Sunday, October 31, 2004

Kyoot, But Not My Size

"Attention, Big Bookstore customers. If you have a toddler with you tonight, you might want to check your child's feet - particularly if your child came in wearing BabyGap tan and orange sneakers in size Toddler 5. If your child is missing his or her shoes, we have them here at Information. Thank you."

Saturday, October 30, 2004

That's Called "Karma"

Unless you live in a cave, you have probably heard that Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News talkshow host who claims to be nonpartisan, claims to be looking out for you, and claims that his show is a no spin zone, has been sued for sexual harassment.

This wouldn't be so delicious if O'Reilly wasn't a pompous, conservative windbag whose claims to political neutrality and the moral high ground weren't as grandiose as they are false.

Big Bookstore is displaying his new book, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids, front and center. It occupies prime real estate on the front of the Information Desk. And it is faced out in the Parenting section. Lest you think that the booksellers at my store are indulging in a little bit of irony, I should tell you that the the books which are displayed on the front of the Info Desk, along with those displayed on most of the prime "front of store" display space, are determined by Big Bookstore Corporate headquarters. Yes, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids will remain in this front and center location staring brazenly out at every customer who approaches to ask for information, despite the fact that the author is currently embroiled in a sex scandal the tawdriness of which is exceeded only by its banality.

In this new book, Bill dispenses advice to teens on everything from Clothes, Money, and School, to Bullies, Sex, and Work. He advises kids to stand up to bullies and not to bully others. He advises kids to wait for sincere and loving sex. And he tells kids how much he loves his job.

Although you might expect it from the allegations in the last three links, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids does not contain any advice on phone sex, cheating on your spouse, or using Middle Eastern foods as sex toys.

Let it NOT be said that O'Reilly's book does not contain some sound advice. This is my favorite line from the chapter on sex:

"And guys, if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you. That's called 'karma.'"

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Save Me, Mr. President

A recent article in Time magazine asked, with regard to the upcoming election, "What Do Women Want?". The article quoted a "senior Republic official" as saying: "Kerry is the weirdo first husband you married in college when you were an art major. Bush is the solid second husband who saved you, helped you raise your kids and taught you golf."

Because women need to be saved by men. Men who are former drunken, cocaine-abusing fratboys, who now think they are receiving messages directly from God and who confuse Sweden with Switzerland.


(Sorry for preempting my usual bookselling rants. Don't worry. I'll be back next time with a post about Bill O'Reilly's excellent advice book for kids.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

And Decades of Experience in Being a Complete and Utter BITCH Troll

It's 10:30. I'm tired. I started my day at the pesky day gig at 8 a.m. Now I just want to get Kids reshelved and go home. I'm so not in the mood for difficult customers. But lo, who then drifts into view but Complete and Utter Bitch Troll? Of course, I do not know at first that she is a Complete and Utter Bitch Troll, but I sense that something is awry. For one thing she is, as I say, drifting - wandering slowly through the Kids section, head and limbs slowing waving about - just drifting. There is an air of lackadaisical slackness about her. I do not like to see this at 10:30. Frankly, I do not like to see this in a customer at any time of day. You may not be in a hurry, Ms. Customoron, but I have shit to accomplish, do you hear me? A customer without a sense of urgency is a customer who will drag me down, down, down into a pit of non-productivity. The only thing worse than a customer not in a hurry is a customer incapable of making a decision. I often find myself clicking the FastForward button on an imaginary remote control while slow people with poor verball skills try to articulate precisely what they are looking for or decide what they want. Paradoxically, it is my experience that these slow and indecisive shoppers end up buying nothing, which makes the time-suck all the more frustrating. But I digress.

I ask Drifty if I can help her find something.

Disgruntled Bookseller: Is there something I can help you find, ma'am?
Drifty: Yes. I'm looking for picture books of Dinosaurs for a four-year old.
DB: Let me show you the Dinosaur section.
Drifty: No. I've looked at those, those are nonfiction.

(I glance over. Yes. She has looked at those. I can tell because she has removed half of the dinosaur books from the shelf and strewn them about the floor. The irony of this behavior will become apparent soon, I promise.)

