Tales of cranky book sellers

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33 Responses to “Tales of cranky book sellers”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes! Black Books! I thought of that immediately!

    ps – my captcha word is ignorant! I’m offended!

  2. Jonathan Badger says:

    It takes a certain kind of personality to demand a bargain on a 10 dollar book, usually the semi-literate corporate type or the sort of spiteful bathrobe-philosopher chess prodigy who would put any bastard who could still hold down a job to shame.

    Among WASPs haggling is generally seen as uncouth (there seems to be an exception made for buying and selling automobiles for some reason I don’t understand). But many people from other cultures (Southern European, traditional Jewish, and many Middle Eastern cultures) see haggling as part of the fun of shopping. It isn’t some pathological disease.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I worked in a bookstore to pay for undergrad. I have six words:

    WE. ARE. NOT. A. BABYSITTING. SERVICE.

    Whatever comes to your mind when reading those words, I can tell you right now that the sheer rudeness and lack of awareness was much, much worse than you can imagine.

  4. hunchentoot says:

    Sensitive hours, 2006

    Guy In A Sort Of A Hippie Shirt In A Scuzzy Book Store Like The One At Cass And I-94 In A Neighborhood In Cleveland That Reminded Me Of Detroit’s Cass Corridor Except Without A University: “Welcome to 69th Street book store. Books are organized by category.”

    [I look at books for a while, he talks to customers. A woman complains that she couldn't get anyone to answer the phone. He says his hours are M-F 1 to 4. She tries to purchase some books but he has no change whatsoever. He suggests he write out a "You Owe Me" since she only has a twenty to buy two or four dollars worth of books. It is not clear whether she leaves with books or not. A few minutes pass.]

    Me: Your hours are 1-4?
    Him: Yes.
    Me: Those are short hours.
    Him: Shut up.
    Me: [some kind of small talk that I forget]
    Him (interrupting): You’re talking to yourself again.
    Me: I… did I offend you somehow?
    Him: That’s one way of putting it.
    Me: But what did –
    Him: I don’t have to justify anything. Why don’t you get the fuck out of my store? Go on, get the fuck out right now!

    [I get the fuck out of his store and walk back to a part of Cleveland that is not like the Cass Corridor without a university]

    The Two Dollar Rare Book Store is located at 6820 Euclid Avenue in Midtown Cleveland and is open M-F 1-4pm. Loft living is available in the building.

  5. Oshkosh John says:

    I once happened on a pile of old baseball cards someone else was throwing away. I took them to work with me, and showed them to a person who collected such things. I told him I wanted 100 dollars for the lot. I know nothing about baseball cards. He seemed interested in a few of them, and offered me ten dollars for the pile. I took one of the cards in which he seemed interested and tore it in half. Then the negotiating got serious.

  6. stratojoe says:

    I guess it’s a ‘cultural’ thing then, eh? I’ll tell you what – I’ll respect the culture of haggling if they’ll respect my culture of ignoring them and thinking they’re an ass.

    chumofchance – if you’re talking about green apple, I have to say I’ve seen some pretty goofy stuff happen in there, customer-wise. Honestly, Green Apple is about the only thing that keeps me in that ridiculous neighborhood. I like talking with the guy that roots through the trash for the remainder magazines.

    If it’s not GA, then i apologize for for advertising for your competition. Anyway, thanks for being open late.

  7. Oshkosh John says:

    I once happened on a pile of old baseball cards someone else was throwing away. I took them to work with me, and showed them to a person who collected such things. I told him I wanted 100 dollars for the lot. I know nothing about baseball cards. He seemed interested in a few of them, and offered me ten dollars for the pile. I took one of the cards in which he seemed interested and tore it in half. Then the negotiating got serious.

  8. Takuan says:

    one day I shall open my own shop… of used booksellers. Come walk with me down the rows of pens, here a bald cooted shrieker, next a tweed-nesting pince-nez. All rare specimens, all priced accordingly.

