The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #33

Sometimes we call people to let them know their books have come in.

Me: *rings number*
Man, in Dutch: “Yes?”
Me, in Dutch: “This is Bookshop [Name], I’m calling to let you know that the book you ordered-”
Man, in English: “Speak English!”
Me, switching to English: “Oh, I’m sorry. This is Bookshop [Name]. I’m calling to let you know that the book you ordered has come in, so you can come by to pick it up.”
Man: “What?”
Me, more slowly: “Your book, Life Advanced, has come in. You can come by our shop to pick it up.”
Man: “You are where?”
Me, wondering how he has not remembered visiting us when he ordered the book: “We’re opposite city hall.”
Man: “City hall, which department are you in?”
Me: “No, we’re Bookshop [Name], opposite city hall.”
Man: “What?”
Me, more slowly and a little louder: “Bookshop [Name], on [Street], opposite city hall.”

This went on for a while. Firstly, rude, dude. Whatever happened to “Could you please…”? Secondly, Life Advanced is a textbook for an advanced level English language course. This was the second time in as many weeks that someone spoke to me on the phone in this manner; it may have been the same guy twice, but I can’t be sure. Either way, what the hell are they doing taking an advanced English course if they’re at this level?

And thirdly, what is up with people who keep answering their phones with just “Yes” or “Hello”? You’d think they’d have enough confusing conversations to reconsider this strategy…

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #32

Got a phone call at work the other day.

Me: “This is Bookshop [Name], good afternoon. Erika speaking.”
Other end of the line: *is silent*
Me, thinking I may have done that thing where I speak so fast I finish saying hello before the line actually connects: “Bookshop [Name], good afternoon?”
Other end of the line: *is still silent*
Me: “Hello?”
Man, after another long silence: “Hello.”
Me: “This is Bookshop [Name], what can I do for you?”
Man: “Hello.”
Me: “Hello. Who is this?”
Man: “Nobody.”
Me: “I don’t think I can help you, sir. Goodbye.”

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #30

A while ago an author was in our shop to present her new book. It was a party, kind of, organised by us and the publisher. She signed the book for people who were there at the time, and also signed some extra copies for our shop. Her signature is basically just her name with a small flourish, nothing ‘fancy’ or illegible.

About a week later, a couple comes in looking for that specific book. So I show them where it is, and tell them she was here recently and signed some of the books. The guy takes the signed book I hand him, looks at the signature on the first page, then looks at me suspiciously and says: “And she signed this herself?”

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #26

Most tourists, international students and other non-Dutch people usually point out to me, after I start speaking Dutch to them, that they don’t understand me. Could please speak English? Yes, of course. No problem. I spent four and a half years working towards a degree to prove the fact that I know how to speak English.

Some, however, just say: “Hm?” and look at me as though they expect me to be able to magically divine that they don’t speak Dutch. This mostly results in a conversation where I repeat my question several times, until it becomes clear to me that no, they didn’t just not hear me correctly, they didn’t understand me at all.

Me: “Is het een cadeautje?”
Customer: *looks at me weirdly* “Hm?”
Me: “Is het een cadeautje?”
Customer: *tilts head slightly, funny look increases*
Me: “Oh. Is it a gift?”
Customer: “No.”

Followed by no explanation whatsoever.


People are weird.

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #24

One of the things that annoys me most is how often, when I’m gift wrapping a book, people ask: “Did you remove the price tag?”

Yes. Yes, I did. I’m not an idiot.

I can understand some people may have previous experiences concerning price tags left on wrapped gifts. So, no, the people who jokingly point out that they’re double checking out of a silly sense of paranoia don’t bother me. The ones who bother me are the people who look at me as if I’m a worthless nitwit and literally turn the book over while I’m still holding it, to see for themselves if perhaps I’m not lying about that sticker.

I’ve taken to ostentatiously peeling off the stickers in full view of the customers, tilting the books in such a fashion that people can see that, yes, I am actually taking off the price tags. I feel ridiculous doing it, but at least it works.

