Okay, I’m going to be really honest with all of you. I need to confess something. Sometimes, when I answer the phone at work and someone asks, “For the owner or manager,” I pretend I’m not here. Is this terrible? Yes. Would my grandmother be horrified? Most definitely. Why do I do this? I’ll tell you why.
Working in a bookstore can be a frustrating day of not quite getting in the right rhythm. I can come to work with the best intentions to get a project done or do some orders, and all it takes is one customer to derail my solitary work because I’m on a quest to find an eager student teacher the perfect book for a unit on algae or help another customer with just the right book for her budding artist granddaughter. This spontaneity is one of the joys of retail, because you just never know who is going to walk in with a request that’s challenging but so much fun to track down.
I don’t like solicitors calling and taking up my time. Each call starts the same way asking for the owner or person in charge of paper supplies. If I say, “Why yes, I am the person who makes decisions about copy paper,” I can kiss the next fifteen minutes goodbye. And whenever someone cold calls and says it’ll only take five minutes, they’re wrong. It takes far more than five minutes for them to explain what they’re selling and for me to politely say I’m not interested at the moment. I have nothing but respect for folks who have to make cold calls all day. I can imagine nothing worse sometimes than to get hung up on over and over again.
There is a way people who don’t know the owner or manager ask for the owner or manager that let’s me know I can punt this call or suggest they send an email. I punt the call by saying I’m neither the owner nor the manager. I know this sounds horrible, but this way I don’t get stuck on a call that’s not important and I give the caller a better way to get the information to me. This is a good theory until someone asks for the manager for an event.
This has only happened once. The phone rang, this lovely woman asked in a halting way for the manager. I said I was not the manager but would happily take a message. She got halfway through her message about wanting us to sell books for David Sedaris when he came to Burlington. I had to sheepishly confess that, well, in fact I was the manager. Thankfully, the woman had a sense of humor and didn’t think I was a total oddball.
We had a wonderful event and I learned a valuable lesson: don’t answer the phone.