Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Bookstore Anthropology

This last week has seen the arrival of a half-dozen new employees at Fnorders, and with them has come my official promotion from cashier to bookseller. They held another job fair of exactly the kind where I was hired, except this one dwarfed the first one -- whereas I was one of fifty prospectives, this last round brought in a mob of 200 applicants. 180 actually showed up hoping to be interviewed. Twenty were. Two new cashiers and four loss-prevention kids were brought on. But I'm no longer the newest kid on the floor, I'm a holiday-seasoned veteran mentoring the little ones through their first stressful week behind the register.

Or something like that, whatever. I get to spend more time with the books now, that's my point. And one thing I've learned: our store is a fucking mess, almost unsalvageably so. Some of that is just the nature of the beast -- we have a few hundred thousand objects to maintain in some semblance of rational order and not much means of direct control. Stuff gets away from us. Sometimes it literally gets away, since we have one of the highest shoplifting rates in the company.

But mostly it's just asshole customers who don't know how to put a fucking book back on the shelf if they decide they don't want it.

It's interesting to see how this phenomenon breaks down. Manga is horrible; the other graphic novels so bad we've practically given up on them. The romance section is a constant, unrelenting nightmare. Science fiction is almost as bad. The sexuality/erotica section is hilariously disorganized, fifty books a day hurriedly thrown randomly back on the shelf when a stranger walks by. Fiction/literature is normally in decent shape (though often alternating between over-stuffed and depressingly shabby), as is the cooking section. Mystery novels, somehow, seem almost to maintain themselves.

But hands-down, the worst offender is the knitting section.

Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people who knit? Why can't they put a fucking book back where they got it? Why do I consistently pick up knitting books abandoned all across the store? Why is it that the knitting books are always left on the floor, crammed horizontally onto the wrong shelf, stashed behind other books, re-inserted upside-down and backwards? At least the autistic manga readers have an excuse; I expect more from educated, socially-conscious, post-feminist lesbian mothers. Because those are the people who mostly hang out around the knitting books. Oh, sure, they're all subversive with their "guerilla knitting" and their Stitch-n-Bitch books, whipping out ugly hats for their girlfriends on a fortnightly basis. But this sister would greatly appreciate it if they'd take an extra five seconds to put their books back properly, so we don't have to spend twenty minutes a day entirely re-assembling their destructive handiwork. Just sayin'.

Yesterday I found the most hilarious collection of abandoned books I've seen so far: two books on picking up chicks (aka, "the game"), one Halo 3-based science fiction novel, and an issue of Guns and Ammo magazine. We all had a good chuckle over that one.

And finally, an incomplete list of things I now know never to look for at Fnorders:

Pablo Neruda in spanish
anything on Bahai
Jet magazine
books about cross-country skiing in Oregon
Dorthea Lange monographs
silicone molds for making ice shotglasses
any book that isn't painfully, obnoxiously obvious

It's kind of sad. I feel like I spend more time selling books on behalf of Powells than Fnorders -- somebody asks me for a recommendation, I come up with the perfect answer, only to discover that we don't carry it. We could order it, I say hopefully. "Would Powells have it?" they ask. Yes, probably. What am I supposed to do, lie?

It takes some of the love out of it when you realize that all we really trade in are bestsellers, pulp novels, and high-school-level classics.

We have a surprising number of David Icke books, though.
6:27 PM ::
Amy :: permalink