9 Rules of the Bookstore According to Employees

By March 3, 2020Bookshops, News

Booksellers have been up in arms about the way some people treat books and employees in shops.

Insider had conversations with many US American booksellers and found they had some ground rules they would like people to adhere to when visiting stores.

Some seem so obvious but a few thoughtless customers paint us all in a bad light so let’s make sure none of us are adding to the workload of the employees.

Do your research first

Don’t expect the booksellers to run around trying to find the perfect book for you. You must come prepared with a list of what you need. “The cover was red”, “My aunt said it had a sexy man in it who reminded her of Rhett Butler.” are at best vague and entirely unhelpful to the reader or the bookseller.

“Booksellers are not paid to Google the most popular basketry books for you,” said a bookseller, “Bring a title, author, or ISBN and they will be happy to look for it.”

A bookshop is not a creche; booksellers aren’t babysitters.

It is amazing this even needs to be said but I have seen it with my own eyes. Just because the book shop has a couple of bean bags and a rollercoaster table game, doesn’t mean it is a playground in which you can let your kids run riot. Supervised play is encouraged. Unruly children are not.

Put books back where they came from.

Occasionally we change our minds and need to return a book to where we found it but for some reason some of us can’t be bothered and dump it wherever we want. This is not cool, readers.

A few people have also taken it upon themselves to act as some bookish troll who moves books about on purpose- putting certain political books in the ‘fiction’ section, moving books they don’t like or agree with to hidden areas. Also supremely uncool. Don’t mess with the layout- it isn’t big and it isn’t clever.

Don’t pick up more than you are planning to purchase.

Apparently some people pick up every book they’re interested in, only to carry them about the store, and dump the pile on the side after deciding upon which book they want most.

A bookseller explained: “People will pick up a lot of different titles. They’ll create their own personal stack, and they end up getting one or two titles. Don’t wait until the end when you’re paying to basically hand over 10 books for them to put away.”

Don’t get angry at the employee if they don’t have your book.

It is not the bookseller’s fault if the book you want isn’t in store. It could be an obscure title and need specially ordering or it could be very popular and be on reorder.

Have some patience, have some humility, and don’t feel so entitled to have what you want when you want it.

It is advised that customers phone the store ahead of travelling to avoid disappointment.

Do not damage books, fold pages, or bend spines.


According to some booksellers some customers have a habit of bending the books back, breaking the spine, and not purchasing it!

A Barnes & Noble employee said how she has caught people intentionally kicking and damaging books, perhaps to try and get a discount (which of course is still terrible) but often for no reason at all.

Do not eat or drink around the books.

No food or drink near the books! If the bookshop has a designated cafe, then keep all liquids, stickiness, and crumbs there.

This goes doubly for your child- and we all know how inordinately sticky children can get even without food in their hands.

A bookseller said: “What tends to happen is that people have a cup of coffee and a little bit of coffee spills and gets on a page. I know people are hungry and they’re thirsty, but put your beverages away.”

You broke it? You bought it.

If you or your child rip a page or break something it really is best to own up. Offer to pay for the damaged item. Accidents happen but you must at least own up to it- do not just put the book back on the shelf, hidden for someone else to find.

Don’t visit stores for recommendations only to buy them online.

When you take a photo of the titles, or the staff recommendations, only to take them home and order online it is incredibly disheartening for the staff, and honestly just so rude.

Support local bookstores- support your town or city’s people buy frequenting stores that hire staff! Do not bemoan the lack of booksellers and then go and order your book from a soulless online company run by a billionaire just because it is a little cheaper.

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