.

Adam: (thinking) Fucking Idiot.

(Five minutes pass, Santana continues to wank like mad.)

Fucking Idiot: (Behind Adam, angrier) Hey!

Adam: (Turns to face Fucking Idiot) Yes?

Fucking Idiot: (Authoritatively) I thought I told you to change this music! This is a bookstore! You can't have loud guitars in a bookstore! (I swear to god those were his exact words.)

Adam: (Thinking) Oh, sweet Christ, please tell me this is a joke. (Speaking) They probably haven't had the chance to change the cd yet, sir. Maybe they're waiting on customers. (Thinking) Perhaps they are busy shelving in the 'Loud Guitars' section. Fucking Idiot.

Fucking Idiot: Well, I just wanted to let you know that you lost two customers because of it. C'mon honey. (Thinking) I am such a bad ass.

Adam: (Watches as the customers we 'lost' get in line, pay, and smugly leave.) Fucking Idiot.


   I almost punched a customer in the face at work yesterday. Sometimes when I tell work horror stories I will exaggerate a bit, for humor's sake. I am not exaggerating this story at all. I had literally just stepped onto the salesfloor when a customer with bad 70's-balding-man hair accosted me. "Hey, did you get the Wallstreet Journal in today?" he asked. "I just got here myself," I started to say, but he rather rudely interrupted: "I didn't ask when you started work. The question was : did you get the Wallstreet Journal in today." This stopped me in my tracks. It's the holiday season, and the occaisional customer is rude, but very rarely were they hostile. I had every intention of walking over to the newsstand and picking up a Wallstreet Journal so that he and his bad 70's hair could go home happy. But that was before I learned that he was a supreme asshole. I gave him an appropriately long dirty look before replying in a rather icy tone that "If we did they would be in the racks with all the other newspapers." I then turned my back and busied myself with other work. Somehow, the man with bad 70's-balding-man hair had convinced himself that we were in a courtroom, I was on the stand, and that he was the prosecuter. "Excuse me, but I didn't ask you where it would be. The question was DID .. [he paused between each word, apparently to emphasize the fact that his bodymass was 99% asshole] .. YOU .. GET .. THE .. WALL .. STREET .. " As he continued to talk down to me, I seriously began to consider the consequences of grabbing his tie and punching him in the teeth. "I would probably lose my job, and I need the money," I thought. So when he had finished, I looked at him, and in the most sickeningly cheerful tone I could muster, said "In that case, no. We didn't get the Wall Street Journal today." I walked away fuming and was pissed for almost the entire 8.5 hour shift. Now I regret not punching him.

   An elderly woman approaches the counter with a hardcover book.

Her: "I'd also like a teacher's discount with that."

Me: "Are you a teacher?"

Her: "Yes, I have a card here, but I'm not about to look for it now." Pause.

Me: "I'm sorry?"

Her: "It's in my wallet. You can just give me the discount."

Me: "That kind of defeats the purpose of the card, Ma'am. I need to see it to give you the discount."

Her: (glaring as though I had asked her to carry boulders up mountainsides): OH, FINE! (After digging through purse dramatically, she produces an educator's discount card that expired in 1997)

   This is the most fucked up thing to ever happen to me at work: Basically, I am calling a customer because the book she ordered has come in. A three year old picks up the phone and gargles into my ear before handing the phone to her father. I ask for the woman who ordered the book by name and he asks rather suspiciously: "Who is this?" I tell him it is "Barnes and Noble in Northville calling," and he says "Okay hold on." Five minutes (literally) later he yells to his wife (I presume) in an extremely sarcastic manner that "Barnes and Noble is on the phone!" Another few minutes later she picks up, and the other line hangs up. Before I can say anything she whispers in a shrill voice: "I know it's you! I told you never to call me at home!" This catches me a little bit off guard. All I can manage to say is "Excuse me?" to which she replies: "Ohmygod. Ohmygod. I thought you were someone else." I then tell her that her book is in and hang up.

   One fine day last week I was working in the music department. A gentleman came in wearing shorts and orange sneakers with no socks (it was pretty cold out), and proceeded to ask me if I knew where to find "That CD by that new chick who sounds like Sarah MacGloFFlan."

Me: "You mean Sarah MacLaCHlan?"

Him: "No, no, Sarah MacGloFFlan. I'll know it when I see the chick on the cover."

   I ended up being unable to locate "That CD by that new chick who sounds like Sarah MacGloFFlan," but I sure did try, showing him just about every female artist in the Pop Rock section. "Looks like I'm fucked," he casually remarked before strolling out into the bookstore.

   Every Thursday morning for the past few weeks an elderly mentally-impaired gentleman (who has quite the drooling problem) comes to Barnes and Noble. He heads straight for the newsstand. He begins at one end, and methodically removes all the subscription cards from each and every magazine. Depending on the mood he's in, he'll either collect them in a bag, or as he has recently been doing, heap them in a single tremendous pile on the floor. This process takes him several hours, during which he is quite fond of engaging in conversations with other customers. As nearly every single customer at Barnes and Noble in Northville, Michigan believes themself to be better than the rest of the world's population, this proves to be incredibly hilarious. His favorite Target is mothers with babies in strollers. "Can't s/he walk YET?" he'll spray to the mothers, who look at him as though he were a pile of shit that fell from the sky and began singing opera. After an awkward silence, they'll usually laugh nervously and explain that the children can't or that they are too tired. This is the wrong thing to do. "I know what you should get him/her!" (He only speaks in exclamations.) "What's that?" the mother will reply, with an increasing look of terror in her eyes. Once again, this is the wrong thing to do, as Mr. 'drool on the subscription cards' is approaching his punchline. "A STICK OF DYNAMITE!" he yells, and then laughs maniacally for a full minute. Also: He takes the subscription cards home with him.

   Important: If you are buying something and the scanner doesn't work, and you say "Must be free!" and offer a shit-eating grin, well then shame on you. Presumably you believe the clerk is thinking: "Boy! what a silly guy! Perhaps his background is in improvisational comedy!" But you are wrong. Dead wrong. What the clerk is really thinking is: "If one more person says that today, I will attack with such ferocity that seasoned police officers will weep upon discovering the bloody remains."

   Let me set the stage: I am in the bathroom, in front of a urinal, prepared to 'Stand and deliver,' if you will. A man who looks like the cab driver from those old MTV commercials is washing his hands. All of a sudden, he turns to look at me and says:

   "You don't work here, do you?"
   I answer in the affirmative. This is my first mistake. He starts in on me:
   "Your bathrooms are going downhill, man."
   What do you say to this? If our bathrooms had reached a quality plateau and were now ceasing the cleanliness climb, I had not noticed. Furthermore, even if I had noticed, I wasn't about to start cleaning the bathrooms beyond removing the stray books and mastrubatory aids (next time you pick up a swimsuit issue at a major bookstore, remember that LOTS of men take them into bathroom stalls and the magazines end up back on the shelf). He has finished washing his hands by now, and is drying them off. He takes my befuddled silence as his cue to continue.
   "You used to have the good cottony towels, and now you have the cheap-o stuff."
   Does he think that I had personally made the decision to switch from 'The cottony towels' to 'The cheap-o stuff?' Does he think that interrupting my attempt to urinate in peace would send me scurrying to a manager, begging them to restore our bathrooms to their former 'Cottony Towel' glory? I do not know. What I do know, is that he is not quite done yet.
   "The soap is going downhill, too."
   This time I decide to play along.
   "It is?"
   "Yeah. There's not enough. I notice these things. I go into a LOT of Barnes and Nobles."
   Fair enough.
   "Are they making cutbacks around here?"
   "Not that I know of."
   "Well, are they cutting back on your wages?"
   "Well they should be!"
   "...." (Think 'Ninja Gaiden' here)
   "You need to kick that manager out on his ass!"
   (Thinking:) "Please go away."
   "I'll bet your stock is going down too. I'm gonna check on that tonight!"
   He leaves.

