We have nicknames for all of our browsers. In one shop I worked in our regulars included 'Crying Man' who always looked as if he was on the verge of bursting into tears, 'Reading Man' who ran everywhere and kept wiping the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief and 'Chess Man' who read our chess books and stubbornly refused to leave when the shop closed. In another we had a woman who came in every morning to check her horoscope and managed to break the spines of the books to the point where we couldn't sell them.
In my current shop we have 'Shuffling Man', who displays an unhealthy interest in the Children's section and a man who I identified yesterday as 'Weird Arm Man'. His right arm is very strange indeed. The veins are all thick and look like someone has stuck long sausages to his skin. Also, when he reads he holds the book about an inch away from his nose. Yesterday at 5.30 I walked through the shop and checked that it was empty. 'No customers left.' I announced in a loud voice 'Even Weird Arm Man' has gone. But he hadn't. He was crouching down next to the Erotica section reading Schoolgirl Lust. I think he heard me.
I thought that it was an unwritten rule that if you wanted to use your local bookshop as a library, you would do them the courtesy of occasionally buying a book (even if it's only once a year), but our browsers seem ignorant of this convention. Therefore, I have decided to write a simple constitution for browsers. If you're a browser, obey these rules and we'll stop hating you:
- Buy a book, however cheap, at least once a year
- Never bend the spine of a book
- Always put books back where you found them
- Be as unobtrusive as possible - don't stop a bookseller from doing their job
- Leave at least ten minutes before the shop closes
- Never stay longer than an hour
- Don't stand too near the till area - we don't like feeling as if we're being observed
- Don't smell
- Never ask any questions unless you seriously intend to buy a book
- Never hinder a genuine customer from browsing