  9. TikiHead says:

    It’s not limited to booksellers — there’s a vintage lamp store here in Phoenix whose owner is known as The Lamp Nazi. Vicious man.

    (Yes, we’re talking about you, Peter)

  10. stratojoe says:

    How much for the one with the short black bobbed hair and the fuzzy sweater? I’ll pay double.

  11. Takuan says:

    ehh, for you, I make deal! No harness though!

  12. Mr Ascii says:

    These sound like scenes from Black Books.

  13. ChuckyG says:

    I always knew Black Books had to be based on a real story… now we know.

    For those who don’t know, here’s a sample

  14. A New Challenger says:

    I was disappointed that neither seller mentioned in this post then attempted to sell the halfbook/ashtray for the half-off price the patrons were trying to obtain.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I had a yard sale a few years back and among the items was a giant blown glass bottle for $1. Some ass picked it up and told me he’d give me a quarter for it. I repeated the price and he repeated that he would pay a quarter. I said, “here… let me show you something” and took the bottle from him. Then I told him it had gone up to $5.

    Also: re: Aspidistra Books on Clark… I distinctly remember being afraid to shop there very often, but I can’t recall any specific reason why.

  16. Takuan says:

    I need a get-even technique for an african mole-rat used bookseller….

  17. Ryan Rapolsive says:

    Reminds of the bookstore owner in the movie the never ending story. I need to watch it again. The nothingness!

  18. Antinous says:

    The mother of all cranky booksellers is, of course, the Cumaean Sybil.

    The Cumaean Sibyl offered to Tarquinius nine books of these prophecies; and as the king declined to purchase them, owing to the exorbitant price she demanded, she burned three and offered the remaining six to Tarquinius at the same stiff price, which he again refused, whereupon she burned three more and repeated her offer. Tarquinius then relented and purchased the last three at the full original price and had them preserved in a vault beneath the Capitoline temple of Jupiter.

  19. error404 says:

    I would have tremendous difficulty in not punching the teeth out of the fucker who tears up books.

    Any fucker can grow teeth but few can write books.

  20. ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive says:

    I remember going to a book show and overhearing a couple commenting on a book dealer’s wares. The lady said, “Oh look, honey! I found something rare… This collection of short stories is signed by Ray Bradbury!” The hard boiled dealer commented, “Lady, finding a Bradbury book that *isn’t* autographed is harder to find than one that *is*. He’ll sign anything. YOU write a book and Bradbury will sign it.”

    I doubt he sold them that book, but it made me chuckle.

  21. starcadia says:

    Anyone remember Ron, the owner of Aspidistra on Clark in Chicago back in the day? (Worth a shot.) That man was Medieval.

  22. bolamig says:

    Book Nazi: No book for you.

  23. Anonymous says:

    “Anyone remember Ron, the owner of Aspidistra on Clark in Chicago back in the day? (Worth a shot.) That man was Medieval.”

    I worked for him.

  24. buddy66 says:

    I had a bookstore for a couple of years and I was never cranky, my customers were always civil, the coffee pot was always on, the sun was always shining (in Venice West, CA), and I couldn’t make a goddamned dime!

  25. sammich says:

    Woah! My bookshop experiences have thus far been fine, but 30 years ago at Probe Records in Liverpool, UK, you could expect to meet an eye-catching shop assistant who would examine you, and your selection, with an uncompromising eye; and finding you or your selection wanting, would refuse to sell to you.

    A little while later he made the charts #1 UK, #11 US, with ” You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Spin_Me_Round_(Like_a_Record)

  26. Rich Shupe says:

    I believe you, but I cannot imagine the asshole that would persistently try to argue down a garage sale ashtray from $.25 to $.10. I would have smashed the ashtray, too.