Woman: I'm looking for a book to teach my daughter how to drive.
Adam: (Thinks about it, realizes he's never seen such a book in the store.) I'll have to check the computer... (finds nothing) It looks like we don't have anything like that in the store right now, but there's a booklet called 'What every Driver Should Know' available from the Seceratary of State. That's what everyone I know read.
Woman: (Waving her hand to dismiss the working-class idea of a free pamphlet) No, no, I wan't something... CUTE to teach her how to drive. (looks at me hopefully, as though qualifying my search for books on driving with the word 'cute' will help)
Moral: If you want to write a cute book about how to drive, apparently there *is* a demand.

I helped this guy find a book. He seemed normal enough. Apparently my helping him locate his book made us 'buds,' as he approached me again later...

Man: Hey!
Me: (Distractedly completing the action of shelving a book) Hm?
Man: (Speaking under his breath in such a manner that it is extremely hard for me to figure out what he is saying) You guys really get some odd shit in here, huh?
Me: (Pausing a minute to decipher his mumblings) ... oh, yeah, we do.
Man: (Nodding and smiling broadly and looking at high-school-aged girl)
Me: (Walking away and realizing that the man hadn't said 'odd,' he had said 'hot,' and that I had obliviously agreed with him.)

The other day I was in the 'newstand' part of the store. It's pretty early in the morning, so only three customers have invaded the newstand thus far. One is an older woman who will, at random intervals, clear her throat in the "I need some fucking assistance you idiot" manner. Except she doesn't need any help. She's just clearing her throat. Phonetic example: "AHHHHK - hem!"

Seated relatively close to this woman is an older man who will, at random intervals, clear his throat in the "I've got some pleghm and maybe if a kind of growl it'll do the job, never mind the fact that I sound like an angry, elderly bear" manner. Phonetic example: "Hrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

On the total opposite end of the newstand section is a middle-aged woman who will, at random intervals, sigh in that "Poor, pitiful, me. Poor, sad, sorry, pitiful me" kind of way.

So all these people are sitting around reading magazines (which they won't buy) and addressing their respective throat blockages and / or emotional imbalnces at random intervals. And I'm trying to put stuff away. And every two seconds or so the old woman would "AHHHHK - hem!" and I'd whip around looking for an irate customer, or I'd just happen to be directly in front of 'angry, elderly bear-man' when he decided it was about time to growl again. Anyway, after a particularly noisy stretch that sounded somthing like: "Siiiiiiiiiiiigggggghhhhhh. AHHHHK - hem! Hrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! AHHHHK - hem!" I had to abandon the task at hand because I just couldn't concentrate anymore.

New story: This one happened awhile ago and I just keep forgetting about it. So I'm minding my own business at the little information kiosk, quietly willing time to speed up (to no avail) when a large, middle-aged man, with a surplus of facial hair approaches me.

"Come here!" he says, squinting, in a sort of conspiritorial way. "You see that guy over there?" he asks as he points out a man standing in the newsstand section. "Watch him. He ain't looking at that magazine."

Sure enough, he wasn't. He would stand there, holding an open magazine, and would kind of not-so-subtly stare at various parts of any woman who happened to be in the market for a periodical.

"I've been watching him for about a half hour now, and that's all he's been doing. I thought maybe I should let you know so you know what's going on."

So I told my manager. Apparently this had happened before. Before anyone could say anything, he left. About a week later, the same guy was at it again, only this time, he was following some middle-school-aged girls around, and they told an employee. The same manager went to speak to the man, at which point he found it necessary to throw a hard-cover book at her and sprint out of the store.

Here lie the Barnes & Noble anecdotes that I never felt like typing out before. As a consequence of my procrastination, I've forgotton all the little details. But they're still worthwhile enough to waste time between classes recounting. Here we go:

Okay, this one happened in the first few weeks that I worked there, and I told a friend about it, and then I completely forgot that it ever happened. Anyways, this weekend he reminded me of it. The set up: I just happen to be shelving something in the gay & lesbian interest section (which, for the reference of you, the reader, is near the bathrooms) when an older gentleman walks into the bathroom. When he comes out, I'm looking something up on the nearby computer. This happened over a year ago, so my recollection of the exact conversation is admittedly fuzzy, but it went something like this:

Him: (In salty, flamboyant, I-was-probably-in-the-navy voice) Oh, you WORK here!

Me: Yep.

Him: Thank god! I though you were one of THEM (gesturing at section)!

Me: Oh. Nope.

Him: That's great. I was thinking to myself the whole time I was in there (gestures to bathrooms), 'A good looking fella like him should have no problems with the ladies.'

Me: (nervous laughter)

Him: (This is the only part I remember word for word.) Well, glad to see you're on the team (He smiles, and walks away).

For some reason that was just hilariously funny to me. "The team." Rah.

This one happened awhile ago, but there's really not that much to forget:

I'm running the register. A previous customer had decided not to purchase the Scrapbookin' magazine that she probably carried around all day. So the magazine is still sitting off to the side in front of me when an older lady approaches with her selections and asks:

"How's your scrapbook?"

And I was just dumbfounded, because I had forgotten that the magazine was sitting there. So I say:

"Um. I don't really have one, but thanks for asking."

...or something linke that. What are you supposed to say when someone asks you how your non-existant scrapbook is? My brain was working overtime trying to figure out if she was maybe making fun of me or if I just struck people as the scrapbookin' type or what. So then she points at the magazine and says:

"Oh, I thought you were reading this."

And I felt like a big moron, and completed the rest of her transaction in awkward silence.


