Gone Girl. A Tale of Road Rage.

On a scooter.

Yesterday was my birthday…
I turned 28.  In hexadecimal “nibbles”.
(google it, hexadecimals are kinda cute).

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 8.29.40 am
But back to the story…
…my friend Flo came and picked me up and took me to the mall.  The scooter hire girl remembered me and I got the highly coveted Scooter Number One. It is zippier, better at stopping when you ask it to, and the side mirrors don’t flop down all over your handbag.  Score! I tootled around a few shops high on the joy of a birthday and time with Flo.  I tried not to be distressed that I couldn’t even get down the lingerie aisles in Farmers Department Store. I figured I didn’t really need a birthday bra. I smiled anyway at the shop girl near the fitting rooms in Esprit when she said it might be easier to shop online. It might.  But it isn’t as much fun as shopping with Flo. And why shouldn’t I enjoy a bit of retail therapy?  Then I dropped Flo off for her appointment at the makeup counter.  I should be, er… more into makeup… but the bookshop was just down one floor and it is an unfair competition! Hmmm… makeup, books, makeup, books. It’s really no competition between makeup and books.  A hole was burning in my pocket.  For my birthday I’d been given a cool hundy, and I was thinking about the delicious potential to drop it exclusively on BOOKS!  Squeee!

I scootered down there faster than you can say ‘tortoise’.   A few aeons later, I arrived.  Mobility scooters have a speed switch that ranges from slow (a tortoise icon) to fast (you guessed it, a hare)… but even at hare-speed, it takes a looong time to get anywhere.  In the front of the bookstore of choice, Whitcoulls, they have some displays of new releases.  My twitchy fingers were eager to pick up the first one I could see. I liked the title, ‘Gone Girl’.  But the angled display tables made it impossible for me to pull up alongside on my scooter. I did a sleek little (sixteen point!)  turn and tried to reverse in. I banged the corner of the table.  A Whitcoull’s employee looked across at me, arched her eyebrow and walked off in the opposite direction. I reached for the book. It was 5cm out of my grasp. There was no room to ease myself off the scooter and stand to give myself more reach. Had I had room, I’d have been able to do that. But it occurred to me in that moment, that many people in wheel chairs can’t stand to get to things out of reach; what would they do in this situation?  I looked around for the employee, hoping for some help.  She was gone, girl.

I was not going to be deterred.  A hundred to spend on books is one of the greatest gifts of all time. I wasn’t going to let a bookshop girl with her archy eyebrows get the better of me.  I gave my embarrassment a silent talking-to and manoeuvred out of the space.  At the back of the store, the wall is lined with authors from A-Z.  I wouldn’t have a spotlight on the newest, but I might find some gems. I set my course for the rear. Half way on the dial between tortoise speed and hare speed.  I was veritably hurtling, turtle-style. The aisles in Whitcoulls do fit a scooter if it is going straight down the middle. Sadly, turning is not optional.  People on mobility devices clearly shouldn’t want to browse in bookstores. There are artfully arranged stacks of merchandise on the floor at the corners of all of the aisles.  The Little Yellow Digger-gift-boxed-set display met Scooter Number One as I attempted to round the corner. Scooter, 1, Diggers, 0.  A mother in the same aisle helped me by picking them up (thank you anonymous mother).

I spent half an hour in Whitcoulls. I looked for help no less than fifteen times.  Help to reach down titles I couldn’t reach, help with the infernal aisle corner displays. Help finding the poetry section.  I saw three more staff members. All three saw me and changed direction. No one offered to help. The crickets chirped.  When your eyes are not at the height of standing people, it is quite hard to get eye contact.  When you are down that low, even a wave can be lost behind a bookshelf. My hundred dollars hid deeper into my pocket. No party for it, today.

I lost my desire to purchase books from that store. I threw the scooter into reverse.  It has a really high pitched reversing beep.  It’s an incredibly annoying sound. I left it in reverse long enough for archy eyebrows girl to give me one last look. I accelerated past one last corner display.  I may have *cough* inadvertently disturbed its symmetry. I left the store.  In my imagination I looked a bit like a speedy hare, leaving a cloud of dust in my wake.  In truth, it was a less dramatic exit.  Think, slo-mo.  But the expression on my face remained steely resolute.  I patted my pocket. That’s a hundred bucks you don’t get today, Whitcoulls.  And then, I was a gone girl, too.

So my post about my birthday books is postponed.  …maybe there is a bookstore out there who wants my custom, even if I am not walking on two feet.

I sent the people at Whitcoulls a link to my post as soon as it went up.  Very quickly Diane got back to me.  I am very grateful for such a timely response and so glad that the store will look into ways to improve customer service for people on mobility devices.  Thank you, Whitcoulls.

