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The last bookstore

30 December 2013

From The Washington Post:

‘Good morning, how can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a book.”

“Great. What book?”

“I think it’s about a bird. It might be called ‘The Canary.’ ”

“There’s ‘The Canary Handbook.’ It’s not in stock, but I could order it for you.”

“No, that’s not it. Maybe it wasn’t a canary. I know: It was about something that flies. It could have been a parrot.”

“Sure, lots of parrot books out there. There was the one about Alex, the African grey parrot. It’s the true story of . . . ”

“No, this is more of a made-up story. It’s for my granddaughter.”

“Sounds like you want to try the children’s department, right down those stairs.”

“How can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a book.”

“Would you happen to have the title?”

“It’s a long shot, but I was in my car about a month ago and heard an author on the radio. Sounded really interesting.”

“Fiction? Nonfiction?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Anything about it you can remember?”

“It was raining.”

“About the book, please.”

“I think it was about a president.”

“That’s very helpful! A biography of a president?”


“Kennedy? We just had the 50th anniversary of his assassination. ”

“It could’ve been Kennedy, maybe.”

. . . .

“Hi, there, it’s me again! The children’s department sent me back. They said to tell you that next time you should ask how old someone’s granddaughter is before sending her downstairs.”

“Is that what they said? Well you can tell them . . . ”

“I wasn’t planning to go back down. I called my granddaughter and she wasn’t home, but her roommate said it might not have been birds. Maybe it was butterflies. It was definitely something that flies.”

“Oh, butterflies! I’ll bet you want the new Barbara Kingsolver book — here. Go sit in that chair in the corner and read it for a while.”

“It’s not for me.”

. . . .

“Oh, hi, how did you make out with the Kennedy books?”

“I’m thinking it might have been Lincoln.”

“Sure, easy to confuse. Here, let me show you a few recent titles: There’s ‘Lincoln in the World,’ ‘Rise to Greatness’ . . . ”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Jessica for the tip.


11 Comments to “The last bookstore”

  1. On the other hand, there’s the time I went to the public library when I was about 14, and described a chapter from a book I had read in fifth grade and was told I must have dreamed it. I knew I hadn’t, because I had taken out the book in that very library four years earlier.

    I went to a my school library and the librarian knew it immediately.

    I was describing the banquet chapter from “The Phantom Tollbooth”.

    Can’t find it via an Amazon search on “book where they ate words at a banquet,” however. Duckduckgo had it at the sixth entry.

    • I love Duckduckgo. It’s a much better search engine than Google. I stopped using Google many years ago because the results weren’t all that impressive. And they still aren’t, last time I tested it.

    • You can also Google it just fine as well. You don’t have to find all the information in the world in just one place any more. You can Google it and then buy it at the vendor of your choice in less time than it takes to walk downstairs to the children’s department in a bookstore.

      (BTW: on reading this, did anybody else think “didn’t Monty Python do this sketch?”)

  2. The first comment on the article is far funnier than anything in the actual article.

  3. “Hey, you were right about the rain. It started the minute I stepped out. Do you sell umbrellas?”

    “You might try CVS.”

    “Barnes & Noble has umbrellas.”

    I thought this and some of the other bits were funny. Of course, there was the obligatory Amazon Derangement Syndrome at the very end. 😉

  4. Timely! I went to lunch yesterday with a good friend who manages an indie bookstore. We were discussing the inevitable demise of Barnes & Noble, and he was kind of dreading the influx of applications he’ll get from former B&N employees looking for a new job. He goes out of his way to hire real, hardcore readers at his store, who know enough about books on a personal level to figure out what a customer is looking for, and to make intelligent recommendations. He said his experiences with most (not all) people who’ve worked at B&N indicate that they’re usually not hired for their book experience, but for their trainability on the computer database, so they can search by title or author, and for their ability to push the Rewards program.


    Just one of the many reasons why I believe B&N will be folding soon.

  5. Is this supposed to be funny? Because all I see is seriously bad customer service. When someone comes to you saying they want a book “about a bird,” you can’t just make assumptions about what they want and start throwing titles at them. This woman seems to have the attitude that it’s a customer’s fault if they’re too stupid to find what they’re looking for.

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