May 30th, 2009 by Jason Pinter
The 20 Most Annoying People in a Bookstore

Note: This post is written in jest. I love everybody in the bookstore (they’re in a bookstore, what’s not to love?). But there are always a few people, you know who they are, occasionally, make you want to hit them with a copy of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

1) The sweaty guy standing at the New Paperbacks table blocking the one book you want, who appears to be reading the entire section in one sitting and eyeballs you as though you’re invading his personal space.

2) The couple with six children, including two in strollers, whose children run around the bookstore screaming like their hair is on fire and swatting themselves over the head with 700 page books like SHANTARAM.

3) The teenagers who sit down three deep in the aisle reading Manga and graphic novels, thereby preventing anyone from passing through or fleeing in the event of a fire or giant lobster attack.

4) The girls who pick up every chick lit novel on the table and talk about how much the characters remind them of their own lives.

5) The guy in the magazine section reading Maxim (or FHM or Stuff or Playboy) who flips to every pictorial, openly ogles the girly photos for ten minutes, then puts it back on the shelf and moves on.

6) The store clerk with the weird wheezy breathing who’s only restocking, but seems to be following you around the store like Darth Vader.

7) The book snobs who watch you browse, waiting to see what you pick up so they can scoff and shake their head as though you’re an idiot to even think about reading it.

8) The people who sit in the coffee bar hogging an entire table even though they finished their latté half an hour ago and show no interest in that single copy of Architectural Digest.

9) People who tenderly rub the jacket of every single book on the shelf, either because the embossing makes them tingle or they simply must leave traces of their DNA on every conceivable surface.

10) The smarmy college kid in the Classic Literature section giving anyone within earshot a lecture about what Walden really meant to Thoreau (which he cribbed from SparkNotes).

11) The woman on the checkout line who picks up the little “Bonzai Tree in a Box” impulse gifts, considers them for half an hour (without letting you cut in line), then adds four of them to her basket.

12) The checkout people who whisper “next customer in line” at a frequency lower than dog whistles, then glare at customers who can’t hear them.

13) The guy who knocks over a huge stack of books then scoots away before anyone notices (or so he thinks).

14) The elderly couple that picks up new hardcovers and voices their disbelief at how expensive books have gotten since THE GRAPES OF WRATH was first published.

15) The guy chewing gum loudly who takes a book off the shelf, flips through it, then puts it back in the wrong place.

16) Old ladies who appear to be leaving the store, but just stand motionless in the doorway and prevent anybody else from coming in or leaving and look like they might faint (or hit you with an umbrella) if you ask them to move.

17) The beret-wearing guy in the music section who seems to be having some sort of seizure as he listens to the Black Eyed Peas on those gigantic headphones plugged into the wall.

18) People who ask the clerk, “Do you have that book by that guy that just came out?”

19) People who stand in the humor section and read the books to each other while giggling like they just farted in a crowded movie theater.

20) People who sit in the comfy leather chairs in the history section and look like they haven’t moved since before the 19th Century European History shelf was built.

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27 comments to “The 20 Most Annoying People in a Bookstore”

  1. R.J. Mangahas
     · May 30th, 2009 at 8:41 am · Link

    As I work at a bookstore, Jason, I’ve encountered a lot of the people on this list. I’d like to add the people who say “Why don’t you have this book? It’s VERY popular.” Or my personal favorite when we don’t have a book the customer wants: “Well, I guess I’m just going to have to go to (competitor’s name here).”

  2. Lynn
     · May 30th, 2009 at 9:03 am · Link

    Jason, I didn’t know we go to the same bookstore. :)

    As a former bookseller, I have to add a few:

    The young teenage boy who sits on the floor in the erotica section where he flips through the books with the most explicit covers/titles, stopping only to read and drool over the juicy bits, occasionally trying to shoplift the really good stuff. My store manager always made me confiscate the books and chase him out.

    The busy/harassed working woman who comes in on her lunch hour to get a book one of her kids needs for a homework project. In between mobile phone calls to the office, she demands the book, although she does not know the title, the name of the author, or the genre. Said woman fully expects the bookseller to use my psychic power to figure this out, or call her child’s school and get the info from the teacher (whose name she doesn’t know, either.)

    A couple of authors who would come in and sign the stock without asking, then come up to the front, announce that they’ve signed all their stock and ask to see the manager to find out why we’re not handselling them to every browser who walks in. Always suspicious or hostile, like we’re in on the conspiracy to ruin their sales.

    Food eaters and beverage drinkers who apparently think a bookshelf is a waste receptacle.

    Kids with lollipops that they get tired of and then drop in interesting places.

    In-store readers who have no problem reading the entire book and cracking the spine a dozen times before returning it to the shelf before walking out without buying a thing. This people inevitably have dirty hands and smudge the covers, too.

    Readers who do not speak enough English to tell me what they want, but then become offended when I use my very limited Spanish, French or German to try to communicate with them.

