Christmas in Retail: A Bookseller’s Experience

Christmas in Retail: A Bookseller’s Experience

I have a story for you, but like all good stories some background detail is needed . . .

While I have the honor of working at O’Connor and managing this awesome blog, I also have a part-time job in retail, at a bookstore to be specific, and I am coming up on my 6th holiday season working in books. While I love working in a bookstore and I love the holidays – when I think of the combination of the two I cringe. I used to love working during the holidays, my spirits were high and I could smile at anyone –  but after 6 long years of customer service it’s become harder to enjoy each year when my cozy sweet store becomes full of racing & harried people that can’t take a second to smile or say “thank you” for helping them.

Now to my story, just last week I had a strange experience leaving work that has blossomed into a great lesson and something I’m humbled to share with you. My tale starts simple enough:

I was off work and walked out the doors of my store. I waited for several cars to pass by before there was a small break, I stepped out in to the street.

The closest approaching car zoomed toward me, slammed on their breaks just next to me and you know what the driver did? He looked at me with outrage and disgust – like stopping for me was a complete waste of his time.

My first thought was: “He doesn’t care about me.”

“What did I do to him to deserve that?” I wondered, walking to my car. I began to feel more downcast with each step; his reaction devalued me as a person, I was just a stranger passing in the street and he would rather be at the stop sign 3 seconds earlier than allow me safe passage.

His rudeness hurt. I had just spent the day working, serving & caring for people I didn’t know because it’s part of my job & I like giving my best. I thought about the smiles I had helped bring to my customer’s faces that day & on other days, too. I work hard to give great service but that rude driver changed my motive – I no longer just want to give great service or be helpful, I want to show my co-workers, my customers, and strangers that I VALUE them. Do you believe every life has meaning? I do, I don’t always know what it is & sometimes it can seem as if some people live in pointless ways, but how dare I rely on my poor judgment to determine the value of a stranger in front of me?

The rude driver gave me a passion to show value to others, to do what he couldn’t, to help heal the wounds that he and others like him have created.

I realized have the power to make someone in an instant, feel valued or worthless. The power of a smile, a patient action, the kind wave of a hand.


I think that going into the holiday season having endured that lesson & gained a new passion is going to make the customer-craziness much more bearable. After all, they’re not just “crazy customers” – they’re real people with families, loves & souls, and gosh, I forget that way too easily each year.

In talking about books and this festive time of year I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail“. In it, Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), is telling Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) that he didn’t mean to put her sweet little book store out of business. He says, “It’s not personal, it’s business”. Take a moment; have you ever treated a store employee with that attitude, or as if they are only as valuable as the results they give you? I’ve had many people treat me that way and almost always for reasons out side of my control.

I love Kathleen’s response, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?”

Go make someone feel valued, be personal, smile at them and enjoy their smile back.

Also, this is how I look as I write this to you . . . (not really but it’s how I feel I look, I hope that counts!)

kathleen kelly
Photo Via


When was the last time someone made you feel unimportant?

How did you respond?

What are some ways you plan on making others feel valued by you over this next month?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. Jeff says:


    I absolutely love this about you. Your love for books, stories, meaning in life and people. Your sweet heart has touched me as your “pop” in so many ways as you have lead me into movies and sentimentalities the way only a daughter can. I think I am going to post this reversal of the quote you used in our office. “Its not business, It’s personal”. I like that allot. Thank you for your continued training of me as a father, friend and fellow creature beloved by our Creator.


    • Molly says:

      Oh Dad,
      What a great idea!! I love the reversal of that phrase and I think it truly sums up what not only O’Connor, but what you & so many of our other co-workers are after. I most especially see that gift in you and it inspires me continuously as I serve & interact with others.
      Thank you for your very sweet & wonderful words. I’m so happy to have a family that enjoys sharing, that genuinely listens, and most notably, a father that will watch “You’ve Got Mail” with me any time I need to see it.

      You are a gift!

      • Jeff says:

        You know in many ways you are Kathleen Kelly, yet you work for “Fox Books”!? I love saying that to you….


  2. Molly,

    OK, I admit “You got mail” is not in my top 10, sorry, but you are! Thanks for reminding us that we are all connected and with extremely little effort on our part we can make a difference in this world. Just last night I went to the store to get one brown onion for dinner. In a rush I grab it and shoot for the 15 items or less check out aisle. Of course there is someone in front of me with more then the allotted items , with coupons and a story to tell at every turn. As I wait I see people that came after me getting checked out before me in other stations. I start to get mad and irritated as I listen to what I consider trivial conversation at my expense. Trivial to me but most likely not to the woman in front of me. As I start to boil I remind myself that it is OK, I can give a few extra minutes and just smile. So I do and my whole demeanor changes just like that. That was all it took just a simple shift in me and I feel better and the woman in front of me senses my new energy, turns and apologizes to me for the delay. Again I just smiled back and allowed her to continue. We have the power of choice, make it one that benefits all.


    • Molly says:

      So great! Your initiative to change your attitude was noticed by the lady in front of you – our attitudes have incredible power to touch, effect & impact others. I was thinking that if you hadn’t changed your attitude, you may have gone home and complained to your wife about what happened and even though all you want to do is vent over something that you have a right to be frustrated with – what you’re really doing is sharing your frustration and giving your wife something to be upset about instead of just happy that you are home with the onion.
      I know for myself I need to vent sometimes and get parts of my day processed verbally with my husband but if I can prevent a lot of these frustrating moments the way you did, I will have less to complain about and less to pour out on him. I generally dislike when people complain to me, of course there are always legitimate reasons and those I’m sympathetic to, but I’m thrilled that in this instance at the store you were able to transform a small but irritating part of your day into a victory!
      Thank you so much for sharing Chuck!!

  3. Anne Collins says:

    Hi Molly
    I hope you get 99% nice customers this holiday season at the book store.
    You’ve Got Mail is among my top 10 movies. I have it in VHS AND DVD at both our house and our summer place. It HAS to be, because I can never be sure when I need that fix!

    When I am the most unkind it seems to be when the cash register needs new tape in my line or I get the “Trainee” who doesn’t know what to do. I hate that lack of patience that I exhibit, but have to say it comes out sometimes.

    And you are absolutely right. We have the power to make our world better or worse. Selfishness or self-centeredness is always the culprit when I act poorly. My agenda, my deadlines, my time, my schedule are what always get in the way. When I think about things like: How is that person feeling? Does she or he need encouragement or possibly a prayer? When I am thinking along those lines, I wouldn’t dream of being rude or abrupt.

    As far as shopping, we have such simple needs and wants, we don’t do much. And the greatest blessing is that my daughter will shop with me for the kids so I end up buying the “right thing” most of the time. I hate giving gift cards to young people. It is practical, I know, but I want to see them open up a wrapped gift.

    To a person, I hope and pray that I am kind, patient and cheerful in the stores this year.

    Love you

    • Molly says:

      Yes it is remarkable what a difference a mindset can make, how consciously considering the feelings or life of the stranger in front of us can revolutionize the way we treat them. I think this is true even of the people on the road though it is much harder when traffic becomes a factor ; ).

      Thanks for reading, writing, and sharing your love of “You’ve Got Mail” with me! I’m not surprised that such a kindred spirit as you would love such a wonderful movie.

      Hope you get to watch it soon!!

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