DB: Well, I can't think of any Dinosaur picture books that aren't non-fiction off the top of my head. Let me see what I can find in the database.
Drifty (preparing to morph into Complete and Utter Bitch): Do you have the A to Z book?
DB: A to Z book?
Drifty: Yes. It's a reference book that has childrens books listed by subject, so you can look under D for "dinosaur" and it will tell you what children's books are available.
DB: I'm not familiar with that book.
Drifty/Complete and Utter Bitch: I've seen it here before. I'm sure you have it.
DB: No, ma'am. I don't think so, but I can try to look it up. It's just called "A to Z"?
Complete and Utter Bitch (note that transformation is almost complete): Yes, it's the "A to Z Book". Libraries use it to maintain a children's collection.
DB (still searching in Books in Print and coming up with a couple of hundred books with "A to Z" in the title): Hmmm. Well that sounds like something our buyers might use, but I've never seen it in the store.
Complete and Utter Bitch Troll: You must have it.
DB: Ma'am, I've been a children's bookseller here for over 7 years, and I don't think we've every carried that particular book.
Complete and Utter Bitch Troll: I didn't ask you how long you worked here. I don't care how long you've worked here. That is not the answer you should give me. I've been a children's librarian for much longer than seven years and I know what I'm talking about.
DB: Ma'am, I was simply trying to establish that I'm pretty familiar with our stock and I don't believe we have ever carried that title.
Complete and Utter Bitch Troll: I don't care how long you've worked here. You don't know what you're talking about.

At this point I had several choice responses. I could have said:

a. "Ma'am, I'm sure the books exists as you say, and had you consulted it before leaving the library at which you claim to work perhaps you wouldn't need to ask me, a lowly bookseller, for assistance in choosing a book."


b. "Ma'am, I'm sure the books exists as you say, but this is a bookstore where we 'stock merchandise, not a library where we 'maintain collections.'"


c. "Ma'am, which library do you work at, because I would like to come there and pull shit off the shelves and dump it on your floors."

or, even

d. "Gee, ma'am, I'm shocked that a children's librarian of your vast years of experience wouldn't know all of the available dinosaur pictures books off the top of her head."

or, finally

e. "Ma'am, you are a complete and utter bitch troll, and if you do not leave right now, my head will explode but not before I stick my foot up your ugly, middle-aged ass. "

However, being the well-trained and customer-service oriented bookseller that I am, I said:

"Ma'am, let me get you another bookseller since I clearly am not going to be able to satisfy your needs."

So I paged the Baby Seal, and let her deal with the old hag.

Monday, October 18, 2004


I haven't updated in a while. I'm sorry. But I've been sick. And lazy.

I was so sick I actually called out for my Saturday shift. This is the third full shift I have missed in seven years. I feel bad about that. But not real bad. I was really sick. I coughed so hard today I pulled a muscle in my back. Ow.

Anyway, help me pick the topic for my next post. There's a poll in the sidebar. Take it.

Thank you.

Friday, October 08, 2004

A Book About Me!

This is my new favorite book.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Big Bookstore carries a lot of periodicals. Maybe 800? Something like that. We've got everything from Action Pursuit Games to Zymurgy. You want cooking magazines? I can sell you magazines on gourmet cooking, "lite" cooking, low carb cooking (there are 5 or 6 of those now), Italian cooking, vegetarian cooking, chocolate making, cooking for diabetics, chiles, grilling, barbecuing and herbs. Maybe you're into crafts and hobbies. We've got magazines about paper crafts, tole painting, scrapbooking, carving waterfowl, general woodworking, cabinetry, beading, glassblowing, jewelry making, doll making, doll houses, teddy bears and at least a dozen magazines each for every type of needlecraft you can think of. There are two (2!) magazines about rubber stamping and two (2!) about machine shops. Do you know anybody who is so into rubber stamps or metal machining that they would actually read a magazine about it? Do you know anybody into rubber stamps or metal machining, period? Who has a fucking metal shop, I ask you?

I never cease to be amazed at the niche markets that magazines carve out for themselves. Do you collect things? Pens? Autographs? Watches? Baseball Cards? Postcards? Yes. There is a magazine about collecting postcards. I guess it has lots of pictures of...postcards. If you like electric trains, we have four magazines for you, including one devoted solely to outdoor or garden train sets - you know, the kind upon which you and your grandkids can ride. Because in addition to being crazy enough to build a train you can ride on in your backyard, you also want to read about other people who build trains in their backyards. I imagine there are lots of How To articles in this magazine in which backyard train conductors share tips on things like how to avoid running over my dog Rover with the Cocoa Puff Train.

Then there's this whole new category of superhip magazines whose purpose and intended audience are not discernable from the title, cover, OR contents pages: Wallpaper, Index, While You Were Sleeping, Flaunt, Tokion, Surface, Dazed and YRB. No fucking clue what these mags are about. I'm just not cool enough. If you figure it out, you let me know, m'kay?

