This Is Why Your Used Bookstore Clerk Hates You

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Yelp/ Nancy Y.
Although bookstore workers love their customers, or are at least morally obligated to, sometimes the love is so great it turns murderous. Ever tried to finish all-you-can-eat coconut shrimp? That's the love we're dealing with here. Although your narrator worked at a used bookstore just outside of the city more than a decade ago, he shut his eyes tight, remembered three years of Fat Slice Pizza, and relived some moments of quiet desperation.

You Stole All Our Bukowski
It's hard to keep Bukowski on the shelf when he keeps getting stuffed in the pants of street punks when no one is looking (but we are looking!). Although punks love him (he's so easy to read) so does the staff (Hank worked a menial job for years, drank an eternity, and still ended up famous). He provides hope for apprentice alcoholics who are going to start writing sometime tomorrow or Thursday for sure. If you do steal him, please sell him back to us when you're finished.

You're Spending Too Much Time in the Erotica Section
Huh, and you're totally and creepily not moving.

You Camp Out in the Self-Help Section
What is it about the self-help section that attracts people who take off their shoes and eat fruit salad right in the stacks? Or what is it that doesn't attract them, amirite? Though we don't mind you blocking the aisle, making your little piles of books and scribbling action items in your notepads (this means we can avoid the section), at least tidy up when you're finished for the night. This goes for everyone in the spiritualism section, too. See you all tomorrow.

You're Asleep
You know that's weird, right? Barnes & Noble may have the square footage to stock recliners, but used bookstores don't. Used bookstores use their space to sell books. Ever notice how much empty air a superbookstore contains that could be going to books? Of course you don't, because you're asleep on our footstool.

You Were Our Favorite English Professor
Oh look, it's the bastard who inspired us to skip a useful degree for one in contemporary American fiction, here to again dash through the store with a comely grad student in tow and witness, once again, how well we are doing with our crack alphabetization. Looking for Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex? Try the Ds. College!

You Smell, Sir

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Yelp/ Dani S.

Golden Gate Park does not shrink from an unwashed human; a cramped bookstore with adorable little alcoves does. Scent creeps. A tangy human can infect an entire store by the time he's made it to the graphic novel section, and the store will remain hot until long after he's made his way back aboard the bus home. Don't make us ask you to leave, because we won't -- we hate conflict, which makes us hate you even more.

You Don't Check Your Bag
Ah, the little rebellions that go into a day's shopping -- we get it. We don't always Lávese Las Manos in the store bathroom either. But understand these are devil eyes we're looking at you with, and while only the gutsiest of us are screaming Hey how about you CHECK YOUR BAG, everyone is thinking it.

You Check Everything You Own
Please don't make us put your bedroll or "pack" behind the counter. We appreciate the gesture, but we don't want it. If you have the balls and sleight of hand to squeeze some Bukowski in there with half the staff watching, consider it a farewell present.

You Ask for a Discount -- Every Time
Ah, you've figured out that tracking used-book inventory is like trying to catch a waterfall, and that pricing used books is not a science -- one pricer's $5.98 is another's $10.98. (Perhaps you saw a clerk set the pricing gun at $5.98 and let it ride for a whole afternoon, like more than a decade ago in Berkeley?) Granted, sometimes we like it when a person gets up the guts to ask for a few bucks off -- we like guts. But every time? Don't do that. We feel like you're onto us, and we don't like feeling onto.

You're Selling Us Books
Do you have a car trunk full of paperback genre fiction? A single copy of Eat, Pray, Love? Anything by John Gray? Three years of Nat Geo? A textbook, for God's sake? Do you not understand why a $24.95 Stephen King book from 1997 is worth approximately $0 now? We can go on, but someone beat us to it. But if you're selling us Bukowski -- or Freedom, for that matter -- name your price.

You Want to Know if We Sell Calendars
Yes, we do. And we hate you for asking, because we hate being a gift shop during the Christmas season. Now sell us your used Ham on Rye so we can feel vital again.

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36 comments
W8znx
W8znx

ahoy ganghelm down grab your beer

heck i never get any Buk bookssomebody has to dieget thrown out of their parents house

steal booksthey take anything beatart books worst book thieves new age twinkies most stolen from my shopnew age medyphysics books

they figuredon't care about the books" well hell im just in it for the money "so if they feel they really need or think they love the bookit's their right to steal it from some uncaring ass holebook store owner that does not " love " the book

amazing the trash people try to sell youhave pulled books that have been shotyes shot bang bang with a gunholes in them

kinda look at the personand say do you really think that anybody wants a cheap pop lit book that has been shot

ask for a discount - every timeyes most of all from some guy driving a brand new high end carlost 8 grand last year staying in buskeep going because in a few years will own the building

Macsee my listing used book lovers guide to the midwestc mac neill bookdealerberkley mich

kmuzu
kmuzu

No hate for the Kindle .. very strange ..

