Christian Bookstores-Random Memories, part 3

2 May

Christian Bookstores are an interesting slice of life, for sure.  The following is less of a stereotyped discussion, and more of a random re-collection of some of my experiences at the store.

Study Bibles

Study Bibles are interesting creatures.  Not only do they have the Biblical text, but they usually include extensive study notes.  Some are just your basic Study Bible, meaning that they discuss different possible meanings of difficult passages,without too much of a slant.  Often times the study notes refer you to the original languages, or to the historical context, to help the reader fully understand a passage of scripture.

On the other hand, there are a plethora of Study Bibles that are pretty much nothing but slant.  By slant, I mean that the study notes will almost never stray from the systematic theology of its editors.  You have The Reformed Study Bible, The Baptist Study Bible, The Women’s Study Bible, The Men’s Study Bible, The Ryrie Study Bible, The Dake’s Annotated Version, The MacArthur Study Bible, The Jewish Study Bible,  ….. last I checked, there are over 100,000 listings for Study Bibles on

We often joked with customers, that the new Star Wars Study Bible was about to be released.  Of course, some of our customers would have gladly purchased a Study Bible mixed with quotes and pictures from George Lucas.

Occasionally, customers would come in and ask for the HIV Study Bible!  Not wanting to be rude, we’d lead them to the NIV Study Bible section and then quickly exit to the back room for a quick bellowing of laughter, before returning to assist our misspoken customer.

The Store’s on Fire (Can I Still Buy This?)

It was a Friday night, about 15 minutes before close, when we noticed an odd smell in the bookstore.  That smell was the smell of burning wires…an electrical fire had started and I wasn’t sure if we were about to go up in flames.  After a few minutes I saw smoke starting to come out of the ceiling, right over the CD section.  Then the fire alarm kicked on with flashing lights and a screeching sound blaring into the store.

I quickly ran over to a couple in the music section and told them that we had a fire in the store and we needed them to leave immediately.  They looked at me, paused, and then asked if they could finish shopping and check out first?  WHAT…There is a FIRE!  “Please,” I said, ” just take what you have in your hands and leave the store; do not worry about paying.”  They again shrugged and slowly made their way out, while smoke filled up the store.

I then ran up front to the registers where two employees were counting down the cash drawers and preparing the bank deposit.  “Please stop what you’re doing and leave the store!” I said.  “We have a fire!” I yelled, as I motioned them towards the door.

“But won’t our boss be mad if we don’t have the deposit ready?” said one of my employees.  What is wrong with you people, do you have a death wish?  “I don’t think he’s going to care about the deposit if this place bursts into flames and you’re still in here-GET OUT RIGHT NOW!”

“Good point!” one of them quipped.  They put down the cash drawers and exited the store.  Luckily, everybody was cleared from the building and the fire department came before it developed into a major fire.  There was only minor damage and the store was not even closed as they replaced the wiring in the ceiling.

I’m still shocked at how nonchalant everyone was in the face of a possible fire.  Did they not understand that fire can spread in seconds?  Did they think an angel would come to extinguish the flames because we were in a Christian bookstore?  I still scratch my head at this one.  I’m just glad nobody got hurt on my watch!

Rogue Employee of the Month

We didn’t really have an employee of the month, but if we did…here’s some of the folks that would definitely NOT have been nominated.  Instead, they might have won a rogue employee of the month award.  Considering most of them didn’t last much more than a month, I guess it would have been pointless.

I hired one guy, middle-aged, extremely polite and likeable.  And utterly unable to use a cash register or count out change correctly.  It was painful to have to hover and make sure he didn’t give back extra change.  He was always apologetic; he even fired himself when he realized that retail was just not his thing.  He would have received an honorable discharge as a rogue employee.

Then there was my “loafy” teenager that I hired to close the store.  I received a call from my boss, soon after I hired my teenage friend.  He showed me a tape from the in-store cameras of the night before.  It showed my teenage loafer sitting on the check out counter, facing away from customers in the store, occasionally picking his nose.  My boss actually made me show him the tape.  It was not a comfortable situation.

He did improve slightly (at least he stopped picking his nose), but he did get into a row with another teenage employee.  He called her fat.  Needless to say, his hours ended up being reduced. When he came back the next summer for a job, I politely informed him that I suddenly didn’t need any more employees.  He was rogue, but immature.

