Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When the World's Most Opinionated Zip Code and Mine Collide

Like most writers, I'm a bibliophile. And like most bibliophiles, I spend a lot of free time where all things books lie. The place I haunted with the highest frequency was the now-defunct B Dalton in the mall with the Dunkin.

The bookstore wasn't large. It was the size of a shoe store, actually. But it carried most new releases and had a decent Sci-fi/fantasy section. If I wanted a bodice ripper, I could've spent a week in there. And it's location was right next to work - ideal for my lazy ass.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Incident
Disgruntled Cantibridgian

The Story
I needed to preorder and pick up a book. When I got to the store, there was a line. The fact that there was one should've told me to come back another day, but I stood in line anyway.

I was the 3rd in line when you count the customer at the counter, an older black woman who reminded me of a lesser version of my education core professor sophomore year. I'll call her B Lite (even though if you went to college with me, your guess on who this is will be dead on).

While I waited in line, B Lite reamed out the store clerk. According to the woman in front of me, B Lite had been doing this already for five minutes. B Lite didn't like the fact that B Dalton didn't carry a particular nonfiction book when The Coop carries multiple copies. The conversation that went on sounded like this:

Store clerk: We don't have the room to carry this book. You can special order it now and we'll have it for you next week.
B Lite: I don't want it special ordered. I want it available now.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For two minutes.

Each time the conversation repeated, the store clerk got closer to tears and B Lite became more vocal. The customer in front of me was ready to walk out without buying anything. My patience was growing thin and all I wanted was to put in a preorder for whatever Laurell K. Hamilton book was coming out at that time. I thought I would help this Cantibridgian twit out.

Now would be the time for me to mention how, after going to college in Cambridge and working there for a year afterward, I'd developed a distaste for the mindset of the Cambridge professional. There's a certain air to them. The majority have a superiority complex and/ or way too self-righteous for what's healthy. Yes, there are exceptions and I'm glad that I know a few of them.

Yours truly: This is a small store. A larger Barnes and Noble has more of a selection.(Translation: get it at the goddamned Coop.)

B Lite turned on me, not happy at my interrupting her in mid-rant. At the time, this amused me more than it probably should, but hey - I was in my last week of employment. I could feel a smirk on my face. She didn't like that.

B Lite: This is none of your business. I'm speaking to her. (B Lite points to store clerk.)

Yours truly: As a paying customer, it is my concern. You're hindering my purchase by berating the help.

B Lite (who I found out afterward from the clerk was a doctor of some sort) really started yelling at this point about how I was rude. (I kept my voice level and reasonable the entire time. I even managed to keep swears in my brain where they belong.) B Lite made enough noise that it sounded like a Gregoire family reunion when all my uncles try to talk over one another.

Store clerk: I'll need you lower your voice and please do not speak to my customers like that. Otherwise, I'll have to ask you to leave the store.

B Lite wouldn't listen and continued to rant. The clerk had to repeat herself five times. Finally, she reached for the phone and said, "If you don't leave, I'll have to call security. I'm asking you again, please leave."

B Lite: You didn't ask me to come in here, you don't need to ask me to leave. I'll leave you white people to your bookstore.

What I Learned
I'm not sure if learned anything from this encounter. I do know the high school version of me would've been extremely rude and escalated the confrontation tenfold. I would've harped on the white people comment and baited a woman at least twenty years my senior.

The part that still confuses me is if you know that The Coop carries it, why don't you just go there?

Last.fm hit of the day: Celebrity Skin by Hole


  1. You were soooo much calmer than I would have been! I am terrible with confrontations, and when I'm finally pushed to the limit I rarely hold back the cursing/raising of voice. So judos for that!

    Also, as someone that worked a long long time in retail, it's truly shocking how often this happens. People are SO ABSURD and take out all their frustrations on innocent, trembling cashiers. I had a big bag of candy thrown at my head once because a customer was mad AT ANOTHER CUSTOMER. wtf, world?

    And yeah there isn't much more to learn from these incidents. But in this one, maybe you learned that a PhD doesn't buy you life skills.

  2. *judos = kudos. But judos does sound cool!

  3. I totally used to frequent this creepy mall when we lived in Watertown. And, our mall bookstore has gone defunct in Natick as well. I'm sorry that you had this encounter, and glad that you stepped in to say something. Even if that woman had a point, she certainly didn't make it.

  4. Well done, Leesh. You actually did the bookstore clerk a favor--by turning the idiot's rage on you, you gave her an acceptable reason to call security. The sad part is, the customer probably had a legitimate point about the bookstore's offerings--I'm not defending her behavior, but I'm sure this was the upteenth time she'd been in there looking for a book they didn't have (and from her comment, I'm wondering if it was a race relations-related book). HOWEVER...you don't take it up with the clerk. You take it up with the management and the corporate office.
    I'm with you on the Cambridge professional attitude... It's so much worse down here on the EDS campus. And it's NOT the faculty--they're actually pretty cool. *sigh*

  5. Thanks for reading/commenting!

    Sarah - I used to work in retail for a while too, so I know the whole taking it out on the cashier thing. High school me would escalate that too. (Actually, twenty-something me did the same thing as well.)

    I can't believe someone assaulted you with candy. Actually, I can - people are insane. Judos to you for not throwing it back though!

    Heather - I'm so glad you commented being a survivor of the creepy mall and all. And since you're from the area you totally understand how Watertown attracts the crazies.

    That stinks that the Natick store went under, but you still have the Booksmith next door.

    Empress - Funny thing about B Lite, the clerk, and the store: The clerk told me that B Lite would come in once a month and start this up, almost always when the manager has left for the day. Also, 90% of book sales at this B Dalton went to category romance. Most nonfiction was cookbooks, spiritual, and the occult. (I do not lie.)


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