Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hello, my name is pond scum

Today I was in Barnes & Nobles doing a little holiday shopping. I checked out the teen section and the romance section and was delighted to see that they had two Stephanie Rowe titles and one Stephie Davis title. Yay! So I gathered them up and skipped to the customer service desk, showed them my pile, identified myself as the author, and asked whether it would be okay to sign them. Two lovely people helped me. I was signing, they were stickering, all was great.

But right next to me, a man was talking to another customer service rep. He needed to buy a book for some female he didn't know at all, and he had no idea what to get her. The customer service was being entirely unhelpful (example: rep: "What does she like?" man: "I don't know. She likes to eat, I guess." rep: "I could recommend a book on eating disorders.")

So I chime in and I ask the man how old the girl is. He says she's in ninth grade. So I beam and hold up the copy of my teen book that I'm currently signing and I say "You should get her a teen romance."

So that customer service rep gives me the poisonous look and snaps, "I have to get away from you before we get in an argument." The venom and disgust in her voice made me feel like the scourge of the earth. Hello? Did I look like the type to kill puppies and small children for amusement? So I try to wipe the shock off my face and say, "Do you have a problem with romance?" And she goes, "I have to get away from you," with the most venomous tone I think I've ever heard in my life, and then she grabs the customer and drags him off.

I was so shocked I honestly didn't know how to respond. Now, I've run into plenty of people who like to knock romance, and I can live with that. But never have I run into anyone who made me feel like the illegitimate daughter of Satan. Seriously, this woman was oozing poison like nothing I've ever experienced.

The two nice reps who were helping me made no comment at all, and I finished signing the books up, totally shaken up. I offered to put the books back so I could make sure they were face out, and as I was carrying them back, the Evil Woman was returning to the front of the store. She walked right past me and wouldn't even make eye contact. Obviously she figured out that I torture and destroy humans merely by making eye contact... ????

Ironically enough, when I got back to the teen section, the man she'd been helping was walking out with the book she'd apparently gotten for him, and it was Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which is basically the same type of book I write, except in that series, there is actual sex going on, and mine never do more than kiss. Evil Customer Service Rep and I need to have a little educational session? Or some sensitively training?

I'm kidding. Nothing is going to help her.

So anyway, I was totally wigged out and I didn't know what to do. First of all, as a romance reader, I was so disconcerted by her hostility that I would totally take my business elsewhere. Second of all, as an author, I was so disconcerted by her hostility that I wouldn't want to go back to that store again to sign stock.

She was too vehement for me to bother talking to (I knew there was nothing I could say that would change her mind), but I seriously debated whether I should talk to the manager. In the end, I left without saying anything. Why? Because I have talked to many booksellers who have had an author appear at that store, had the author do something they didn't like, and consequently blackballed the author from their store. I knew I was in the right, but I felt that I could not risk causing a stink, even a really nice, friendly stink. What if the manager chastised this woman, and then this woman went on a rampage about me to all the other staff members? I'm not there to defend myself, story gets distorted, suddenly a very big chain in a very busy location doesn't support me.

I discussed it with family members when I got home, and the general consensus was it wasn't worth the risk to my career to say anything. I still feel like I should have said something, but I'm terrible at confrontation, and I really don't know if I could confront the issue without causing more damage than it was worth.

So instead, I'm sitting here at the computer fretting about it.

What would you guys have done?


At 4:27 PM, Blogger Shannon McKelden said...

I think you did the right thing. Or at least what I would have done. That is just bizarre, and I have to say I'm surprised that the two people helping you didn't comment or apologize or something...but then maybe she makes a habit of behaving badly and they're used to it.

I'd suggest not giving it another thought, but I know how hard that would be. Try your best!

Maybe it'll cheer you to know I picked up Unbecoming Behavior the other day, as your new book looks so great that I couldn't resist trying one that's already out. Can't wait to read it!


At 7:33 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

You mean before or after I smacked her silly? Okay, so I wouldn't really do that, but I'd sure think about it. How incredibly rude of her, and then not to even engage you in a debate about the pros and cons of romance. Like Shannon, I'm surprised the employees helping you didn't say anything. Maybe they were embarrassed.

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I would have caused such a stink that they would have been fumigating that store for weeks. How ridiculously rude. I would have mouthed off, confronted the bitch, and...subsequently... probably never be able to show my face in that bookstore again. However, I would feel avenged.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

Well, I would have done what you did, because I would have been too stunned to say anything, but I can't believe it. I agree with Shannon that the other two were used to her bad behavior. Did you get her name? Don't they have customer service cards?

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous PBW said...

I've worked as a bookseller, and this was completely out of line.

Personally I'd go back, find the customer service rep and ask her to have a cup of coffee with me, or if she refused, a private word. I'd politely let her know her reaction was unprofessional and inappropriate, and hear what she had to say about it. Whatever she said to justify her behavior, at the end I'd point out that I could be having this conversation with her boss, and leave it there (thus she gets a scare but you don't cost her her job, and maybe she thinks about it the next time she feels like tearing some poor author's head off.)

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Stephanie Rowe said...

You guys are awesome! Thanks so much for your comments. Michelle, you are too funny. I wish I could have done gone crazy on her! She deserved it! pbw, I think your idea is great. I might go back and see if I can find her, and talk to her in a calm manner. Thanks for all your input!


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