Mistaken For Help

Published 13 years, 11 months ago

While I was in Buffalo to conduct training at the university there, I discovered that I’d failed to pack any books or movies to while away the evenings.  Since I didn’t really want to pay $9.95 (or, you know, $12.95) for an in-room movie, I decided to head out to a Barnes & Noble and see what I could acquire.

After finding some classic (and massively discounted) Robert Silverberg and a Jack McDevitt novel I’d always meant to read, I headed back into the music-and-movies section to see what they had in the way of interesting DVDs.  Not much, as it turned out.  But while I was back there, within the space of about 45 seconds I had two different people ask me if I worked there.  The older lady who asked, upon hearing my negative, said, “Oh, I’m sorry.  You look like someone who would work in a bookstore.”

“I take that as a compliment, ma’am,” I said, and, smiling, headed toward the front of the store to purchase my books.


  1. So, what do you prefer… being approached as a B&N employee, or being approached as a CSS guru?

    That would certainly seem odd, though. In the DVD section: “hey… I’ve been having trouble getting this div to float correctly…”

  2. Eric, you DO look like someone who would work in a bookstore… admit it. I would have seized the opertunity to point her to the Eric Meyer section of books. ;)

  3. heh…a priceless little story that brought a huge smile to my face. in an unrelated incident, i always get mistaken for a student at the university where i work as a webmaster, and usually get challenged by staff when i try to go to the “staff only” areas…must be my youthful looks, no doubt.

  4. Oh my, that’s funny. I’ve had almost the exact the same experience, on my visit to the USA last december.

    I was walking around in a big multimedia store (Best Buy? EB World? I don’t remember…) and as I was browsing the Games section, this woman (mid-to-late 40’s I reckoned) came up to me and asked me “do you have Uru?”
    So, while I had been considered for a parttime job at a local gamesshop (eventually my friend got the job as I was still in high school), I never actually did any work as a gamestore clerk, but apparently I give off something of a vibe for that. I mean, I’m not even American, but that lady thought I worked there and could help her find a game. :)

    And I agree, Eric you do look like a bookstore clerk. ;)

  5. Looking at your picture on my bright red shiny new copy of More Eric Meyer on CSS that came through the post this morning, yes you do look like you could work in a book shop. Especially in the picture with glasses on. :o)

  6. I agree that you should be very proud. Considering the ignorance and illiteracy of most Americans, I too would feel honored to be mistaken for a bookstore employee.

  7. That will teach you to walk around B&N with 20 copies of “More Eric Meyer on CSS” under your arm… You’ll look like you’re stocking shelfs, never mind the ethics of manipulating the N.Y.T. bestseller lists…

  8. Heh, you could always use it as an opportunity to tout web standards:

    “No ma’am, I don’t work here, but did you know that you could reduce your bandwidth costs by up to 50%, just by switching to web standards? Let me show you some books that will help get you started…”

    For that matter, were you so inclined, you could ruin B&N’s reputation by posing as an employee, then giving people horrible instructions and treating them badly when they ask for help.

  9. Had the same thing happen to me once while in Harrods in London during the late 70s/early 80s. What puzzled me at the time was that the lady didn’t seem to notice my 10 inch high blue mohawk, bondage trowsers and studded leather jacket!
    Now that I live in the States the one that sticks in my mind was when a young boy in Baltimore said: “Hey, you talk funny, you from Kentucky?”

  10. Hey, since for me, working in a bookstore would be like the proverbial kid in a candy store, being mistaken for such would have to be a good thing… ;-)

  11. Lucky you weren’t called a masher, and hit with a purse!

  12. For some reason; when I travel on the decrepit British Rail, I am quite frequently mistaken for a railway porter. One guy even dumped his bags at my feet. Now my dress sense isn’t good I know but really! It makes me smile every time. Eric – you might be in for a lot of traffic. Good luck.

  13. Well… you do sell books, so in a sence…

    I’ll shut up.

  14. Next time, check out Baen Free Library. You can download lots of free books. I first discovered it on a business trip. It’s wonderful!

  15. Eric,

    I have traveled far and wide to attend conferences in which you were speaking. Now I understand that you were in my backyard and I missed you. Where were you training exactly? With whom were you training? I work at the University at Buffalo and I regret if I had missed an opportunity to attend. I want to make sure that another such opportunity isn’t squandered in the future.

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