Helpfully Unhelpful


I had the oddest experience the other day at the bookstore. I had just finished meeting with a fellow Confessionalist at a Border’s close to home and had some spare time and money. Usually I spend loads of time staring at book spine after book spine, occasionally a back cover and maybe even a first page or two. I find myself gravitating to the authors I know and like (the ones I love, I’ve already read through their available catalog). I always want to branch out. Try a new author. So I pace between shelves and desperately try to get the book to tell me whether or not it’s worth my time to invest into it.

This time was no different. I was traveling between three books, Jacqueline Carey’s Naamah’s Kiss, Renegade’s Magic by Robin Hobb and Monster by A. Lee Martinez. All authors I have read before and enjoyed.

One of the employees must have noticed me trailing back and forth with first one book, then another in my hand swapping it about every five minutes. He asked me what I was looking for. I explained my dilemma and patiently waited for his suggestion. I started to tell me about an author he liked and almost had me sold on it when he promptly informed me.

“We don’t carry that here.”

Taking advantage of my baffled silence, he suggested another book. This one sounded good too. Then as I turned the stacks looking for where the author would located, he piped in.

“We don’t carry that here, either.”

All I could do was blink at him. So with a shake of my head, I turned and walked away, afraid that he would talk me into yet another author they didn’t carry. The sad thing is, I got so worked up over this not-so-helpful Border’s employee, I refused to remember the authors he suggested.

Let me be clear. I don’t doubt this guy’s sincerity. He looked truly excited about these authors and titles. I dream that someday people will be as excited about my books as this guy was about those unavailable books. Maybe if he’d had started with the disclaimer of needing to go to a used bookshop.


I would have stopped him. Really either way his exultations were lost because of his delivery and timing.

Has something like this happened to you? Please tell me I’m not the only one.



3 thoughts on “Helpfully Unhelpful

  1. What a strange experience! No, that hasn’t happened to me. Usually if they don’t have a book I’m looking for, they’ll check to see if it can be ordered. How disappointing that must have been, with money in hand to spend. Ugh.

  2. I always seem to wander around aimlessly in bookstores… I think I have commitment issues as I continually pick up books and put them down without buying them because I don’t want to waste my time on stuff I won’t like. Actually been stuck in a rut lately and haven’t read anything of substance for a long time.

    Say hi to your wifey for me.


  3. That’s bizarre. I’ve never had the same experience, exactly. I’ve gone looking for books and run across sincere and helpful bookstore employees who think they have it in stock only to find out it’s sold out. But I’ve never had someone suggest something and then disappoint me by telling me, “Oh yeah–we don’t have that.”

    I would have been tempted to ask if they had any books on customer service and then suggest that he check one of those out.

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