Tuesday 17 April 2012

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops, Jen Campbell

I've been working in a bookshop for four years now, and in that time I've had some pretty peculiar interactions with the general public. Like the lady who wanted to know exactly why a certain book "may be unsuitable for younger readers," and was furious that I couldn't give her details. Sorry, Madam, I wanted to say. I'm on a mission to read ALL THE BOOKS, but haven't got to that one yet. Or the people who wander in looking for jam-pot covers between the romance and the science fiction shelves. There are some days you find yourself wondering if, actually it's you going mad rather than everyone else around you. So it was reassuring when I found blogs chronicling other booksellers' similar experiences. I stumbled upon Jen Campbell's blog  maybe a year ago, and chuckled and sighed over the strange, infuriating and hilarious stories she had to tell. Recently this has been published in book form and I chuckled and sighed once more. Weird Things is a slim, brilliantly illustrated volume, but packed full of the quirks of book-buyers... and those who just want a cuppa while they wait for a bus.
If my daughter wants to buy books from the teenage section do you need to see some form of ID? It was her thirteenth birthday this weekend. I can show you pictures of the cake. You can count the candles.
Do you have a copy of Atonement? But not the film cover please. Keira Knightley's neck makes me want to punch things. 
 and then there's the classic which probably every bookseller has heard some variation of:
I read a book in the sixties. I don't remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?
The slightly disturbing thing about Weird Things is that, except for a few pages at the back, the whole book is made up of Jen's own experiences in just two shops! I'll be leaving this in the staffroom at work for my colleagues to read - or possibly buying a second copy for the staff library - to reassure them that we are not alone. Recommended for booksellers, book-lovers and anyone who has had to work with the general public.

1 comment:

  1. OMG, I used to work in a record store after graduating from high school. Folks came in ALL the time and were like...

    "There was this song in the 70's. It sorta goes...dum, dum, dum, de [always out of tune, of course]. Do you know it?"

    uh.... seriously?!

    Often, I did though! In fact, other stores used to call us all the time to ask questions for their customers!

    What does that say about me?!


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