Bookshop Tales

All posts in the Bookshop Tales category

C is for Children

Published 02/06/2013 by julierkendrick

I imagine you are thinking that this blog post will be about my 4 boys and how wonderful they are and how much I love them etc etc…. WRONG!

Don’t misunderstand me, all of the above is true but I am feeling the need to have a rant about other peoples kids.  I have heard many times, people say “I really can’t stand other peoples kids”, well I have to say I sympathise with them. Generally I feel the same. Now obviously my friends have kids and they are lovely, for the most part (ha ha ha sorry friends) but there seem to be so many parents that have no idea how to bring up their offspring.

Working in Waterstones brings me into contact with children and their parents on a daily basis and regardless of how they behave I have to be polite and helpful. But believe me some of these kids, and parents push my buttons.

So, here is a list of my pets hates in ranting format:

1. Kids that don’t say “Thank You”. As obvious as this is it still really irks me. A child will come to the till and give me their book and the money and I have a little chat with them about what they have chosen and then when the transaction is complete I hand over the bag. I expect to be thanked for this but 95% of the time the kid takes the bag and walks off. What tends to make this worse is that the parent invariably says nothing to the child. They usually thank me themselves but I don’t want thanks from them. They have send their child up to buy the book and they look on proudly as Johnny/Jenny gives the money over and takes their purchase but they haven’t taught them how to complete the process with a polite ‘Thank you’.  Much to my colleagues amusement I have taken to holding on to the bag whilst the child tries to wrestle it from my grasp as I wait for the thanks I am due. Some kids, cotton on and say it but others just looks dumbly at the parents who look dumbly back at me until I give up and let them have the damn bag.

2. Kids that say “I want”. This one again falls into the category of manners. It’s not just the words ‘I want’ that bother me so much as the demanding nature in which they are expressed. “I want that Gruffalo”, “I want 2 books” and the worst, “I want more money”. Whenever I hear these words I look at the parents and hope that they will firmly but quietly tell their child that these demands will not be tolerated and that “May I have” is a much better way of expressing ones wishes. Yeah, that almost never happens. What does happen is one of two things. Either the parent gives in and the child is presented with said Gruffalo, books, money or the child is completely ignored by the parent and continues to repeat “I want….. I want….” ad infinitum. It takes all of my will not to march up to the child and give them a lesson in manners that hopefully the parent will learn from too.

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3. Screaming toddlers. Now I know that toddlers can be a nightmare. I know that they have no sense of spacial awareness. I know that they have no social skills. I can accept all of these things with a sigh and a smile. What I cannot bear, though, are toddlers that just screech for apparently no reason. Kids between the ages of 18 months and 3 years tend to have the highest pitched voices and can scream louder than Janet Lee in Psycho. Why, why, why do they do this? What do they hope to achieve by bursting the ear drums of everyone within a half mile radius? I have taken to glaring at the child to try and encourage them to shut up; and I have a very scary glare. If that doesn’t work then I glare at the parents. But then I realise that these are probably the parents who will end up giving in to the child in a few years once it starts in with the “I want…..” routine.

4. Destructive brats. I don’t know about you, but I taught my children not to touch when they went into shops. Our children’s section is bright and colourful and of course invites kids from 0-17 to explore so I don’t expect the no touching rule to apply here. I do, however, expect the no mindless destruction rule to apply. We have a spinner for Mr Men books so that they can all be easily seen. I have lost count of the times that a destructive brat has spun the display so fast the books fly off. Not the worst of crimes, I grant you, but once again the parent from hell steps in to make the situation just peachy. They pull the child away leaving the books all over the floor, sometimes even treading on them as they leave. (Excuse me while I hyperventilate a little). I have even heard parents say “Don’t worry about putting them back, the lady will do it for you.” What the hell??? I did not clear up after my own kids when they were deliberately messy, I made them do it. I am certainly not going to do it for some spoilt brat who thinks it’s OK to tread on books. My colleague, Della, who runs the kids section has her work cut out for her every day. She spends most of her time putting books back where they belong and straightening bent pages. Don’t even get me started on the problems we have during half term.

5. Nose pickers. Bogies are disgusting I think we are all agreed. Kids pick their noses, we are still agreed. But please please please tell me why they feel the need to wipe them on something that is not a tissue. I’ve seen bogies being wiped on our display tables, chairs and even on a book that the kids was holding at the time. It was this particular child’s parent I told that she was wiping her nose products on our merchandise. The mother smiled and said “Yes, she does it all the time.” Unbelievable. The only saving grace was that she bought the book. Urgh!

6. Smelly teenagers. It’s not just small kids that drive me insane, teenagers that don’t wash test my patience too. Teenagers are bags of hormones and sweating is a prerequisite to growing up but it is the parents job to inform their young adult that they need to pay attention to their personal hygiene. There now, that wasn’t difficult was it? Apparently that doesn’t generally happen in these kids’ households. The other thing about teenagers is that they tend to hang around in large groups. This at least triples the smell and I am surprised that there is not a grey cloud above their heads like there was over Pig Pen in the Peanuts comics. When these youngsters wander in to the shop I want to formally introduce them to a bar of soap or a roll on deodorant at the very least but instead, when they leave, I spray the shop with polish to restore the lovely book shop smell.

Pig Pen

Pig Pen

I have found compiling this list quite therapeutic. I am sure you all think I’m a grumpy old cow now and yes, at times I am but is it so wrong to expect children to behave when they are in public? And when they don’t is it too much to expect the parents to deal with them effectively?

