Our Reading Lives

The Grossest Things That Have Happened At A Bookstore

I remember the first day I started working at a used bookstore. The stars in my eyes beholding all the books. The way I cherished each book I priced that I had at one point read and loved. My eagerness to talk about books with my fellow employees. And when the store opened, my dreams of helping customers find the book of their dreams, or their new favorite author. And then the reality. Customers rarely ask for help or want me to recommend books. I don’t get to sit around and read at work. It’s actually really hard work. And then there’s the grossness. I mean, unimaginably gross in some cases.

The grossest things that have happened at bookstores. book stores | gross things in bookstores | book store stories | reading habits | reading life

Here are the grossest things I’ve encountered in the 11 years I’ve worked in a used bookstore.

A customer stood ten feet away from the bathroom. She wore a long, brightly patterned dress, and stood very still. Her son, 7 or 8, stood near but not close. When she walked away from the spot, she left a pile of poop on the ground. She did this a few times over the course of a month or two before a manager caught her (the day in my memory). The worst part of this is that she used her son as a lookout.

A pair of panties in the middle of the floor. Admittedly, they did not look used, but I still used gloves to pick them up and throw them away.

One of the media buyers opened a DVD case and a family of cockroaches came POURING out and all over him. Much cursing, dancing, and stripping ensued. I now work on media large orders, and I think about this every time I open a DVD case.

The day you blindly reach into a tote of books and encounter a lube-smeared erotic romance is the last day you blindly reach into a tote of books. You look first. And yet, sometimes your hands still encounter slick, sticky thick liquids on books. One of my fellow book buyers found an actual bottle of half-used lube in the order in addition to the disgusting books. Jackpot!

Spiders. I realize spiders aren’t gross, but they kinda are when you’re not expecting them to help you price in a tote of books.

Cat pee! And more cat pee, and more cat pee, for some variety a wad of cat hair, more cat pee. Did you know that cat pee books reek? I mean, really badly.

This will not seem as bad as the others, but it’s the most common grossness I encounter everyday. Mold. Books slathered and hardened by mold. Black and speckled. Warped and stinking. Yet, customers seem to think I might give them money for these mold-crusted books. No. No monies.

Food where there shouldn’t be food. A half eaten sandwich behind the Twilight books. Cheese used as a bookmark.

Pubic hairs in books.

Used cotton swabs in books.

Seriously y’all. The cockroaches.

I was inspired to write this post after reading this one by Romeo Rosales. Not gross, but memorable.

Bookstore employees, what gross things have you encountered?