After ten years as a bookseller, having worked in the same location for three different owners, I can still be surprised by the things people think we might sell.
Down at the bottom of the list are the least surprising things. We are asked almost every other day if we sell newspapers & magazines. We don't but some of our really big branches do, so it's not too much of an eyebrow raise there. It's the specific titles asked for, like The Racing Post? The New York Times? The Sunday Post?
Also bottom of the list are things like stamps, writing paper, pens (we sell them now). We used to sell picture postcards but not for some years, and we've always sold birthday and greetings cards. At different times we have also sold pencil cases, ceramic mugs, and other such paraphernalia that ties in with a character or film who's books we're promoting. So, it's not too much of a stretch to think we might have some of these.
Less likely though, are luggage tags and labels, wall planners, fountain pen ink and ink cartridges, ball-pen refills, compass and protractors, and printer cartridges. People confuse us with that High St stationer who also sells books. I know this because customers also try to use vouchers and get points on cards from this chain, although the cards seem to have disappeared some time ago.
Do we sell phone cards? Well, no we don't. Why not? Umm, we're a book shop? Maybe it's just me, but with the plethora of 'phone shops up and down the street, I'm perplexed as to why people come in and ask us this. It's not just an after-thought question when they're paying for books at the Till.
And before you ask, it's not just the foreign tourists.
Though we do sell book-lights, we do not sell torches. Yes we have birthday cards but not balloons, streamers, badges or other such celebratory accoutrements.
We definitely do not sell films for your camera, batteries for anything, cellotape, staplers or staples, photocopying or printing services. We have no drinks machines, never mind an Internet Cafe.
And my favourites... So far....
We don't sell hairbrushes, shoe-laces, or toiletries of any sort.
You see, it's because...
WE'RE A BOOKSHOP!