Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Customer Service Isn't Important...

Beazley Books has a few sidelines like prints, small antiques and custom matting. We train cadaver dogs too but that’s another story. Staying on top of it all has driven me to drink, so when a regular customer came in this morning and saw me sipping my breakfast Guinness and asked, you got another one? That was a little presumptuous so I said, no, and he says, did you grow up in an orphanage or something? Well I grew up with four brothers and that’s a lot like living in an orphanage so that was very perceptive of him. Then a woman called and demanded to speak to the manager and I immediately detected evil (I can do that with small dogs and the elderly). I replied in my best Oxfordian English, this is he, and sure enough, she says that she spoke to a very rude man on the phone yesterday. What did he do now?, I asked, and she said the man was just unspeakably rude (for the record, all I told her yesterday was that I didn’t want to buy her box of Harlequin romances and that she should consider burning them for warmth). Well, I said, the man you spoke to is schizophrenic so you never really know who you’re talking to when you call the store…..he’ll be in this afternoon so why don’t you come in and slap him. She hung up on me, and if you’re thinking that it’s not a good idea to invite angry people to hit you, you might be right.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Weird Titles

Here is a list of the weirdest book titles that have come into the store in February:

- The Beggar’s Handbook, A Guide to Successful Panhandling by P. Packet

- Nazis In The Woodpile by Egon Glesinger

- You May Know them As Sea Urchins, Ma’am by Ray Guy

- The Mafia Of A Sicilian Village, A Study In Violent Peasant Entrepreneurs" by Anton Blok

- Surviving in Prison by Harold Long

- Old Wives For New by Graham Phillips

- The Myth Of Ability by John Mighton

- You Die Next, Jill Baby! by Kirby Carr

- Old Age, It’s Cause And Prevention by Sanford Bennett

Anyone have weird titles of their own to share?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Gastro Affair

The holidays are over at last and I think it will be recorded as the Gastro Christmas, not to be confused with anything gastronomical.  My fond memories of Christmas past tend to horrify my daughter, tales of my father forgetting it was Christmas and flying to Bermuda “on business”, my brother buying comic books with the tree money, and five sugar-demented brothers fighting over who got to impale the angel to the top of the tree, only to attach instead a crayon drawing of an unspeakably pornographic winged creature, the nature of which was not discovered by my parents until the tree was taken down a week later.  Some people in the store were so crazy-eyed with stress that they reacted badly to my little jokes, one fellow screaming at me when I suggested that the cookbook he was buying would make him fat. Then there was the Moldavian refuge who passed around his homemade prune-avocado  moonshine and everyone got a rash

We all have our idiosyncrasies, and OK maybe mine are weirder than most, but I can never look at an author’s picture because if I do, I can’t read the book. I can’t help it. Last week I had to stop reading a book I was enjoying when I happened to see the author’s  picture and was reminded of a Marketing VP I once hated and tried to kill at the Christmas party. And who can bear to read Atwood once you’ve heard her chuttering on the radio or enjoy Robertson Davies after seeing that Rasputin picture of him. I liked Mordecai Richler’s work until I met him and discovered he didn’t get the memo about blackheads and nose hairs.  Harlan Coben looks like a smug programmer and Yann Martel like my suicidal Auntie Ophelia. There are exceptions. J.R.R. Tolkien looks like Gandalf so he’s OK and Mark Twain passes muster because he looks like he’s had a few and isn’t quite sure where he is. Anyway, this year I’ve vowed to read more serious fiction so I don’t have to lie so much when someone asks me about a book.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Road Trip

There was a time when a bookstore owner could expect a visit from an irate father for selling their teen daughter Henry Miller but today it’s not the young we have to worry about. You may have noticed that old people don’t die any more, they just get more difficult. Many of my customers are elderly and it’s obvious that men don’t stay as sharp as women. This can be awkward as women seem to have two ways of dealing with their slightly confused spouse and both can be jarring. Some say things like “Put that down RIGHT now you crazy old bastard” while others say things like “Now, now, Harry-Poo, put the book down like a good boy”. I’ve notified my wife which method I prefer when it’s my time but I figure she’ll just wing it and let me wander off in the woods, in my shorts, in February.