  3. joe
     · May 30th, 2009 at 10:57 am · Link

    Let’s not forget the guy who chooses the most quiet section of the store to have a cell phone conversation with his deaf aunt, as she’s driving through a tunnel, in Europe.

  4. Eva
     · May 30th, 2009 at 11:35 am · Link

    #18-so the author was gay?

  5. Jess
     · May 30th, 2009 at 2:06 pm · Link

    5b.) Or, alternatively, who takes his copy of Stuff/FHM/Playboy/Dog Fancy into the bathroom, then leaves them there for hapless booksellers.

    21. The guy (and it’s always a middle aged guy, for some reason) who says “I want that book that was on the display last week. It was blue. How do you not know? It’s your store. You must not be very good at your job.”

    22. Guy who sits in cafe, with a newspaper he’s too cheap to pay for, then complains loudly, to no one in particular, that other customers dare to talk.

    23. The guy too cheap to pay for a newspaper, who just comes in every day, reads and dissects said paper, does the crossword, then leaves the paper scattered about the cafe.
    23b. Then cusses out hapless booksellers when manager takes steps to prevent theft and littering.

    Run on sentences are a sign I should stop and have some chocolate.

    *fumes* Thank Maude I don’t work in retail anymore…

  6. Lynn
     · May 30th, 2009 at 2:21 pm · Link

    Now I’m thinking I’m lucky I worked at a mall shop that had no public restrooms. :)

    I think I know the blue book guy, too. He lived for a while in South Florida. And he smelled.

    One more to add to the list: men who do not bathe or use deodorant on a regular basis, but think dousing themselves with cologne cleverly disguises this fact. They’re the ones who also have to invade your personal space and talk to your chest while you’re dealing with them.

  7. jude
     · May 30th, 2009 at 2:33 pm · Link

    For me, the folks wandering the aisles braying into their cell phones dwarf all other inconsiderate behaviors by far. Mindbogglingly self-absorbed.

  8. Sasha White
     · May 30th, 2009 at 3:18 pm · Link

    I’ve never worked in a bookstore, but I’ve met a few of these while shopping in one. And I think I’ve met the others when working in the bar. LOL

  9. Lynn
     · May 30th, 2009 at 3:56 pm · Link

    Don’t get me started on who I had to wait on when I was a bartender, Sasha. 😉

  10. Jess
     · May 30th, 2009 at 5:33 pm · Link


    Yes. You are SO lucky you had one without a public restroom. =p

    Although, by far The Worst Bookstore Customer Ever was the person (I don’t think s/he was ever caught) that used to crap in the elevator of the 2-story Borders I worked at. It happened once a month for about 3 months. *twitch* Lucky for me, I had the sort of manager who thought regular booksellers shouldn’t have to deal with that stuff, so she always cleaned it up. Bless that woman, where ever she is now…

  11. Karen W.
     · May 30th, 2009 at 7:52 pm · Link

    As a bookseller for 10 years, thanks for the laughs…and the memories. :::shudder::: Believe me, I could write a book about the aforementioned customers and lots more!

  12. Sasha White
     · May 31st, 2009 at 2:34 am · Link

    LOL Exactly. And people wonder why I still work there. It’s so creatively inspirational. LOL

  13. B.E. Sanderson
     · May 31st, 2009 at 8:08 am · Link

    I must not pay much attention in bookstores, because I haven’t encountered these people. I usually go in with a list, and then hunt for everything I want. Maybe that makes me #21 – because I will ignore the salespeople and other patrons to get what I need. Get in, get books, get out. Or #22 – because I’ve been known to stand and glare at people who are browsing in front of something I want.

    I love the people who assume because I have a stack of books in my arms that I work at the store.

  14. Lynn
     · May 31st, 2009 at 3:31 pm · Link

    People who brought in lists were my favorite customers, B. I could check the computer to see how many titles we had in stock all at once (there was this one romance reader who came in with a spread sheet she made on Lotus, cross-indexed by author and genre. She’d just highlight the titles she wanted. I adored that woman.)

  15. Ann
     · May 31st, 2009 at 10:46 pm · Link

    I swear that when they all leave the bookstore, they head on over to their local public library where they park themselves on the public internet computers, talking on their cell phones, and never moving. Ever.

  16. Lynn M
     · June 1st, 2009 at 9:58 am · Link

    My years working at a bookstore qualify me to add to this most excellent list:

    21 – The mother who drags her middle-schooler into the store insisting that she be shown all of the books on some obscure topic because her kid has a report due TOMORROW and then acts all annoyed that you don’t have seventeen reference sources for “Animals Indigenous to the Arctic Cordillera”.

    22 – The person who comes to the information counter looking for this book for which they don’t know the title or author but that it was yellow and thinks maybe had the word “the” in the title and is about this woman who lives on the beach. Can you please find it for me?

    23 – The grandmother who comes to the children’s department and asks for recommendations for her granddaughter who is in 4th grade and then proceeds to say “Oh, no, she won’t like that” for every title you helpfully suggest.

