Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.


Posted by Lissa on January 11, 2011

Or, “Why Lack Of Choice Breeds Insane Lines and Massive Rage.”

Lissa got to visit the university bookstore yesterday!!

Of my three classes queued up for the semester, I purchased one’s textbook online. The Anatomy and Physiology class had a packet of materials, so I had to buy that at the bookstore; the Developmental Psych had a book for rent, so that had to be done at the bookstore as well.

First thing as I walk through the door: “Ma’am, you can’t bring a bag in.”

ME (blankly): “What?”

LITTLE PREPPY TWERP: “You can’t bring your purse in.  You’ll have to leave it with the others.”  And he gestures toward a pile of backpacks sitting by the door.

ME (incredulously): “There’s no way I’m leaving my purse like that.  Can you get me my books?”

LITTLE PREPPY TWERP: “Did you order them online to pick up?”

ME (irritated): “No, I *tried*, but the server was down all weekend.”

LPT: “Then I can’t help you.  You’ll have to leave your bag.”

ME (firmy): “There is no way in hell I am leaving my bag on the floor in plain sight.”

LPT: “Then you can leave them in the lockers.  They’re down the hall.”

ME (absolutely pissed that he didn’t tell me that to begin with, and trying to turn him to stone with my eyes): “FINE.”


After 45 minutes in line I couldn’t take it any longer.  I pulled out my iPhone and tried the online ordering site again.  It went through this time — yay hooray!!  I immediately left the line and went to visit the Little Preppy Twerp again.

Uh-oh. Preppy twerp is gone, replaced by two students who are frantically ringing up people returning books in a nearby window.  After a few minutes I politely, but loudly, ask: “EXCUSE me, are you servicing book pickups as well?”

“Yes I’ll be with you in just a moment,” the harried young woman promised.

Five minutes later I was clasping my hands to keep from drumming my fingers on the counter.  It took conscious effort to keep my lips from pursing and my eyes from glaring.  It’s not their fault, they’re just really busy today, I chanted to myself.  You’re a lucky woman. You’re much better able to afford books now than the last time you went to school.  And you have a working car!  Count your blessings; this will all be over soon.

Another five minutes of building fury and internal meditation.

Finally, FINALLY, she turns back to me.  “Can I have your order number?”

ME: “Sure, but it might not be in the system yet.  But I have it here on my iPhone and I have all the books in the basket, so I can just show you the receipt and–”

HER (instantly): “It says all over the website that it takes 48 hours to fulfill.  You can’t get them before 48 hours.  It says that on the website.”

ME (goggling): “I have the receipt RIGHT HERE.  I have the books RIGHT HERE.  It will save us both time and trouble to check me out now.  You’re really going to make me leave and come back in two days?”

HER (triumphantly): “It takes 48 hours.”

ME (once again trying the Medusa trick. Damn, why can’t I turn people to stone?): “FINE.”

And I left those damn books right there on her counter and stormed out.


Folks, if a retail place had ever treated me like that I’d *never* give them business again.  I’d spread the word to all my friends and family not to patronize them. I’d write letters to customer service directors and tell them how unhappy they’d made me.

As it is . . .

I’ll try and buy more of my books from Amazon.com.  Cheaper price when new than the Bookstore, and free delivery to my door.

Grrrrrrrr . . . .


  1. bluesun said

    My school had the same policy, but at least it’s small enough that you are never out of view of the main door in the bookstore, and they station a security guard right there (not that that will help anything).

    I tried to buy all of my books on Amazon, though.

  2. Brad_in_MA said

    Now imagine the same crowd running your health care & associated insurance programs. Oh wait, they already do !!!

    – Brad

  3. Damn- Brad beat me to it!

  4. Sarah said

    The biggest pain in my ass re: books was my community college’s bookstore. They made you hand them your class schedule so that they could go to the shelves behind the counter and pick your books for you. Oh, yes, that seems like a nice little time saver, but they had a small shrink-wrapping machine sitting on top of one shelf in plain sight. Sometimes, your “new,” wrapped textbook had highlighted paragraphs, notes in margins, so forth and so on…but oh, the manager and employees didn’t know anything about that.

    And when I had to buy a study guide for a psychology class, the asshole bookstore manager handed me one that had been marked up in pen – answers circled in the practice-test sections and all that, which doesn’t do me much good. I asked him for another copy and he copped an attitude, telling me that used study guides aren’t going to be perfect.

    “May I at least have one that hasn’t been marked in permanent ink?” I replied as I showed him the practice-test sections that were all inked up.

    He huffed and puffed and tossed a better specimen on the counter. Asshole.

    Oh, and that college did not disburse unspent portions of PELL grants or in-school scholarships until the middle of the semester. Seriously: I got mine around my birthday in the fall (October). But until the week before disbursal, you were free to charge anything in the campus bookstore against the balance of what the school was going to give you…what a scam.

    Yeah – if any other retailer treated me like that, I would rain down my unholy, red-headed fury on their pathetic heads. But what are you gonna do?

    P.S. Amazon will give you a free year of Prime shipping on a buttload of their stuff (even non-college-related items) if you’re a college student: http://www.amazon.com/gp/student/signup/info

    And Amazon Marketplace can be a good place to buy used books for decent prices (I liked selling mine this way), but be aware of the fact that some sellers will ship them Media Mail. I once waited three solid weeks for a small, lightweight paperback that would have actually been cheaper for the seller to send First Class Mail.

  5. Lissa said

    Brad and Doubletrouble, I was thinking along the same lines 🙂

    Sarah, that’s just utterly CHARMING of your bookstore. And thanks for the Amazon tip!!

  6. Jon said

    I’m a librarian at a community college and the single biggest issue we hear about every semester is the cost and hassle of obtaining textbooks. Once you sit in on a few campus committees you get to realize what a ridiculous racket the textbook industry is currently operating.

    • Lissa said

      I believe you on the cost, but that wasn’t my main concern. (I figured that my wallet would get violated in mean and nasty ways. Textbooks have always been cruel to the poor thing.) What really irked me was the lousy customer service. Any private business that wanted to remain solvent would a) schedule extra shifts and extra tellers for the first week of classes; b) tell me at once that there was a secure area to leave my bag; and especially c) at least made a token effort at letting me bring home the items that I had purchased online and for which I had an order number. They were right there . . . I don’t think the clerk was a bad person, but she had no interest in making me a satisfied customer. Her own interest was to dispose of me in whatever fashion would be the quickest. Sure, it means they’ll have to restock the books, and then go get them again and put them in a labeled bag; sure, I’ll have to drive back to the bookstore tomorrow. But — most importantly to her — I left her line after thirty seconds, rather than the perhaps five minutes it would have taken to depart from the official procedure. That was what made my head burst into flames.

  7. This is one of the major reasons I provide as many of the
    reading materials to my students in PDF for free as possible. I
    find most complete text books are a bit lacking anyway, and I can
    utilize fair use to put together a (hopefully) more beneficial

  8. Kurt said

    I have found that international editions of textbooks are a
    great deal cheaper than the American editions. All the ones I have
    bought (for engineering courses atleast) are exactly the same,
    except the international are usually paperbacks instead of

  9. john b said

    I’d have been out of that store to the administration. Not only would I have got my books right then, I’d have that clerk fired and horse whipped.

    Note that 16 years ago, I wasn’t nearly as kindly.

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