Books, bags, bossy folk who hold grudges. These are the tiny grr’s.


There are major changes afoot at the bookshop. We are to have a coffee shop! Personally I buy in to the whole American idea of books and coffee. Ever since watching “Ellen” when younger I longed for a similar experience. I adored the sarky coffee guy, and the quick humour of the whole staff team. It may even have been one of the reasons I aspired to being a bookseller. (After watching a dreadful film starring Molly Ringwald as a tour leader in a museum I vowed to get similar work. I worked in museums for 8 years, until I had my twins, obviously I am easily swayed by idealised pictures of how things could be.)
There are mutterings for and against. The idea of sticky fingers flicking through books is one that fills me with horror. I like my books pristine. I have no clue what the policy will be on people taking books from shelves into the coffee shop bit. After all we are not a library. Eek.
At the moment we have had to clear lots of books to make way for the coffee shop, so we have had to reorganise each floor. There are 5 floors in total, and it took a while to learn the location of all the various sections, now my brain feels branded with that knowledge. It is automatic to direct people without thought to the correct areas of the store, and now, we know nothing. Each of us was consulting a list and looking vaguely moronic when asked.
At least 10 times a day I am asked for a customer loo, and have to reply that there isn’t one. Soon I can direct them to the coffee shop one instead of to the Pret a few doors down. Yay!


Being environmentally aware (ish) I know that bags are not a brilliant thing. When I do my local shopping I try to take my own (rather snazzy Nightmare before Christmas) shopping bag with. I re-use carriers as bin liners with the vague notion that is helpful. I recycle as much as I can. However, if I am serving a customer I do usually assume that they want a bag if, say, they are buying a large and heavy book, or several books. If it’s just 1 paperback I may well ask
“Would you like a bag?”
And if I do the reply is always a slightly incredulous “Yes.”
If I don’t ask, and just shove it in a bag then a customer will often then say “Oh, I don’t need a bag” and I’ll feel like an idiot. See it’s lose/lose.
We have 3 different sizes of bag, small, medium and large. The large ones are only ever used for enormous books, or for say 6 or more small ones. It’s a heavy duty kinda bag.
Yesterday I had to work with the Bossy Woman. I have only worked alongside her twice in my year and a half at this store. Once was on my second day, and being an older, louder territorial kind of a woman she drove me nuts. She is very particular about how one does things, but I was new and sucked it up until in front of a customer she told me I was wrong when in fact I was right. She had made the assumption that seeing as I was new that I didn’t have any experience with the company. I had in fact just transferred from another branch after working for them for 6 years. I was calm but assertive. She made a big fuss, and called the duty manager who agreed with me. We have avoided each other since.
Anyhoo, yesterday I had to relieve her for her breaks, that’s fine, I didn’t have to work with her. We smiled and made worky small talk. It was OK. Then in the afternoon she was serving an old man who was doddery and shaky when I arrived. She continued to serve him. He was buying 3 big books which I placed in our largest bag. He had a shopping trolley with him so I knew he wouldn’t have to carry them.
“Oh Sara.” she said “No, no, no…put them in two bags please.” she laughed. “Oh dear.” She tutted, she smiled at the customer “I’m sorry.”
I said to the customer “Did you want separate bags? Or is it going in your trolley?”
“It’s just to go in there, thanks.” he said. I gave him the 1 bag, he put it in his trolley. His hands shook as he asked if we had a customer toilet. When I said no, he said “Oh dear, it’s rather urgent.” Bossy Woman left. I pressed the lift button for him and just hope he made it in time.

3 thoughts on “Books, bags, bossy folk who hold grudges. These are the tiny grr’s.”

  1. Ah I too LOVED Ellen’s bookshop. I just thought it was the height of sophistication. And such an alien concept just a few years ago: Coffee AND books?!? I always think working in a library would be great. I fantasise about wearing twinsets and glasses that dangle on a chain, and saying “shhhh” in an authoritative manner. In reality I’m sure it’s all moany old people and sneezing from the dust.

  2. Yeah, but think of the grubby books. I now I am obsessed with this, but ugh, peoples mucky selves all over books. Bleurgh.Funny to realise just how exotic the idea of drinking coffee in a book store was. I loved the little squeaky girl in Ellen too, actually the surly cousin who is now in Entourage was brilliant as well. Ace cast.

  3. What a horrible woman, to contradict you in front of a customer. I was in Borders yesterday. That place is like a library. Their “stay a while” policy to have people sit down and read is odd. I understand that making retail outlets more friendly is a positive step, but surely they want people to buy books? And there’s also an odd, static deadness about the stores, with people just milling about, loitering. There are no discernable staff to counter-act this. It’s a very strange atmosphere.

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