The willing suspension of disbelief? We don't need no stinking willing suspension of disbelief in the book biz.
We always get requests for donations to various worthy causes and projects. The latest was for some books that could be offered at a silent auction for a school fund-raiser. Ellen, the children's book buyer, and I pulled some books off the shelves and bagged them up for the requester, who came in the next day to pick them up. After giving effusive thanks to Ellen, the requester said, "Could you write a couple sentences about each book for me? That way I can tell people what they're about without having to read them." Ellen, for whom sweetness and light do ever reign, said, "You can probably come up with some sentences yourself by reading the dustjackets and back covers."
At Christmastime, a scruffy guy with a bad eye came shambling into the store looking for a job. He was obviously what Northern New Mexicans call an inocente. He wanted to take out the garbage, sweep, vacuum, whatever we needed done. I told him that I would call him if we needed extra help in those areas. He said he didn't have a phone, but I could write to him in Española. I took down his contact information, and he left. He came into the store last week and again asked for work while filling his pockets with the cookies left over from the previous night's signing. I said again that we'd be in touch. He asked for Sundays off. I told him we'd never ask him to come in on a Sunday.
Yesterday he came in again. I gave him a broom and asked him to clean out the rubber walk-off mat outside the door, because it was full of sand, dirt, and junk. He set to the job. I looked up and a cloud of dust was billowing in front of the store, and suddenly Geronimo, our landlord's maintenance foreman, emerged from the cloud. I asked him whether they were hiring. Geronimo said they might have something in the spring.
Meanwhile, the dust outside had settled, and I saw that the handy guy was vigorously sweeping up the parking lot, so I went out and asked him to sweep the sidewalk instead. He took his broom and started sweeping eastward. I figured that if I hadn't stopped him, all of Central Avenue to the intersection with Canyon Road would be spotless. When he came in to return the broom and dustpan, I gave him $10 for his efforts. He bought a handful of Tootsie Pops, shook my hand, and assured me that he would do anything for me.
I hope Geronimo can use him.
Shortly after Christmas a young man—let's call him Fred—came in to return a purchase, a high-end model of a helicopter. I saw on the receipt that a credit card had been used for the transaction, so I asked him for the card so we could credit the account. He gave me the card and went off to browse while our notoriously slow returns system churned away.
When he came back I gave him the receipt for the return, and he said that he wanted cash. I told him that our point-of-sales system wasn't set up that way, and to reduce fraud, it allowed us only to credit his card. He asked, "Well then, I don't want to return the helicopter. Can I have it back?" I said, "I'm sorry. No. You just returned it. If you'd like to buy it, I'll need your credit card again." He said, "It's not my card."
It turned out that his friend—let's call him Bill—bought the helicopter using Bill's own card, then gave Fred the card to make the return. I explained to Fred that using someone else's card, even if you're friends with him, could be interpreted as fraud in many quarters and I was merely looking out for his interests and those of Bill. He left in a huff.
A few minutes later, Fred's mother called and asked what I was trying to pull. Her son was honest as the day is long, and Bill likewise was of virtue unimpeachable. I said that I understood, but I didn't know either of them, and the rules is rules when it comes to protecting our customers and ourselves from fraud. She asked what I was going to do about getting Fred the helicopter back. I suggested that Bill call the store with his credit card number and buy the helicopter. "But Bill is out of the country and will be back in school in Durango!" she howled. I said, "I'm sure Bill and Fred can work out something together. I'll hold the helicopter for Fred so that nobody else buys it."
After about 15 minutes of variations on a theme of "You should have known Fred's a teenager and isn't aware of money issues!" and "This is now an issue between Fred and Bill," the mother calmed down and said she'd talk to her son about how credit cards work. The helicopter is still waiting for Fred.
I miss Fred.