Random Customer Comments

Josie Leavitt - May 31, 2016

One of the great things about a bookstore is working with customers. People come in looking for books, obviously, and often there are hilarious exchanges that occur in this process. In addition to these funny moments, people feel comfortable sharing, and sometimes oversharing, what’s going on in their lives as they inquire about specific books. I often find myself doling out advice on a range of topics from marriage advice to finding the best realtor to well, just listening. 
Last week one of my favorite customers strode in and came to the register and announced,” I’ve decided I’m fully committed to The Hobbit.” The customer, Heather, is a teacher at one of the small private schools nearby and she was purchasing 20 copies, with her own money, as a parting gift for all her students. Most teachers can’t do that, and honestly, Heather probably blew her monthly budget (and then some) with the books. But what made me laugh was the way she took a deep breath and proclaimed her deep need for The Hobbit. She then added, “I’m a single mom of two, but it’s The Hobbit…”
Yesterday I was helping a mom and her teenage daughter, Emma, find books for the daughter to read while she recovered from having her wisdom teeth out. I asked Emma what she like to read and she said, without missing a beat, “I like books written by old people about teenagers.” The specificity had me laughing out loud. It struck me as so random. Then Emma added as a younger kid she loved to read parenting books. I had limited success with book recommendations as I spent much of time talking to Emma about the side effects of pain killers for dental pain. In the end, she got a small coloring book and a journal because we couldn’t find the right book by an old person.
Customers feel comfortable at the bookstore. Often a simple, “How are you today?” gets a full response that ranges from a health recitation to seeking a new house or, as was the case recently, “I’m thinking of leaving my husband.” This one has happened a handful of times in the 20 years we’ve been open. I’m not sure if there’s a feeling of safety amid the books that allows folks to say out loud what they’ve only been thinking. Jeannette seemed a little surprised that she’d said anything. I responded by listening and offering that maybe she and her husband might want to start going to counseling and then gave her a name or two to call.
I love what people say in the bookstore and would enjoy hearing from readers what funny or strange things you’ve heard in your store.

5 thoughts on “Random Customer Comments

  1. Vicki Erwin

    “My husband just died in his bed in the night but I sat down and watched CBS Morning News before I called anyone.” It was like she was confessing!

  2. Judith McGinty

    My little store had only been open a few months when a woman “just traveling through town” walked up to counter and said, “I’m dying. What do you have to make the process easier?” I was speechless and helpless. I showed her our Death and Dying section, Psychology, and Metaphysics. She shopped for at least an hour, came to the counter,said she had found exactly what she needed and gave me our largest sale to that time. A few weeks later I called Hospice and asked when their next volunteer training was. I explained that I had no time to volunteer, but I needed a vocabulary and comfort level. They welcomed me, I became a referral source, and now that the store has been closed for several years I’m getting ready to volunteer at our new Hospice House.

  3. Carol B. Chittenden

    Sometimes it seems like bartending to be listening across the counter. But those are things (sober) people only say to trusted friends, an honor one does not wear lightly, or leave behind on a whim.

  4. Nick

    Interesting stories. I guess books do get people talking and swapping stories, like being in a small town coffee shop where everyone knows everyone. I remember being in a B&N and I was waiting to be helped but a customer kept rattling on about all the things she’d done. I even chimed in. Forgot what it was about but I even chimed in. Something I wouldn’t usually do. Stories do bring people together, making it a community.


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