GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2006

I Always Wanted to Work in a Bookstore

I do love bookstores. I can spend hours in them. So, in 2000, I decided to moonlight at the local Border’s. I go there often, I like the staff, and it seemed like fun. I signed up just in time for Christmas. There is nothing quite like Christmas in a bookstore. The holiday season is one of lights, good cheer, and fellowship. People looking forward to Santa coming, what’s under the tree, who will get what as a sign of love and affection. All that is true, except in a bookstore.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for a book.” Standing before me is a well-dressed maven of local society. “Well, you’ve come to the right place,” I said with new employee enthusiasm. “It has a red cover and it’s written by a man. Do you have it?” she asked. “What’s the name of the book?” I went to my computer terminal. “I don’t know, it has a red cover. Surely you must have it.”

“Do you know who wrote it?” I knew the computer software did not list books by jacket color. “Of course, I don’t know who wrote it. If I knew that, I wouldn’t be asking you. Are you incompetent? I’m sure you know which book I’m talking about.” She was getting testy. “No, ma’am, we have many books written by men with red covers. Perhaps I could show them to you. Or, do you know if it’s fiction or non-fiction.” Her eyes glazed over, the fur in her mink started to bristle, “I want to speak to the manager,” she said, icicles forming on those pointy teeth up front. “Right away,” I said and reached for the phone. Then I turned to the next customer.

“I was in a small gift shop in Prague two weeks ago. They were playing some delightful music. Do you know what it was?” The man behind this particular customer snorted and said, “How the hell is she supposed to know what music a shop in Prague was playing two weeks ago?” I sent her back to the music department.

The third customer came up to the Information Desk. “Do you have a book on how to build a snowman?” she asked with a serious tone. “No,” I said. “But if you come back in 15 minutes, we’ll write one for you.”

The lessons learned: Always be nice to people working in retail; there is such a thing as a stupid question; and be careful what you ask for—you may find yourself working in a bookstore at Christmas.


Joan M. Burda operates a solo practice in Lakewood, Ohio. She can be reached at


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