This story was originally posted on March 24, 2010
I used to work for a bookstore that recently went into receivership because certain people in Higher Management managed to screw everyone over, but that’s another story and a much longer one.
A few years ago I was working in the exclusive children’s bookstore of the various chains of this bookstore. As we were so small, there are only four of us working there, including the Manager, so it was completely normal for only one of us to open, one of us to close. This happened on one of those days when I was all by myself, trying to close.
This mum and little boy arrived about six in the afternoon. We don’t close until seven so that’s over an hour for them to find their purchase, and go away but the mum seemed to have another idea.
We do allow customers to read through the books, pick a little corner and have a little story-time before leaving. Some of them actually buy the book or another one, others just use us as a temporary crèche. This woman seemed to believe that we had not only become a little place for her to leave her kid, but also a library.
So, they arrive at six. Mum finds a comfortable spot on the floor for her kid. We have this Thomas the Tank Engine Water Drawing Mat to keep the kid occupied and she encourages the kid to have some fun with that.
Then, without first checking that I would be all right with it, she gives the kid a peck on the cheek and leaves the store.
Now, we are one store on the top floor of a large shopping centre. There is an Internet Café just outside of our door so sometimes the parents do leave the kids with us and go out and use the internet. We don’t like it. We tell the customers that they have to get their asses back inside the store (nicely of course) as we are not paid to watch their kids.
No one else is in the store, so I can keep an eye on the kid. I should call security on her but we’ve done that before and ended up being screamed at by the parents for ‘daring to interrupt their precious time to shop’.
But I’m alone and new, so I just bite my lip and watch the kid. He’s extremely well behaved and keeps himself amused for the next thirty minutes before mum arrives with various shopping bags that informs me that not only has she left the floor the shop is on, but has gone outside to some of the ones out on the main street.
Again, I leave the situation alone. It’s only me, I’m tired and I get to go home in half an hour. I decide to let her go on her business and hope that she just leaves soon.
She picks up a few picture books, sits next to her kid and starts to read. Other than every now and then checking on them, I go about the few things I need to do, mostly straightening and making the store look all clean and pretty for tomorrow morning.
Finally it gets to five to seven. I do one last check around the store before approaching the woman and telling her that we are closing.
I notice that she’s gathered quite a pile of picture books around her, but that should only take a few moments to put away. It’s all good.
I leave them alone before realizing that it’s now seven. The shop should technically be closed and as I move to close one half of the French doors, a man comes running in. I tell him that we are closed and he points to the woman and the kid, explaining to me that they are his wife and child. Fine. He’ll undoubtedly just want a quick chat with her and then all three will leave.
No such luck.
Three minutes later I realize that he has now sat down and is joining in reading to the kid. Both of them have surrounded all of their shopping bags around them and they’re looking quite comfortable.
I’m getting annoyed. I want to go home and we don’t get paid overtime. Once seven o’clock strikes, I’m no longer paid. I’m losing my own precious ‘free time’ from retail.
Both of them nod at me and then turn back to their reading.
Two can play at this game.
As it’s winter time, and we’re on the top floor with a glass ceiling, when the lights are off it’s nearly impossible to move around without bumping into something. Unless you know the layout. Now I’m not that mean to turn off all the lights (I don’t want to be sued when one of them trips over something), but I turn off the ones directly over them and only leave the one over the cash desk, the entrance and the backroom’s door.
A clear sign that we’re closed.
Those custy’s take half an hour to get out of the store. I have gone to them repeatedly, nearly every five minutes, to tell them to go. But they just nod their head and then go back to what they are doing.
I end up going right into the little space they’ve created around them, pick up all the books that they have discarded as read, put it in a pile away from them and then tell them to leave or else I’m calling security.
I end up having to go over the cash desk, ring up security and in a very loud voice over the phone tell them that I am having a few problems with customers.
The fact that I’m actually calling security on them finally gets them leaving. They gather all of their belongings, and then decide to give me a nod and a smile while they are leaving. They spoke perfect English, so it wasn’t as if they didn’t understand me, and then to go and act as if I haven’t been trying to get them to leave for the past half an hour…
I should have just pulled the book out of their hands and physically removed them myself, but that would have probably ended up the shop being sued and me being fired. And all because some customers have decided that we’re a crèche, library and open for the hours that suit them.