Sunday, February 06, 2005

Nobody Likes a Tattle Tale

I never worked retail until I started helping out at the bookstore. When I was in college, my summers were spent at a variety of jobs, most often at an inbound telemarketing service. Yes! I was an Operator Standing By, Ready to Take Your Order! Kinda retail, but not really. I also worked at an editing job one year, and spent time covering legion baseball games for free, and signed on with the assembly-line side of a temp agency, spending 12-hour shifts (4 p.m. to 4 a.m.) at bread plants.

So working at the bookstore has been an eye-opener as far as how very, very rude some people can be to one's face. Yes! At a bookstore! A bookstore with a coffeeshop, no less, so there's no excuse for low blood sugar crankiness. The Fabulous Flea writes often about retail annoyances, but for awhile I just thought it was the nature of her business, which is running a sex shop (a baseless assumption, that).

The owner of the store did a big rearranging job a couple weeks ago to perk up the place during the depths of winter. The day after she did that, in came an old woman (Grandma), her adult daughter (Woman) and the adult daughter's son (about 14) and daughter (about 10).

Grandma comes in often with her helper (she uses a walker and needs someone to drive for her). She usually spends two hours going over everything in the store, complimenting the stock and usually dropping a nice amount of cash. She always buys lunch and fancy coffee drink. She is so kind and full of life; she's a joy to have as a customer.

When she came in with her family, however, I was surprised. Her daughter was shockingly rude. So rude, right to my face, that at first I wasn't even quite sure she was being rude.

"I've looked ALL OVER your store, and I can't seem to find any books for these two," she said, gesturing at her kids.

"You know, really, that's the age group we don't serve very well," I admitted. I heard her say "ALL OVER," so I figured she had seen the one shelf we had of new books for kids that age. "We do have that shelf in the back with used books, but the pickings are pretty thin. Those books just don't sell very well. We can order anything you have in mind, though."

"Huh," she said. "That used shelf is hard to get to. There's a big plant in front of it."

"Oh, I'm sorry! We're doing some rearranging. Let me go back and move it."

"NO, don't bother. I'm sure there's nothing there."

Well, OK, then. A minute later, she was standing in front of the shelf of new books for older kids. I didn't see her standing there. I knew she was standing there because she hollered, "WELL, HERE THEY ALL ARE!" She came out from the bookshelf to hunt me down and give me a look of wide-eyed righteousness.

"You said you didn't have many books for kids! And yet, here they all are! All on this shelf! Right here! It's even labeled 'YOUNG ADULT'!" She made a gasping noise, like she had something caught in her throat.

"Oh!" I replied. "When you said 'all over,' I guess I figured you'd seen it. Ha, ha! Well, now maybe you'll find something."

Of course, she didn't. Where Grandma spends her time looking at everything and praising it, Woman walks around tsking and tutting. They spent a long time there, but I don't know if they enjoyed themselves.

Before they left, while Grandma was still looking, Woman and her daughter went to sit and look at their purchases. The daughter sat in a chair that has rollers a little to forcefully, and she rolled back into a plantstand, which tipped. The Woman caught the plant and said, "Well, that's not a smart place to put the plant!"

I ran over to help out and said, "Wow, no one saw that coming! [Boss] just rearranged, and obviously we didn't think that could happen. Whew, that was a good catch!"

It seemed as if the daughter wasn't interested in sitting there anymore, so I put the plant back on the stand and pushed the chair back in front of it, explaining what I did by saying, "Since [Boss] has a very specific idea of how she wants it set up, I'm just going to leave it here, like this, even though it's kind of booby-trapped, and that way eveything will stay out of the way until she decides to set it up differently."

As soon as Boss came out from her office, the Woman went running over to her in triumph. "That plant almost fell on my daughter, and SHE" (she of course pointed at me) "just set it back up again JUST HOW IT WAS! So it'll happen again to someone else! Tuh!"

Boy, I guess she got me. The word tattle went through my head. She had that same "neener neener" tone of voice, that narrowed-eyed malice, that kids get when they're telling on each other. Boss looked at her and said, "Oh, really?"

After they left, Boss told me that Grandma often apologizes for the rudeness of her daughter. Grandma's frankly at a loss as to where it comes from. Some people's kids!


  1. (Can you hear me fervently praying that I do not end up as Grandma?)
    And could you have been more patient? You are a saint!

  2. Oh, and by the way, we're coming out to see you our next family vacation. Haha, just kidding. Sort of.

  3. Retail. Gak.

    As you know, I could go on for hours about working in retail. However, I will spare you, as I know you understand and don't need me to go over it again.

    I will say, though, that books tend to bring out either the very best or the very worst in people. The sellers I deal with on a daily basis are mainly book dealers, and they either really really love their business and take pride in every single book they own, or they are complete asses about everything and selling is just a way to make a buck. The ones who love their business truly make my day on a daily basis, but the ones who are jerks for the sake of being jerks... *shudder*