Kid Who Just Started Collecting Pokemon Cards: "Do you have any John Lennon cards?"
Me: "Um. No?"
Kid's Friend Who Knows More About Pokemon: "I think he means Charmeleon cards."
Me: "Huh. That's definitely a maybe."
Working in collectible retail means you field a lot phone calls from people looking to sell collections of various things tangentially related to what your store actually sells, or Not At All related to what your store sells.
For the most part, people try and unload baseball cards, Beanie Babies, DVDs, video games, or National Geographic magazines.
Today, someone Actually called the store, trying to sell a collection of pogs.
Wannabe Pog Seller: "Do you know of anywhere that might be interested in taking them?"
Me: "No. I took a collection of pogs to the dump once, and the employees tracked me down at my house and made me take them back."
Things at the store have been pretty chill for a while. Busy, but not stressfully busy. And it had been a long time since there was an in-store customer worth writing about.
It's still been a while since there was an in-store Customer worth talking about. But Thursday brought back a Hell I Have Not Fully Experienced since my days working at The Coolidge Corner NEC: double-digit aged children whose parents have never had the human decency to say No to them.
A perfectly nice dad and his perfectly reasonable kids were in the store. His kids were probably three and five. The older one was enamored of The Simpsons and asked his dad if they could watch it when they got home. The younger kid was barely keeping it together Not Touching any of the plushies that he so desperately wanted. They were just kids being kids.
Then THEY came in. An eleven or twelve year old boy and his ten or eleven year old sister. No parents in site. They had been knocking on the front windows for a minute before they just dropped their bikes in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the store, and strolled in.
Whatever, they're just kids.
The girl walks over to the YA section (cool), picks up a YA Catwoman book, and starts looking around.
Before the pandemic, there were chairs in the YA section. We kept them around a display table, and parents and kids could sit down and read together and talk. And we, the employees, would occasionally have meetings there. Since the pandemic, we hide the chairs under some displays because we can't really have people spending an hour reading when we can only have about ten people in the store at a time. We, Especially can't have two grubby little germ factories who keep pulling their masks down below their noses, sitting in the store spraying Covid everywhere.
The girl sees the chairs under the displays, pulls one out and plops down on it. Because there didn't seem to be an imminent influx of customers, I decided to let it slide. Kids will be kids.
The brother kept wandering around knocking things over. Not on purpose. He's just at The Age Of Klutz. It's fine.
After I sell a few kid books to the dad of Two Perfectly Normal Kids, they walk out of the store, and I start working on a reorder.
12 Year Old: "Can I see the Captain America shield?"
There is, behind the counter, an expensive Captain America shield replica hanging by our wall books. I have never taken it down before, nor seen it taken it down. But I notice it has a couple of smudges on it, and figure, Kids Are Kids, I'll just let this kid hold the shield for a few minutes, and then I'll be able to sanitize it, and get rid of some of the marks before putting it back. Fine.
12YO: "What's the scale on this?"
Me: "I have no idea. It's just a replica prop."
12YO: "But is it to scale?"
Me: "I have no idea."
12YO: "Can you look it up?"
Kids will be kids.
Me: "Nope. Their website is down."
This is a lie.
The kid wanders around for a few minutes, shows his sister the shield and then brings it back to me, and I start to Windex it before giving it a once over with some Sanitizer.
12YO: "Can I try on the Boba Fett helmet?"
There is a $350 Boba Fett helmet behind the counter. It is not for sale.
Me: "Sorry. It's up there permanently. We can't really take it down."
12YO: "What if I buy it?"
Me: "Well, it sells for about $400, but ours is not for sale."
12YO: "That's too expensive."
12YO: "What about that Mandalorian helmet?"
Me: "That one is for sale. But it's also about $400."
12YO: "Can I try it on?"
12YO: "Why not?"
Me: "Because of Covid, we're not allowed to let people try on helmets."
This is sort of a lie, but it also should be true. So it's now true.
12YO: "Oh. But I don't have Covid."
Me: "Good. I still can't let you try it on."
He wanders away to go knock some more things off of shelves and then put them back in the wrong places.
While he's wandering, the dad with normal kids comes back, without his kids, to buy a set of books he'd been considering. It's a big sale, so I'm happy to see him return, and begin talking to him about how much I enjoy the series (East Of West by Jonathan Hickman).
12YO: "Excuse me?"
12YO: "Could I borrow $400? I want to buy the Mandalorian helmet."
Dadguy, laughing: "Me, too. But it's out of my price range. Sorry."
12YO: "My dad will pay you back. We have the money."
Dadguy: "Sorry, pal. Not today."
12YO walks back to where his sister is, and sits on the floor to pout.
Dadguy buys his books, says goodbye to everyone, laughs again, and leaves.