On a lighter note, we drove to the Maritimes for a holiday last month and took a shortcut through the state of Maine. Donna navigated with the maps I pulled off Google Earth while I drove in circles cursing and you’d do the same if entire towns kept appearing in the wrong place. I kept confusing Right and Left and it didn’t help that Donna said it was because I confused Right and Wrong.

The Bay of Fundy ferry crossing was uneventful except for when I tripped in a doorway and went flying screaming into the men's toilet and scared the bejesus out of all the guys doing their business. I hung out nonchalantly by the lifeboats for most of the crossing, there are times when you want to be in front of the line.
We finally got to Nova Scotia and I immediately began to eat lobster. I didn’t tell Donna that I’d watched a YouTube clip called “How To Eat A Lobster” and I think she was impressed with my carapace-crushing skills until I discovered the scary green goop in the body. What the hell was that supposed to be? Poop? Guts? YouTube didn’t cover that so I said to Donna, that my dear is only eaten by Cossacks but you can have some if you like.

Then we went whale watching and I got sea-sick and threw up over the side (mostly) and everyone accused me of scaring the whales. The ship’s pilot tried to calm things down by saying that my loud retching sounded like a finback whale mating call but I get the feeling everyone got a refund except me.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Did Santa Bring You Books for Christmas?

I know the Season of Senseless Spending isn’t over yet but I thought I’d write a little note since I have a tiny window of opportunity this morning (I’m sober). Book sales went through the roof this summer when I started telling my customers that the pocketbook they were buying was actually an e-reader and where the hell else could they get an e-reader for $5.95. Now it’s true that most of my customers ignore this remark but a few are delighted with the deal and isn’t it all about delighting your customers? Things get even better when some come back complaining that their Beazleybook e-reader seems to be frozen on one single book. Obviously a Microsoft Windows crash, I explain, but it’s easy-peasy to fix. I just replace the old book with a new book and charge $9 for the repair (OK, so it’s only really a reboot) but I guarantee my product so I’ll repair the damn thing every time it breaks.

Now like most adults, I wish the holiday season lasted for only 1 long week-end. Imagine only three days of attack-dog style shopping, artery-blocking meals and frozen hours in the car driving to yet another damn family meal, maybe the one where old Uncle Maxwell forgets where he is and starts shouting that he won’t eat another bite until his catheter is removed.

On sale at the store this week*:

Fire Eating, A Manual of Instruction

1993. The perfect gift for the grandchildren. Some pages are water-stained.

The Permanent War or Homo the Sap
1943. I don't know what the hell this book is about.

Butterflies in my Stomach, The Insect World as a Source of Human Food
1975. At last, the definitive work on this holiday season subject

Purgatory Quizzes to a Street Preacher, Catholigetic Subjects Baffling to Converts
1939. No, 'Catholigetic' is not a typo.

Your Basement Fallout Shelter, Survival in Likely Target areas
1963. Has fold-out building diagrams, great place to sit and cry during the next financial melt-down.

*Prices are a pittance, and only one copy of each book is available, so hurry in while supplies last!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Birds of a Feather

I never thought I’d meet someone who made the parrot lady look normal. That woman used to come into the store with 2 parrots, one perched on her shoulder pirate-style and the other in a filthy old baby carriage. They were huge tropical creatures with meter long tail feathers, beaks like the Kraken and evil tempers to match. Once, in all innocence I asked her if her birds performed any tricks and she answered of course they did. She placed one of them on the floor and said, “poop Reginald, poop, poop”, and beamed proudly when the wretched beast crapped on my floor. Good trick!

