Turning a Customer’s Day Around

Elizabeth Bluemle - December 8, 2015

Holiday shopping flip-flops between stressful and fun. Our goal at the bookstore is to be on the enjoyable side of that teeter-totter, and sometimes that takes a little bit of work.
Recently, a woman came in with her two children, ages 10 and 12. In addition to buying some presents for other families, they were looking for a family read-aloud book. The mom was clearly frazzled and a little bit cranky. When we had to inform her that all but one of her favorite Bruce Coville Shakespeare retellings were out of stock indefinitely, she was mad. At us.

At some level, she likely knew that we weren’t personally responsible for the demise of this excellent series, but on this afternoon, it didn’t matter. She scolded us for not having them. (We were just as sorry not to be able to carry them any more; they are terrific.)
So we did what we do — tried to redirect the frustration with another suggestion. We showed her Gareth Hindss’ graphic novel versions of Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet. She read aloud snippets of each to the children, an activity that mollified her until she came upon this unexpurgated Shakespearean line of Lady Macbeth’s:

I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

She was ready to put the book back until her children pleaded earnestly with her to choose it despite (though probably, secretly, because of) the nipple and brain dashing. It sounded like Shakespeare’s own language, they said–accurately–and they had been wanting to read Macbeth. Their mom did like the artwork and the fact that the adaptation stays as true to the original language as possible while make some abridgments for length and small, thoughtfully considered textual adaptations for modern audiences, so she considered, and finally consented, her Coville-adaptation sorrow put on a back burner.
Then her daughter noticed No-Churn Ice Cream in our Cookbook section, and eagerly showed it to her mom. Apparently, they had just been talking about experimenting with frozen treats that didn’t require an ice cream machine, and voila! Here was the perfect book. Our customer’s mood took another turn for the better.
When her son asked for a book “like Artemis Fowl but different,” we offered him one of our favorites, Catherine Jinks’s fabulous Evil Genius. His eyes lit up at the description and he tucked the shiny paperback under his arm.
Missions accomplished, they brought their selections to the counter and then noticed the little bowl of delicious sugar plum candies we give to customers throughout the holidays. The three of them left the store chatting animatedly, each with a book, munching on a sugar plum. The best part for us was hearing the mom thank her daughter for insisting they come to the bookstore today. If we can send customers out feeling better than they did on the way in, that is a successful day at the Flying Pig. And that is the power of great books!

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