“Can’t I bring this back when I’m done?” And other things to never ever say to a bookseller

Today we are excited to welcome Erica Cameron to the Entangled Teen blog talking about things you should never say to a bookseller!


My work history is not what anyone would describe as focused. Dance teacher, research assistant in a psychology lab, barista, pizza delivery driver, restaurant hostess, editorial assistant at a yachting magazine, English lit teacher at an alternative school—I’ve done a lot of different jobs over the years. Somehow, though, I keep coming back to books. In between those other random jobs (and more), I’ve become a published author and also worked for a college bookstore, Borders (may it rest in peace), and now, Barnes & Noble.

I love books. I love that little breath so many people take when I recommend a book that sounds perfect for them (it’s a little like playing matchmaker, but without the potential fallout). I love dozens, maybe hundreds of the little things about my job, but it’s still a retail, customer service job, and so I am here today to do a public service for booksellers everywhere even though I’m probably preaching to the choir by posting it on a book-focused blog.

Here are 6 things NOT to say to a bookseller. Tell your friends.

  1. “So, after I read this I can return it, right?”
    Well, yes, so long as it’s in the same condition as when it was purchased, but really, no. Give the book away to a friend! Leave it on the bus! Spread the literary love! Please don’t bring it back unless you discovered you already had it on your shelf or realized the printing press forgot how to count for a second and put pages 100-126 right after page 13. Then, by all means, bring it back and we’ll take care of it. If you’re returning it because you don’t want to pay for books and, for whatever reason, don’t believe in the library, then no.


    1. “Where is your non-fiction section?”
      I never know what to say to this one, honestly, because even when I ask, “What are you looking for specifically?” the answer is usually, “Just your non-fiction section.” When I reply that almost all the store is non-fiction and I need to know if they’re looking for history, health, religion, business, or any other subject, so many people seem surprised by the question. The whole moment basically boils down to us looking at each other like this:


    1. “Please. I’m not paying $10/$15/$20 for a book. You’ve got to be kidding me.”
      This one hurts not only as a bookseller, but as an author, and I’ve had to literally bite my tongue sometimes to keep from explaining why customers are so painfully wrong. “THIS IS OVER A YEAR OF THIS AUTHOR’S LIFE!” I want to scream. “EVERY SALE COUNTS! WE DON’T MAKE ANYTHING!” is another frequently bitten-back exclamation, although in that I’m not sure if I’m talking as an author or a bookseller. Both, probably.


  1. “Oh, I wasn’t planning on buying this, I just wanted to see it.”
    In the current economic climate, resources are being held back whenever possible. For retailers, this often means cutting hours or staff. It’s amazing how often I’m asked to hunt down the one copy of a book in the store for over an hour or order an obscure, non-returnable edition of a book, only to find out that the customer never intended to buy the book. That eats up time we could be using to organize a shelf or finish a project or help someone else. We’re desperately trying to keep our doors open, and those misplaced hours hit stores where it hurts the most—in the sales numbers we have to send back to the corporate offices multiple times a day. Help us help the bookish community! Tell your friends to only ask for books they’re actually considering buying.

  1. “Where do I register for my card so I can borrow these books?”
    I am legitimately happy you want to support the public library system (seriously—no sarcasm to that part at all), but we are a bookstore. Maybe this one happens more often at my location because we are so closely situated to an actual library branch and so customers are actually confused and believe they’re somewhere else, but this happened when I worked at Borders, too, though far less often, and there wasn’t a library right around the corner to explain it away.


  1. “Don’t worry about that. It’s their job to put this stuff away.”
    Yes, part of my job description includes cleaning up the store and putting away misplaced books, but the customers who see that as an excuse to pull half the self-help section off the shelves and leave it on the floor, on a café table, or hidden in a back corner of the store need to stop. Worse are the parents who watch their children literally tear books into pieces or pull all the stickers out of an activity book and then simply stuff the book somewhere hidden instead of buying the book we can now no longer sell to anyone else. I love the customers who admit they don’t remember where they got something and either leave it at the customer service desk or hand it to a bookseller. Everyone else makes me, especially on the bad days, nearly incandescent with frustrated, impotent rage, because I’m bound by company policies not to say anything to them about THE OBSCENE MESS THEY’RE MAKING.


All this being said, I love my job, especially finding a reluctant reader the book that will draw them into the wonderful world of stories. If you love your local bookstore (even if your local is a chain store), give your favorite bookseller a smile, a compliment, a coffee, or a hug (only with their permission, of course). You just might make their day and/or save them from going off the deep end and getting themselves fired, depending on the shift.


After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Erica graduated with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Florida State University. She’s written several series for young adults including The Ryogan Chronicles trilogy, which concludes with War of Storms in November.

If you haven’t started the Ryogan Chronicles series yet pick up the first two books today!

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

Get Your Copy

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

Get Your Copy

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.