What Do Customers Do That Irks YOU?

Alison Morris - March 18, 2009

Let me just begin by saying that we are BLESSED with great customers at our store. Truly! Most of our customer interactions are happy, positive experiences. But, um… some of them are not. Every now and again! Every bookseller has had the experience (probably multiple times a day) of working with a difficult or simply frustrating customer. And now one bookseller has gone public with his complaints about the types of behavior these folks tend to exhibit — in very, VERY funny fashion.

Fellow booksellers, watch the six videos made by one of our compatriots, and just try (TRY!) not to laugh! I wager you’ll be able to relate to most, if not all, of his bookselling experiences.

Start with this one:

And end with this one:

But be sure to also watch all the ones in between!

Then feel free to record your own personal rants here. Purge! Purge!

30 thoughts on “What Do Customers Do That Irks YOU?

  1. Jeanette R.

    These are spot on! I work at a bookstore part time and I often tell my coworkers that my idea of a reality show is to film customers and capture just this kind of behavior. It’s great that someone has enacted it instead. And if you work at a bookstore, I’m sure you know the reason a customer doesn’t want a bag. It’s to save a plastic tree. My #1 complaint: Customers who throw their credit card, money or merchandise at me. I’ve had all of the above slide across the counter and onto the floor at various times. My #2 complaint: Customers who come in and want to use a single use coupon good for one item on every thing they purchase: all three of those bargain books they are getting for $2.99 each. Or they have a complete breakdown when I tell them that the discount is off the list price, not the sale price. Honest to God! I want to say, “

  2. paul in davis, ca

    I hate customers who: leave trash behind, sleep in our chairs, hide books (these books usually have bookmarks in them..hmmm…), move chairs around so they can prop their feet up on other chairs or display tables, sit in the aisle with an iPod on full blast and are oblivious to other customers who stumble – literally – upon them. Whew, I feel much better now!

  3. Heather Shrader

    Wow – those are great and right on the money. I have worked in a bookstore for almost 10 years and every single one of those things have happened. The others on Youtube are just as great!

  4. Carin

    one day I went up to a gentleman who was about 30, and had a baby – about 9 months old – at his feet (not in the children’s department). I said, “sir are you aware your child is eating one of our books?” He looked at the kid, then looked at me, and said “yes.” For $6/hour, I felt I’d done my duty.

  5. Debbie

    It’s very frustrating to me to have the parents who threaten their kids at the top of their voices over and over again, but never follow through. After I hear “I’m going to spank you” for the 50th time, I want to scream “So do it already!!”

  6. bookseller

    These clips were great! I can relate to all. My most memorable rant is about the customer who did not like my wrapping style and proceeded to rewrap the item on the counter in front of me. This same customer was of course, on the phone most of the time. Mind you it is complimentary wrapping and yes, most of our customers are very appreciative but this one obviously had some issues.

  7. Anonymous

    I’m going to go against the grain here. While these things are annoying (I worked on the floor in bookstores for many years) his complaints are also the reason why booksellers get a rep as snobs and do not do well with customer service. I know it must be annoying for someone to say “

  8. M. Lane

    Are we snobs because we’d like people to clean up after themselves and not throw things at us or are we snobs because we complain about it?

  9. jessalou

    I think all the bookseller’s complaints are legit. I do not think it is too much to ask people to pick up after themselves, be responsible for their own children and basically be kind to their fellow human beings. These should be life rules that we all work to follow! I did give some leeway to people – usually jr high or high schoolers – who asked where non-fiction was. I would giggle after getting them to the section they needed but for first timers, it was an ok request. NOT ok – (and my all time favorite true story) “

  10. rebecca

    i’m not averse to picking up after people, although when i’m in a store i try to put things back where i found them. BUT one thing i can never understand is folks who leave books RIGHT NEXT to where they found them on the shelf. parents who endanger their kids by ignoring them also bother me. i’ve had to tell children, in so many words, please stop spinning that rack of calendars or it will fall on you. i was in leavitt and pierce yesterday, and i saw a sign that indicated that the salespeople there reserve the right to walk away from you if you decide to answer a cell phone while being helped. i was so happy to see it. folks talking on their phones at the counter doesn’t bother me half as much as this does. it’s inconsiderate to other customers who may also be in need of help, and it sends the message that i’m a means to an end rather than a human. all i really ask of customers is that we all treat each other like people. those repetitive questions, etc. may be easy (and sometimes fun) to mock, but they’re not what gets you down.

  11. rebecca

    muh, do some chains actually MAKE you ask every customer for photo ID? that’s crazy. …which brings me to something else: asking people who have written please ask for id on their card for id and being told that they don’t really feel like showing you. erm, right then.

  12. rebecca

    ok, i think i’m heading towards agreeing with Anonymous. anyone chez nous would know which book-about-lincoln-written-by-a-historian-who-lives-in-lexington (concord) the guy was talking about.

  13. TeeLee

    These are spot on and I have to say that all we ask as booksellers is a little common courtesy for fellow CUSTOMERS (it’s not a library or your living room), the product we are selling and the staff. We found a book like this at work once and laughed everytime we found a story that matched something that had just happened. I had a customer who was upset with me when I said the discount card costs….. but if you are a teacher or senior its….. She then said “

  14. Aimee

    OK, what bugs me (since you asked!) is when customers tell me they don’t know where they found a book–and then proceed to put it where they KNOW it doesn’t go, right in front of me. What, you couldn’t take three steps towards the counter and hand it to me so I could put it where it does go?

  15. Cathe

    Well–I have to admit one of those hit home with me. When writing a check, I sometimes forget what store I’m in. Actually, I not in a book store but in the office stores — I can can’t keep Office Max and Office Depot straight and I have to ask which one I’m in.


    the problem is he’s preaching to the choir. the people who he’s referring to don’t think they do anything wrong. a lack of courtesy is rampant and these are the results. however, i did have to draw the line at the customer who brought a huge bowl of oatmeal (or something) into the cafe and used the milk from the customer coffee station and proceeded to eat in the cafe without making a purchase. are we your kitchen counter now too! of the lady who asked us to warm up her lunch in the cafe microwave (the lunch that WAS NOT purchased from the cafe). sheesh!

  17. mary ann rodman

    I am not a bookseller, but an avid book buyer. I realize that bookstores are not libraries (I used to be a librarian) but the noise level at some stores is louder than any other retail stores I can think of. Screaming kids (usually because their parents parked them in the children’s section and tip-toed away) and the cell phoners. They wander around the store, zombie-like, talking to themselves LOUDLY. I’ve never seen any of them so much as pick up a book, let alone buy one.

  18. Jazz

    I have experienced all of the situations Sign543 talked about. My favorite part was in the beginning when he said a bookstore is a place where we babysit your kids. The most inconsiderate customer I ran into was a woman who could not wait for me to finish helping another customer. This happened during a rush when everyone was helping someone all at once. The customer I was helping was deaf. Since I don’t know sign language, the customer typed her questions on her cell phone. Another customer was standing on the other side of the help desk looking up something on the computer. She asked me if I could help her find a book to which I replied I was with someone, and I’d be with her in a moment. A few seconds later she asked me AGAIN if I could help her find a book when I was still clearly engaged with the first customer. Did she think she was superior to the deaf customer just because she could hear herself be rude? Anyway, I told her again I would help her when I was done with my current customer. That ended it until I was actually able to move on to her problem.

  19. lil dutch girl

    I used to run a children’s bookstore in Manhattan, and on more than one occasion I was asked not only to select the book(s), but to also reach into the customer’s purse for her wallet/credit card, because she had just had her nails done (waving her hands, blowing on nails)—she didn’t want to mess them up. !!! Or, a richy rich client would call to have me select books, wrap them, and then run them out to her driver who would pull up outside the store. !!!!

  20. praymont

    Re. the parents who abandon their kids while browsing: I recall seeing a sign in a cafe at a public library that read, “Unattended children will be given a free brownie and large espresso.”

  21. praymont

    ok, I’ll try that again without quote marks. Re. the parents who abandon their kids while browsing, I recall seeing a sign in a cafe at a public library that read: Unattended children will be given a free brownie and large espresso.

  22. kidzbkcrusader

    I used to run the children’s dept. of a major bookstore chain in NY. Probably the most demanding and rewarding job I have ever had. My least favorite customer ever had to be the mom with the 4 year old who systematically began pulling every children’s dvd off the shelves that I had just alphabetized and tossing them on the floor. I asked the mom if she could please stop her son and she said “No, but she would put them back when he was done.” I said the dvd’s were just alphabetized and she said she was a lawyer and thought she could manage the job. Needless to say, she ultimately walked away without picking up a single dvd. The store was also located near a McDonalds. Customers would try to bring their happy meals etc to my dept. and have their lunch. There were also moms who would change their babies diapers between the book aisles and then throw them in the garbage by my info desk. As for wrapping paper, I volunteered to gift wrap at the store during the holidays for charity. I had customers who would walk over to where the paper rolls were and help themselves. Ofcourse they would take enough paper to wrap the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Seriously, this is only the tip of the iceberg and the most tame stuff. I could literally write a book on the subject.

  23. Randi

    I once had a person change their baby in the children’s dept and then leave the diaper on the shelf. Another time a customer called to ask if she and a group of her friends could leave their children in storytime while they had a book group discussion in the cafe (which was in another part of the store). Uh, NO! Then I had a guy ask me if I could find a book that had been on display in the window a while ago. When I asked him for a title, author, or subject, all he could come up with was (and this is verbatim), “

  24. ShelfTalker

    My apologies to those of you whose comments on this post have been cut off by the commenting tool! For some reason the tool has decided it doesn’t like quotation marks, and the web gurus at Reed are still trying to figure out why that is. For the time being, I’d recommend using a colon or some other mark/symbol to set off your quotes, or your remarks might be very rudely abridged!

  25. hjm

    Just had a customer this morning who’s daughter proceeded to sit and jump up and down on our plush Spot. Look mommy, Doggy! Mom proceeded to ignore her and ask her if she wanted any of our bargain books. Just as I was getting ready to ask her not to sit on merchandise, I heard mom tell her daughter that they would not be purchasing the doggy, and they walked away leaving said Spot and a pile of books (not to mention a large, used kleenex) in the middle of the aisle. Thanks, lady.

  26. Emily

    I’ve been working at a major bookstore chain for over 6 years, and while there are really rewarding and enjoyable aspects to the job, I have also experienced most of the nightmare/rude customer scenarios described on here, which always detracts from a good day. I’ve worked in the Children’s section for a long time, and while I love both kids and kids’ books, what I don’t love are parents who seem like they don’t care about their kids at all. I feel like an adoption agency could set up shop in our store and find plenty of kids new homes with a lot more love and attention. I have one mother who has, on numerous occasions, left her baby (the first time I saw them, he couldn’t walk yet) and two older kids, who look about 5 and 6 years old, alone in the kids department. The kids seemed afraid of me, and I realized that she must do this really often. When she came back, I went up to her, barely controlling my temper, and said it’s not okay and not safe for you to leave your kids in here alone, and her response was, I just went to the bathroom. She couldn’t take them with her?!?! I’ve discovered that telling parents about the perverts who routinely come into the store is a good way to scare them into watching their kids. (and it’s true, we do have a lot of perverts who come in)

  27. Sign543

    Wow, thanks for posting my videos here! I was shocked to see it…I found this through the feature that shows who links to my videos. I really enjoyed doing this series and I’m so glad you enjoyed it, as well! I now am a children’s counselor in a children’s crisis hospital, but I can’t make videos about that. *laughs* Thanks again!!!


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