  27. chumofchance says:

    I work at a moderately successful used bookstore in San Francisco, sort of serving as the public face. Let me tell you that the reputation people who work at small bookstores is generally true, and we are all a bunch of miserable smarty-pants bastards. Nothing gives me greater vindication than giving a customer a flat ‘no’ when they seek a barter, especially when I can see it coming a mile away. It takes a certain kind of personality to demand a bargain on a 10 dollar book, usually the semi-literate corporate type or the sort of spiteful bathrobe-philosopher chess prodigy who would put any bastard who could still hold down a job to shame.

    Often times on not receiving a discount (even when I’m nice about it) they will plop down a massive pile of books on the floor and walk out. One time a woman did not receive a discount so she walked behind the counter and started yelling and demanding money off, then proceeded to knock over objects in the store. Then she called later and demanded an apology AND store credit for ‘rude treatment’. The best incident was when a man very carefully insinuated a book had mold on it (it didn’t), then asked for the discount in a high whining voice, almost like he was going to cry. When he did not get one he went over to his wife and started yelling at her to leave, then grabbed her cane and started waving it over her head like he was going to beat her with it. THEN, they bought fifty dollars worth of books, called me immature, and demanded I thank them for their purchase.

    ‘whew’. Felt good to get that off my chest. From a bookseller point of view giving a discount is like negotiating with terrorists. Sure, sometimes it makes sense but it’s still the bad guys winning.

  28. numbone says:

    Lest we forget:
    http://www.shakespeareco.org/index.htm
    My favorite curmudgeon, George Whitman.

  29. csbmonkey says:

    There is a book store on Haight street called “Forever After Books” which fits this bill just perfectly. If you look it up on Yelp the only positive reviews for it are as a viewing platform for the theater of psychotic drama of the owners.

  30. Bookyloo says:

    chum of chance:

    “bathrobe philosopher chess prodigy?” I bet I know which store that is. ha ha ha.

    I’m a bookseller too. Giving a discount is not like negotiating with terrorists. Sometimes it’s like unloading dead stock at a smaller profit. If someone is about to buy a book in shitty condition that’s been unsold for five years, I discount it 10 percent before they even ask. It’s of no use to me on the shelf. Then they’re super grateful, even though they sometimes only end up getting a dollar or so off the price. Sometimes they buy a second book. Hell, a lot of those books come in as trade. So you didn’t even pay cash for them. “terrorism” is a bit strong.

    But I can Curmudgeon with the best of them when necessary. Like when a guy asked me “who wrote Dante’s Inferno”. That was fun.

  31. Sekino says:

    ‘whew’. Felt good to get that off my chest. From a bookseller point of view giving a discount is like negotiating with terrorists. Sure, sometimes it makes sense but it’s still the bad guys winning.

    Although some of the stories above are pretty nasty (especially HUNCHETOOT’s encounter), I really do feel for the amount of manipulation and disrespect retailers in general (not just book store owners) have to put up with to keep customers happy.

    I used to work in retail, years ago, and I just wouldn’t tolerate game playing. If someone was nice and willing to discuss reasonably, I’d do my best for them. But when customers would say that they saw the exact same item ‘somewhere else’ and it was magically half the price of ours, I would just ask them what they were still doing in our store and that they ought to go run and get it. Then I’d put back the item in the showcase and congratulate them on the great deal they’d found. They’d usually stare at me dumbfounded and totally stuck because, of course, there was no half-price duplicate. I just don’t dig enabling people to lie to get their way.

    I am so happy I’m not in sales anymore. I just don’t have the patience ;)

  32. adralien says:

    I think Black Books even hit on this… a customer tries to bargain a $3 book to $2 with the response from Bernard “because I suppose you think $3 is just naked profiteering”. Customer leaves with the book missing about 100 pages and returns later for them for $50.

  33. tomaq says:

    Back in the mid-80s I was physically blocked by the owner of a newly opened used bookstore in downtown Philadelphia from even looking at the science-fiction section. He accused me of trying to deplete his stock.

    No science fiction for you!

    For some reason I never went back, and I don’t think he was in business for long.

    (It wasn’t The Hourglass, for those of us old enough to remember.)

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