    And because turnabout is fair play –

    24 – The store employee who has no clue where a certain section is so when you ask for help finding the specific title that the in-store computer says is inventoried in the “Literary Essays and Criticism” section but seems to be covered with invisible paper, they wave absently at a section of three or four rows and announces “it should be here”.


    25 – The store manager who stages an entire floor move without informing the staff that she’s pulled entire stocks of X book off the shelves to create a neat little display in the far corner, so that when you lead the customer to the correct shelf you find zero copies of the book and have no idea where to find them now, leaving you looking rather stupid.

  17. Rebekah
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 12:20 am · Link

    Great list….a couple of mine.

    A store employee who has no idea what the term chick lit refers to and the anorexic teens that see you wandering past the self help section and bounce in front of you to ask you how the food is in a certain diet book. Why WOULDN’T I be on that diet?

  18. Leslee
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 5:34 am · Link

    Oh my gosh, talk about a trip down memory lane! I worked in a Waldenbooks for about a year and a half, several libraries for two or three years, and a Borders for two! The Manga teenagers had me rolling! But I always had a special place in my liver for the people who said the book was blue, was a bestseller last year, couldn’t remember the title, author, subject matter, nonfiction or fiction, etc. Then be shocked that I didn’t know what it was. They couldn’t even tell me what bestseller list it was on much less anything else. I informed one person that there are 35,000 books (at least) published in the US every year and a good portion are blue so unless he could give me a clue as to what it was about we would be at an impass. The bathroom (shudder) was the worst at the library. You never knew what you would find there. Before I started working at one library, a little old lady came to the circ desk and said there was a lady in the bathroom taking a bath in the sink and she was completely naked. I kinda miss all the crazy stories I would come home with. Maybe I will go back when my kids are in school.

  19. Jaye Patrick
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 5:43 am · Link

    Dear God, R.J., I’ve been that person!

    I am now hanging my head in abject shame. Although… The book I said was very popular was a J.D. Robb. How could they not have it? And yes, I have mentioned I’d get a book from a competitor… Lynn’s ‘Stay the Night’ actually – they were going to charge me double the price for the pleasure of waiting two months for it to be shipped.

    I’m more polite these days.

  20. elena
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 8:45 am · Link

    i know you probably didn’t mean this literally or in a mean way rebekkah, but how do you know the teens were anorexic? a true anorexic is sick, it’s not a happy thing to deal with (spoken as the daughter of a bulimic and friend of two who were/are anorexic) … it’s extremely frustrating when people label all women who are skinny and/or on a diet with a real disease. it’s like assuming anyone who’s overweight eats too many doughnuts or is lazy.

  21. Peter H. Fogtdal
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 10:46 am · Link

    Very good blog. But as a published novelist, I’m just happy that book stores still exist. And that people visit them, even if they’re morons :-)

    By the way, you should add the most dangerous type of all, The Dan Brown Addict – those people who actually think that Angels and Demons is good!!!!

    Peter H. Fogtdal
    whose novel should be next to Ken Follet on your shelf (if only his sales would rub off)

  22. Livia Llewellyn
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 8:16 pm · Link

    I used to work at a B&N in NYC, many years ago – this list made me hurt myself with the laughter. Also, you forgot: the heroin addict who projectile-vomits his/her way through the store as they stumble-run toward the bathrooms, leaving a wake of destroyed books and screaming customers (and clerks!) in their wake. Oh, those were the days…

  23. shiloh walker
     · June 2nd, 2009 at 10:16 pm · Link

    “…9) People who tenderly rub the jacket of every single book on the shelf, either because the embossing makes them tingle or they simply must leave traces of their DNA on every conceivable surface…”

    Hey, I’m guilty of that one. but it was my book I was fondling and it’s because it had embossing. We’re entitled fondle the covers of our books with embossing, right?

  24. Mike
     · June 3rd, 2009 at 2:02 pm · Link

    The customer that goes to pay while have a conversation on their cell phone
    and never says a word to the person ringing them up.

    Or the customer that decides they don’t want a book and just sticks it somewhere random, usually while an employee stands less than 5 feet away watching them.

    The teens that “hide” sex books in graphic novel/manga section.

    I work in a Music Department at a bookstore and my favorite question is about “the artist they heard on NPR” with no information beyond that little fact. In fact, I’ve gotten this question so many times that I kind of hate NPR a little.

  25. BJ Muntain
     · May 15th, 2010 at 1:57 am · Link

    I used to work in interlibrary loans, where we never saw the books themselves, just computer records.

    While cover colour was useless to us, I got pretty good at knowing which book they meant by “The new one out, about a ghost, by King, with a red cover”, even when the book was actually written by Koontz.

  26. Nicole
     · May 15th, 2010 at 4:59 am · Link

    i’ve been a bookseller for years.

    my personal favourite EVER is the people who stand at the doorway and yell their request to you.

    see, should you not have it, they do not bother with the whole ‘coming in the rest of the way’ thing everyone else seems concerned with.

    oh and: can i use *insert competitor’s name* gift voucher here?.

    answer: funnily enough NO.

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     · April 3rd, 2012 at 5:23 am · Link

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