Thursday, December 23, 2004

Busman's Holiday

I cannot walk or drive past a bookstore without stopping and going in. Many booksellers suffer from this compulsion. I've shopped in branches of Big Bookstore Corporation from San Francisco to Manhattan and a dozen places in between. I've also visited my fair share of Rival Bookstore Corp shops. (And yes, I also visit independents.) Herewith, a report on my bookstore visits so far this week:

Two nights ago I completed my Christmas shopping at the nearest local Big Bookstore, a 25 minute drive down the freeway. I went late, because I'm not an idiot, and I hate the customers (even when I am one), and I know that the best time to avoid the customers is after 9 p.m. on a weeknight. I felt bad for my beleaguered fellow booksellers. The store was a mess. Merchandise was strewn hither and yon. The Kid's section was a complete No Go Zone. The periodicals looked like they had been the subject of some bizarre punishment wherein the person being punished is required to relocate each item, one at a time, to a different part of the store. The phone wouldn't stop ringing and nobody was answering. I had to resist the Pavlovian urge to grab the nearest phone and say, "Thank you for calling Big Bookstore, this is [Disgruntled Bookseller], how can I help you?" I actually did help them out with some recovery, picking up discarded merchandise here and there and reshelving it or returning it to their main Info desk. I settled my Mom in the Cafe with a Large Decaf Kahlua Foam Explosion Double Whipped Cream Chocolate Latte with Extra Sprinkles, and did some power shopping for family stocking stuffers: four WWII movie DVDs for my brother, three books on military history for Dad, the Illustrated Da Vinci Code for Mom, a couple of these cool carabiner LED lights for the nephews, Burt's Bees hand and foot kits for Mom and my sister-in-law, and other shit I can't remember now.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Rival Bookstore Corp recently opened a brand new store mere minutes from the parental dwelling. Last night, using the excuse that I was still looking for the new issue of the Atlantic Monthly, I stopped in. It was lovely. It was pristine. There was barely a book out of place. There was no merchandise on the floor. The Children's section was an oasis of serenity. At seven in the evening, with four shopping days remaining before Christmas, there was nobody in line. I wandered about the store noting all the lovely merchandise they carried: calligraphy sets, inkpad and stamp sets, Simpsons jigsaw puzzles, kits for writing love letters, Scoobydoo-opoly, and bird feeder construction kits to name just a few. I note this for all of my fellow Big Bookstore employees who complain that we sell too much non-book crap. Our crap doesn't even come close to the amount of crap Rival Bookstore carries. Seriously. Not only do they have more crap, but their crap reeks way more than our crap. Anyhoo. I was somewhat relieved to find that they did not have the new issue of the Atlantic Monthly for two reasons: I would have felt really guilty about spending money in Rival Bookstore, and I didn't want to break the peaceful, slumbrous state surrounding the cashwrap area. I don't think people Out Here read a lot. But perhaps Rival Bookstore can make it just by selling the crap.

Today was my final bookstore visit. I stopped into the Big Bookstore flagship in San Francisco. Good God. It was insane. All I can say is this: Booksellers of Big Bookstore #5_, I salute you, You Magnificent Bastards ™.


Blogger mimi said...

Holy Crap! It's that time of year when the people who come into a bookstore once a year come in and terrorize the booksellers with their idiotic questions and high maintenance arrogance. The store is a wreck and all I want for Christmas is for this frigging holiday to be OVER!

We miss you DB! Come home soon!

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've had it. No more retail for me. Any non-Big Bookstore employees reading this?? Unlikely , but on the very small chance that some CUSTOMER is reading this blog, let me inform you, Mr or Ms last-minute-Christmas-shopping-bring-my-kids-to-the-store-at-11:00pm Customer, that the recipient of your thoughful gift is going to come screaming into Big Booskstore on Sunday to get rid of that bad boy. So cut out the crap and buy a gift card.

Really, how much can you care for someone if you've haven't gotten around to shopping for his/her gift until December 23rd? Mr/Ms Last Minute Customer: don't scream at me for being sold out of Polar Express when you come waltzing in here on December 23rd or 24th; don't act exasperated and indignant when I finally answer the phone; and don't expect me to be reduced to a pleading, simpering mess when you threaten to go to Rival Bookstore. Cause I know that you will find some other meaningless hunk of merchandise to give--something that says "I feel obligated to buy you stuff." Merry Christmas.

2:05 AM  
Blogger ereshkigal said...

d00ds and d00dettes,

I miss you too! Isn't that in-fucking-sane? I'll be home in four days. I hear the overstock of sidelines is out of control.

I'll be returning just in time for the flood of returns and gift cards. Yay! Um.

2:30 AM  
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8:39 AM  
Blogger ereshkigal said...

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5:52 PM  
Blogger Bookseller said...

Just wanted to tell you merry christmas! hope ure visit in cali went well, cant wait till the rantings begin again... :) happy holidays!

3:39 PM  
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8:37 PM  
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