But this morning, Madame Parrot met her match. A lady came into the store murmuring quietly to herself and holding a bag to her chest and as she moved down the aisle I thought I heard a muted shriek of distress. Now, I’m deaf in one ear so I can’t tell where the sound is coming from. It might be that damn feral cat caught in the basement again or the elderly painting class next door having another gin-and paint party, so I get up to investigate and I hear the sound again, but this time it sounds like a bird gurgling. A very sad gurgle. Whatever was in the woman’s bag started to coo and bloody gurgle with each breath and finally I said, lady, do you have a bird in your bag? She said yes, yes, my dove. I tried to smile but I’m not sure what kind of facial expression I formed. She turned away and began saying things like, “there, there, we’re going home soon, momma’s almost finished, is baby tired?” I had a terrible thought. What if there was no bird! What if she was in the terminal stages of Organic Crazy Person Syndrome? I had to know, so I walked over and said, can I see your bird? Now if you ask that question of a person that isn’t carrying around a bird, you risk assault, but I’m relieved to report that there was indeed a bird in her bag. A comfortable looking, clean white dove in a bed of fresh green grass.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Yes, I really said that...

The secret to a long happy marriage is never saying “I told you so”. I was doing lawn work with Donna the other day and she said that she would mow the front lawn and I said be careful because the lawn has a steep slope and she said, yeah yeah whatever. Five minutes later she strolls up to me and says, ‘for some reason the lawnmower is flipped over on its back’. I did not say ‘I told you so’, I just righted the machine and pulled the start-cord and suddenly clouds of black smoke billowed out but that was the least of my worries because when I yanked the cord I elbowed Donna, bam in the nose, and she was crabbing away from me with her hands to her face and I’m wondering, should I say I’m sorry even though it’s her fault for standing in the wrong place? Well, the second secret to a long marriage is the man must always apologise for everything his wife does.

So this couple come into the store with their 8 year-old daughter and I suspect they’re Mennonites or something and the woman puts a few books on the counter and whispers, I’m not from here and I can’t help noticing there are an awful lot of immigrants around. Well, I said, I’m all for immigration because without them we would be depopulating. Look at your situation, I said, is this little sweetheart your only child? Do you really consider yourself fecund? Well maybe I should have said “fertile” instead of “fecund” though really either word in retrospect is look-away awkward and what the hell was I thinking. You may have guessed that there is no politically correct way to pronounce “fecund”, it just tumbles out sounding like a dirty Irish word. She clamped her hands over her daughter’s ears and gave me one of those familiar are you crazy looks. I stuttered, realising the word was unknown to her but the pronunciation was disturbing so I said, what I mean is, if you were more fruitful and had more children you might stop complaining about other people’s kiddies. Her eyes went poppy-like and I couldn’t believe what I just said and her husband looked like he was going to take a swing at me but instead they just marched out and I figure they might say bad things about the store to their friends.

The ambient weirdness of the neighbourhood has been rising recently. Yesterday a very elderly man leaning on a pencil thin cane stood outside the store and stared at me for so long that I started to get very creeped out so I went out and asked him if he was OK and he started screaming at me for not carrying German books. Damn, I thought, another case of Organic Crazy Person Syndrome. So I asked, trying to calm him, are you German? No, he screamed, but the buggers are everywhere. OK, I thought, he might be ancient but he’s clearly dangerous so I started to close the door and he darted out and stopped the door with his foot. This was distressing to me in an Edgar Allen Poe kind of way but fortunately Nestor was visiting and was in the back of the store so I called out, we got a live one here, I need help, but he took one look and fled out the back. He’ll pay for that.

Some people ask me if my stories are true. They are. It’s true that I may be encouraging things a little by my store display. I can’t help it. Current titles include “How To Embalm Your Mother-in-Law”, “The Case For Flogging”, “Eros On Crutches”, and “Improper Advances, Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880-1929”. These titles are not available at that other book store, you know, the one with the name that rhymes with Rapters (don’t bring your pets) or Captors (don’t bring your kids).