This guy comes in looking for some books. We don't have them. He proceeds to absolutely rant about Oprah (which incidentally I don't mind) while I call to check stock at another store. They have the books. I hand him the phone so that he can provide his contact information. Little did I know that this would take upwards of twenty minutes. First he refused to give his phone number, claiming that he rarely answered his phone because his number was similar to that of a chinese food restaurant. He claimed that when he did answer the phone, and it was a call for the restaurant, he delighted in telling the caller that their meal was free and to come pick it up. This would probably be funny if the guy wasn't EXTREMELY CREEPY. He then engaged the employee on the other end of the phone in a long conversation about something or other while I helped other customers. When he finally got off the phone, he asked me to direct him to the paranormal / supernatural section, which I did. Once we got there, he sort of backed me into a corner and started asking me my philosophy on extraterrestrial life. Then came his theories. He had a theory about everything, you see, and he seemed to believe that I was the last holdout on earth, and that I had to be convinced of his theories, AT ALL COSTS. So I just started agreeing with his theories. These theories were based largely around cattle mutilations, lasers, and light-speed travel. No, I'm not making this up. So I had already started to agree with him in the hopes of gracefully ducking out, but other customers had started to walk by and overhear his LOUD and CREEPY theories, and also heard me nervously agree with him. So I started playing it all toungue in cheek so the other customers wouldn't think I'm a big creepy moron, too. But this only agitated him into thinking I still wasn't convinced. So naturally, he doubled his efforts. The only reason I was still standing there was because the computer claimed we had one of the CREEPY PARANORMAL THEORY books he wanted in stock. But I couldn't find it. Eventually I just stuck a random CREEPY PARANORMAL THEORY book in his hands and got the fuck out of there. This is what happens when I don't write about one of these CREEPY folks right after it happens. I forget all the specific creepy stuff. The above would have been so much creepier if I could quote his creepy theories, but I can't (Though I do distinctly remember him saying: "It's like a sine wave, man!" more than once). So: Must remember to write about creepy freaks QUICKLY.
      Last sunday, there was a man sitting in the cafe with a nice-looking rectangle-style (Yeah, so I'm not up on my business person terminology. Sue me.) leather briefcase. This would not be unusual if the man hadn't been both greasy and creepy. A closer examination revealed the contents of his briefcase:
  • cigarettes
  • cigarette lighter
  • two (2) volumes of an encyclopedia set.
     First - we don't sell encyclopedias. So this greasy creepy guy was presumably visiting his local B&N in order to a.) smoke and b.) read his encyclopedias. It was reminiscent of a youngster 'playing grown-up.' Well, the briefcase and encyclopedias part, at least.

     Anyways, the same guy comes back in on the following Saturday and is asking about books on bombs and explosives. He generally makes it known that he is the resident 'bomb guy' to all the staff. This in addition to being creepy and greasy. Anyway, after firmly reenforcing his "I love explosives" rep, he leaves his briefcase sitting on a table and leaves. So everyone who is working thinks it's a bomb. I was not working on this day or I would have chuckled heartily and said: "Wait! It is only cigarettes and encyclopedias!"

     I wasn't working, though, so the police were called and after what I would imagine was some very unintelligent police-level-risk-taking, they decide "Well fuck! let's just open the case!" and the store blows up.

     Just Kidding!

     Actually the case was empty. But the police were called and they did open the case, only to find it empty. Apparently his encyclopedias and cigarettes are too valuable to leave behind when psychologically toying with bookstore employees. So the next day is Sunday. I am working. I have not yet heard the 'bomb threat' story. He approaches the information kiosk.

Him: (pointing at nothing in particular) That's mine.

Me: (pointing at a book) This?

Him: No.

Me: (pointing at different book) This?

Him: (Annoyed) No. (Dramatically making "air quotes") The briefcase.

Me: Oh. (Hands him briefcase)

     So anyways, I think I disappointed him. He was trying to be all dramatic and ominous and play his 'ha ha you pissant, you thought it was a bomb' card, but I was totally oblivious to the whole ordeal at that point. Looking back, I kind of wish I could take the briefcase back and let him get it from a more informed employee. After all his planning and hard work, I had to come along and ruin the payoff.


     Oh yeah, there's also the B&N pervert. This guy writes the typical bathroom graffitti:

Be here 12:30.
I give good blowjobs.
     But he actually shows up, and creepily follows any unsuspecting male customer who happens to have to piss at 12:30 into the bathroom.

     Did I mention he drilled a hole in the partition between two of the stalls so he could 'peep?'

     The maintenance people put a bolt through the hole, with metal plates on either side, to which he responded in permanent marker: "Was this really necessary?"


     On the same day that I handed over the bombless briefcase, the rudest woman in the world came in. She is waiting at the info kiosk with her grade-school-aged daughter, who is remarkably polite considering her breeding. I will now revert to my preferred 'sreenplay' recounting style:

Her: (Extremely pissed off) I just don't understand you people! You leave to show people where a book is and then you're so slow to come back!

Me: (Dumbfounded)... Well actually I haven't been gone for more than a minute.. (My coworker walks up behind me) ... and neither has she.

Her: (Insanely pissed off) Well whatever! I need 'Call of the WIld' by Jack London.

Me: (Thinking) You're standing less than a foot away from a shelf that says 'fiction, alphabetical by author' and you can't find Jack London? (speaking) O.K. it'll be right this way.

     Apparently she didn't hear me. She just stared at me in a "I hate everyone and I will destroy them by being rude until they die from it" sort of way. So I went to the section and grabbed the two different editions of 'Call of the WIld' that were in fiction. Meanwhile, she has remained at the information kiosk, raving like a madwoman about how I walked off in the middle of helping her because *I* was rude! My coworker is trying to convince her that I went to get her book.

     I arrive with the books. My coworker says, "See I told you he was helping you." which only pisses her off more. She takes the two volumes from me. The first contains both 'The Call of the Wild' and 'Whitefang.'

     "Did you ask me if I wanted more than one story in the book? No, you didn't ask me that."

     She looks at the second version. It's annotated.

     "Did I ask for an annotated version? No I did not. These are way too thick. I want a thinner version."

     At this point I'm pretty well pissed, primarily because this woman is going out of her way to be rude to me. Barely resisting the urge to point out that she didn't specify that she did not want an anthology or annotated version, I take her to the childrens classics section and show her versions that are 'thinner' because they don't contain 'white fang' or annotations. She wants a blue cover. There are three versions with a blue cover. She wants the thinnest version with a blue cover. She gets it.

     I ended up showing her at least 6 versions of Call of the Wild, and do you know what she did on her way out? She complained to my manager that I was inefficient. If I'd had a brick, I would have gleefully embedded it in her skull.


     Also: If you are buying something somewhere and your total is 19 dollars and something cents, you are not obligated to say "That was a good year." No, really. You can stop. Especially if you're old.


     Today a woman set off the security alarm thing on the way in. This happens ALL THE TIME. I don't know why, I just know that it does. Most people just shrug it off, and probably pack their coats with books, knowing full well that we'll wave them through when the alarm goes off on their departure. This woman however, was determined to find out what the hell was setting it off.

     So she emptied her pockets and walked back through. Beep. She set down her bag and walked through. Beep. She set down her purse and walked through. Beep. She took off her coat and walked through. Beep. She took off her belt and walked through. Beep.

     Finally, a female coworker asked if it could be a new article of clothing. Suddenly, the woman realized she was wearing a relatively new bra.

     So she went into the bathroom, took off her bra, put it in her bag, and walked through. No beep.

     The first involves a guy who had ordered an album by a group called A3. Those of you who watch the Sopranos will know them as the folks who do the theme song. Fully understanding this story will require some knowledge of how the order process works at B&N.

     When an order actually comes in, the customer is called and the item is put on hold for a week. If they don't pick it up within a week, the item is placed in the "Better call these lazy people again" pile. Apparently he had come in to pick up his order after the one week mark, but before he got his "Stupid forgetful person" call, and the person who helped him on this fine day didn't think to look in the idiot pile.

     Of course, I ended up being the one to obliviously make the second call. Now either the guy was having some fun with me (Most likely) or he was a full blooded sicilian. As soon as I said I had an order on hold for him he let out a long winded sigh and said "The Sopranos fellas, right?" Immediately following my affirmative reply, he began to explain the situation to me at breakneck speed, concluding his tirade with: "Looks like someone's gettin' it, and looks like it's you. Don't go nowhere." Click.

