I disappeared, and I’m sorry. And I can’t promise to be back until the new year at least. But I promise I will be back.
The last few weeks have been a real slog. I am ready to admit I bit off more than I could chew, as I have a tendency to do, and at times I have been at the point of dropping from the exhaustion – physical and emotional – of keeping up with it all. And I mean that literally. Twice I have nearly fallen over sideways, once almost into the road, and on one occasion I actually did black out. It’s not been good.
But, I have been writing blog posts, all be they illegibly scribbled in my notebook on a moving bus, or on scraps of paper during snatched moments of my working day. And so, by way of an apology, I thought I’d share a select few with you over the next few days. Hope you enjoy them! xx
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1ST:
The sunrise was spectacular on my way into work this morning, amber gold on the horizon as we zigzagged the Warwickshire countryside collecting small children from small villages…
Of course, I was unable to enjoy said sunrise thanks to said small children, who spent the entire journey trying to make “John” cry because he was “gay”. Their techniques varied from jibing and chanting to punching and rough-housing, but John did not crack. My icy glares fell on oblivious heads, and I was left wishing I could have video-taped the incident so that their behaviour could follow the little beasts for the rest of their lives… horrible wee things!
Their horribleness made me crotchety, and I arrived at work in a less than happy mood. In my rush to leave the house I’d been absent-minded, and halfway to the bus stop this translated to the realisation that I’d forgotten to put my Waterstones tee over my outfit. So I had to borrow one of the ghastly, ill-fitting, tomato-red “Gift finder” tees, which clashed horrendously with my aubergine, pink and orange dress. Seriously, I’m surprised customers could even stand to approach me!
Still, I put on my professional and helpful face and prepared myself to greet the customers. Good customer service is imperative at this time of year. For one thing, a happy customer is a speedy customer. You find them what they want in record time and they leave the shop with a spring in their step – and more quickly than the loitering unsatisfied. In a small shop whose layout resembles an hourglass (causing regular jams!), getting people in and out again is somewhat important.
Also, customers are coming in who may not usually shop at Waterstones. If we provide good service, appear knowledgeable, offer great advice and recommendations, they may translate to repeat business. They may come back for further suggestions from you, or recall how quickly you found their book when the next birthday rolls around. They may even turn from a customer into the bookseller’s bread and butter, a reader…
A reader’s for life, not just for Christmas!
Unfortunately, at this time of year, people are stressed, short on time and patience and in need of service that goes above and beyond. They don’t make it easy for you to serve them. They’re crabby and short, refuse to give you eye contact and don’t understand when you say that their book is not in stock. The general argument seems to go along the lines of “but you’re a book shop” and often involves lots of gesticulating at adverts that read “available in all good book shops”, questioning just how good we can be!
They also all want your undivided attention to themselves – even when you’re clearly in the middle of serving someone else. If you ignore the latecomer (or, more usually, say you’ll just be a moment) you anger them into storming out. If you just take a moment out from the customer you were serving to point the second-comer in the right direction, you anger the first by leaving them stranded. It’s a no-win situation!
Still, I am at least lucky enough to have hour-long lunch breaks in which to shake off the crabbiness such unreasonable expectations create. And to write long, ranty blog posts like this one of course!