Me? I'm a fash mag hag [™AbFab]. Oh, I throw the Atlantic Monthly and Harpers into the monthly mix so I don't seem like a completely vapid, fashion-obsessed moron to my cow-workers, but it's the appearance of the new Vogue or Marie Claire that makes my heart leap with joy. God, I love fashion magazines. (Sorry, Jude.) Who doesn't need another article about The Bag You Must Own Right Now?

I thought that every possible niche had been carved out by magazine publishers a couple months ago when Sole, the magazine for collectors of athletic shoes hit our racks. I understand the need for a niche magazine like Transgender Tapestry (which wins the Best Column Name award for "Ask Dr. GenderFixIt"). A good magazine that addresses the needs of its constituency can create a sense of community among its readership. But a magazine devoted to collecting the latest Nike Air Shox? I have one thing to say to that: What. The. Fuck.

I can honestly say, however, that as of tonight I have seen the niche magazine to end all niche magazines. It is called Conceive Magazine. The tagline is "celebrating the creation of families." The premiere issue of Conceive contains such articles and columns as "Boxers and Briefs," "Fertabulary" (fertility and vocabulary, get it?), and "How Fresh Are Your Eggs?" The best article, however, is one entitled "Brave New Babymaking". The article is divided into three sections: low tech, high tech and super high tech babymaking. You might be wondering what constitutes good advice on "low tech babymaking." Wonder no more! Conceive has the answer for you! "Start by having unprotected sex."

I was going to write more, but really, I just can't top that.

Monday, October 04, 2004

A Musical Tribute to Ornery Moe

I love my friend, Jude. She consistently wins the award for friend whose life I would most like to have. In her copious free time between writing for the New York Times Circuits section, writing books for Mac geeks, taunting the fashion poodles [™ Jude] at the Times Magazine, living in connubial bliss with the lovely Betsy, and pursuing her never-ending goal to get the word "booger" printed in the Gray Lady, she took a moment to pen this ode to Ornery Moe for me.

(To be sung to the tune of "Modern Major General")


I am the very model of a late-night bookstore sorting cart
I wait all day to stock the shelves the customers have torn apart
I like to be well organized before I have to start my rounds
So with my racks you know you really, really shouldn't fuck around
History and religion go above the books for geeks and nerds
And my bottom shelf's for books stomped by the nasty little rugrat herd

The bottom shelf's for books stomped by the nasty little rugrat herd!
The bottom shelf's for books stomped by the nasty little rugrat herd!
The bottom shelf's for books stomped by the nasty little rugrat herd!

So at the Info Desk I sit and gather orphan books all day
And await the evening hour when I roll out to put this shit away
So wheel me 'round whenever all the bookshelves have been torn apart
I am the very model of a late-night bookstore sorting cart!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Woobie

Last night, I did something bad. Something mean. Something that completely justifies my reputation as meanest of the mean.

I threw away somebody's woobie.

The woobie had been abandoned in the aisle between Children's activity books and Children's non-fiction.

It was a dirty woobie. A filthy woobie, really. Almost black from the grubby little paws of love that had clutched it for so long.

I picked it up using only my thumb and forefinger holding it far, far away from me. Who knows what vile little human spawn germs crawled upon its grubby surface?

I thought about putting it in the lost and found. For about 5 seconds. Then I went over to the trash can and dropped it in, shuddering.

Maybe if I hadn't just taken a look at the utter disarray of Ornery Moe, I would have had more charity in my soul.

See what fucking with the Sorting Cart does?

WRONG! Posted by Hello

The Sorting Cart Done Right Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Sorting Cart Explained

I am a "closer". Big Bookstore has several shifts, and closing is one of them. As you might suspect, closers work until...the store closes. Big Bookstore is open until 11 p.m. six nights a week. For seven years I have been a closer. I never open. I never "mid". I close.

Every shift has its plusses and minuses. Being a closer -- and a big whiner -- I like to think that closing has more minuses than the other shifts. One of the bad things about closing is that closers are responsible for making sure that Big Bookstore is ready for the next day. This means reshelving all the books that have been left in piles about the store, and generally straightening all the displays and shelves. Often it also means completing all the tasks that the previous shifts couldn't manage to finish - merchandising projects, shelving projects, inventory projects, whatever. Closers are like the bookstore fairies. If you leave it for the closers, somehow it will magically get done. Or not.