     He never showed up, unless it was after my shift in which case I'm not too worried about it (ha!). This isn't the first time I've had my life threatened by a customer.

     When I worked at a used record store I had a run-in with a drunken Rolling Stones fan. We had a ticketmaster there, and The Rolling Stones were playing somewhere huge (I forget where exactly). He came in absolutely shitfaced, and began demanding that I use some 'tricks' to get him a pair of $300 seats cheaply. He could not be convinced that I had no way to change the price of these tickets. When the police that my coworker had covertly called showed up, he absolutely freaked out, and turned to tell us that we would "die for this" as he was led out.

     The Police, being morons (This is required), led him across the street to the bar he had come from, so it wasn't long before he was back in the store. In the interim, he had managed to forget that he was supposed to kill us. So no one died that time either.

     This past week has also seen the emergence of a new character at B&N: "Has figured out how to turn the water pressure way up on motion sensitive urinals and is partial to doing so right before we close so that the urinals overflow immediately after Adam uses them" guy. This particular villain struck two nights in a row last week, and I was stupid enough to piss immediately after closing on both nights.

Finally, some free tips on how to be a better customer:

  • For Women
    • Don't wear a fur coat to a chain bookstore. No one thinks you look classy, and that oprah book in your hand proves that you're not, so give it up.
    • Don't have really long fingernails and rap them on the counter in a precise manner. This is guaranteed not to get you better service.
  • For Men
    • No matter how many times you read about it in business books, using someone's first name in conversation whenever possible is not always the right thing to do. If you're just being friendly, don't sweat it. If it's more like: "So, ADAM (Dramatic pause so that my inferior register-jocky brain can comprehend the fact that you addressed me by name) you say it will be here within the week? If I have any problems with it, I'll just remember to talk to ADAM. But there won't be any problems, right ADAM? Thanks again, ADAM." then you should probably kill yourself because no one likes you anyway. While sternly using my given name at key junctures in the negotiation of a retail transaction WON'T make me regard you with fearful respect, it WILL prompt me to point you out and inform the other booksellers of your "insufferable prick" status. This goes double if you look like you just walked out of a tailor's.

     So there's this homeless guy who is in B&N from the minute we open until right before we close. He sleeps in his car, and he never really talks to anyone, just sits and reads. My theory is that he's building up an incredible base of trivial knowledge, and will then go on Jeopardy and / or Millionaire and win enough money to buy a house.

     So I was at work today and someone I've never seen before in my life came in and asked if she could pick up her paycheck. Now, a lot of people work at Barnes and Noble, so this is not uncommon. Thing is, no one else recognizes her. After I call the floor supervisor to get the checks, she turns to me and asks "Does she work here?" referring to the paycheck-wanting girl. Anyways, the supervisor goes through the checks, and doesn't find one for some anonymous girl that no one recognizes. So she asks her name. The girl says "Mary," and when prompted for a last name, mumbles something, excuses herself and promptly leaves. Which makes it look like this person is just wandering around trying to collect paychecks from random businesses. Is there even a remote possibility that this could work? Is there a manager somewhere who just hands paychecks over to the first person to wander in off the street to claim them? Crazy.

Another work story:

Her: I'm interested in Japanese lettering.

Me: [Shows her the section where Kanjii dictionaries are located.] Her: No. I want a book that has the alphabet in Japanese. Like: 'A,' then the Japanese A; 'B,' then the Japanese B.

Me: [Explains that the japanese use a character-based system of written communication]

Her: (She turns her head sideways and pauses before slowly saying:) You must be new.

Me: I'm sorry?

Her: You must be new because you obviously don't know what I'm talking about. (She turns and walks away)

Me: (Unable to distinguish what exactly the significance of her babbling is, I resort to making fun of her under my breath. All of the following statements are true:) Ok, a couple things: one, you're wearing hot pink stretchpants. Two: you're wearing a sweatshirt with teddy bears on it, IN ADDITION to your hot pink stretch pants. Three: you're a moron.

Three quick Barnes and Noble things:

  1. A little kid pooped his pants while standing right next to me the other day. Oh the smell. He even told his dad he had to go to the bathroom VERY BADLY, but the dad wasn't having any of that, he was all busy thumbing through Foghat and Journey CD's. After awhile the intense fumes wafted over to the F - J section and dad took junior to the boys room to 'clean up.'
  2. I don't care how meticulously organized your purse is, when you are done paying for something, please do not take an hour reorganizing your key /change pouch or alphatizing your stamps. The person behind you hates you because you're wasting their time, and I hate you because I have to stand there all awkward and watch you do it AND watch the person behind you hating you. Thank you.
  3. So there was this hippy guy with long hair and rose colored glasses (for real) sitting in one of the easy chairs next to this hippy looking girl. They have all these mysticism and universe meaning bullshit books spread out on the table in front of them. The long haired guy is pontificating on the meaning of life or some other such crap as only "guys who think just because they have long hair they are universe experts" can. He was doing these slow hand gestures to convey the very deep implications of his speech, and I was snickering at him. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, he removed his rose colored glasses, and started to put them on her in this really slow, gross, pseudo-sensual way. I wasn't close enough to them to hear but I choose to belive he made some stupid comment about seeing things his way now or something lame like that. Then they left all smiling, because they were probably going to have hippy sex.
2001 - 2002
     I was walking behind this couple coming back from the grocery store on my lunch break, and I couldn't help but overhear their conversation:
Female: you NEVER spend your change?

Male: Nope. I save it all up and at the end of the year I buy myself something.

Female: Wow.

Male: Last year I bought a GUN (His emphasis!).

They didn't say anything else the rest of the time I was behind them.

Moving on, a few Barnes & Noble Rants (Circa 9/11/01):


     Yeah, so everyone and their brother wants to buy books about nostradamus. Also, they get extremely testy when you try and tell them they are being had. On the days after the 'incident' I probably told more people that we were out of Nostradamus books than I told where the bathroom is and what time we closed COMBINED (That's a fucking LOT). Particularly staunch believers will snidely question the bookseller's prophetic credentials when they are told that the quotation that was BULK EMAILED to them is not, in fact, accurate. Because we ALL know how valuable BULK EMAIL is. I propose that all bookstores put up a table with a sign reading "Complete horseshit," stock it with Nostradamus and Oprah books, sit back, and rake in the cash.

     Additionally, recent months have seen a resurgence in the patronage of the angry, less-than-bright, borderline elderly housewife with plenty of disposable income. Examples:

Me: That'll be $34.27.
Her: Do you have any pretty packages?
Me: I'm sorry?
Her: Pretty packages...for... you know... pretty packages.
Me: Like gift wrap? or boxes?
Me: ....

     A woman wanted a Michaelangelo biography, so I took her to the 'artists' section and began browsing the M's. She eyed me suspiciously for a few seconds before expressing her annoyance:

Her: I wanted a biography on Michaelangelo.
Me: Right.
Her: So why are you looking here?
Me: Um... because this is where they would be?
Her: (In a tone sympathetically suggesting her vastly superior intelligence) Shouldn't you be looking under the A's?
Michaelangelo. Michael Angelo.
I didn't have the heart to tell her.

