There are books that are labeled as 'strict on sale dates.' These books, universally, cannot be sold until a specific release date. one example would be the Harry Potter books. We would get those about a week in advance, tightly sealed in totes, which are kept against a back wall in our storage room until the release date arrives. With the Harry Potter books, employees are required to sign away their life, promising to not unseal the totes. This is serious business. A bookstore can be fined mega bucks if one of these strict on sale books finds its way into the hands of a shopper.
Well, one of the most common errors of these new employees lately is that a few of these books have been put on the shelf. Mostly its been paperback romance novels, the sort that might have a Fabio look-alike on the cover, the sort that has little literary value but is popular with lonely ladies who dream that they are the beautiful, lucky, seductress in these books.
This week, several of these found their way into the hands of customers. One lady in particular did not take the fact that I could not sell it to her very lightly. She came up to the register with her pile of romance books and as I began to ring her items up, a little notice popped up, telling me that book had not been released yet.
No problem; this lady seemed to be the typical middle aged southern gentlewoman.
"Honey, I can't sell you this book yet." (southerners love to use little terms of endearment.) I smiled at this very sweet lady and gave her a look that dripped of apology.
She did not say a word. She just stood there, staring at me, not blinking, not moving an inch, as if her entire being had been frozen in time. I set the book aside.
"I...have...been...waiting...for ..this ..book..and..I ..want..it." she could barely get the words out, such was her growing anger. She now looks less like Scarlett O'Hara's mother and more like Cruella De Vil's sister.
"I understand, ma'am. However, the book is a strict-on-sale book and i can't sell it yet..by law.." I am still smiling but I feel trouble brewing in the air.
"It was on the shelf." she informs me.
"Well, yes, i know but you see, we hired a couple of new kids and they did not realize that this book hasn't been released yet."
My gentle southern lady leans over the counter and stares at me dead-eye. Her voice lowers to just above a whisper.
"Give me my book." she whispers.
Jeez, I think to myself. This Fabio guy must be GOOD..
I do not answer her immediately because I'm half afraid she has a butcher knife in her purse and that she might use it on me.
"Ma'am.." I say
"What?" she answers, icily.
"I can't sell you this book."
She stands straight, holding her purse tightly to the front of her camel hair coat. She is in such a state that I notice her short salt and pepper curls on the top of her head are trembling with rage. This woman means business.
"If you do not sell me my book, I will purchase it from your competitor." She raises her chin in defiance and to be honest, I was relieved; turning away customers is not something I prefer to do, but its a whole lot better than having her jump across the counter and hurt me. and on top of that, she has now done thoroughly ticked me off.
I lean slightly toward this southern bitch.
"Ma'am you go right ahead and try that." I can hear my voice getting louder.
"THEY CAN'T SELL IT EITHER!!!"
She harrumphs and quickly exits the store.
The next customer approaches, a nice man with a big Bible in his hand. He sets it on the counter.
"Wow she was nasty!" he says. I just smile and proceed to ring him up..and then I see it, there on the front of his Bible..a 40% off sale sticker..on a book that I know is not on sale.
"Sir, I'm sorry but this book is not supposed to be 40% off."
He says nothing for a second.
"What do you mean, it's not supposed to be 40% off?"
"Well, we hired these new kids and they made a mistake..."
He leans a tad toward me.
"I..want...this...book..at..the...discounted..price.."His anger was such that he could hardly get out the words.
I looked at him for a second.
"Yes sir," I said, and discounted the book.