Monday, May 15, 2006

A Few Facts

Fact: When Big Bookstore needed someone to fill gaps in the schedule, I was always available. I would estimate that I responded positively to 90% of the calls I received asking me to fill shifts on short notice. The only time I turned them down was when I absolutely had other commitments.

Fact: In eight and a half years of working at Big Bookstore I called out sick for four full shifts. Four. In eight and a half years. I've known booksellers who couldn't make that claim for one month, let alone eight years.

Fact: I never received less than the second highest possible rating on performance evaluations. I was told that the last performance evaluation I received was among the two highest in the entire store that year - for all employees, supervisory and otherwise.

Fact: I provided excellent customer service to Big Bookstore's customers. Our store's single largest customer, a man who spends about 5K per month in the store, has requested me by name for the last three years. Over that time, I've ordered over 1100 out-of-print books for him, and countless hundreds of in-print books. Virtually everything he has purchased for the last three years has been ordered by me, and his purchases account for a significant percentage of the store's annual corporate sales.

Fact: Last year, I won the monthly customer service award.

Fact: Last month I had the highest total percentage of membership sign-ups.

Fact: I can count on one hand the number of cashier errors I've made in the last year.

Fact: The last GM thought highly enough of me to beg me to become the Training Supervisor. I accepted even though it meant working two full-time jobs, because the store needed me. As we agreed beforehand, I stepped down after six months when the holiday period ended.

Fact: When Big Bookstore desperately needed Cafe staff last year, I volunteered to cross-train, then spent the next six weeks doing closing shifts in the Cafe six nights a week until the staff situation improved.

Tell me again why I'm a bad bookseller?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Welcome Big Bookstore Overlords!

d00ds. What took you so long? I've only been writing this thing since 2004. I'm totally chuffed to see that you finally found me. I don't know how you found me, but, HEY! Now, I don't really have to care! w00t!

Perhaps the fact that this is the first time I've ever seen hits from the Big Bookstore corporate servers is a sign that I did an excellent job of obfuscating your precise identity. And I'll continue to do so because I think, in the end, that the disgruntled bookseller experience is a universal one to which all big box bookstore employees can relate.

So pull up a chair. Read. Enjoy. If you've ever spent any time on the frontlines at Big Bookstore, I feel reasonably certain you'll find experiences to which you can relate as well.

Friday, May 12, 2006

You Love Me! You Really Love Me!

I received 498 copies of the following message.

In a community to which I belong, we describe things like this message as "found object self-awareness." In other words, the sender lacks conscious self-awareness of her own flaws, but manages to express her unconscious awareness by ascribing those attributes to others. I've highlighted the relevant terms for your convenience:

Subject: All Booksellers Must Shelve MY way!
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 21:47:35 -0700 (PDT)

Well, Lisa my darling, I LOVED your post about me!

I admit, you're right that shelving books is not trivial at a Big
Bookstore; however, your obsession with your little cart seems a bit over
the top, even for a control freak. I feel pity for you -- harboring such
animosity towards the world
almost always signals a serious emotional
. Did you ever notice how the shelving gets done every day, even
when your colleagues don't follow your supposedly "superior" method?
Did you think that you were a manager for some oddball reason, with
authority to tell people what to do? Could your emotional brinksmanship
hinge on the fact that you realize that YOU'RE a "COW"-worker like the
others, only in girth and not in herd mentality?

Who knows? And now that you're home sweet gone, who cares?

Cheers! It's been great!


P.S. Perhaps if you relaxed with the obessessive tallying of relative
hours at said Big Bookstore you might not need a "substitute for the

As I say, I received 498 copies of this message. Four hundred and ninety eight. Yay! Someone has a new hobby!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fan Mail!

Bookseller posted this question in a comment to my previous entry:

Bookseller said...
um, just to clear up the air here.... eresh... did u really quit big bookstore? and, if not, are u still keeping this blog?

2:03 PM

Yes, Bookseller. It's true. I really quit Big Bookstore. No, I wasn't fired. I'm not saying that I wouldn't have been fired if I hadn't quit. Who can say? A manager at another store said that our new GM had "big problems with the staff" and "a lot of cleaning out to do." So, perhaps I was just the first sweep of the broom. Or perhaps I jumped the gun. Again, who can say what would have happened if I hadn't reached my personal breaking point.

As for the blog, I haven't really decided what to do with it yet. I certainly have a few more things to say, and will do so as time permits. And then? Perhaps I will be Disgruntled Civil Servant, although that certainly presents fewer comedic possibilities. And of course, I plan to continue being a Big Bookstore customer. It will be a luxury to spend time in the store actually shopping in a leisurely fashion rather than rushing around on a half-hour dinner break. So perhaps I will become Disgruntled Customer.

