Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ghostwriting No. 17: The Rictus d'Accord

In the immortal words of Howard Beale:

"I'm a human being.... My life has value.... I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

On the whole, I'm not an angry person, and I certainly don't think that anger helps in situations involving short, impersonal interactions. Sometimes I employ the facial expression we like to call "the rictus d'accord" [read: smiling and nodding] when someone says something off the mark (e.g. "I know you have a bathroom, and you better let me use it or I'm going to report you to the Better Business Bureau". It's not worth anger and not even worth arguing; our notoriously non-classy staff facility stall is not public, is labeled not public, and can be locked if people feel the need to do things we haven't granted them permission to do).

Over the last few days, however, certain persons have decided to make certain discussions personal. And that's the point at which I'm not going to take it anymore.

This is a place of business. It's not a public place; we rent this space for our independent, privately owned bricks and mortar bookshop to operate. That means we have the right to ask people to leave when they are behaving inappropriately. We don't exercise that right if it's not necessary to do so. But we do have that right.

Behaving inappropriately includes, but is not limited to: willfully causing harm to our premises, fixtures, and/or merchandise; willfully causing discomfort to a patron; distributing or posting printed matter without the consent of the business' owner or manager; causing harm to employees of the bookshop and/or our cats. If you do one of these things, we will (politely) ask you to leave.

I would think that people would have been raised well enough not to need to be told not to do those things. But I can't think that, because I've seen far too much evidence to the contrary.

Don't drop lollipop sticks on my floor. Don't yell. Don't pound senselessly on the piano. Don't leave your child alone here while you go somewhere else. Don't expect me to haul ten, or twenty, or two hundred pounds' worth of your refused books to the dump myself after I have specifically refused to purchase or accept them. And don't yell at my employees because they aren't trained to provide one of the extra services this bookstore offers. Yell at me if you want; I'm in charge of training, and so far I'm the only person here whom I have authorized to offer all of our extra services.

But don't expect me to offer you one of our free, non-required services or to offer you money for your books if you start behaving rudely. I am obligated to be of assistance to and polite to my customers. And so are you. If you've brought books to sell at this shop, you are the seller and I am the customer. I can make you an offer, which you can accept or refuse, or you can quote me a price, which I can accept or refuse, or I can refuse to buy the books altogether and expect you to remove them from my premises promptly. Nothing in those options qualifies you to hurl abuse. Nothing obligates me to take it. I'm the private citizen whose money you want. Act like it.

This post does not apply to 99.9% of the people who walk through our doors: the interesting, thoughtful, smart, funny, kind, and/or good-natured people who treat this place with a reasonable level of respect and the staff with a reasonable - often exceptional - level of courtesy. We strive to return their respect and courtesy and to offer fair prices both in buying and selling books. We strive to make this place a clean, fun, low-stress, high-value environment and to offer as many helps and services as we reasonably can. If we fail to meet your expectations, of course we want to know. You have every right to exactly the kind of respect and freedom to refuse a transaction that we do, and we value your constructive feedback.

No, except for the immediately preceding paragraph, this post applies to the few people who behave as though this bookshop were a public, state-funded toilet into which they feel entitled to dump their "business."

Knock it off. I'm not smiling and nodding here. I'm mad as hell. Don't hurt my place, my stuff, or the morale of my people. I'm not going to take it anymore.

P.S. Publically funded toilets deserve better than that, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment