A Tough Day for Titles

Josie Leavitt -- May 3rd, 2011

Sunday was a lovely day. The sun was out, it was warm, and customers were very happy to be in the store.  There were a lot of browsers who were content to amble about the shelves. Then there were the customers who knew what they wanted, but had no idea what it actually was.

The first book seeker was a woman, new to the store, who was looking for a book that began with T. I asked for more details. She had the good grace to chortle at the absurdity for this very vague request. She added, “It’s a new show on HBO.” So I zip the HBO website and she didn’t recognize any of the show titles. Then suddenly she said,”It’s got throne in the title.” Okay, now we’re talking. I went immediately to show her the new Rick Riordan cover on books in print. She just wasn’t sure.  I asked if she had a lifeline she could call. Well, two minutes later she comes back with a title: Game of Thrones. Well, alright! We had that book, and she ordered all the rest in the series. She left with our newsletter and a big smile on her face.

The second query was not so easy and it came from an earnest boy of about nine: “Do you have books with wizards’ spells?” I looked at my wizard shelf and we had surprisingly little in stock. I showed him Wizardology, no that wasn’t right. “It a book called Wizard. Why can’t you find it?” I told him there were over 5,000 books with wizard in the title. He said with the sincerity only a child can have, “Can I look at the covers?” Um, not so much. He then explained, in excruciating detail, every aspect of the cover. I failed him, utterly. The fact that there was a wizard with a green robe on the cover did not ring any bells loud enough for me to help him find the book. His dad mentioned that his friend owned the book and I suggested calling, but for reason, this young man didn’t feel like it. So, he left disappointed and I was perplexed.

In between helping him find his spell book and answering the phone, a woman, I believe the wizard’s mother, asked for help. I was happy for what I hoped was an easy distraction. She said she was looking for a new-ish book about a dead mother. It was all could do not to scream right on the sales floor. I asked if she could tell me more about it. “No.” Why is it customers often just assume that their book request will just leap to our mind automatically? There are so many books with dead mothers, I didn’t even know where to begin. I asked my usual leading questions, where did you hear about the book? She didn’t remember. Could she think of anything in the title? No. Author? No.  Why is it customers looking for books they can’t remember so often treat you like you can’t speak English? and they just repeat their query again, but louder?

There was nothing I could do, but pretend to type like I knew what I was looking for, when in actuality I was checking my email. I know when a battle is lost, and I told her to call me when she got more info; I’d love to order the book for her. I’m still waiting for the phone to ring.

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