Liar, Liar, Pants on… Ooo, Shiny!

I’m working at the Hebrew Book Fair, as I told you guys a few days ago, but I’ve been tossed around a couple of times since then, from one sales area to another. I was moved from outside the mall to inside the store, and then from there I was stolen by a very nice woman with dark hair to work with her in the little area right outside the store that’s separate from it but still owned by the same company. Confused? Yeah, so was I. Anyway, none of this is really relevant.

I’m now acting as a boss/manager even though I’m still paid minimum wage. I get to be in charge of the register at the end of the day, as well as the two seventeen-year old high school kids who are working with me.

That’s not the point either. The point is that Book Week, as lovely a concept as it is, is about sales. Pure and simple. It’s about making money. Whenever a certain book isn’t selling, I need to start recommending it to customers after having just read the back cover or inside flap. I need, in short, to lie about having read and liked books. I’m not above an occasional white lie, but in this case… well, it bothers me. As a reader, I want sales-clerks’ honest opinions about books, and I don’t want to cause anyone to buy a book they might not enjoy.

But bookstores are businesses, and the cash register needs to show a certain amount of profit every day. Still, while I’ve recommended books that I haven’t read, I’ve only told people that I’d heard good things about the book. I also never tried to foist a book on someone who didn’t want it after I showed it to them. And, most importantly, I still recommend the books I know and love most of all.

How do you feel about lying, or at least bending the truth and exaggerating, in order to make sales? Have you done it before? Do you feel guilty or do you see it as all part of the job?

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11 thoughts on “Liar, Liar, Pants on… Ooo, Shiny!

  1. There are occasions, when I write a review, that I have to find a way to express my disdain for something a writer left out or didn’t address. I must find some way of telling a reader that the error is still an error although it only offended me.

    Reading, like music, can be so very subjective. I think your approach of saying you’ve “heard good things about it” is perhaps the safest way to go. I have always wondered how people who work in bookstores can know so much about so many books.

    • Ha – well, some people who work in bookstores HAVE read an awful lot of books. And I have as well, as you know, but the problem is that I mostly read in English so I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the Hebrew books we’re selling… *sigh* So many books, so little time.

  2. Erin M says:

    Apparently sales reps have to do what you’re talking about all the time, that is, sell books based on very little information. They often have to sell a book before it’s even published, to get major buyers to order copies, and while they may have seen ARCs, chances are they’re just going by the catalogue copy.

    I think it’s a great idea to just say you’ve heard good things about the book.

    Aaaaand I hope you’re having a good time!

    • Yeah, I know it’s not just us who have to do it… I mean, the sales profession in general involves an awful lot of lying, omitting information, exaggerating and cajoling :/.

  3. I hate lying about books, especially because I’m not the kind of person to really hold back her opinions anyway. If I don’t like something, I tell you I don’t like it. So what I do is just not mention any of the stuff I didn’t like. There’s usually SOMETHING good I can say about them. And you might be in luck here because you’ve only read the flaps … what can you possibly find that’s so bad in 250 words? Just talk about the good stuff!

  4. SandySays1 says:

    Lying is a uniquely human trait that I don’t have to worry about – HOWEVER, I can understand the need for one now and again. If you expect to get a good supper it’s not a good idea to tell the cook the breakfast tastes terrible. And if you eat (and that is habit forming) getting a pay check might require one of those pale gray lies – like – “Gosh some one told a friend of mine that it was a good book.”
    Sandy
    http://www.sandysays.wordpress.com

  5. Not a big fan of lying myself. It tends to come back and bite you in the butt. Had I sat down to read a recommended book that totally sucked, I would not be having kind thoughts about the person who just wasted 6 hours of my life. Recognizing that all businesses need to make money, I think your tack of “heard good things” would still fall in to the “lie” category. Harsh I know but true. And isn’t that what this post was about anyway ? I will admit that I am completely envious that you got to work at a book fair. What a nice gig 🙂

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