Blog 148: Twelve People Who Visit Bookshops.

October 14, 2022

I have to confess, I haven’t read Shaun Bythell’s Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops’ so this list may have some similarities to his book, however the list below is based on my own observations from working in a large second-hand bookshop. Please note this list is loosely based on reality and is not meant to be taken too seriously.

1] The Box Rummagers

These customers are a curious bunch, when they see an open box, they have a strange compulsion to rifle through it.¬† Sometimes this is a hindrance to the bookshop staff as the box rummager may be drawn to boxes of books that haven’t been processed or priced yet. Box rummagers also don’t appear to care where these boxes are, and are quite happy to sit in the middle of the floor in order to look through what can only be in their minds, a cardboard treasure box.

2] The First Timers

The First Timers are easy to spot, they usually walk into the shop with expressions of pure amazement and sometimes confusion. They will also ask loudly ‘Is this place a library?’

3] The Lost Husband Seekers

Usually sporting a frown or a look of confusion, these customers often come in with a bag of goodies they have bought from a different shop and offer an explanation for their arrival by saying; ‘I’m just looking for my husband’. Sometimes they may ask questions like, ‘Has a tall man walked in here?’ To which there is no adequate reply as there are often a lot of different customers browsing the shelves. The Lost Husband will sometimes hear their other half and offer some help in locating them by shouting out from their position.

4] The Annualists

These customers know exactly what they’re doing and exactly where they are going. They will spend hours browsing the shelves collecting armfuls of books they wish to purchase. Sometimes they may start a pile of books at the desk and add to it as they go round the shop. Once they are ready to pay, they will inform the staff that they make a special visit to the shop every year and may confess to saving their money especially for this one visit.

5] The Cafe Hunters

This may not happen in every bookshop, but we advertise coffee on our sign and most people assume that coffee equals cafe, it does not. We have a lovely coffee machine that makes very good coffee, but we do not have a cafe. The mistaken Cafe Hunter will stride in with a hopeful expression, look around and ask; ‘Do you have a cafe?’ When you inform them that you have a coffee machine, they immediately look disappointed and walk back out to find a cafe.

6] The One Book To Rule Them All Pursuers 

These customers have a one-track mind and only one book they wish to find. Sometimes they have been looking for this one book for years, others are looking for a recent new release that we may or may not have. Often these customers can’t remember the exact title or the author of the book they are looking for, as it may be a book from their distant childhood. Other customers seem genuinely confused that you don’t know the book that they are talking about, or don’t have it in stock, Many people don’t realise that knowing every book is an impossible feat, approximately three hundred thousand new books are published every year in the United States alone.

7] The Desperate Child Distractors

Parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles who are looking after the children for the day, will come in looking exhausted and relieved that they have finally found somewhere that might keep the children occupied for ten minutes. When we inform them that there is indeed a children’s section downstairs for young kids and upstairs for older kids, they smile weakly and march straight to the back to set up a temporary camp in the children’s section. Toddlers are especially entertaining as they will often swipe books that are far too advanced for them as their guardians usher them to the back of the shop.

8] The Book Dealer

The Book Dealer will make a beeline for the collectors’ books and then spend anywhere from fifteen minutes to a couple of hours carefully examining the rare books. If they do decide to purchase some books, they will always announce they are part of the book trade.

9] The Rainy Day Explorer

These customers are trying to escape the weather. They are usually on holiday somewhere in the area and have sought out an activity they can do that is inside when the weather turns bad. The Rainy Day Explorer is usually delighted with big bookshops and will spend hours inside browsing the shelves. They will often buy books that they didn’t know they were looking for.

10] The Short On Time Visitors

These customers don’t have much time to waste and go straight to the desk to ask any staff member if they have a particular book in stock. Sometimes these customers have a list of books they are looking for. If you can find their book, these customers are usually pleased and happy to pay and leave as quickly as possible.

11] The One Lap Sprinters

Not really customers as The One Lap Sprinters don’t tend to buy anything. They come into the shop and do a lap of the shop and walk back out again. No one knows why they have come in or what they are looking for, although sometimes they are silent Cafe Hunters.

12] The Bookshop Professional

The Bookshop Professional shops regularly in bookshops and knows the drill. Sometimes they ask for directions but mostly they locate the areas they want to search and find a book or two they wish to buy. If they have more time, they will spend longer browsing all the shelves and picking up whatever catches their eye.