12YO: "Let's go. I don't want to be here anymore."
10YO: "Ok. Sir?"
10YO: "Can I take this book with me? I'm not finished with it yet?"
Me: "No. Sorry. We're not a library, we're a store. You'd have to buy it."
10YO: "But I"m not done with it."
I shrug. "We don't let people borrow books. Sorry."
12YO: "Our dad will pay for it next time we come in. He has money."
Me: "Sorry. You have to pay for the books before you take them. That's how stores work."
I shrug. "Capitalism."
12YO: "Adults always say that."
Then the 10YO put the book back (in way the wrong place), and the two of them went outside to their miraculously unstolen bikes and rode off to, no doubt, annoy someone else who works in retail.
Random Pokemon Scalper: Do you guys have any Elite Trainer Boxes.
Me: Nope. Sorry. We sold out of them already.
RPS: Aw, man. I waited for a half an hour outside your other store for the girl to show up, and she only had two blue, and I need a blue and a red.
Me: That's not us. We don't have another store.
RPS: Huh. Oh! I saw your dad the other day.
Me: I don't think so.
RPS: Sure, I stopped in and your dad was working there.
Me: Nobody's dad works here. I think you've got the wrong store.
RPS: I talked with the older guy.
Me: I don't know who that is. We go as old as mid-40s here.
RPS: But your kids work there, right?
Me: Nope. No kids. I don't know who you talked to.
RPS: Huh. So you don't have any extra Elite Trainer Boxes for me in the back?
Me: I don't know who you are, so ... no. Sorry.
RPS: Ok. Bye Curtis.
Me: Bye Stiffany.
It doesn't just happen to me. This is from a former coworker circa 2012:
Please note this wasn't a Comic Book Person being weird, this is just a weirdo who comes into a comic book store and is aggressively baffing to a specialty retail employee:
I Swear I wish I was making this sh*t up...
Rando: "Do you have Baaahhbeezze? I need a weddin days Baaahhbeeze."
Me: "Sorry, we don't carry Barbie Dolls"
Rando: "You got supthin against Baaahhbeezze?"
Me: "Nope, we just don't carry them here. We are a comic book store."
Rando: "My daughtah needs Wedding Day Baaahhbeeze"
Me: "Sorry, you might try Target or Toy's R Us."
Rando:"Ugh, Do I look like a Communist?"
Me: "I'm sorry?"
Rando: "Never mind... You think Booksmith has Bahhbeeeze?"
Me: "Probably not they are a..."
He turns around and walks out the door as I speak.
I am going to start carrying a flask to work I think...
Anyone who's ever worked in the service industry will tell you that No Matter How Long It's Been Since You've Waited Tables whenever you're really stressed out, you stress dream about waiting tables. Missing orders, people who get up and leave for no reasons, not knowing table numbers, wrong food, coworkers not showing up, etc.
About six months ago, all my stress dreams transitioned into Trying To Order Comics. Usually, they're super brief ten second or so dreams that wake me up. A book won't show up in Diamond. Our POS won't work. I have a pile of special orders and no way to tell who they're for.
Tonight's was ... different.
A distributor was calling, trying to get me to order more copies of their books. And I was trying to explain to him that nobody had ever bought his books from us, so I couldn't justify ordering more, and he kept suggesting ways I could reach out to people to get them to buy his books.
What were his book's names?
"Polite Misogyny", "Unintentional Racism", "Traced Porn Faces And Plotholes", "Homophobic Stereotypes By Someone Who Hasn't Yet Realized They're Gay", and a giant hardcover called "This Hasn't Aged Well".
I kept handing copies to regular customers who sat down, read the books in their entireties, and asked me questions I couldn't answer because I hadn't read the books.
Then they would leave. Without buying anything. Including their massive piles of preordered books. Because they were so put off by the books I had tried to sell them.
Can we please reach the stage of the pandemic where the Restaurants In My Dreams can reopen so I can go back to not knowing table numbers?
Random Loiterer walks into store, over to counter, and with no preamble says "I don't mean to brag" uggggh "but my hand was Batman's first girlfriend."
"Huh." I replied.
Then he walked out the door.
This motherfucker is seriously rolling Every Loose Die In The Store to see which ones give him the highest count? I'm going to chase him out of the store with this Curse Of Strahd coffin set.
Employment is challenging right now. I bet it's damn near impossible to find work if you don't have experience, but calling up businesses at random and saying "Hi. This is totally strange, you know, but if you guys are hiring, I think you found your next employee."
I can guarantee you, we are not, but if we were, we wouldn't have.
My favorite part of Pandemic Mask Wearing is that it enables me to yawn repeatedly while someone who is Never Going To Buy Anything From Me tells me the complete history of every comic they've ever thought about purchasing.