Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores


I picked this book up on a whim; can’t remember when or where. I opened it… and could not stop laughing. Jen Campbell (“poet, short story writer, and bookseller”) compiled the funniest, most outrageous and sometimes offensive things customers of her bookshop have said. There are also plenty of contributions from booksellers in other cities. The crazy quotes are categorized in the following ways: Literary Pursuits, What Was That Title Again?, Parents and Kids, You Want What?, Customers Behaving Badly, Isn’t it Obvious?, Books for Kindling, The Adult Section, Higher Powers, and Out of Print. After dumping all my books out, reorganizing them, and picking out which ones I want to take on the plane with me, I decided to reread this one. Here are a few of my favs from each section:

Literary Pursuits

Customer: Where’s your poetry section?
Bookseller: It’s just over here.
Customer: Great. Do you know who wrote the poem “Happy Birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too”?
Customer: Do they have their own collection?

Customer: Hi, could you recommend a book for me?
Bookseller: Sure. What kind of thing are you looking for?
Customer: Well, I was let out of jail this morning, so something not too heavy would be nice.

(Customer arrives at desk with two baby books, a stuffed bunny toy, and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)
Bookseller: That’s an interesting selection you’ve got there.
Customer: They’re all for different people.

What Was That Title Again?

Customer: Do you have a copy of Nineteen Eighty Six?
Bookseller: Nineteen Eighty Six?
Customer: Yeah, Orwell.
Bookseller: Oh — Nineteen Eighty Four.
Customer: No, I’m sure it’s Nineteen Eighty Six; I’ve always remembered it because it’s the year I was born.
**This is the illustration underneath:

Photo on 9-9-14 at 6.57 PM

Customer: Do you have Campbell’s Soup for the Soul?

Customer: I need A Few Good Men by Joe Steinbeck.
Bookseller: Do you mean Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck?
Customer: No, I said A Few Good Men.
Bookseller: The movie?
Customer: No. It’s a classic book! Steinbeck.
Bookseller: I don’t see that here by him. But he did write Of Mice and Men.
Customer: What? Just show me where to find his books.
Customer: Here it is. Of Mice and Men. Right there on your shelf.

Parents and Kids

Customer: Do you have a book with a list of careers? I want to give my daughter some inspiration.
Bookseller: Ah, is she applying for college courses?
Customer: Oh no, not yet. She’s just over there. Sweetheart?
(a four-year-old girl comes over)
Customer: There you are. Now, you talk to the nice lady, and I’m going to find you a book on how to become a doctor or a scientist. What do you think about that?
(the girl says nothing)
Customer (to bookseller): Won’t be a sec.
(Customer wanders off into non-fiction)
Bookseller: So, what’s your name?
Child: Sarah.
Bookseller: Sarah? That’s a beautiful name.
Child: Thank you.
Bookseller: So, Sarah, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Child: … A bumblebee.
Bookseller: Excellent.

You Want What?

Man: Where are the pianos?
Bookseller (leading him towards the music section): Sheet music is on the bottom shelf; piano tuning and repair books are on the next shelf up.
Man: No, no, no! I need a piano.
Bookseller: We don’t sell pianos.
Man: I hear music.
Bookseller: … That’s the radio.
Man: Are you sure?

Customer: Do you have any medical textbooks?
Bookseller: Sorry, no. They go out of date so quickly that we don’t stock them, but I can order one for you.
Customer: I’m not worried about it being in date.
Bookseller: Does your course not request you have a specific edition?
Customer: Oh, I’m not a medical student, I just want to know how to do stitches.
Bookseller: … Right.
Customer: Do you have a book on sewing, instead?

Customer: Where do you keep your maps?
Bookseller: Over here, what kind of map are you looking for? A county, a state, a world map?
Customer: I want a map of the sun.

Customers Behaving Badly

Customer: Hi, I’ve just self-published my art book. My friends tell me that I’m set to be the new Van Gogh. How many copies of my book would you like to pre-order?
Bookseller: You know, Van Gogh was never appreciated in his lifetime.

