Monday, March 02, 2009

Dammit, Jim, I'm a bookseller, not a magician!

Today a customer approached the information desk and asked Rasha and me to help her find a book.

"The author's name is O'Brien. He was born in England but he lives in the U.S. now, and he just won an award for his new book." That was it, except that she was pretty sure it was a novel with a one-word title. She'd heard about it on the radio but she couldn't remember what she'd been listening to.

Rasha and I fired up our computers and started hunting; we also peppered the customer with questions. Between the two of us, we learned that the author could have been born in Ireland, not England; that perhaps the book was nonfiction, but it definitely wasn't poetry; maybe the guy won the award last year; the title could be more than one word, but it was very short; and maybe it was O'Brian and not O'Brien, but it was definitely one of those.

Zilch. We had no luck, and the customer grew more and more condescending as we flailed about and her own answers became more vague. Finally Rasha and I had to admit defeat, and the customer gave us a withering little smile as she snapped, "I guess I won't be buying any books today." I gave her a tight, nasty little smile right back and said, "Well, maybe we can track it down if you can find us some more information." She stopped smiling and walked away.

As I was driving home today, I figured out what she probably wanted: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman, a Brit who now resides in Wisconsin, won the Newbery Medal for his latest book back in January. I mean, Gaiman is practically exactly the same as O'Brien! The one question Rasha and I failed to ask our customer was whether or not she was looking for a children's book . . . but something tells me her answer wouldn't have helped.

1 comment:

~ Lucy said...

OMG. Once again you've perfectly illustrated why I am so certain I would be a miserable failure in customer relations.

You're a better woman than I'll ever be.

Also, you should demand a list of all books mentioned on NPR (from at least the past year) from NPR.org. God knows they are they only ones talking about books on the radio. I doubt they understand how much their good intentions plague good people like you.