Wolsen
Wolsen

There's at least one thing any used bookstore has over B&N - you can usually find something within 10 seconds you can hold up in the air and say "order THIS online, bitch."

soldoutpunk
soldoutpunk

poor you. you have to deal with the same crap every other retail store has to deal with. if you don't like your job, go back to school and get a degree in something that enables you to work in a less public field. you'd be doing yourself and your customers a giant favor.

Wolsen
Wolsen

UUUUH I think the guy said it was 10 years ago and my guess is he was there working his way through colle.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Why should I check my bag at the door? You don't trust me, I get it. But guess what? I don't trust you either.

"You must check your bags" = "I'll take my business elsewhere."

Benny Bieber
Benny Bieber

You got that right. I just love how these d-wads make you check your bag but then deny any responsibility for watching it (often the bags are placed in some shared public space where anyone can come and snatch them). The attitude is: You have to leave your possessions there, unattended, but damn if I'm responsible if they're gone when you get back. And these a-holes are crying over a few missing Bukowski paperbacks worth a buck a piece, at best. Talk about bed-wetting low lifes!

One Hung Lo
One Hung Lo

I know what you mean, Will. Those nosestud-festering twerps are the lowliest shape of human dregs. This is not about anger, just factual assessment. They have zero service mentality and 100% bad attitude. Charlie Sheen's dealer has more integrity. And a better livelihood.

Rachel K.
Rachel K.

My favorite is when a customer describes a book not by its title or author but by what it's about, what color it is, or what publication recently featured it.

Angela Eastman
Angela Eastman

"I'm looking for an orange book. I saw it last week. I don't remember what section it's in. Do you have it?"

Howie Schmeckel
Howie Schmeckel

Rachel? Rachel Finkelmann? Is that you? You still at Dingleberry's Used Books and Toiletries? Damn, how old are you now, like 50, 55?

Bill Drew
Bill Drew

Send them to a library where the librarian can find it for them!

DudeG
DudeG

You're just saying that because you couldn't find that big book about computers you couldn't find. You know, the blue one! It was in Wired or some magazine last month!

Will Southerland
Will Southerland

Nicely done -- love the old English Professor dig. I'd like to dedicate this number to my former life at Borealis Books, Ithaca, NY. We weren't a used store, but these were my issues. All booksellers are passive-aggressive, so be warned -- we're seething.

Then there were the years I spent at Explore Booksellers in Aspen. There we were all passive-aggressive, seething, and decidedly drunk.

Thanks for this one.

Lee Gibson
Lee Gibson

You just let me know where you work, and I promise I'll never bother you by, you know, patronizing your business.

Downtown Naysayer
Downtown Naysayer

And if you read the fourth sentence, you'd know that the author hasn't worked at a used bookstore in ten years.

Herbert
Herbert

Yes, but you're the one working in the used book store.

DudeG
DudeG

Oh no, he's doing something he loves! How horrible!

CorruptedData
CorruptedData

Having worked at the downtown Powells in Portland (like 1000 years ago), I was smirking through this whole piece. Don't forget that we also hate you because you're stupid. Why am I giving you this look? Because you just asked me who wrote The Diary of Anne Frank.

Shopkeep
Shopkeep

Having once tracked a kid with a copy of Pulp down the back of his pants for six blocks, I loved your article.

I do think people not in the used book world do get baffled easily (that $30 King book being worth pennies, for instance) because it IS weird. A first print of a book with jacket being worth $800, but a second print w/o jacket being worth $25 can seem a bit odd.

I would add, on the discount front, that I'm happy to give discounts for people who EARN them. This means a) be a regular customer b) be friendly c) be spending a bunch of money d) be interesting or at least outgoing. But it's always the same person who you know you'll never see again who ASKS for the discount.

That being said, my

planettom
planettom

On the other hand, many people who work in used bookstores seem to be a subspecies of Comic Book Guy on THE SIMPSONS. I've been quietly searching the back stacks for treasures (sometimes with the staff not even realizing I was there), and overheard some amazingly bizarre conversations by employees.

Walt Guyll
Walt Guyll

You poor, stressed book clerks won't have to mutter about customers much longer; we're mostly using Amazon now.

The Bookseller's Wife
The Bookseller's Wife

Some of those clerks and owners have families who kind of depend on their job. I hope a big online company takes your job away, too. I'm sure you go in every day with a big smile on your face and never a complaint.

Spatrick78
Spatrick78

Yeah, i guess it's too much to expect people not to act like total assholes in public... if you don't have manners, keep ordering off Amazon... while you're at it, order pizza instead of grocery shopping and build your own bowling alley too.