     Finally, the male counterpart to these women came in demanding a book called "Flames of Fire" by Tom Brokaw. Tom Brokaw has written no such book. He insisted he couldn't possibly have any element of the title or author wrong, the problem, you see, was with our DAMN computers. Any attempt to gather further information about the book was seen by him as an assault on his personal credibility. As a last resort I took him to the American History section, where we shelve our Tom Brokaw books. Within seconds of arriving in the section, we had found his book. It was "Flags of our Fathers" by James Bradly. Worst of all, he didn't even acknowledge his mistake. He said "Here it is!" turned, and stalked up to the register. Remember:

"Flames of Fire" = "Flags of our Fathers"
Tom Brokaw = James Bradley

     You'll note that of the 6 words that comprise the correct title and author, he had ONE of the words correct, and that one word was "of." Usually when this happens, a customer tops it off by complaining about my service (I've grown accustomed to it). This one did not. Perhaps he was slightly embarrassed. This may seem obvious but most of these people lack the ability to feel embarrassment, let alone consider the possibility that they may be wrong.


     Dear religious people who go to the church directly behind B&N every Sunday morning and insist on coming in afterwards to drink coffee and leave gi-nourmous piles of Christian Inspiration books throughout the store: I have a message for you. Christ contacted me earlier in the week and asked that I pass it along. Here is the message:

Hey fuckwads,
     Please shelve your fucking books or I will make sure you rot in hell. Just because I was a hippy doesn't mean I was a slob.
yer pal,

Thank you. Peace be with you.


     So there was this woman in Barnes and Noble the other day. She was buying books, but that wasn't the important part. The important part was that she kept calling her son "Dude." It was obvious she was his mother because he kept calling her "Mommy," but she kept saying things like "Hold on a minute, Dude." and "Hey Dude, there's your book!" She did it so often and in such an offhanded manner that it didn't seem to be a joke or anything. She never emphasized the word as someone saying it for comedic effect would, and the son never reacted like this was out of the ordinary. The only satisfactory solution my brain could come to was that she had named her son Dude, which is possibly the greatest thing ever.

     Also: There was a woman in this weekend who bought a Harry Potter movie calender. This woman was of the "Inspect each item on the reciept REALLY DRAMATICALLY after the purchase is complete in order to intimidate cashier" school of shopping. Now, "Harry Potter Movie Calender" doesn't fit on the reciepts. In fact, it gets abbreviated to: "Harry Potter Movie."

Her: (Pointing angrily to reciept) What is this? I didn't want a Harry Potter movie.
Me: No, that's this (holding up box that obviously contains a calender).
Her: But we thought it was a calender.
Me: It is.
Her: (Pointing at reciept) But it says movie on here.
Me: (Opening box, showing her that it is in fact a calender.) Right, it's a Harry Potter MOVIE calender. It's got scenes from the movie.
Her: Ok, that's a calender, but why did you charge me for the movie?
Me: Ma'am we don't sell the movie. This item on the reciept is the calender (Shows her that prices correspond.)
Her: But.. why does it say... if.. Hm. I'm not sure if I want this then. I'll come back. (Walks away scrutinizing reciept.)
I hate people!


Barnes & Noble stories:

     It's been a relatively slow holiday for insane people at Barnes & Noble. Nonetheless, there have been a few notable cases.

Scene: Interior, Barnes & Noble Men's Room.

Adam: (Enters, walks towards "fixtures")
Old Creepy Guy: Excuse me, but would you mind taking my picture?
Adam: Um... (cautiously) where do you want it taken?
Old Creepy Guy: In here.
Adam: Um, I guess I could.
Old Creepy Guy: (Hands Adam his camera, and backs up against the wall. Also: Smiles.)
Adam: (Takes picture.)
Old Creepy Guy: Retrieves camera and leaves without saying a word.


     Phrase uttered by college student to his friend in reference to O(U?)sama Bin Laden on cover of Newsweek: "Dude, it sucks for that Dude, Dude."


     So this woman comes through the checkout with one of those cellphones that has a speaker phone option. And it's stuck on. So as this woman is paying, one of her friends calls her up and doesn't realize the situation with the cell phone. The conversation turns to some sort of situation involving one of them scrutinizing a photocopy of the other's ass at work or something. The woman at B&N immediately stops talking hoping her friend will shut the fuck up, but instead the friend seems to misconstrue the silence as a reception problem and loudly repeats herself.


Scene: Calling a customer.

Me: (Waiting for an answer)....
Them: (picks up, then immediately:) GRAMMA!
Me:... Um. This is Barnes & Noble
Me: ...No. Is your mom there?
Them: NOPE!
Me: Can I leave a message?
Them: NOPE!
Me: Uh.. ok. Bye.
(Both hang up)


     While in the middle of a transaction, an elderly man unbuckled his belt, adjusted and yanked up his trousers, and re-buckled his belt while looking directly at me. Creepy.


Scene: Answering the phone.

Me: Hello, Barnes & Noble, this is Adam, can I help you?
Them: Is This Barnes & Noble?
Me: Yes it is...
Them: What's your phone number?
Me: Excuse me?
Them: Can you give me your phone number there?
Me: (gives number).
Them: Okay, thanks. *click*


     A foreign man and his young son are in line to buy a relatively expensive Thomas the Tank Engine Train set. Figure about fifty bucks. He approaches the counter and produces a gallon-sized ziplock bag filled with change. As the cashier eyes it in an "I don't want to count that" manner, the man holds it out to him and says very emphatically in a thick european accent: "FROM A PIG!"
     He meant that the change came from his son's piggy bank. This experience has scarred me and the scar is this: I will never again be able to see any quantity of loose change without thinking "FROM A PIG!" again.


Total number of people who tried to have me redeem a Borders Gift Card on the day after Christmas: 5

Number of these people who not-so-silently conspired with their significant other while remaining oblivious to the fact that I was watching him dismissively whisper "He'll never notice," which only made the task of refusing the card slightly more enjoyable (Yes sir, you're absolutely right. I work at a bookstore, but lack the knowledge to discern the differences between the phrases "Borders" and "Barnes & Noble" in print. Additionally, the fact that they are ELECTRONIC gift cards should not prevent your redeeming the Borders card either, as we all know that all computer systems function identically and are 100% compatible with each other.): 1

Number of times this guy said "C'mon can't you do something for me?" after I refused his card: 1


     So one of my coworkers also has a tivo and we typically compare notes on all the crazy upgrades they've been throwing around. Recently there was this annoying lexus ad thingy that popped up when you'd turn it on. We had previously discussed this. So one day at work the following exchange takes place:

Him: Hey Adam, that thing went away for me.
Adam: Yeah, me too.
...which would have been fine if there hadn't been another coworker standing there with us to look at us funny. Har!


Insane Author visits Barnes & Noble:

     Frank McKinney, author of one of those ridiculous inspirational personal finance books dropped in on our store a few months ago in an absolutely RIDICULOUS tourbus (see photo) with his face plastered all over it.