Because I always close, and because I close more than any other employee, I am pretty picky about how things get done. OK. I'm beyond picky. I'm angrily obsessive about the closing tasks. After seven years of closing, I know what needs to be done, and I know the most efficient way to do it, goddammit.

This brings us to the Sorting Cart.

The Sorting Cart is a big rolling cart that sits behind the information desk. Throughout the day, books that are picked up or "swept" as we pass through the store are dumped on the Sorting Cart, where they remain until they are reshelved. There are lots of sorting carts in the stockroom, but the oldest and crankiest of the carts is the one we usually leave at info. This is Ornery Moe.

Now, I like Ornery Moe to be arranged just so. It's a very simple system in which books are placed on the cart according to where they are located in the store.

Top shelf left: Management, Reference, Science, Animals, Health, Cooking
Top shelf right: Fiction including Genre
2nd shelf left: History, Politics, Religion, the "-ologies" (archae-, soci-, myth-, psych-)
2nd shelf right: Arts, Design, Crafts, Gardening, Transportation, Travel
3rd shelf: Computers and Math
Bottom shelf: Kids including Parenting and Education

If the books are placed on the cart in the manner described above, any bookseller can grab a bunch of books from one part of the cart and head off to reshelve, secure in the knowledge that all the books she has grabbed go to the same part of the store. And if it's always done precisely the same way, every night, then life is that much easier. This seems efficient and logical to me. I try to indoctrinate the new kids as soon as they start on The Way of the Sorting Cart. I explain the system. I explain the logic. I explain the efficiency. But most importantly, I explain the potential for dire consequences should my will be thwarted in this matter.

And yet, it seems as if every night, someone comes up with a new way to confound me and Ornery Moe. I'm convinced that my cow-workers deliberately flout my system just to see if I will get pissed off.

But you know, pissing me off is not really a huge accomplishment. It's not like it requires a hell of a lot of effort. My baseline mood is set to "mildly irritated" when I clock in. It elevates to "irked and twitchy" after I pull my requisite one-hour register shift; and once I've made my first pass through the Vortex of Evil otherwise known as the Kids Section to assess the carnage, my mood shoots straight up to "angry and demented." At that point, fucking with the Sorting Cart to irritate me is waving a red flag in front of a bull, or better yet, trying to hand feed the lions through the bars in the zoo just to see what happens.*

This is what happens.

Please do not fuck with the sorting cart, People.

*Please see Disclaimer in Sidebar.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Let Me Get My Manager

Last night, I was approached by a customer who wanted to make a complaint. He's a semi-regular who occasionally buys a magazine or two. Let's call him "Homely Asian Guy".

Homely Asian Guy: "I want to complain about one of your employees, [Gun Nut], who was very rude to me."
Disgruntled Bookseller: I'm sorry, sir. I would get the Store Manager for you, but [Gun Nut] is the store manager.
HAG (incredulously): He's the store manager?
DB: Yes, sir. I'll be happy to call him for you.
HAG: Well, he was very rude to me. He was searching for something for me, and he raised his voice to me, and I don't think that was called for. I shop here all the time, but if you guys want me to shop at Rival Bookstore, I'll go there.
DB: I apologize for the bad experience, sir. Would you like me to search for something to you?
HAG: No. [Gun Nut] was very rude. Do you want me to go to Rival Bookstore? Because I can go to Rival Bookstore if you want.
DB: Again, I apologize, sir. Is there anything I can do to help?
HAG: No. If you don't want my business, I can go to Rival Bookstore you know.
DB: Again, I apologize, sir.
HAG: Is there someone I can call about this?
DB: Of course, sir. [writing name of more senior manager on paper] You can call [Queen of the Flying Monkeys] and speak with him about [Gun Nut].
HAG: I can go to Rival Bookstore you know. Do you want me to go to Rival Bookstore? Because I can.
DB: Sir, you are welcome to shop wherever you want. All I can do is apologize. Repeatedly.

Then he left.

I spoke with Gun Nut afterwards, and of course, he didn't raise his voice to the Homely Asian Guy. Gun Nut was searching for something for the HAG in our inventory database which is proprietary software. Using this database isn't rocket science, but there's a reason we don't let the customers use it. It is not, to put it gently, user friendly. After HAG's third attempt at telling Gun Nut how to query the database, Gun Nut informed HAG that he knew how to use the software, thankyouverymuch.

I really hope Homely Asian Guy doesn't start going to Rival Bookstore. Because he can, you know.