Monday, August 6, 2012

Shelver's Guide To Finding A Book

Ah, the back-to-school season is upon us. Wide-eyed parents and sullen students flood the store, paying penance for their procrastination. They need books - summer reading books - AND THEY NEED THEM NOW!!

This is not a new phenomenon. We'll get the same people in looking for Christmas gifts, for spring school reading, for Valentine's Day gifts, for Mother's Day gifts, for Father's Day gifts, and then back again next year for summer reading again.

People never learn. If they did, they wouldn't routinely ignore the #1 rule of shopping for a book:

1. Don't procrastinate. Do not! You know why? Because if you wait until the very last moment, your book will not be there.

I can't tell you how much attitude I've had to put up with from adults(!) who have waited until the last minute and then are shocked and appalled that - gasp! - other people with the same event in mind may have bought it before them! Seriously, just stop and think for a second. Say you're buying a book for your daughter's AP class. In that class, there may be twenty other kids. If even only five other families waited until the last minute to buy the book, that means our stock is wiped out. No books for you!

Tip: If you're in a book club, call a week or two in advance and order copies for your club. We can save them at the desk and each member of your group can come in and buy their reserved copy. It's the best way to be sure that we'll have enough for all of you.

Here are some other tips you should follow when looking for a book.

2. Call ahead. Calling ahead is a GREAT idea. Not that we don't enjoy your presence, but if you call ahead, we can make sure we actually have the book before you make the trip out. Save gas, yeah? Not only can we make sure we have the book, but we can hold it for you so that it's still there when you come in! What a concept!

Tip: Be sure to speak up. The store is often very loud and we have several different people trying to get our attention. You need to clearly articulate your request, or we may end up looking up the wrong book.

3. Come prepared. If you're looking for a specific book, write down the title and author name. Odds are low that you actually remember the exact title, author name, and the spelling of said author's name without writing it down. If you need a specific version of that specific book, also write down the ISBN number. The ISBN is like gold. Without it, I can't guarantee that I'm handing you the exact book that your professor wants you to get.

Tip: Please make sure the book is actually out before trying to find it. And no, swearing up and down that you saw it at our competitor's store will do nothing when the release date clearly says 2013.

Find a happy place.
4. Be patient. I have a million things to do. There are mislabels that need to be entered, audios that need to be tagged, books that need to be shelved, people waiting at the register, people waiting in line behind you, people waiting on the phone, and odds are that the cafe guy stepped out to go to the restroom, so I have to keep an eye on HIS spot, too. Oh, and my manager is on a conference call, so she's unavailable. We're not ignoring you, I promise.

Tip: You're in a bookstore. Feel free to look around while you wait. Maybe you'll end up adding a bonus book to your basket. Oh, and if you give me five different books to look up, don't immediately start asking, "Well?! Do you have them or not?!" I don't communicate telepathically with the computer, ma'am. I actually have to type in your title, and the computer has to bring up the results. Chill.

5. Know what you want. This goes beyond title and author. Do you want hardcover or paperback or audio? Does it need to be under a certain price? Does it need explanatory notes in the back? Do you need/want a certain edition? Do you want the kid version or the adult version? (You'd be surprised how many people neglect to mention that one.)

Tip: Maybe you don't know all the details above, but if you're buying the book for a specific reason (for class, for personal study, as a gift for a teen), please say so. We'll try to help you navigate your options.

6. Be nice. Please. Thank you. Use the manners your mama gave you, 'kay? If I tell you I'll be right back with a book, stay put so I don't have to hunt you down. Don't berate me for not having a book. (Talk to Corporate if you don't like our selection, not me. Not my fault.) I'll be much more likely to stick around if you're nice. If you're rude, I'll slip away as quickly as I can.

Tip: Threatening to go to our competitor if you don't get your way won't influence me one bit. Actually, I'll probably wish you godspeed and be disappointed if you DON'T follow up on your threat.

7. Don't use me as your personal Google. At least once or twice a shift, I'll have a customer who does this. He'll come in, make me scurry around to find a book, and then leave. Then why, you may ask, did the jerk in question come in if he didn't want to buy a book? Oh, he wants to buy a book, just not from us. He's going to go to Amazon! Look, if you want to support a faceless corporation instead of a part of your local economy, that's your call, but don't waste my time. Grrrrrr.

Tip: If we don't have a book in stock, we can order it for you. If you have one of our cards, shipping is free. If you have it shipped to the store, shipping is free. For free shipping on Amazon, you have to pay $70 for Amazon Prime. We win.

8. Ask for help. We love to help! Seriously, we do. We're a bunch of book nerds, and we'd love to help you find a book. We know where (almost) everything is, and we can find it a lot faster than you can. Also, we've noticed you tend to put books back when we're around (as opposed to when we're not and you act like a slob).

Tip: Ask for book recommendations. If you like a certain kind of book, I can probably recommend a book you haven't read yet. Or if you just finished Book X and want one with the same kind of feel, I can ask other employees to find a good fit for you. Just ask.

So there you have it. These tips are good for you and me both. Don't make me write a missive about you.

Are there any tips I forgot?