Another employee came to me after the store next door closed.  She was well liked, very friendly and older in a grandmotherly way.  I really thought she was going to help us out.  What I didn’t know was that she was almost legally blind and had a bad habit of just making things up for customers, instead of finding out whether something was available or not.  This was hurting business.  If that wasn’t enough, she also was in the advice business. As in, I corner you during your break and tell you what you need to do with your life sort of advice.  It had gotten so bad (unbeknownst to me) that my most trusted employee was in tears and about to quit.  I actually had to fire Grandma, because she wouldn’t stop cornering people even after being warned.

Last but not least, the roguest employee of them all was a seasonal hire from the local Christian college.  He was nice enough, still a little green, but trying his best.  He came in after about 2 weeks and was sick as a dog.  He sneezed and coughed on everyone before we sent him home, but within days, all of us were now fighting a cold.  He was due to cover me for the weekend so that I could take my wife out on a date.  He had been in earlier that day to cash his paycheck, so I was sure that I was good.  Just as we were dressed and heading out the door,  I received a call that he had not shown up for work and that the store was mobbed.  Ugh….I went into the store to help, and tried tracking down my rogue employee.  He never did answer his phone.  I had his folks number on his application, so I gave it a try. His mother, very apologetically, informed me that she had just received a call from him.  He was half way to Florida for spring break.  Yep…not much chance of that date happening now.

That’s what happens when you hire rogues…

12 Responses to “Christian Bookstores-Random Memories, part 3”

  1. Lorena May 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    “Occasionally, customers would come in and ask for the HIV Study Bible! ”

    LOL! The whole post is hilarious.

  2. christianagnostic May 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    yeah…it happened at a couple different stores in our chain. It was always funny and awkward at the same time. How to politely point out the Bible they were there to purchase without making them feel stupid for confusing the New International Version with a deadly STD?

  3. Freedom May 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Funny stories – I still can’t believe how stupid people were not to get out during a fire!

    The STD Study Bible – sounds like something Larry Norman (if you remember him) would have sold on Valentine’s day……

    You are correct – all the study Bibles are slanted. Even the generic, basic study Bible are slanted as generic Protestant or Evangelical/Protestant in their view of the possible different meanings. You won’t find them giving the Catholic or Orthodox church’s views. If they out there, I haven’t seen them and you probably won’t be able to find them in your general Christian bookstore in the US, since the members of those churches are not the target market.

    One question – did the cult (SGM) give you a hard time for working at a Christian bookstore? I know that even setting foot in a Christian bookstore was something the pastors didn’t want the members to do, even to the point that they talked about it during the Sunday brainwashing session.

    • christianagnostic May 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      STD Study that could’ve sold! Larry Norman, that’s a post for another day…I actually spent some time with Larry.

      And yes, all study Bibles have their slant, it’s just that some were so narrow it was pathetic. I think at one point, Zondervan even published a Grandparent’s Study Bible. I think they would have put out the Tourists Study Bible, if they thought it had a chance of selling.

      Yes-SGM pastors gave me a hard time about being at the bookstore. It’s not that they would say it to my face, but they made regular remarks that were negative about Christian bookstores from the pulpit. Of course, if we were selling one of their authors (Josh Harris, CJ, etc..) they were more than happy to point at their success. A bit hypocritical if you ask me…

  4. thebiblereader May 3, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    the star wars study bible, doesn’t really sound like a bad idea. u never know.

    reading your blog really does just remind me how Christians really try justify their weirdness with that scripture on being pacuilar

    • christianagnostic May 3, 2012 at 3:36 am #

      I do know a pastor who calls himself the Star Wars pastor…I think he includes a reference to Star Wars in every sermon he preaches. Maybe he’s working on it as we speak….

  5. randallslack May 4, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Any similarity between Christianity and “Christian Book Stores” is purely coincidental. Most of the stuff sold there is heresy and the purpose is to make money – not “minister” to people. I rarely visit such places.

    • christianagnostic May 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      So……you don’t have the Prayer of Jabez collectible mug and lapel pin?

      • christianagnostic May 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

        One more thought for you Randall…..I agree that most of what happens at a Christian Bookstore is purely about money.

        But I will say this, the bookstore employees are often very faithful people who really love some of the books or music. Employers…well, more about the money.

        I plan to write a post about employees and employers for these stores (I’ve met thousands of them) and they are some of the most interesting an enigmatic folks on the planet.

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