Dick Yu
Dick Yu

Spatrick, man, you're that tool who keeps slinking off to the bestality section in Chuck's World of Used (Very Used) Butt Darts! What's the matter - can't handle Amazon? Or bowling alleys? Probably sat on way too many pins.

Will Guyll
Will Guyll

What's the qualification for working in a used book store? At least three facial piercings and a gold-plated loser card? We won't need to build our own bowling alleys because we actually need them. As for used book stores, they're about as relevant and inspiring as a penny arcade. But people working in penny arcades have better job prospects. The book clerks hate they're customers? The customers don't even know you ciphers exist! And the Amazon interface has more personality and basic knowledge than any five book store clerks.

DudeG
DudeG

Wow, that's a lot of anger to be carrying around, Will. They're just people selling books. Why does that bother you so much?

Walt Guyll
Walt Guyll

I'll add that I worked in a book store for more than 15 years. There were some crazy customers that kept us entertained; most of them were just as nice as pie. We also had some crazy people working there and they were accepted as part of the family.I came away believing that the average person you bump into in the retail world is well mannered and, well, nice.

Former Bookstore Clerk
Former Bookstore Clerk

You think that the children's section is a daycare center.The kid's section is not a daycare center for you to drop off your children and leave. And if you see one of us working in this section do not even consider asking us to watch little Jr.

JulietS
JulietS

I've been involved with an AAUW booksale (all books are donated, there's no paid staff, and proceeds fund scholarships for local girls) for the last 10 years or so. We have two sales a year. On dealer day (the 1st day of each sale) we get some odd characters. Particularly annoying are the ones who are very smelly. We think they do it deliberately to keep other dealers away from them. Also annoying are the truly obese. We have very narrow aisles (no camping out on the floor in our space!) and one person can easily make an entire aisle unusable. Worse are the ones who pull books off the shelves and then leave them in piles on the floor for us to pick up later. Worst of all are the ones who take CD's out of the jewel cases and leave us the empties. We know the CD's have been taken because we check all of them before the sale to make sure they actually have matching CD's inside. It's really low when someone steals a $1 item from a charity!

Any place that is buying books can at least say no. We do refuse certain categories of things, but there's not much we can do about 15-20 Da Vinci Codes or the same number of South Beach Diet books. But what people think might be sold is amazing and often laughable. We end up recycling about 1/3 of what comes in. Then again, there are always the pleasant surprises. One of our volunteers happened to flip through an older, mass market science book (something we would routinely recycle) and found $150, a $100 bill and a $50, apparently used as a book mark and then forgotten. That happens once every few years.

My favorite story, however, concerns a very obnoxious lady who was dropping off books. She was doing a favor for friends by bringing the books down to us. They had told her that she could have whatever she wanted from the books. So she spent an age going through them in the trunk of her SUV, blocking parking spaces that the other building tenants pay large sums to rent. She snarled when asked politely to move, and was altogether a pain. But in the books that we finally ended up with, we found three 1st ed. signed Robert Frost books (including his first book) that we later sold at auction for ~$2000+. I love it when when people get what they deserve!

BTW, we sell Steven King hardcovers for $2 (with dust jacket in good condition) and they usually all go early in the sale. We refuse to accept Nat Geo or textbooks (unless quite old) and recycle the ones that slip by us during donation times. But really, if your book needs a rubber band around it to hold it together, what on earth makes you think we can sell it for anything at all? And no, your book from 1898 probably isn't worth much even though you think it's old.

susie
susie

Did you just say that the 'truly obese' are annoying?Something is very wrong with you....

Penina S. Finger
Penina S. Finger

I love this…

And must add that the Barnes at the Grove in LA does not allow customers to sit on the floor in their store (my son and I were in the classics aisle, for the record). At all. And there are no longer any chairs there (unless you buy a drink in the Starbucks, or whatever that is). Used book stores may want to thank them for driving more customers their way.

Glewis
Glewis

In El Cerrito (East Bay), I saw a B&N employee sweep through and disencamp about a half-dozen floor sitters. Over at my favorite Berkeley indie, they're considered browsers. 

BookishGirl
BookishGirl

as opposed to customers who would otherwise shop in our store had the B'n'N not moved into the locale? Sure, I'll give a snarky 'thanks' to B'nN for that concession. Classics are cheaper in used bookstores, btw. Whole reason they're 'classics' is because they haven't changed in years. Just sayin'.

RRB
RRB

Love it! Especially the Bukowski part. When I visited the Harvard Bookstore last year, I wondered why they have big signs everywhere saying if you want Bukowski, you have to ask the staff.

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