When I worked in Barnes & Noble, I’d frequently come home with funny stories about things customers would say and do. Had I regaled you with these amusing tales, you might have suggested I write them down, but I didn’t, and most of them have faded from memory. Luckily, Jen Campbell did write down her stories. A long-time bookseller at Ripping Yarns in London and at the Edinburgh Bookshop, Campbell has had quite a few hilarious customer encounters, collected in a new hardcover out Sept. 13 from Overlook called “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.”
The colorful Roz Chast-esque cover is immediately appealing, and the content does not disappoint, containing quite a number of LOL and jaw-dropping moments. The book is organized into sections depending on the type of comments, sections such as: “Parents & Kids,” “You Want What?” “The Adult Section,” and my favorite, “Customers Behaving Badly.” It’s astonishing how our manners go out the door when we enter a bookshop (or perhaps any shop?)!
Lest you think a whole book of these comments won’t keep your interest, think again. When Campbell opens in her intro with the tale of the customer who told her she had just finished and really enjoyed “The Diary of Anne Frank” and wanted to know if Anne had ever written a sequel, you know she’s got some whoppers in store!
Here’s a sneak peak at a few entries I particularly enjoyed (don’t worry, there’s no plot, so no spoilers are coming):
As a former English Lit grad student, I couldn’t help but love this one:
Customer (to her friend): What’s this literary criticism section? It is for books that complain about other books?”
Having just finished editing a piece on dictionaries for the next issue of Book Business, this one felt au courant:
Customer: Do you sell dictionaries?
Bookseller: Sure. What kind of dictionary are you looking for?
Customer: One with all the words.
Or here’s a customer putting that bookseller in her place!
Customer: Have you read every single book in here?
Bookseller: No, I can’t say I have.
Customer: Well, you’re not very good at your job, are you?
Booksellers, what can we say, but we feel your pain, and we appreciate what you do daily!