My next message comes from some anonymous individual, who apparently felt strongly enough about this to send me 100 copies of the same message:

From: lisa*

Subject: So sorry you were fired Lisa *, but, well, you ARE a slovenly fatbody...
Date: Tue, 09 May 2006 23:12:42 -0700 (PDT)

You poor thing, now you're a disgruntled EX-bookseller.

Ah, the satisfaction that everyone at Big Bookstore is now rejoicing at your eagerly-awaited departure! Your anal obsession with something as trivial as SHELVING is pathetic and childish. It's so sad that someone telling you that she has no intention on following idiotic mandates from a non-manager propels you to such a lowly state of cyber-rage.

By the way, Weight Watchers is an excellent program that you might want to look into before you have a heart attack, you unsightly spinster.

Cheerfully yours,

P.S. Maybe now you can get a life on those previously lonely Friday and Saturday nights! Well, then again, you ARE Lisa * and not especially charming...

A mature, thoughtful message to be sure.

I have no doubt that some of the folks at Big Bookstore rejoice at my departure. In fact, I'm reasonably certain that not a few people sang choruses of "Ding dong, the witch is dead." Being disliked by slackers hasn't ever bothered me. The job was not a popularity contest. I did my best to give Big Bookstore the best possible work product and I expected those around me to have the same work ethic. Those who didn't like me were generally those who felt hard work was either not a requirement of the job or was beneath them. I'm also not really surprised that the sender thinks shelving is "trivial." Those with bookselling clue will know that shelving, and shelving correctly are pretty significant elements of the job.

I've been really bolstered by all of those friends, coworkers and former coworkers from Big Bookstore who have called me or sent me messages of support. I had dinner with three of them last night and we laughed until our stomachs hurt. The friends I made during my tenure at Big Bookstore will remain my friends for years to come.

The P.S. brings up an interesting point. I never made it a secret that working at Big Bookstore was a substitute for the lonelies. Life can be lonely sometimes. There's no shame in admitting that. Perhaps the sender is lucky enough or, more likely, young enough not to have discovered this. And there's no shame in admitting that perhaps some of my weekends will be lonelier without the cameraderie of my Big Bookstore family. But I'm not the same person who started working there eight and a half years ago. As a direct result of some of my Big Bookstore relationships, I'm more resilient now. As for my future weekends? I've got three invitations for Memorial Day weekend: an invitation to visit friends (and former Big Bookstore coworkers) in Florida, an invitation to visit friends in NYC, and a tentative reunion with some old girlfriends I haven't seen in a while. It seems that perhaps there was no need, after all, to fill my weekends with work.

One final point. The sender calls me "pathetic and childish," talks about my "lowly state of cyber-rage," and says that maybe now I can "get a life." Let's note for the record that the sender sent the message 100 times, and that the first message was sent at 10:44 p.m. last night and the last message was sent at 11:13 p.m. That's 27 minutes of hitting the send button. I don't think I need to state the conclusion here.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I moved this comment to my previous post here, because it deserves to be more than a comment. It deserves to be a post of it's own. Because it contained my name as well as the poster's, I've deleted the original comment, but other than editing out names, I have made no other changes.

K*** said...

Dear Lisa *,

Twenty-Nothing Cunty McSmartass here. Thought you'd post something about me on your bitchy little blog.

The fact that I work there forty hours a week means that I spend almost as much time as Border's as I do at home, which kind of makes it a second home. No matter how long you have worked there, your part-time status means that you are merely a former tenant, an unfortunate visitor in our (the larger staff's) home. In our home, the way that we shelve is decidedly different from your--yes, inefficient--method of shelving, despite your indignant declaration that "this is the way we've always done it." Which clearly is not true, not only from my personal knowledge, but the fact that you posted a diagram of how you want the book cart to look, indicating that you were upset at how things were being done even before I got there (for the record, I've been there for four months, not two).

I love working at Border's. The staff, even on their bad days, are smart, competent, hard-working, and largely delightful people. Despite your protestations and commentary to the contrary, the store functions just fine in the eighty-six hours of the week that you are not there.

Now this is a fine, fine rebuttal. But let's examine it in detail, shall we? (Sorry. I'm a lawyer. This kind of close textual analysis is what we do.)

First paragraph:

OK. Nothing to disagree with here. Cunty McSmartass seems to accept her new cognomen. That's cool.

