Confessions of a Former Bookseller

In my early twenties I worked full-time in a bookstore whilst studying part-time. Even though I worked EVERY weekend (oh the joys of retail), it was a great year and a bit in my life. For a book addict like me, working in a bookstore was my dream come true. But like every retail job it had its array of lovely, weird and downright funny moments. I had the best customers and the worst customers but the books made it all worthwhile.

Take a walk with me down memory lane as I recount the good, bad and annoying parts of being a bookseller:

The Detective Work: A customer walks in asking about a book but they can’t remember the title or the author. All they can remember is that the cover was red and it started with the word ‘the.’ A game of ‘guess that book’ ensues. There was no better feeling than asking probing questions and finally guessing the title. I lived for those small triumphs!

The Needle in a Haystack: The computer shows there is one copy instore of the book a customer wants. I look in the appropriate section but the book is nowhere to be found. Someone has misplaced it! Try finding a missing book in a store filled with thousands of books while a customer waits impatiently. The best scenario was finding it against all odds. The worst was finding it five minutes after the customer left the store.

Spending Half my Salary on Books: The owners of the bookstore used to pay me weekly in cash. Yes, a small envelope stuffed with cash! Now that I think about it, this was a genius move because all the sudden I would have a handful of money and a whole bookstore at my disposal. I would end up handing a chunk of my salary back to the owners on payday.

Being at Peak Fitness: I spent 95% of the working day on my feet. There was one chair behind the counter that during the week the owners took turns sitting on, so I was always standing. I also spent the day lifting boxes of books, unpacking stock and carrying huge piles of books up and down the back stairs of the shop from our storeroom below. I would have to carry sales items on tables outside the store and get them in at the end of the day. I was the size of a twig during these days but paid for this strenuous work later in life with a very dodgy back.

New Release Week: For a few days each month all the new release books from publishers would arrive in a huge delivery of boxes, full of brand new books. In the later months of the year as Christmas approached, these new release days would bring a steady flow of deliveries. These days were the busiest of the month as we unpacked, processed and labelled all the new books and then tried to find space for them on the shelves. I loved seeing all the new books and got excited when I saw new releases from favourite authors or discovered something new and interesting. I always felt sad a few months later when some of the books that arrived with such promise to the shop, ended up being returned to the publisher due to poor sales and to make room for other new books.

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