Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Living el Libro Loca

In 2007, I worked the Bill Clinton signing at Books & Books.  
My Forrest Gump impression.
The crowd of hundreds was calm, respectful, and orderly.  

Nine months ago, I saw the Lauren Conrad signing.  The crowd of hundreds screamed like she was the fifth Beatle (although I doubt most of them were alive when John Lennon got shot) but they never got out of hand.  

This week I worked Ricky Martin, and I'm glad I survived.

The guys are having a beard contest; I'm losing.
PS: That's Becky's chin growing from Ricky's neck.
We should have known there'd be problems Friday afternoon.  After months of assurances that he would stay until every last person had a book signed, his people told us we'd get two hours with Ricky Martin's bon bon.

When the crowd gathered Saturday, having over a thousand books suddenly looked sparse (although we haven't sold a thousand books at single-title event since Bill Clinton's My Life).  Ricky Martin's people probably saved us from running out.  We had plenty of stock, but we had to cut people off because of the time limit.  

After months of telling and tweeting "come one, come all," folks didn't react well to hearing that we couldn't sell any more vouchers to get in the signing line.  Never mind that you could have bought a voucher weeks ago, I drove all this way to see Ricky Martin and I'm seeing Ricky Dancing-in-the-Goddamned-Rain Martin.

One woman couldn't get over the fact that our website hadn't been updated to reflect the sold-out status.  After some back-and-forth, she and Becky started to get into it.  And by get into it, I mean shout.  Using the customer service axiom which has served me for decades - namely that an irate customer will spew venom all over the first employee who helps them but be sweet as pie to the second - I asked if I could be of some assistance.

After some back-and-forth, I started to get into it with the customer as well.  And by get into it, I mean yelling.  You have to be a certain kind of bitter to bring seasoned professionals like Becky and myself to the boiling point; this woman was that kind of bitter with a side of cuntface.  

I passed her along to Cristina, our Marketing and Events Coordinator, thinking that surely the woman would be mollified by speaking to the person who put the whole event together.  Instead, Cristina and the customer got into it.  In Spanish.

The woman refused to leave, preferring to pepper abuse on Becky and I while we helped customers who had paid long in advance.  

"You can't update your website?" the woman railed.  

"No, we can't," Becky said.  

"So you sell out of books, and you don't put it online?  You don't care about your customers.  That's what you're saying?  Books & Books doesn't care about their customers."

"Lady, do you see this crowd?"  Becky gestured to the throng of people wrapped around the block, hindering traffic, standing on the window sills, trampling our flower beds to get a glimpse of their idol (who hadn't even arrived).  "When are we supposed to update the website?"

"Oh, please.  You don't have someone who takes care of that for you?  Books & Books?  Please."

"Wow, I'm glad you think so highly of us," I said.  "We have two people in charge of our website.  One of them is over there."  I pointed to Debra, co-Marketing and Events Coordinator Pluperfect, making sure boxes of Me and Yo were flapped to the signing page so folks wouldn't be delayed picking up their books en route to Ricky.  "The other one is over there."  I pointed to Noah, receiving dude Bar None, manning the front gate.  "That's it.  That's all we got."

For all the impact it made on her behavior, I might as well have given a two-year-old directions on baking chocolate cake.  

Ricky of Ricky's Bakery, the best Cuban bakery in Miami, with a Ricky Martin cake
This woman - one of several who pushed her way inside with the media to take pictures on her camera phone and got irate when asked to leave - will have to represent the whole of folks who would have been controllable only with a timely elbow to the jaw.  This post has got to end at some point.

Ricky Martin gave us over four hours, taking two breaks (during one, he peed into a bottle because the men's room was unreachable; email your Ebay jokes to Microscopiconsideration@gmail.com; the best one will win something special).  For the most part, everyone was happy.  With so few staff members helping a crowd of thousands, this is something of a miracle.  He was amazing, upbeat and friendly the entire time.  Also, a gorgeous-looking guy.

One thing about the crowd irked me.  Seventy percent of this crowd was too busy trying to come up with the perfect Facebook update to even realize where they were.  That's no way to live.  I had to practically push people to the signing table because they were too busy memorializing the moment to actually meet him.  They'd hang back,  ignoring his greeting while trying to get the perfect shot.  If you want pictures, Google him; you'll find millions.  Instead of focusing on what you'll say about it later, why not be fully present and engaged while you talk with this man you adore?  

Thankfully, the powers that be at Books & Books decided to make this one-book, one-ticket so we could make some money off the crowds for once.  Hey, you're excited you got to see Ricky.  I don't blame you.

I'm excited I got a paycheck this week.  


  1. What's a paycheck???

    Who's Ricky Martin???

    Ok Just joshin'......

  2. I am interested in that bakery. Where is it? I've never heard of it before today.

  3. I think I just remembered where this bakery is. On 32 ave somewhere between coral way and calle ocho right?

  4. Baba Booey Baba Booey Howard Stern's Penis

  5. also, this sounds like an insane event.
    I'm glad you survived and that Ricky Bakery was there to help.

  6. I think Ricky's has one location on Bird Road, but the one I'm familiar with is on Coral Way. It's after Just the Funny, and it rocks.

    The owner was a nice guy, which makes me feel even better giving them my money.

  7. OH, yeah. I just doubled our order for "They Call Me Baba Booey." Hopefully we won't sell out in twenty minutes, like we did with Artie Lang.

    And Gaba, I've only been back to Ricky's once since you left. I think I'm ready to go back.

  8. Sorry, Al!

    I've been saying for a while that the whole "you should feel lucky to have a job" thing isn't good enough for me. Seeing how many people are struggling to find work, I'm am starting to feel grateful just to have a job.

    Even if it busts my ass, selling books is something I love most of the time. I've really got nothing to whine about.

  9. yeah you probably should double it. Howard Stern's fans are rabid

    we'll hit ricky's sometime in the coming two weeks