I'm not sure what the second sentence means, but it seems to imply that I thought I would be getting away with something by posting about Friday night. Not really sure what that's all about, quite frankly.

Finally, it calls my blog "bitchy" and "little." Again, no disagreements. This blog isn't changing the world. And I keep referrer logs, so I know precisely how small my audience is. And bitchy? If it wasn't bitchy, what would be the point, I ask you?

Second Paragraph:

Much more meat here.

Cunty McSmartass (let's just call her Cunty for short, K?) asserts in her first sentence that being a full-timer at Big Bookstore "kind of makes it a second home." Again, full agreement here. I totally get how working someplace, particularly a place like Big Bookstore, makes it a second home. But watch very closely how Cunty goes completely off the rails in the next sentence.

In the second sentence, Cunty asserts that as a part-timer, I am merely a visitor in the "home" that Big Bookstore functions as for the "larger staff." I don't even know where to begin with this. Yes, I only work 18 hours a week at present to Cunty's 35. But in the course of the last eight and a half years, I spent more than four years working full-time. And even during the times when I had a day job, and was technically part-time, there were periods when I averaged more than 30 hours a week at Big Bookstore. I'm just not sure how I'm less qualified to call Big Bookstore my second home based on those numbers.

Let's crunch said numbers. For the sake of argument, let's say that over the course of the last 8 and half years I've averaged 25 hours a week. I think that's probably on the low side, but I don't want to overplay the hand. That would mean that over the last 442 weeks, I have put in over 11,000 hours at Big Bookstore. Cunty has been working at Big Bookstore for four months at 35 hours a week. That means she's put in 560 hours at Big Bookstore. 11,000. 560. 11,000. 560. Elevenfuckingthousand. 560. Now, who gets to call Big Bookstore a second home?

The second-place status that Cunty has accorded to her part-time coworkers, many of whom, like me, have worked at Big Bookstore for years, will come as a complete surprise to them, I think. Those of us who have become friends, seen each other through life's travails, loved, lost, and worked side by side for all those years? It's "our" bookstore too. In fact, I would even argue that it's even more our bookstore than Cunty's. Unlike the YPOT full-timers, Big Bookstore isn't a way station for us. It's not a stopping place on the way to some other, wished-for life or career. It's something we do, in addition to the lives we already have, because we love it. We've watched full-timers come and go and come and go and we plod on reliably year after year with no plans to ever leave.

You know, I was going to continue to pick apart Kari's comment sentence by sentence - discuss how she's wrong about how the reshelving should be, and has historically been, done. But quite frankly, after my last paragraph, that would be a retreat from the more meaningful to the picayune.

I'll close by saying this: Until today, Big Bookstore was not "kind of" a second home to me. It was my second home. In the past I've described "the sense of being enfolded by a place of belonging each time I walked in the door." It was the place I went to work alongside people that I love while doing work that made me happy.

Even the best of things, however, must come to an end, and I belong no more.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Daily Hate

What the fuck is wrong with the YPOTs? Is it unreasonable of me to expect that people who were still in fucking grammar school when I started working at Big Fucking Bookstore might defer to my fucking judgment on how to do things around the store? Is it crazy of me to think that because I was once the store Trainer, that I might actually have more fucking expertise in the most efficient fucking way to do things than someone who started as a cashier six months ago and just started working Info in the last two fucking months?

Tonight, a 20-nothing bookseller argued with me about the sorting cart. She said it was inefficient. This is based on her vast experience with reshelving books for all of the last two months. One of her arguments was that she "worked 40 hours a week." I guess the implication there was that as a full-timer her judgment was more important or more valid than mine since I am a mere part-timer. Because, you know, closing three to six nights a week since 19-fucking-97 apparently makes me less qualified to determine the most efficient way to recover the fucking store than someone who has worked full-time for the last six months.

Now the HippieChick also happens to disagree with how I sort things for reshelving. But, and this is important, she's worked for Big Bookstore as long as I have, so I respect her opinion. I don't agree with it, and when we're at Info together there's a sort of silent tug-of-war over the sorting cart. She'll sort books her way, then leave the Info Desk, and I'll resort them my way, and back and forth we'll go. And it's OK. Because like me, she works her ass off, and between the two of us we'll get more shelving done than any four YPOT booksellers. So HippieChick and I are OK with the disagreement and we don't even discuss it.

But little Cunty McSmartass and her "40 hours a week" superiority? Sorry. She can kiss my big fat ass.

To calm myself down, and de-angrify, I shall ponder the following Big Bookstore koan: If an EAS gate goes off in the store, but there's no LP guy there to hear it because he's working on merchandising instead, does it make a sound?