Booksellers get asked the most amazing questions and we all love to share our best customer interactions with each other. Recently the really hysterical stories seem to be involving zombies. I had my own personal book selling moment with zombies last year, so when my fellow bookseller Jen Beard told me about her own interaction, I knew that my fellow Janeites would appreciate the irony of customers perceptions of Jane Austen and zombies and enjoy a good giggle. She has offered the rundown in her own words. Take it away Jen!
So the basic story is that last Christmas season I was helping a customer pick out a book for herself. Now, as you know, this time of year brings in a lot of non-readers shopping in the store, many of whom are not well versed in literature. We all have our own funny stories of customers mixing up the titles and authors of books. Much of the time it is an easy mix up confusing similar sounding names like Walden and Whitman and other times the mix up is so absurd that it tries our ability to not laugh in their faces.
Generally, we are just happy that they are reading anything and are buying it from us, so we help them as best we can. Well, this woman, and she was a woman not a teenager, came up to me with a copy of Jane Austen: Seven Novels, our beautiful leatherbound Jane Austen collection in her basket. You will remember last year’s big trend in teen fiction was to “mash-up” a classic work of fiction with something to make it appeal to the teen audience. The most popular one being Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen listed a co-author since it was based on her original work. The lady then very earnestly asked me if this collection had the Austen story with zombies in it. At first I thought she was joking as we frequently make our own literary jokes and puns at work, often with the customers. I soon realized that she was not joking and really had no idea what she had in her basket. I very politely explained that Jane Austen wrote her stories around two hundred years ago and the zombie story was a lampoon written by someone else based on Jane’s book. She was very interested in reading the collection and not wanting to discourage a reader I suggested she look at a few pages to be sure that she was comfortable with the language. She ended up choosing the teen fiction.
Jen has an incredible sense of humor (as all good booksellers should) and created this hysterical Judgmental Bookselling Ostrich graphic for me and sent it to my Facebook page. Now, far be from me to ever say that any bookseller is judgmental toward our wonderful customers, but there is a smidgeon of truth lurking and a lot of good humor. Zombies in “our Jane” is a goofy concept that you just have to roll your eyes and go with. The third book in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy Dreadfully Ever After just arrived in our store this week. One wonders out loud what new humorous adventures from the bookselling trenches will ensue?
A big thank you to Jen for sharing her story and the humors graphic.
2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose
That is a great story! And the graphic is hilarious. If the zombie mash-ups have done anything for literacy, it’s introduced young readers to the real Jane Austen. Or at least awareness of who Jane is…even if they decide to go with the monster fiction instead. ^__~
Oh man! That’s hysterical! It’s also kind of sad.
I bought this book this week. I haven’t gotten to it yet.
Oh my, that is funny stuff indeed. It is also interesting to notice that Jen already knew that this lady would not be comfortable with our Jane’s wonderful, grand and lilting prose – and suggested the teen “zombie” version, which she ultimately ended up choosing. Kudos to you booksellers for being so patient, sweet and understanding of the patrons that are not so well-versed. Thanks for this lovely post.
I have a theory that good customer service is half mind-reading. Hilarious story–thanks for sharing, Jen.