Most of the time.

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #23

Lady comes in to pick up a book she ordered over the phone. It’s a French book.

Lady: “Your colleague’s French is terrible. I can’t believe it. I expect someone who works in a bookshop to know how to speak French.”
Me: “…I’ll be sure to let him know.”

He said her French was even worse.

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #22

The man I talked about before came back yesterday. He looked grumpy from the moment he came in, so I prepared myself to smother him with kindness.

You should know yesterday was the first day of the Dutch Book Week, a national event that involves bookshops promoting Dutch books and giving away a small book with each purchase of over €12,50 (a book especially written for this purpose).

Man puts book on the counter. I pretend not to notice he’s the same guy as before, and act as I usually do.
Me: “That’ll be €25,10 please.”
Man pays with a bank card without saying anything. I hand him the receipts.
Me: “Can I offer you the Book Week Gift?”
Man, impatiently: “No.”
Me: “Would you like a bag?”
Man, testily: “No.”
I hand him the book and he immediately hands it back to me, practically barking: “Remove the price tag.”
Me, cheerfully: “Of course, no problem.” I remove the sticker and hand the book back to him. “Have a nice day!”
He leaves without a word.

Being this grouchy all the time must be exhausting.

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #21

People who don’t read their emails properly.

Our computer system automatically sends someone an email when a book they’ve ordered has arrived. It also sends emails about once a week with an update on the order status if the book has not yet arrived. Although each email clearly states per book what the status is, quite often people don’t seem to be able to distinguish between something like “Your book has arrived and is ready to be picked up” and “This title is still on backorder”. People come in and ask to pick up a book they’ve ordered, which we then can’t find, so we have to retrieve their order from the system, and then tell them they came for nothing. Some of these people get annoyed about their time being wasted, so I’m always very careful in pointing out that they’ve misread their email (and obviously I never literally say “It’s your own fault”). But I tend to quietly get annoyed at the fact that their haste/idiocy wastes not only their time but everybody else’s as well.

Last night a girl comes in to pick up an order in the name of Bakker. I can’t find the book, so I turn to the computer to look up the order. She says she is picking it up at the request of someone else, and she doesn’t know his postcode or email address. Considering Bakker is basically the Dutch version of Smith or Jones and therefore there’s dozens of Bakkers in our system, I can’t do much without the postcode or email address. Luckily it’s a slow evening, because it takes her almost ten minutes to recover an email address from her phone. I look up the order in the system, and indeed, as I suspected, the book is not actually here, and the email never said it was. So this guy sent her all the way here for nothing. Nice going, Mr. Bakker.

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #20

Guy comes in, about my age, asking if I would please gift wrap this nice wooden box he’s bought somewhere else. Strange request, but it happens sometimes, and I almost never refuse if there’s enough time, because we place high value on customer service.

So I’m gift wrapping this box, and he starts to comment on how I seem to be doing it wrong and how I’m supposed to be doing it.

Now, I gift wrap practically everything. I gift wrap the book vouchers. Sometimes I even gift wrap a postcard. I know how to gift wrap (rectangular things, ahem). That’s not the point.

Hello, I’m doing you a favour…? Where does he get the temerity to complain? If he wants it gift wrapped some other way, perhaps he should buy a roll of paper and do it himself. Bloody hell.

The Joys of Working in a Bookshop – #18

Man comes in to pick up a language book he’s ordered. While I’m looking for the book, he says some things in a language I can’t understand. Seeing as it’s a book used to learn Dutch, I assume he must be trying to tell me something but doesn’t know the words in Dutch. When I say “Sorry, what did you say?”, he doesn’t respond. Never mind. I find the book, we move to the till. He still keeps saying things in this foreign language, so by now I figure he’s talking to himself. Happens, whatever.

Suddenly, I notice that tucked in his brightly coloured scarf is a brightly coloured phone.