Monday, July 17, 2006

Sales Clerks

Tyler Cowen likes "stupid" sales clerks, apparently on the theory that they will at least direct you to the right location without wasting time.

Hmm. Not sure about this. My worst sales clerk experience was as follows: I was in Half-Price Books in Dallas. (A great store, by the way: I've never seen any other bookstore that was literally about the size of a grocery store.)

Anyway, I was looking for Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which my father wanted for a birthday present. After being unable to find it in what seemed the most relevant section (I think it was "Roman History" or "Ancient History"), I asked a sales clerk. Without checking his computer, he said, "I think I know where that is." Then he proceeded to walk with me to . . . the section on Nineteenth-Century America.

As he started studying the shelves, I politely mentioned the title of the book again: "I've been having a hard time finding 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." Then something clicked in his head, he stood upright, and said, "Aha, we're in the wrong place. I know where it is." So we started walking across the store. I was a bit puzzled, because we seemed to be heading clear away from any of the history sections. But I thought that maybe the book was in a special section or something.

Finally we arrived --- at a fiction section devoted to romance novels. He told me to look for the author's last name. Rather than point out that Gibbons was not a romance novelist, I decided it was hopeless, and pretended to examine a few book spines while he walked away. Then, as I recall, I went home and ordered the book online.


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