Another Round of Bookseller Bingo

Cynthia Compton - August 22, 2018

My ShelfTalker colleagues are having lots of fun with our BINGO theme this week (see Monday’s post and Tuesday’s post), and it’s my turn to cover a few squares —errrrr—- I mean customers who regularly pop up in our little shop. Perhaps, you, too, will be able to use your big dabber pen (or dauber pen, depending on where you play) to cover these?
B Is for Bathroom
The most important room in our store, honestly, is our large, stroller-accessible bathroom. We have two commodes — one at regular height, and one mounted much lower on the wall, to accommodate our small guests. For our new customers, this always usually leads to the following:
“LOOK! They have a little potty! Oh, my gosh, you have the best bathroom! Kids, everyone, go to the bathroom while we’re here! No, Jonathan, just TRY. You had to go a minute ago. Yes, you did. You go right now, I mean it. O.K. fine, but I’m telling you, you should see this bathroom.”
Family stays in the store for the next 20 minutes or so, completes their purchase, waits for gift wrap, finds most of their sippy cups, shoes, and small plastic fast food giveaway toys that the kids were clutching as they arrived, and makes their way to the car. Car then pulls up to the sidewalk in front of our store, one rear door of the minivan slides open, and out pops… Jonathan, who races to the back of the store and straight into the bathroom.

“I Has a Question!”
If you take children’s authors to schools, or host them in your store, you know there’s always a conversation that you need to cover with your guest before the presentation. “Will you entertain questions from the audience/class, and how long would you like that to last?” More importantly, “Is there a special gesture or phrase that you’d like to use if you need help… or would like a teacher or bookseller to intervene?” Most touring authors, of course, are total pros, and have heard it all. Usually, what they hear for questions includes:
“Where do you get your ideas?”
“Are you writing another book?”
“How old are you, and do you have any pets? What are their names?”
“Where do you get your ideas?”
This isn’t really a question, but… (long personal anecdote, sometimes related to books, usually not)”
“Did you draw the pictures? Are you a good drawer?”
“How much money do you make?”
“Is it true (the story) or did you make it up in your head?”
“Where do you get your ideas?”
 N Is for: Need It Yesterday!
We all have frazzled parents visit the store who are searching for a specific title, or one that meets a specific criteria for a school assignment, usually involving a specific genre or lexile level. Sometimes it’s to replace a lost school library book. “He won’t get his report card unless we turn in something called Hatchet, have you heard of it? Oh, good. Is this the price? Is there a school discount, since we’re getting it for the library?”
Summer reading displays for the local schools have been up since Memorial Day weekend, but the only titles that will sell after August 1st are the shortest ones, those that can be (optimistically) finished in a day or so, including completion of the reading log or worksheet full of questions. Students linger in front of that shelf, critically evaluating page count, font size, and often check their phones for Schmoop or SparkNotes to help them decide. Bookseller intervention can be critical here, and a quick palming of our favorite title can be well received, particularly if there’s no probing questions about due date or when the assignment was given.
G Is for Grandparents, the fairy godparents of children’s retail
In a perfect world, every child would have at least four grandparents, all in good health and with a little spending money to spare, for grandparents are childhood life coaches of the very best kind: they love unconditionally, they see possibility and aptitude in every passing childhood interest, and they invest for the long term. A grandparent will buy hardcover, above age level, and with little regard to price — but almost always remember that we offer a grandparent discount. Grandparents shop early for birthdays and holidays, believe in sibling gifts “so that little Susie won’t feel left out” and celebrate holidays like Independence Day and 1st Day of School and Arbor Day… with books. Bless them, every one.
Oh, the things children say!
At the grocery store: “Mrs. Lady Cynthia, why aren’t you at the giraffe store?”
At the register: “Here’s my moneys. (dumps plastic bag of coins, a stray marble, some Goldfish crackers, and what might (?) be gum on counter) Will you count it? I can do the pennies part.”
At story time: “This is my lastest time. I am riding the bus to school.” “That is exciting, and we will miss you in the morning. Maybe you can come in some time after school and tell us about your class?” “Will you still be here?” “Yes, we’ll keep reading and playing, and any time you want to, you can come visit us.” “OK. But don’t let my brother have any fun without me.”
Over the phone: “……..(breathing sounds)…….. Do you have Elephant and Piggie books?” “Yes, we do. Is there a special one you are looking for?”  “I can read them.” “That is great. They are funny, aren’t they?” “I can read them very well.” “Ah. Would you like to read some to me?”  “Yes.”

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About Cynthia Compton

Cynthia is the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana, a 2600 sq. ft. childrens store founded in 2003. She serves on the board of the American Booksellers Association, is a past president of the Great Lakes Bookseller Association, and is a former member of the American Specialty Toy Retail Association board of directors. 4 Kids was honored with the Pannell Award in 2013 and has received numerous "best of" awards in the Indianapolis area. The opinions expressed in her posts are her own, and sometimes those of her english bulldogs.

1 thought on “Another Round of Bookseller Bingo

  1. Gwen Ottenberg, reading in awe

    You always make me smile with the obvious insight and just a small hint of cynicism…. I mean Cynthia-ism


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