I, of course invite your comments below but please don’t pick your nose when you type them.

Until next time.

Julie 🙂

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Changes at Waterstones For Better or Worse?

Published 07/10/2012 by julierkendrick

I have just read this article about one of the great loves of my life, Waterstones who are stopping signing events by new and up and coming authors. I think it is very sad when things change so much and it only convinces me more that soon they will be a thing of the past. I really hope that this doesn’t happen but with the demise of events like this I cannot help but think that Waterstones are on the path to failure. I just hope that I am wrong. It will be a very sad day if they do have to close.

Read the article here.

A grey area

Published 03/10/2012 by julierkendrick

Well I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it forever as much as I tried.

Yep, I was never going to be able to write this blog without at least one reference to the phenomena known at the 50 Shades trilogy. I have had many a discussion with my friends of the merits (or lack thereof) of these books and they all know exactly how I feel about them.

When working in the bookshop we had to stock hundreds and hundreds of copies and I felt embarrassed having to sell them. No, not because I am a prude, far from it. I was embarrassed that a bookshop of the calibre of Waterstones had to sell this tripe. My manager, quite rightly said, “Just think of all the money we are making.” But I cringed every time I sold them.  It got to the point where women would come into the shop looking curious and before they had a chance to say a thing I would just point to the shelves where Mr Grey lived and watched them dribble their way over.

I find it incredible that a book promoting sexual abuse of a vulnerable (but dim) girl in the name of ‘lurve’ is acceptable, nay craved. I can only console myself with the fact that maybe the majority of people who read it just didn’t get it.

Anyway, I don’t want to alienate all my blog readers so I’ll shut up now, but maybe you can have a read of this article on a signing E L James did in California. It amused me.

See ya soon

Julie 😉

The Mysteries of Book Shop Customers #1

Published 17/09/2012 by julierkendrick

Welcome back.

While thinking about what to write for this blog I found my mind wandering (see previous blog ha ha) to my time working in Waterstones, a job I loved more than any other and which I was sadly only there for 7 months. I was initially employed as a Christmas temp to work for about 6 weeks but once the festive season was over they extended my contract for another month. 7 months later my lovely manager, Emma, told me that head office had decreed that hours had to be cut and unfortunately I was the casualty of that decision.  As sad as I was to be leaving such a fantastic place with amazing staff it did leave me with some lovely and sometimes funny memories, particularly of customers and the things they say.

So I thought you might like to read about some of them here.

I had not worked in retail for almost 30 years when I join the staff at Waterstones so to say I was a little unprepared for the diversity of customers is an understatement. Little old ladies who are rude and shout at you to groups of teenage pierced, tattooed boys who are incredibly polite and funny. Leave your stereotypes at the door and walk into a book shop.

I remember once a man came in with his child and took him into the children’s section. The shop was pretty quiet so the whines of this little boy, who was no more than 5, filled the silence.  I watched the man try to control his son with little to no success, offering him various books or toys to amuse him. The child only became more fractious and loud. Eventually the man chose a couple of books and came to the till.  He was trying to search through his pockets for some change while holding onto his son’s hand and the little boy started to screech and pull away from his dad. In desperation the man handed the child the only thing he had in his hand, his credit card. The boy immediately stopped screaming and looked at the card.  I breathed a sigh of relief that my hearing may not be permanently damaged and smiled at the little  boy only to watch him bend the credit card in two resulting in the card snapping in half. I don’t know how strong the little boy was but I have tried to snap my cards when they expire and end up blunting 3 pairs of scissors before they are in enough pieces to dispose of. Anyway, the man looked at his son shocked, apologised to me and ran out of the shop, dragging his son behind him. He left the books as he had not found the cash in his pockets after all. So almost deaf with no sale made I put the books back on the shelf and went to help my next customer.

Working in a specialist shop means that customers believe that you know everything about the product you sell. Now this may be true if you are selling TV’s or phones where there are a few products but in a book shop it is damn near impossible to know everything about every book.  However this does not deter them from asking for books using the most obscure information. We do have a couple of systems we can search on the computer but obviously the more you put in the more you get out.

I had one lovely little old lady come in and and say,

“I’m looking for a book about a man”.

I asked who it was but she couldn’t remember. I asked if it was a fiction book and she didn’t think so but wasn’t sure. I asked when it was released but again she wasn’t sure. I asked her if she knew anything else about the book and her face lit up;

“He’s wearing a flat cap”.

Soooo, we have a book, about a man, possibly non fiction, wearing  flat cap.  I really didn’t want to disappoint the lady who was so sweet and kept apologising for wasting my time. I told her that I love a challenge and if she would hang on for a while I’d do my best to find it.

So I searched my systems using any number of keywords without success. I was just about to give up when one of my colleagues came up and asked me what I was looking for. I told her and after laughing at my misfortune said,

“Ooh it might be the Terry Wogan book”. She went to the biography section and picked up the book “Wogan’s Ireland” where he was indeed wearing a flat cap on the cover.  When I called the lady back she was over the moon that we had found what she was after with so little information. So maybe I was wrong, maybe we can remember everything about our products.

There are many more customers for me to tell you about but I’ll leave them for a later blog. Something to look forward to I hope.

Oh just one last thing. When I was looking for pictures to put into this posting I came across this wonderful photo of my favourite vegetable. Too good not to share. YUM.

See you soon.

Julie 🙂