Candid Confessions – Part One: Working In A Bookshop

Impact Arts asks students who have worked in the arts industry about some of their funniest moments. This week the focus is a bookworm’s dream – working in a bookshop, as we ask Larissa Rowan and Jude Palmer to reveal the sordid (and quirky) side of working in a bookshop.

What is your funniest story or most memorable moment?

Larissa: I was asked by a clearly nervous and embarrassed guy where the sex books were. I asked him if he wanted erotica or more of a Kamasutra style book, and he said he wanted books ‘similar to Fifty Shades of Grey’. I then proceeded to show him our single, decrepit and impossible to find shelf of erotica that was right at the end of fiction.

It turned out he was actually looking for a ‘How to’ guide… something like Whale Hunting for Dummies”

Jude: The funniest request was a book on whale hunting. It was so unusual that my colleagues and I were stunned into silence until one suggested the customer might have meant Moby Dick. It turned out he was actually looking for a ‘How to’ guide… something like Whale Hunting for Dummies if such a thing exists!

Who was your best customer ever?

Larissa: I once served Derren Brown, and as you can imagine, it was pretty cool. However, my best customer wasn’t anyone special, he was just an ordinary elderly man. What makes him stick in my mind is the fact he shared some really lovely, sad things about his life. He told me he loved reading travel books because it reminded him of being with his wife, who he used to travel with. His wife had unfortunately passed away earlier in the year – a truly lovely and sweet man.

Jude: As a small town bookshop we haven’t had any claims to fame with famous customers. We do get lots of regulars though, and they are always my favourites, as they like to come and have a chat whilst they choose their new purchases. I also really liked helping children pick out new books, which gave me an excuse to spend time in the kids’ section – undoubtedly the most fun!

What are the worst customer habits?

Larissa: The worst habit of a customer is when you tell them you can’t get a book, or if you can, that it will take a few days or even weeks. People don’t understand why you can’t get it or why it has to take so long. Even if you explain postage and delivery times, and the fact that sometimes publishers won’t let us sell their books, they still don’t get it!

”I think some customers think bookshop staff are mind readers”

Jude: There’s the customers who come in and say ‘I read/heard about this book on the radio/in the newspaper/in a magazine. I have no idea what it was called but do you know what I mean?’ I think some customers think bookshop staff are mind readers, and that seemed to frustrate a lot of them! My pet hate was customers who would ask us to offer recommendations to them, and when we found a suitable book would say ‘brilliant, I can get that on Amazon’. What a frustrating thing to hear in an independent bookshop!

Questions by Amy Wilcockson

Responses from Jude Palmer and Larissa Rowan

Image Credit: Martin Hearn via Flickr

Watch this space for Part Two of Candid Confessions

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