Shop Not In December

Guest Blogger:
I’m hoping to take some time off next month to enjoy the holidays and get in some reading for pleasure. I have to go shopping soon, though, or be forced to visit a book store during December, something I dread more than the dentist saying, “We’re going to need some x-rays.”

Aside from the crowds, the long lines and the lack of parking spaces, too many annoying things happen to me at book stores during December that never happen any other time of year. These are things that would test the patience of a saint (which I’m not) and never seem to happen to anyone else (maybe I unconsciously give off some sort of “come and annoy the hell out of me” pheromone.)

For example, I can’t visit a book store in December without someone making me their personal shopper. I am at least partly to blame for this because a) I visit my local book stores regularly so I know where everything is, b) I love books, and c) I want people to buy books. I used to be a bookseller; when someone in a book store asks me a question my instinct is to be helpful. Also, my mama raised me right.

You’d think during the holidays I’d learn to cultivate a vacant expression when some bewildered grandmother wanders up to ask me where the manga is, and what the heck it is, but no. I have to explain it to her. I have to show her where it is. Just that once.

Only it’s not just that once, because when I take Granny to find her the Naruto her grandson wants, she mentions the Dora the Explorer storybook his younger sister wants, which she already looked for in the children’s section but couldn’t find. Of course I have to help her find that one, and when I do she asks me if I know the title of this diet cookbook she needs for her overweight daughter-in-law (and she can tell me to the ounce how much this chick weighs, everything she puts in her mouth and the horrible ways she could die if she doesn’t lose a hundred pounds by New Year’s, but she cannot for the life of her remember the name of the celebrity chef who wrote the cookbook. “Some brunette girl with lots of teeth on that food channel” is usually all I have to go on.)

While I’m looking, I always think the same thing: if I’d just told her to ask one of the booksellers I could have been out of here thirty minutes ago . . .

Once I’ve done all of Granny’s shopping for her, I then try to do my own. To accomplish this I have to get past the guy running the e-reader kiosk, who of course hails me because he wants me to buy an e-reader. This touches off a hard-sell session that I cannot escape (according to Mom it’s rude to walk away from any person while they’re talking to you.) He says would you like to try our new e-blah-blah, I say no thank you, he says but have you seen all the wonderful features? You can get all your magazines on it, plus the internet, plus e-mail, plus this, plus that . . .

By the time he pauses for breath — usually after he promises I can practically explore Mars with this gadget — I’m thinking even Mom would forgive me for walking off. I repeat my no thank you, and yet before I can take that first step toward freedom he shoves the e-reader at me and tells me go on, try it. Again, my mother’s insistence on me having good manners prevents me from shoving it back, preferably down his throat. At this point I give up. I try the e-reader. I ooh. I aah. And of course the whole time I’m thinking if I’d just walked away I could have been out of here thirty minutes ago.

At last I hand the e-reader back to him and finally remember what I should have said the moment he started hard-selling me: “Oh, dear, I think my laxative is starting to work. Where is the ladies room?”

Even on my worst December shopping days I can deal with forgetful grannies and obnoxious salespeople, but there is one final thing that drives me absolutely crazy. I’ll take my purchases to the cash wrap, wait in line for fifteen to twenty minutes to check out, and almost believe for once I’m going to get out of the store without having a nervous breakdown. Then, while the clerk is ringing up the last of my purchases, one book — generally a paperback, and always the one I want most — will not scan. The cashier will try and scan it again. It still won’t scan.

The scanning is then repeated about three dozen times with little variations: the cashier smoothes out the sticker, turns the book this way and that, scans some other part of the book and so forth; this because she doesn’t want to type in the UPC, which evidently is some cruel and inhumane task. Eventually she gives up and types it in. It doesn’t work, sometimes because she typed in the wrong numbers, or someone put the book out before it was entered in inventory, or the computer is on the fritz again, but still — no sale.

Now at least twenty other tired, unhappy shoppers are piled up behind me. Some of them are making ugly comments, which grow increasingly louder as the cashier keeps trying to enter the UPC. Meanwhile an assistant manager notices the line and wanders over to see what the problem is, and then tries to scan the book himself several dozen times before he puts the number in. It still won’t ring up, at which point another register must be opened and the store manager has to be called to the cash wrap for a three-way conference on what to do.

During this conference I am repeatedly regarded with distinct suspicion — could I have deliberately tampered with or switched the price sticker so I could get away with this enormous crime? — before the manager makes the tough, gritty decision to manually enter the sale under a miscellaneous stock code and sell me the book. P.S., at the same price as every other paperback in the damn store.

Usually I don’t get an apology from the now very unhappy manager, assistant manager and cashier, and when I walk out of the store everyone in the line behind me glares — not at the idiots at the cash wrap, but at me. I can almost hear what they’re thinking: If she hadn’t caused all this trouble, I could have been out of here thirty minutes ago . . . .

I’d like to save one of you some book store shopping, so today I have to give away signed copies of my Lords of the Darkyn novels Nightborn and Nightbred, a limited edition beaded BookLoop, a gift basket from Le Petite Maison, which specializes in aromatherapy for the home (includes bath salts, hand sanitizer, oil, potpourri and hand cream in lavender, my favorite calming scent); all packed in a sturdy canvas shopping tote (maybe you’re braver than me.) If you’d like a chance to win it all, in comments to this post name a book you’re planning to read during the holidays.

(Chica post-script: Lynn will be popping in on Saturday, Nov. 17th, to chat with all comers.  This giveaway is available to anybody on the planet and is up for grabs until midnight EST on Tuesday, Nov. 21rst–or until we think of a way to keep it for ourselves.  Good luck!). :grin:

(Chica post post-script: Thanks to everyone for their patience at this busy time of year!  We are feeding comment numbers into a random number generator, and the winner of this fabulous giveaway will be announced HERE on Saturday, December 8th at midnight E.S.T.  And thanks, everyone, for participating!  Please visit us again!) :wave:

12/8/2012 ~ The winner has been posted below.  Enjoy!