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.