     Here is an efficient, itemized list of other interesting facts regarding his visit, composed by my fellow bookseller, Jenny:

  • Was dramatically introduced to staff by MANAGER.
  • Repeatedly used first names in that "Read about it in a business book way."
  • Was wearing a red velour shirt, black leather vest, matching leather pants. Also: Gold necklace w/ matching tennis bracelet.
  • 7 feet tall, flowing blonde hair.
  • Stole merchindise from the store.
  • Was called a clown to his face by another customer.
  • Got in argument with said customer.
  • Repeatedly used cliched business phrases like "Rags to riches."
  • Repeatedly mentioned his upcoming Oprah appearance.
  • Cut a business deal with the producer of the 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' infomercial while in our store.
So yes. Awesome dude, that Frank McKinney. You might want to visit his website just for the obnoxious ROCK N' ROLL flash intro, or for the fact that he put a picture of his tourbus on his page. Or to see his 'Frequently asked questions' that DON'T HAVE ANSWERS. Or just to see a better picture of him.


Guest Barnes and Noble Story from Donna B.

     A well-dressed fuckwad of a woman came in one day. I was working the information desk, and smiled as cheerfully as humanly possible at her approach.

Donna: Can I help you find something?

Horrible Woman: I need a copy of Sugarbusters.

D: Alright. It'll be right this way.

     (I walk her to the section, all the while thinking, "Damn, lady, you should have stopped by for that book a few months ago..." I arrive at the section, hand her the book, then notice that she is STILL looking at me expectantly, as if I should do a little "Here's your book, yay!" dance.)

D: Urm, they have the original book, and have since published a cookbook and shopping guide.... (She's still fucking *staring* at me, so I attempt to address what, besides retardation, might be her problem.) ...Though, really, I don't know why they didn't just put all of that information in the *book*.

HW: Well... (pauses to look at my nametag, then continues haughtily) ...Donna... I guess that's why *you* work in a *bookstore*.

D: Dhhh-ggg-uuuuhhh...

     I was so fucking SHOCKED that I couldn't even gut-punch her, much less formulate a witty response. It is SO like a B&N customer to assume that I must possess inferior mental capabilities, or I wouldn't be working there.

Well, you know what? Find your own fucking book, Einstein.

Okay, rant over. I feel better.


Donna B.


Letter attached to application to B&N - 8 / 2002

Fifth of August 2002

Dear Barnes and Noble:
     As there was no place on the application to explain why I want work in a bookstore (and perhaps there should be!), I just wanted to jot you a quick word on why I do. The main thing you must understand i sthat I am a lover of books. I love to read them, to look at them, to feel their power in my hands, to have them on my shelves, you know, just in case I need to read one... The other thing is that I like your stores. Although they can't rival the magic of the used bookstore, I still feel a certain peace when I enter. All the books, the pictures on the wall, even the Cafe help me to feel they are a vestige of literature and a preserver of something sacred. I would like to help that cause and to join your team. What do you say?
Sincerely Yours,
(Name Withheld)

     Hate to break it to ya pal but we aren't preserving shit. We do make fucking shitloads of money for B&N inc, though! Wanna help with that?


Christmas lists found in B&N (With critique) - 12 / 2002


Wanted level:

* really want
** really really want
*** really really really want

  • Small TV or CD Player for room *
  • I Quest (Study thing, Mrs. Shony recommended it)
  • Tekken 4
  • Lord of the Rings 2
  • Foosball Table
  • Pool Table
  • 007 Nightfire *
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Nice pens (Office Max) **
  • Organizer for school
  • Some nice cloths from AE, shirts, pants, etc... ***
  • A new desk set for room (Like Seans) **
  • Grand Theft AUto 3 for PS2 **
  • CD's or DVD's (Scary Movies) *
  • Basketball Stuff, posters 4 bedroom
  • MSU hoody ***
  • Gift Certificates **
  • Fubu Harlem Globetrotters warm-ups ***
  • Shoes - new t-macs or Jordans (I can show you) ***
Thank you -
Love, Casey
     Ok Casey. First of all, your parents must be loaded if you're expecting a Foosball AND a pool table. Also you screwed up and asked for school supplies for Christmas - that stuff's supposed to be gratis. Hope you got those Fubu Harlem Globetrotters warm-ups, though, 'cause it looks like you really really really wanted 'em!


  • Spiderman dual action web-blaster ages 4-up $15.99
  • Lord of Ring "2" All
  • DVD Like Mike
  • dog all [It either says all or 911. Not sure which.]
  • snowboard
  • vice city
  • Hot Wheels robo wheels crash master track set
  • clothes
  • snowskate
  • giftcard top media play
     Connor - Vice City? Come on. You can barely write. Casey put you up to this didn't he? Nice touch with the price on the Spiderman web-blaster though. It shows them you're conscious of the fact that money doesn't grow on trees in this tight economic climate, and that you've done your research. Finally: don't name your dog '911.' It'll cause all sorts of confusion when asking people to call him / her.


  • Small Crimes by Barry McGee
  • Bruised Fruit by David Choe
  • Anything on Impressionist Painters

Disregard whatever Brendan wrote concerning videos; between the both of us, we would like:

  • Life Plus 3 DVD (Roller Warehouse) $20
  • Sell Your Soul to Roll DVD $19.
  • VG21 DVD $16


  • [A bunch of lame rollerblading clothes]
  • Remix Soundtrack (Order from Roller Warehouse)
  • Tom Petty Greatest Hits
  • Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits

Books of photography, art, grafitti, and works by Hemmingway, Longfellow, F. Scott Fitzgerals, and Jack Kerouac are cool. So are prints.

     Sean. The VERY first thing on your list should have been BETTER PENMANSHIP. You're the older brother here, what kind of example are you setting for Connor when Casey's handwriting is neater than yours? Also, rollerblading is LAME. P.S. Who the fuck is Brendan, and why didn't I get his list too?


Bob Dylan Barnes & Noble story:

     Scene: Magazine stand. Johnny Quarterback and Susie Cheersalot are examining the music magazines. Johnny notices the cover of 'Uncut,' prominantly featuring Bob Dylan.

Johnny: (Gesturing with head to show Susie) ...Bob Dylan.

(Long Pause - the timing of this pause is critical - start over and when you come to this pause count one-onethousands up to five)

Susie: (Whispering, dramatically) He will never be forgoTTen.

     So yes, apparently they thought he was dead. I capitalized the T's because she emphasized the FUCK out of them.

In "Variations on the word shucks" news:

Woman: Do you sell gift boxes?

Adam: No, sorry, we don't.

Woman: Shucky Darns.


     Actual name on actual credit card actually presented to me the other day:



     Either customers at Barnes & Noble are getting less frequently weird, or I'm growing immune to their weirdness. I think it's the former, and that's truly scary. Anyway, here's a big damn mess of Barnes & Noble anecdotes, beginning with this one about an elderly man!

An elderly man calls the store and I answer.

Me: Hello, Barnes & Noble, this is Adam Speaking, Can I help you?

Him: Yeah, I'm looking for an electronic device to remove cussing from films.

Me: ...Uh I'm afraid we don't carry anything like that...

Him: (Not believing me) Are you sure? I was TOLD that you carried it.

Me: No, I'm quite sure we don't carry anything like that.

Him: (In an 'I know you're wrong but don't want to deal with you sing-song') Oh-KAY. Bye.

An hour later:
Me: Hello, Barnes & Noble, this is Adam Speaking, Can I help you?

