Yesterday, my friend Kathy and I made a most exciting discovery: the Barnes and Noble here in Madison has a large used book section! And better yet, most of the used books only cost $1. Understandably, we threw out all our other plans for the evening and started exploring.
Enter the Barnes and Noble employee. I think he might have been in management because he wore a very ugly polo and just sort of floated around the store. On second thought, he might just have been the intern. Hard to tell.
When I first saw him, I was walking around with a basket overflowing with books. He politely said, “How are you doing?” which surprised me because I do not usually think of great customer service when I think of Barnes and Noble. So I beamed, told him I was doing very well, and moved on.
Over the course of the next few hours (it is a very big Barnes and Noble, okay?) I saw him several times. Mostly he would walk over to the table where Kathy and I started stacking books and look as if he would like to re-shelve them. I would hurry over and make eye-contact as if to say, ‘Still here! Don’t take my books!’
He would then give me a friendly smile and move on. At one point, he even paused to say, “I highly recommend Anna Karenina.”
Well, dang! A guy who loves Tolstoy? You better believe I grinned a little wider whenever he came around. And was he coming around a little more often…?
Then we went to check out. (For the record, our piles shrank considerably between what we originally chose and what we walked out of there with. Okay, maybe not considerably. But at least by a book. Probably.)
Ugly polo employee stood there at the check-out with a normally dressed store employee. Call me crazy but I swear I even heard him say as we approached, “And here they are.”
My friend Kathy walked up first and he shooed her down to the other employee at the register. I thought he would do the same for me because ringing up purchases did not appear to be his job. But after a pause, he motioned me towards a register.
I made polite small talk. Then came the inevitable question: “Do you have a Barnes and Noble membership?”
I said no.
He smiled and said I should enroll because I would get $5 off my purchase. I asked how much it would cost me to become a member and after hearing $25, said no a little more firmly. I mean, I never shop at Barnes and Noble. It costs too much. And I don’t need an excuse to spend more money on books! These are the thoughts I clung to and it is a good thing too because the employee in the ugly polo decided to make it his personal mission that I get a membership.
He started by listing off the immediate discounts on my purchase. I said no. Then the discounts store-wide. Then the discounts at the coffee shop. To all this I laughed and said no. He made unswerving eye contact.
I paid with my debit and went to put in my pin. He leaned forward and, I kid you not, batted his eyelashes at me. Before I put the pin in, he said, I should reconsider. The store was running a deal and I would get a $10 giftcard if I signed up. I laughed some more and declined.
Then I put in the wrong pin. This was a mistake. He continued on the offensive. Sometimes, Barnes and Noble members got 20% off. And it worked on already discounted items. Also, members got a two-day window to check out book deals (or something?) before the masses.
I finally told him that I had one more year of law school and could not consider a membership until I finished and had money to buy books. He then started talking about all the law books his store had. And I would get a deal on all of them…!
Feeling slightly exasperated, I turned to Kathy and laughingly asked her to tell me to say no.
But what was she doing?
Signing up for a Barnes and Noble membership!
This set ugly polo guy off again. My friend was getting a membership, I should too!
Finally, leaning across the counter and getting in my personal bubble, he confided that he liked British TV shows and one time they were 50% off and with his membership he got another 20% off of that. 70% British TV shows. Amazing, huh?
I made some answer about “next time” and bolted. I am pretty sure it took me 15 extra minutes to check out because of his pushy salesmanship. But I did it. I walked out of there without a membership.
Bu, gosh darn it, now I am afraid to go back and run into him again!