Customer: Do you have security cameras in here?
Bookseller: Yes.
Customer: Oh. (Customer slides a book out from inside his jacket and places it back on the shelf)

Customer (peering over): Do you have brown eyes?
Bookseller: Yes, I do.
Customer: My mother told me never to trust anyone with brown eyes.
Bookseller: … You have brown eyes.

Isn’t it Obvious?

Customer: Hi, I’d like to return this book, please.
Bookseller: Do you have the receipt?
Customer: Here.
Bookseller: Erm, you bought this book at Borders.
Customer: Yes.
Bookseller: … I’m afraid we’re not Borders.
Customer: But you’re a bookstore.
Bookseller: Yes, but we’re not Borders.
Customer: You’re all part of the same chain.
Bookseller: No, sorry, we’re an independent bookstore.
Bookseller: Put it this way, you wouldn’t buy clothes at Urban Outfitters and take them back to Gap, would you?
Customer: Well, no, because they’re different stores.
Bookseller: Exactly.
Customer: … I’d like to speak to your manager.

Books for Kindling

Customer (inclining her head): How are you guys doing?
Bookseller: Oh, we’re clinging on.
Customer: Oh you poor dears, it’s this Kindle!
Bookseller: Well, really, it’s the supermarkets making people think that books aren’t worth paying money for.
Customer: I hadn’t thought of it like that. It is terrible, isn’t it?
(five minutes later)
Customer: How much is this book?
Bookseller: That’s $10.
Customer: Could I have it for $5?

Customer: Do you guys sell used e-books?
Bookseller (laughing): No…
Customer (angrily): Why not?

The Adult Section

Customer: Do you have a restricted section?

Customer (buying the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy): Do you sell batteries?

Daughter: Dad, will you buy me that book?
Dad: Which book?
Daughter: Fifty Shades of Grey.
Dad: No!
Mom: I have it, I’ll lend it to you.
Dad (in the tone of one deeply betrayed): Why do you have it?
Mom (calmly): It was for the neighborhood book club.
Daughter: Nevermind.

Higher Powers

Customer: I saw The Passion of the Christ this weekend and somebody told me there was a book about it. Do you have it?
Bookseller: You mean a book the movie was based on?
Customer: Yes. I didn’t see it on any of your displays.
Bookseller: Sir, the movie was based on the Bible.
Customer: The Bible?
Bookseller: Yes, sir.
Customer: Oh, the Bible! But isn’t there a book?

Customer: Do you have a book that interprets life?
Bookseller: I’m not sure what you mean.
Customer: Well, I was out hiking the other day, and I saw a wolf. I want to know what that meant.

Out of Print

Customer: I have The Pickwick Papers, first edition. How much will you buy them for?
Bookseller (examines book): Sorry, but this was printed in 1910.
Customer: Yes.
Bookseller: The Pickwick Papers was first printed in 1837; this isn’t a first edition.
Customer: No, it was definitely first printed in 1910.
Bookseller: Dickens was dead in 1910.
Customer: I don’t think so. You’re trying to con me.
Bookseller: I promise you, I’m not.
Customer: (Glares for a while, then snatches the book back up) I’m taking the book elsewhere! (Storms out)

Customer: I’ve got some books to sell.
Bookseller: Hi, thanks. I’m just helping some customers at the moment. Could you join the back of the line?
Customer: Er, I’m selling you books; I’m here for your benefit.
Bookseller: These other people are here to buy books, they are also here for the store’s benefit.
Customer: You’ve got thirty seconds to buy them, or I’m leaving. You need to learn to prioritize.

I didn’t know what to say after the first, second, or third time I read this book. These people are hilarious, and some are just plain out of control. It’s a quick read, and I think it’s a safe bet you’ll chuckle at least once reading this. Also, there’s a sequel:


If someone buys this for me before I can buy it for myself, that heroic individual will be my new best friend XD

10 thoughts on “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

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