Friday, October 16, 2009

On the Border

Borders. Not the best book store going, but not the most evil, either. Every time I need to ask a clerk for something, though, it becomes a nightmare of retail proportions. This day was no different. All I wanted was a copy of Apocalypse Culture for a friend's birthday. She likes studying the dark side of humanity, so I thought she would enjoy it.

The clerk, a bespectacled young man who looked like he enjoyed the musical stylings of Hootie and the Blowfish, walked over to a computer and typed the title in. Of course, he spelled it wrong ... a few times. "I don't think we have it," he told me.

"You might want to spell it differently."

"It's not spelled the normal way?" he asked.

"No. It is."

He shrugged and tried it another way. It was wrong, but close enough to get the title to come up on the screen. Bingo.

"We don't have it in stock," he said. "We can order it."

I wanted to tell him I could order it, too. Possibly even find it new and cheaper on eBay. I just thanked him, however, and told him I would look around instead. He answered with a shrug.

Getting competent help at Borders has been a problem for me for far too long. I'll usually ask for a title of either a book or DVD and will be told to look in some section that has nothing to do with the title, or have it typed into the computer (usually misspelled), or be told no such thing exists (that's my favorite). I don't know what it is with the staff, but that is usually how it goes.

I'm not a fan of big book stores, and this is one of the reasons why. I'll still shop there when I need something right away and nobody else has it, but if I can avoid it I will. Like all book junkies, however, I can't stay out of there. There's something about a book store ... the smell ... the way they look on the shelf ... the possibilities ... the comfort in knowing I will never run out of things to read.

The staff still sucks, though.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

The Anarchist Cookbook is suspect at best. There are a lot of things in there I wouldn't try. The politics are spotty, and some have said this book is a front, kind of a dangerous bit of disinformation. The controversy behind it, though, made me want it, and many, many years ago I obtained it ... but not without some problems.

I first tried to order this book from Waldenbooks. I asked the clerk to special order it for me. She looked it up in her system and said that their distributor blacklisted the book and would not sell it to any of the bookstores it supplied. Fair enough. A distributor doesn't have to carry anything.

I then took my business to a different, smaller bookstore -- one with balls. When I told the clerk there of my problem with Waldenbooks he said, "That's bullshit. We have the same distributor, and I can order that for you." And he did. Within days I had my book. Disappointment followed.

I never found out why Waldenbooks, which I never had much of a problem with previous to this, didn't want to order the book. I can only imagine there was some kind of corporate liability scare and instead of owning up to it, employees were instructed to put the blame on the distributor. It was a coward's act, and I lost all respect for the book chain after that.

Again, the book itself is nothing special and not worth the controversy associated with it. Every few years it shows up in the news when some criminal some place is found to have it in his possession. Yawn. Any book that has that kind of a reputation, however, needs to be checked out if only to see if the hoopla has any teeth to it. In this case, it really doesn't. And as for it being disinformation, I kind of think there is some truth to that, and that alone makes it well worth having as a piece of history.