Him: (Realizing it's me again) ...I'm looking for an electronic device to remove cussing from films.

Me: ...right. We don't carry anything like that here.

Him: I just checked again and the person who told me this is a very reliable source.

Me: I'm sorry sir, but we really don't carry anything like that at all, we're primarily a bookstore, we only have a small DVD section.

Him: Oh-KAY. Bye.

     The only thing I could come up with was maybe he had just heard about that v-chip thing that people were all aflutter about four years or so ago. Update! Well I'll be damned. Chris Young pointed out Their tagline: The Cuss buster for TV and movie rentals. Based on the (limited) time I spent examining the website, it looks like the device scans the closed caption text for curse words and mutes the sound. It doesn't seem to me that this would be terribly accurate, but clicking on their 'Accuracy' page shows that it scores at least 80% accuracy on each and every one of the 9 movies it's been tested on. Something tells me these 9 films were the 'ringers,' where the sound and captioning synced up really nicely, and there are a whole lot of movies with not so good accuracy scores that we're not being told about. Chris also said:
     "There's a company that is currently being sued by the big movie studios, i believe, because they buy tapes, remove the cussing, then resell them. i know i've read references to it on some of the hot blogs, but i can't find any of the references at the moment, of course.

that's about it.

ps - i don't really condone the removal of cussing from movies, i'm just the messenger. but i can report that about 10 years ago, when i would have to go stay at my grandparents for like 10 days at christmas with my parents, i would be sent to the video store to rent movies for the whole crew (grandparents, parents, me and my sis) to watch. because i'm a moron, i would end up renting movies that i had already seen, that i thought everyone would like. but i didn't really put much thought into my choices. so everyone would be enjoying the cop-buddy movie or whatever, and then some hot sex scene would come on, and the room would just go deadly silent, and maybe my dad would eventually fast forward through it. christ - what hell. and for some reason, it just kept happening. i didn't learn, with my rental choices. well, i sort of did - i would rent movies from the 50s a lot, but then i would see some recent flick on the shelf and forget that it had a hot sex scene, and there ya go."


Fast talker and "Different."

     Another guy calls looking for several books. He's one of those fast-information-givers. An example of a call with a fast-information-giver goes something like this:

You: What's the book you're looking for?

Them: (Note the lack of commas or any other source of halting punctuation) I'm looking for "Obscure tome that no retail store would ever waste the space to keep on hand" by Adrianiskachev Exasperotomous published by Transylvania University Specialty Press ISBN number 1746309658.

     So yes, no human could possibly process and type the information that one of these people provides NEARLY as quickly as they deliver it. This happens a lot, and you end up asking them to repeat things.

     Anyway, this guy was a fast information giver, and he was also weird anti-repetition-quirk haver. If you would repeat something back to him and were even slightly off, he would simply state, very firmly: "Different." The fucked up thing is that he would not offer any correction - he would just say "Different," and then: total silence. You would either have to GUESS the correction or prompt him for it, at which point he would become very annoyed and repeat the information you desired. Also: If you got something wrong in the middle of some long piece of information like a title, he wouldn't waste the time letting you finish. He would just cut you off with a "Different." Example:

You: Ok, "Obscure book..."

Him: Different.

You: ...

Him: (Silence)

You: "Obscure tome that no retail store would ever waste the space to keep on hand"... by Adrianiskachev Exasper...?

Him: (Silence)

You: Exasperotomy?

Him: Different.

You: ...

Him (Silence)

You: What was the correct name?

Him: SIGH. Adrianiskachev Exasperotomous.

You: T - I - M - O - U - S ?

Him: Different.

You: ...

Him: (Silence)

You: What was the correct spelling?

Him: SIGH. T - O - M - O - U - S.


Repeat x four books. Maybe he was a Borg.


Marginally B&N related mail:

"I was seriously searching "Google" in an attempt to find out where I could buy one of those chairs like they have in Barnes and Noble and ran into your site. I read the WHOLE thing. :-) Hilarious! Truth is always funnier than fiction, it does appear. As a customer, I'm keeping my mouth shut from here out.

But before I do, do you happen to know how I could find a purchase source for one of those comfy chairs that requires help getting out of?"

Sorry! My research efforts have been fruitless.


Dictionaries and motor oil fetishists

     The other day, some random dude came up to the information desk with one of those $275 dollar Oxford English Dictionaries asking how much it was. I always dread moments like these because customers who don't already have a dictionary usually tend to get carried away and select the biggest and heaviest damn dictionary they ever did see. Then you tell them how much it is and they FREAK OUT.

     But not this dude. Upon my informing him that the list price was $275, he was all like "Yeah, yeah that's about right. Did you know you need to use a MAGNIFYING GLASS to read the type? It's because there are so many words in this one they have to make the print super small... blah blah blah (Flipping box over) Awwww! (Pointing) Here's a picture of the magnifying glass... And this is the ABRIDGED edition!..." Now, the first thing that makes this story funny is that this guy was not a 'dictionary lover'-looking dude, in fact, he was a DUDE looking dude. He was all Frosting McSpikes and trackpants.

     Secondly, HE WOULD NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THE DICTIONARY. When he started rattling on about how it was abridged I mentioned that we actually had an entire set of the UNABRIDGED volumes in stock, to which he responded: (Taken aback, awed) "No! You do? Nooooo! Really? Can I SEE them?"

     And so on. Totally enamored with dictionaries. I wanted to grab current copies of Maxim and Max Speed and force them into his hands, saving him from the ridicule of his non-dictionary-loving peers (Max Speed, incidentally, is a magazine that recently featured a cover depicting a really fast-looking car and two bikini-clad women pouring MOTOR OIL on each other. Am I erotically impaired or does pouring MOTOR OIL all over oneself just seem STUPID? Any other oil, sure, knock yourselves out, but MOTOR OIL just strikes me as... I don't know, a STUPID thing to pour on your girlfriend, who is wearing a bikini).


The Bowers

     An older woman came in saying she needed a copy of a book called 'The Bowers.' I proceed to not be able to find anything about a book called 'The Bowers.' What's it about? It's about a little family. Is it 'The Borrowers?' No, DEFINATELY not. She emphatically assured me it was NOT the Borrowers she was looking for. Continue not finding a book called 'The Bowers.' Ask for more details. Woman describes 'The Borrowers' to a 'T.' Are you sure it's not 'The Borrowers?' Yes, ABSOLUTELY sure. Pretend to look for 'The Bowers' in the computer for a few more minutes, then, take her to the children's section and hand her a copy of 'The Borrowers.' Is that it? Woman holds out book, examines title, and smiles. "Yes! This is the one, the Bowers!"

     This was not a case of an accent or otherwise affected speech, English was very obviously her first (And probably only) language, and she spoke very clearly and even spelled (Albeit very slowly, and shakily) "Bowers" to me. Nearest I can figure... (That's such a farmer gossiping at the fence thing to say, isn't it? "Nearest I can figure Bessie got spooked by a coyote and got tangled in that thar wire." Or something. ANYWAY.) ...nearest I can figure, it was one of those situations where you'll be reading, say, a Star Wars novel and you'll encounter a weird word like kashyyyk or C'baothan (These are bad examples, I'm sure there are much more difficult Star Wars terms, but you'll have to be satisfied with those, as they are the two most difficult AUTHENTIC Star Wars terms I can come up with off the top of my head), and be too lazy to sound it out on the fly and just make up a pronunciation that you use in your brain while reading because the chance of ever needing to say THOSE words out loud is pretty slim, and that brain pronunciation turns out to be wrong.

