Cheats for Tired Brains

Josie Leavitt - November 30, 2011

All booksellers are entering the season when sometimes our brains turn to mush. For me this usually happens towards the end of the day,  when I’m the most tired, and sadly this is often the time of day when folks getting off of work have time to shop. With 15 holiday seasons under my belt, I’ve found some great ways to help a tired brain that don’t involve caffeine and sugar.
– Know your store’s newsletter inside out. (I’ll be blogging about our newsletter later in the week.) The best way to help customers with recommendations is often your store’s own work.
– Read the trades online to know what’s going to be talked about in the media during the day. It’s amazing how quickly there can be a slew of requests for a book that was just on a radio show. Here’s why booksellers need to know this things: these books are often the titles that get completely muddled when a customer wants to order it. To be fair, most customers hear these stories while they’re driving and haven’t had time to write it down. I try to press people for the time they heard about the book in question. I know the public radio schedule well enough to know what show to look up to find the book.
– Know how to get your local public radio station’s websites. These are amazing founts of information. Also, looking something up at the computer can often give you a breather that might be enough time to help you remember the title.
– Try to know what the local paper might be recommending as this often makes the phone ring off the hook with requests. Our local paper is notorious for recommending books that are either out of print or not yet released. Sometimes, they come from tiny publishers and it’s in any bookseller’s interest to know how to get that book before too many call asking about it.
– Ask your colleagues for help when you get stuck. I find my fellow booksellers can really save me when I’m drowning. Our staff has been together for so many years that we know when someone might be struggling and need a little help.
– Don’t be afraid to use a lifeline. I’ve often called Elizabeth when I’m completely stumped by a title request. Customer don’t even seem to mind this, in fact they’re usually impressed by the extra effort. They’re thrilled when that call turns into a found title.
– Don’t forget to eat lunch at a reasonable hour. Lunch at 4 pm is not helpful to anyone. There’s nothing worse than a blood sugar crash in the middle of the after-school rush. If I eat lunch that late I’m cranky and my brain has lost its ability to recall any book I’ve ever read.
– Lastly, try to have fun, even your brain has turned to goo. The holidays are intense, but they should be fun. I’ve already made plans with other tenants in the building that I can run up to their office for a 10-minute break when we’ve got a lull and I need to refresh my brain. It helps they have a puppy to play with, too.

1 thought on “Cheats for Tired Brains

  1. Ben Jackson

    Back in my bookselling days, I would maintain a “I heard it in NPR” endcap which we would refresh before opening and after Talk of the Nation with that day’s books. It was definitely my daily lifeline, and go-to place in the store!


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