New YorkShopping, Style and Beauty

How I feel about The Strand Bookstore

This piece originally appeared the Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in New York City

You know how in commercials the Keebler Elves always seem like they’re having a great time because their job rocks and they’re making people happy by baking delicious cookies? Next time one of those commercials comes on, look into the Elves’ eyes and you will catch fleeting glimpses of pure terror. It’s like they know that if they don’t convince you of how great their jobs are, there’s gonna be hell to pay when the cameras turn off.Those Elves are dancing and grinning for their lives. Whoever employs those little guys must be kicking the shit out of them on a nightly basis, and I’m pretty sure that the same person runs The Strand.

Don’t forget to buy your tote bag

The only difference is that the people who work at The Strand are in open rebellion, they want you to know how much they hate their jobs. It’s the only plausible conclusion that I could come up with considering how amazing The Strand is. How could you hate working at one of the best used bookstores in the world, a place famous for having 18 miles of books, unless they were chaining you to the wall and attaching a car battery to your genitals every night ?The only other explanation is that The Strand exclusively hires total fucking assholes. I wonder which of these explanations is true.

PS I heard the Elves tried to go on a hunger strike, but that they just couldn’t resist eating those delectable baked goods.

The Strand
828 Broadway @ 12th St.
[Union Square]

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".

  • mar

    lollllllll!!

  • The Strand hires people who never turned their masters in Modern Literary Studies into a real job. Failed pretentious academics are a bitter breed.

  • Mat

    you’ve probably seen this, but it’s a great article in the ny press from 2008 about the increasing corporate atmosphere of the strand and the racist firing and disciplinary procedures deployed by the management: http://www.nypress.com/article-18225-struggle-at-the-strand.html

    also, retail jobs are notoriously awful. seriously, ask anyone. what every single customer on the face of the planet seems to forget is that spending 40 hours every week in ANY place, on your feet, having to cater to the often ludicrous whim of an enormous body of incredibly rude people (read the comments on yelp — or the comment here from Ms. Pederson — for some idea of how cruel customers can be to workers who have “snubbed” them) really wears you down. through in the manic pace and claustrophobic atmosphere of this particular space, along with the stuff pointed out in that ny press article, and you’re talking hell on earth. for 9 bucks an hour, i wouldn’t be nice either.

  • Mat

    edit: second to last sentence should read “throw in…” not “through”

  • Mat –

    I totally feel you. I’ve worked retail and I’ve waited tables for 10 years. I know what it’s like to have to deal with shitty people. And because of this I’m always super sweet to any service person I come in contact with. I mean, I’ve even been able to get a customs agent to smile…once. I don’t come off as a needy, annoying tourist, I simply do things like ask, “Do you now where I can find _____”. And if that’s too much to handle for the people at The Strand, it means that New York has gotten the best of them. They should probably leave town and move to somewhere not as intense.

  • Jack Slack

    Having worked at the Strand for 5 years in the nineties, I can tell you that your intuition is right on. The Strand is notorious for treating its people like human slime. The prevailing attitude, when Fred Bass was in charge, was “I can only pay you five bucks an hour. What? You’ll actually work for that? What kind of pathetic loser are you?”. His daughter Nancy took Fred’s contemptuous yet avuncular and patronizing attitude towards his employees to a new level, compounded with equal parts stupidity, greed and passive-aggressive rage.

    Low pay and bad working conditions are to be expected in retail, but there was a strange sadism in the Strand management that they’d obviously honed over decades of employing well-educated but broke bohemians and creative types. Their insufferable management style eventually led the Strandroids to organize and join an offshoot of the United Auto Workers.

    The condescension and sneering disregard for the customer, which any Strand Bookstore regular will have felt, originated at the top level of management. Part of it is resentment at the shitty conditions, but most of it is simply “The Strand Way’. After viewing the senior managers abuse their customers and book-selling clients, the rank-and-file pick up the habit and are rarely taken to task. I abused customers for years from my perch behind the register and was only reprimanded once, by Rich Devereaux, for telling a difficult patron to “go fuck yourself”.

    A book could be written, and probably has, about the antics that go on in that place: transexual sex in the bathrooms, open IV drug abuse by the staff, book-theft rings, and much much more.

  • Jack – Thanks for dropping some knowledge. It sounds like a horrible situation and a book that you need to write. Do it dude!

  • chicki

    IF YOU EVER WORKED FOR THE STRAND THEN YOU KNOW THE REAL DOUCHBAGS R THE OWNERS,THEY DON’T CARE SHIT FOR EMPLOYEES! HOW CAN ANY WORKER STANDING ALL DAY KEEP A SMILE WHEN THE OWNERS R ASSHOLES,AND SOME CUSTOMERS R JUST PURE EVIL??WITH THEIR BEDBUGS B.S/RAT INFESTED BSMNT,WHERE WORKERS KEEP THEIR PERSONAL BELONGS/ON THE FLOOR!!!

  • chicki

    HEY FOLLOW THE STRAND TO COURT!! WHERE THEY ARE FORMING A CASE AGAINST A FORMER MINORITY WORKER!! TALK ABOUT PENNY PINCHERS? THE REAL CROOKS STILL WORKS IN THE STRAND BOOK STORE!! NANCY LOOKS LIKE SHE’S ALWAYS ON MEDICATION…

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