     In this case, however, perhaps the woman did something similar, but instead of with a Star Wars term, with a common word ("borrow") that she probably first encountered in her youth, and NEVER LEARNED THAT HER BRAIN PRONUNCIATION WAS WRONG. Oh wait, maybe I'm the only person who does insane things like this.


Mail / Guest B&N Stories from Erin in MA:

Dear Adam,
     A link to your site has been passed around amongst some B&N employees and they are so-o-o-o appreciated. They just confirm my suspicions that things are pretty much the same wherever you go. I have a few of stories that may amuse and even frighten you. I was a bookseller at a Massachusetts store for about a year, then I transferred to a Los Angeles area store, where I've been working for almost a year as well.

     At the Massachusetts store there was a male customer who was in the store often. He took a fancy to a young female bookseller and tried to engage her in frequent conversations. She usually politely discouraged this by uttering, "uh-huh," and running in the opposite direction. Then he started giving her gifts - an old watch, articles about militia groups clipped from the newspaper(?!), that sort of thing. Then he started waiting for her by the exit at the end of her shift. The poor girl was afraid to leave the store. Other booksellers had to walk her to her car. At this point, she told the store manager. The next time this man came in, the store manager gave him the watch back and told him that she would be GLAD to help him with anything he needed, but he was NOT to talk to the young bookseller anymore. The store manager later found her car tires slashed. A restraining order was quickly slapped on the guy.

     At the LA store: In the area there was a police pursuit of a man in a stolen vehicle. The car thief pulled into the Barnes & Noble parking lot and parked in the handicapped space right by the store entrance. The cop got out of his car and approached the stolen car. He knocked on the window and ordered the guy to get out of the car. The cop saw the guy reaching for something, and shot him twice, killing him instantly. The booksellers inside had to move the customers to the back of the store, then evacuate them out through the receiving room. My coworker relayed this conversation she had repeatedly with customers AFTER the occurrence of GUNSHOTS and police cars and other activity right outside the front door (and many police officers present IN the store):

Bookseller(politely): Ma'am, we need to have everyone move to the back of the store.

Customer flipping through magazine(irritably): I'm LOOKING at this!

Bookseller (unblinkingly): You NEED to MOVE to the back of the store.

Customer (sighing huffily): Fine!

     The next morning when I showed up for my early morning shift, the cops were still there and the entrance area was still a taped-off crime scene with the stolen car and dead guy still present.

     On a lighter note: A customer entered our LA area store one evening and no one really questioned the fact that he was carrying a large cardboard box. No one really noticed when he set the box down beside one of the information stations in the rear of the store. Not one bookseller or customer blinked an eye while he proceeded to unhook the computer and put it into his empty cardboard box. According to my co-workers who were there that evening, he even bumped into a bookseller on his way out of the store with his large cardboard box which now contained a computer. He was probably halfway home before any employee noticed that a computer had just vanished.

     Yeah, we've got some real winners who come into our store. I hope you enjoyed the stories.


A little Help?

     Pulling into the parking lot of Barnes & Noble one day, I turned down one of the rows just as one of those jacked-up pick-up trucks rolled backwards and pinned a guy against a car in the row behind the truck. It was one of those perfectly timed moments - like I was the nameless extra in the disaster movie who drives up and mugs for the big from-the-car reaction shot. So anyway, I pull to a stop get out, and yell "Are you O.K.?"

     It's at this point I realize a few things. First of all, this is a really, really shitty truck, and there is no one in it. Second, the guy is not pinned, he's trying to push the truck around, failing, and getting smashed back into the cars of other customers. Third, he has a WICKED beard.

He yells back: "A little help!"

     So I go over to him. Before I have a chance to talk he says: "Grab the wheel!" So I open the driver's side door, and grab the steering wheel. I look back at him and try to gauge where exactly he is trying to have his truck end up and begin attempting to steer it there.


     Despite the fact that I had been given no instruction, the grizzled man whom I was attempting to assist began SCREAMING at me for incorrectly steering it to its mysterious destination. It turned out he was trying to get the truck (Which did not run, had a stereo held in by Bic pens, and was rolling downhill) UPhill. This made no sense to me, but I helped him push it uphill a ways, and then another stranger arrived, at which point it was decided that we would guide it downhill, to a parking block where it could be braced. Upon achieving this goal, the owner of the truck stormed off, apparently FURIOUS with us.

     I looked back at the other cars, and it was fairly obvious that the truck had rolled back into them a number of times without him in between.


Quittin' Time

     By the way - I no longer regularly work at Barnes & Noble. In celebration, here are several things that customers do that BUG THE SHIT OUT OF ME.

1.) America: Math? What's that?

     Barnes & Noble has started offering one of those discount clubs. Yes, these are incredibly annoying, but they are also sometimes useful.

     The gist of the BN one is that if you spend $250 or more a year on books, you save money ($25 membership fee gets you 10% off, therefore, if you spend $250 you save $25. Anything beyond that is all savings.)

     I've had NUMEROUS people rack up bills OVER $300, and refuse to get the discount card. Getting the discount card would SAVE THEM MONEY ON THE SPOT, and anything they bought in the next 365 days would be discounted. Even when the math is explained, people frequently refuse.

2.) America: Reading What's that?

     By far the most popular reason people gave me for not joining the discount program was a knowing "I don't read!" I do not exaggerate. Why are people proud of this? These are the people who come in and buy a ginormous brownie mocha and then buy a big fucking pile of greeting cards or some shiny paper (You big pile of greeting cards people? Cut it out please. They're a pain in the ass to scan because the barcode is too small and NO ONE enjoys greeting cards. Thanks).

     I've also witnessed many parents who YELL at their kids for reading too much, and parents who lay SUPER guilt trips on LITTLE kids for their books being expensive. I always want to SCREAM at the parent:

  • (In the case of young kids) "Take the kid to the LIBRARY if their reading habit is too expensive! Don't DISCOURAGE them from reading!"
  • (In the case of High School SciFi Kids) "At least it's not heroin! He'll probably land a sweet tech support job just by talking about Xanth in an interview!"

3.) America? Reading again? What's that again?

     Indulge me here. Flip over your credit / debit card. Read the fine print under the signature strip. NOT VALID UNLESS SIGNED. Now consider the fact that 50% of the population of Northville Michigan doesn't sign their cards because they think they're being clever and 'beating' the 'thieves.' This coupled with the Northville motto ("I am not wrong, ever.") makes for some very fun conversations at the cash register.

     In my last few weeks at B&N, I adopted this as my personal crusade - making it a point to alert every single customer who didn't sign their card to the fact that it was not valid. The most fun were those ones where you mail in a copy of your signature and they screen-print it on the front of the card. They would get so mad when the fact that they were supposed to sign the back was pointed out to them, that I could BARELY contain my joy.

     See how retail work warps your brain? I'm like that x-mas shopping credit card commercial where the clerk is super enamored with her customers BUT OPPOSITE.


Also: Other Bookseller Stories.
Back home!