Saturday, June 10, 2006

How not to prove yourself the intellectual better of the NASCAR-loving masses.

Guy and girl, browsing the paperback new releases. Guy is holding a copy of Jeff MacGregor's NASCAR book, Sunday Money, and discussing the potential audience for the book.

Guy: "They like NASCAR, but they don't read."
Girl: "Right, right."
Guy: "Writing a book about NASCAR is know what I mean..."
Girl: "Yeah, of course."

Perhaps he meant to say "dancing about architecture". Someone get Elvis Costello1 on the line.

1 Or Martin Mull, or Frank Zappa, or David Byrne, or any of the multitude of people who at various times have been credited with coining that stupid phrase.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why it says "customer service" and not "information."

This is not my story, so it is lacking in the delicious details you've come to expect from us here at GiSoL HQ.

It goes a little something like this: a customer is talking to my beloved co-worker Hilde about pasta. Apparently he is having difficulty with his pasta preparation; it always comes out too chewy, he says. Hilde tells him, several times, that cookbooks are on the third floor, and contained within the tomes on that floor is a bounty of information on cooking pasta. Several minutes into the conversation, the customer finally makes himself understood: he is not asking for books on cooking pasta. He is asking her to tell him how to cook pasta. Hilde, being a much kinder soul than I, told him he probably either wasn't cooking it for long enough or wasn't using enough water.

We Barnes & Noble employees are just towering monoliths of pure knowledge to some people.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Deja vu all over again.

Shades of Jimmy Two-times: shifty-looking, greasy guy in slacks, light blue shirt and poorly-tied tie drops off an application at the desk and, like so many before him, nervously asks if there is anyone he can speak to about an interview. My boilerplate goes something like, "There's nobody to talk to at the moment, they'll call you if they want to set up an interview." Like I said, applicants ask me if there's someone they can speak to all the time, and the answer is always no, for the simple reason that we get approximately three billion applications per day. It's enough of a chore for the store manager to go through the applications; meeting personally with every applicant, or even a significant percentage of applicants, is right out. Don't call us, prospective BN employee. We will call you.

This wouldn't be much of an entry if Greasy'd responded to my standard line with "okay" and walked away, and sure enough, he was deeply, deeply unsatisfied with my estimation of his chances of getting the on-the-spot interview to which it turned out he felt entitled.

"There's nobody I can talk to?"

"No, the hiring manager isn't in today.1 And they never do on-the-spot interviews."

Greasy thinks for a minute, then stammers out, "And, um, what's the hiring manager's name?"

"Gloria Steinem."2

"Well, can I call her to set up an interview?"

I am officially annoyed now. "Sure, you can, but to be honest it won't do you any good. They call you if they're interested in hiring you."

Greasy, nervous grin: "I know but, the thing is, I've heard that before, and then they never call back, you know? I just want to talk to someone, because, you know, I want to work! I'm a hard worker and I love books and I just don't want to have to listen to the lies....surely it wouldn't hurt just to call..."

Sigh. "It won't hurt3 but it won't help either, dude."

"Okay, thank you. While I'm here, can I check on an order I placed with you?"

Motherfucker is apparently congenitally incapable of waiting for us to call him, no matter what the circumstances. For the love of God, people, when we say we will call you when your order comes in, we mean WE WILL CALL YOU WHEN YOUR ORDER COMES IN. See elsewhere in this blog for the potential results of not heeding this advice.

Another boilerplate response for Greasy: "Did they call you to tell you the book was in?"

The answer, same as always: "No."4

"What's your number." He gives it to me. No open orders for that number. Same goes for his name. According to the system, he doesn't exist. If only. I suggest that perhaps he placed the order at a different store.

"I don't....think this the Astor Place store?"

"No, the Astor Place store is at Astor Place."

Greasy looks confused for a moment before smiling. "Ah! That's where I placed it! So sorry! Thank you!" He leaves, continuing to apologize on his way out. I wish I could say for certain that there's no way he will get hired but you never know around here.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. Fast forward about two hours and Greasy comes back up to the desk. I figure he's going to make another attempt to get his on-the-spot interview, and I'm half right; he does attempt to get an interview, but he does so as he's filling out another application for employment as if he didn't do so just a few hours earlier. This time, Brad Baines the manager is there to deal with him and is much more polite than I was, telling Greasy to give the application directly to either him or the other manager on the floor, Uncle Jesse, as if any of that makes a difference. All of this while hearing more or less the exact same spiel I heard about how nobody ever calls him back and he just wants to work and he's an excellent worker and he's tired of being lied to and blah blah blah.

Then, because it just wouldn't be complete otherwise, he heads over to one of my coworkers and asks him to check on an order he placed.

The result is the same, of course; he's not in the system because he didn't place an order with our store. My coworker suggests that he might have placed the order at another store, perhaps the one on 18th St and 5th Ave. "Or," I suggest pointedly, "maybe the one on Astor Place."

Lather, rinse, repeat. I'm willing to bet Greasy didn't order the book at the Astor Place store, either. I imagine some employee at the Astor Place BN has a story to tell that is very similar to mine.

1 This was a lie.
2 Obviously this name has been changed. The hiring manager's real name is Andrea Dworkin.
3 Potentially a lie, as I'd be willing to bet that the store manager has had occasion to toss out someone's application if they bug him enough. Not that Greasy is likely to get an interview once Store Manager Bob sees the post-it I attached to his application bearing the words "THIS GUY IS A NUTJOB DO NOT CALL HIM".
4 The only possible explanation for my continuing to ask this question of every single person who comes in or calls asking to check the status of an order is that it is my way of saying "Fuck you, moron, if it was here we would have called you" without actually, you know, saying it. It certainly isn't because it works; the customer invariably says they haven't received a call, and invariably wants me to check to see if the order has come in regardless.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sympathy pains.

