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Monday, August 9, 2010

Lessons from the Bookstore

The past few days, the importance of the life lesson, "Think Before You Speak" has really been illustrated to me.  In SC, they have a tax-free weekend, where certain things don't have a sales tax.  It was a bit of a slow time cashiering, and a middle aged woman walked up to the cash register alone with a copy of a Hemmingway book.  I told her the total, and she said, "Isn't it tax free?"
I explained that the only books that are tax free are required reading or books for use in a class project.  She said, "I don't think a sixteen year old boy would read this by choice!".  I started to say, "I don't think you look like a sixteen year old boy!"  Thankfully, my filter kicked in and I said, "I don't think, uh, so either.  I'll take the tax off for you."

I really try to chat with each customer, to make them smile and feel positive about the experience at the bookstore.  One of the easiest leads, besides when they're buying something I love, is when I see they have motorcycle-related books and magazines.  I hold up whatever item has a motorcycle on it, and ask, "Do you ride?".  I then mention my own motorcycle, and we chat from there.  The other day I had a gentleman who was being very arrogant and standoff-ish as I rang up his books.  I was having a hard time asking the questions I have to, much less being friendly.  I thought I'd lucked out when I saw one of his books had a guy on a motorcycle on the cover.  I picked it up and glanced up to ask, "Do you ride?", but he'd been intimidating enough that I was feeling pretty shy.  In that moment's pause, I saw that the book was not actually a motorcycle book per se.  It was a gay motorcycle erotica book.  I think, "Do you ride?" would have had an entirely different meaning.  I was so mortified at what I nearly said, that I didn't say more than 3 words for the rest of the transaction. 

Another time speech failed me was one of my first customers yesterday.  He really took the prize for best quote ever, and I've heard some winners.  He was buying a single fiction book, and we were talking about the author.  He said he hadn't read anything else of theirs, but that this book had really been recommended to him.  I said, "I hope you enjoy it!".

He replied, "I don't read much.  Can't build no muscles reading."

And to that, I couldn't think of a thing to say.  Although I've thought of several since.


  1. I so very rarely can think of good come-backs on the spur of the moment. But so many minutes, even hours, after the incident has passed. I hate that!!

  2. By the way, this is Mel. :)