Monday, August 25 2003

“Gee, what are you going to do with these?”

One of my pet peeves is the store clerk who examines your purchases and tries to figure out how they’re related to each other. There’s one at the local Borders who’s done this to me twice recently, first when I bought a pair of O’Reilly books with Schneier’s Practical Cryptography, and again when I went in looking for the new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style and ended up grabbing a new dictionary/thesaurus and a bunch of gun magazines. I keep picturing him working at a grocery store:

“Cool-whip, bananas, and toilet paper? Big plans for tonight, eh?”

I understand that he’s trying to be friendly and start conversations with the customers, which is certainly not the worst behavior I’ve experienced in a bookstore, but if I wanted to chat about the books I was buying, I’d have said something first. Take my money, give me my change, and let me get the hell out of your store, okay?

Maybe it’s part of the transformation of bookstores into social hangouts, aided and abetted by built-in coffee shops and comfy chairs. Fine in their place, but I think they change people’s behavior in all parts of the store. A ten-minute conversation by the magazine rack that can be heard clearly from more than twenty feet away? A business call on your cell-phone that a dozen people are forced to listen to if they want to keep shopping?

Mother taught me a word for this sort of behavior: rude.

She did not consider it a compliment.