Quote of the day, courtesy of Store Manager Bob:

"I feel sorry for my daughter's vagina."

There is context here, but I feel like letting the statement hang there in all its contextless horror.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Customer Freudian slip #343

Guy comes up to the desk and asks me where he can find Giada De Laurentiis's second cookbook.

I know, because it is on the bestseller list, that he is referring to this book:

I walk him over to the bestseller wall and hand him the book.

He grabs it and asks, "And this is her naked cookbook? Er, second cookbook?"

Yeah, dude. Hope the wife enjoys the book!

ADDENDUM: New old post from July of last year. Get your Potter on.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A reasonable guide to soft theft.

I am going to give you advice tonight, because it is late and I am in a benevolent mood.

If you've ever visited a bookstore, you may have noted the presence of a "bargain" section where books are sold for drastically discounted prices. If this was at a Barnes & Noble, you may have thought, "Wow, these stickers with the reduced price come right off! I wonder if anyone would notice me pulling the sticker off this book and putting it on a book I actually want to buy?"

Here are a few things to consider when you attempt this scam:

1. Don't be greedy. Saturday night, a guy in a pink shirt got into a dispute with a cashier and, eventually, a manager over the price of a book that had a $1.99 sticker on it. This was a sticker with a handwritten price on it, sans barcode. If you're trying to scam BN by affixing a reduced price sticker to a non-reduced book, use one of the stickers that has a barcode on it and hope that the cashier doesn't notice that the book that rings up is not the book he scanned. The barcoded stickers are generally in the $4.98 - $6.98 range, so you'll pay more, but if your cashier is unobservant you'll still get a substantial discount. This leads us to the next tip.

2. Choose your book(s) carefully. Pink Shirt was arguing about You: The Owner's Manual, a book that, propelled by the authors' repeat appearances on Oprah, is currently ON THE FUCKING BESTSELLER LIST. Now, I know that many of you think that retail employees are idiots, but while not every person working at my store can be as brilliant as I, there isn't a single cashier in the place who would blithely accept the presence of a $1.99 sticker on that book. The very idea that You: The Owner's Manual would be discounted so heavily is preposterous to anyone who has spent more than an hour on the job. We are not stupid. We know what the popular books are. One of the main reasons I am so confident that Pink Shirt was trying to scam us -- as opposed to having just innocently picked up a mislabeled book -- is that he made the ludicrous claim that he'd taken the book from a big stack of similarly marked-down copies of You in the bargain section1. Right.

3. If you're going to try to get your way by being intimidating, don't wear a pink shirt. Eventually the conflict between Pinky and the cashier made its way over to the customer service desk. When the manager on duty politely explained to him that the book was mislabeled and she couldn't sell it to him for the $1.99 on the sticker, he stopped her and said, "I'm going to talk. When I'm done talking, then you can talk." The manager told him to stop being rude, to which he retorted, "I'm not being rude." There followed an account of his taking the book to the registers and being met with skeptcism from both the cashier and her manager, who according to him gave him conflicting reasons for the book not being discounted. None of which matters, of course; the book isn't $1.99, period. But Pinky was either really that much of a dick or he was working with the assumption that if he was not just rude but a massive, gaping asshole, he would get what he wanted. The problem with this approach is that it generally only works when your request is kinda sorta reasonable, like say returning a book for a full refund a week later than is allowed by the return policy. Getting a 92% discount on a current bestseller does not fall into the category of a reasonable request. Also, let me reiterate that pink is not the color to wear when you try this.

4. Don't act guilty. One of the first things Pinky said to the manager was, "Are you accusing me of putting the sticker on the book?" The manager had done no such thing2, so his bringing it up unprovoked can safely be considered what poker players refer to as a "tell". Honestly, I was expecting him to try to play the dreaded "race card" (he was black), especially as it became more and more clear that his plan wasn't going to work.

I really feel like I'm failing to convey what a complete and total asshole this guy was, and that's a shame because I sincerely think that I have never, at any job I've ever worked, witnessed a customer treat the employees at a store so poorly. Just standing there listening to the way he was carrying on, I was getting so angry that I was shaking; if I'd had to actually deal with him in any way, it would have been bad. Really, really bad. To give you an idea of the authority this guy thought he had: once the presence of the cashier was no longer required, the manager sent her back to cash, to which Pinky demanded, "You don't send her away while I'm talking!" Of course, he wasn't in control of the situation even a little bit, and so his impotent command fell on deaf ears, but the sheer unmitigated gall of it still pisses me off, hours after the fact.

You've probably guessed that Pinky did not get his copy of You: The Owner's Manual for the price to which he felt he was entitled. Actual quote: "So, I just waited fifteen minutes for nothing." Awwwwww. Poor bay-beeeeee. Enjoy being followed by the undercover security guards next time you're in the store, moron.

1 The other main reason is that the security guards knew he was stealing but couldn't do anything about it because they lost track of him for a minute and therefore hadn't seen the process of his thievery from beginning to end, as required.
2 Although, as previously noted, it was fairly obvious that he had.

Friday, May 05, 2006

"How come Patsy Cline don't make records no more?"

I am going to chalk up today's failure to locate the new Roberto Clemente biography despite there being a million copies on display on the bestseller wall to being disoriented by the customer's request for "Roberto Clemente's new book," as if Clemente himself had written it after being dead for thirty-five years. The alternative is grim acknowledgment that yes, my brain is dying and there is nothing I can do about it. I had to think really hard about how to spell "acknowledgment," by the way.

Another new old post: near fisticuffs and full-blown annoyance from August of last year. Those were the days, alright.

Peaks and valleys.

This month's staff recommendation:

We're doomed. DOOMED.