It’s happened to me more than I care to admit. A lovely customer comes in and says, “Hi, Josie!” And I look at him or her and I have no earthly clue who they are. I know that I know who they are. I’ve seen them a bazillion times in the store and around town, but for whatever reason on this particular occasion, I cannot recall their name. And it’s clear I should know them, and to ask them what their name is would be insulting. So I respond with a hearty, “Hey, how are you?”
So, what’s a bookseller to do? Well, if you’re me, you wait, patiently, and hope the conversation will trigger some glimmer of memory for what their name is. Secretly, I hope a spouse or child will come in and then the much needed light bulb will go off. This doesn’t happen as often as it could. Usually, I find myself grasping at straws racking my brain all the while offering good book recommendations. Often times the customer has no real idea that I’m struggling so hard.
The real challenge comes with checkout and our Frequent Buyers Club, which is name-based. I am saved in this regard because 99% of our customers pay with check and credit cards, so I can discreetly add their name into their account to give them the right credit. Every day, I see dozens of people and while I like to think I know everyone who walks in my store, but realistically, my brain can only hold so many things. I try to make it a point to remember the children’s names. While there are days when I can’t remember names of frequent shoppers, there are also times, like last night, where I remember the name of a customer I haven’t seen in four years. What helps me the most is the staff who will often chime in their own happy greeting, thereby cuing me and relieving me of my agony.
Memory is a funny thing. It’s usually there when I need it, but when it fails me, it does so in grand fashion. I’m curious how other booksellers deal with the inability to recall a good customer’s name.