This is what she wrote:
Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 4.54.42 pmThanks for touching base and sharing your in store experience with us. It is disappointing that we have not been able to deliver the customer experience you, and every customer, deserves. There is nothing better than browsing books especially in the excitement of birthday present shopping. I will be passing this information onto our Store Manager to ensure they can look into this situation and how they can use this to improve their customer service.

In the meantime, I would love to extend a birthday present to you from Whitcoulls. If you are still interested in the Gone Girl Book, I would love to send you a copy along with a $20 Whitcoulls Gift Card that may enhance your birthday spending money. If you can send us your courier address and we will arrange to get this out to you.

Kindest regards,



14 thoughts on “Gone Girl. A Tale of Road Rage.”

  1. Sweet – so you get Gone Girl and an extra $20. That’s a pretty decent response I reckon. I’d be happy with that.

    Does it excuse the initial issue, not at all.

    Does it recoup a lost delightful experience – and on YOUR BIRTHDAY no less – nup.

    And that totally blows.

    But given that both of those things are out of Diane’s control it seems like she’s done the best she could. Nice one Diane.

    I really hope this utterly awful experience didn’t ruin your day. Because you really deserve for your day to have been special. I hope it still was.


    1. It was, Kate. Many beautiful people, messages, gifts and love. I did have more than enough blessings on my birthday to feel liek a very fortunate girl. Experiences like that one just make me sad. Not just for me, but because there are people far worse off than me and probably less stroppy, who wouldn’t persevere even as long as I did, who would just end up not bothering with shopping if all they experienced was that. People in customer service need to have training days with real customers, not role-plays with other sales staff. Especially with customers who fall outside of the range of the average shopper. The elderly, the physically diverse, people with appearance diversity, a multitude of races, creeds and types. When I worked in a jewellery store (at 18) I learned very quickly not to make assumptions based on what you see. A very whiffy homeless man walked into the store and bought our most expensive rolex. In cash. It blew my mind, and my stereotypes. Sales can be made anywhere, and service is how you make them.

  2. Oh Rachel you made me laugh! I can just see you on a mobility scooter, one that’s been “hotted” up, painted a fab metallic colour, perhaps with some mad “honking horn” to ensure everyone knows you are coming! So sorry to hear Whitcoulls one of my favorite stores, treated you so poorly! So wish I had been shopping with you! Enjoy your special Whitcoulls birthday gift. Take care

    1. I’m sure if I hadn’t been on my own, if I’d had you or Flo there to wow the aesthetic senses of the staff it would have been a very different experience, Jules! I think they responded beautifully and I am so glad they are going to talk to the store manager. 🙂
      I hope to never need permanent wheels, I am very hopeful about the next treatment possibilities. If it happens that I do need to make longer term arrangements though, you can bet I’ll be blinging! 🙂

  3. I just finished the audio version of Gone Girl and I was going to recommend it to you because I thought you’d appreciate the writing and the story. I loved it so much I got her other two books online-Sharp Objects and Dark Places. They weren’t nearly as good but I enjoyed them. I just finished Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty. The writing is soooooo good.

    Your bookstore experience makes me sad and angry. I used to own a bookstore before the discount book stores destroyed the business. Book stores were all about service. The staff were well read and could lead you to books you’d enjoy. This was the way most book stores operated. You could take books home to read if you worked there.

    My first job after I dropped out of college (for the 1st time) was at Kroch’s and Brentanos in Chicago. It’s a famous old bookstore with staff that had worked there for 20 years or more. It was a place where books were revered and customers were treated like royalty. I am so amazed at how you were treated.

    You are so right about never judging a customer by their looks. I’ve had customers who looked like they were homeless turn around and buy hundreds of dollars worth of books.

    Still, getting scooter number 1 must have more than made up for the slugs at the book store. $100 to spend in a bookstore would be my dream gift!

    1. I worked in the book industry in Sydney when I was a young thing. My work was based out of the kind of old fashioned bookstore you describe. Knowing the stock is key, isn’t it? Good service matters, I think it is the beginning of the reading experience.

      1. Yes absolutely. Book stores were meeting places. We had Kurt Vonnegut at the shop for a book signing. Gwendolyn Brooks did a poetry reading etc.. And the young High School kids would come in with their stories and poetry and ask shyly if you would read it.

        The staff loved reading new books and old books. People counted on you to tell them if a book was right for them. The grea book stores shaped the literary world as much as the actual writers-City Lights Book Store in San Francisco, Stuart Brent in Chicago. It was a magical time-I was in my twenties when I owned the book shop and by the time I hit my 30’s the shops were all closing. They couldn’t compete with the ‘Walmart’ style book stores.

        I’d still love to see the Bobby D do his tree dance. Are you still doing that tree exercise? Well think about a video in the future-it could go viral.

  4. I love reading your blog Rachel, a touch of humour sauteed with reality, makes for a rather delicious read! I don’t know if I was one of the people who sent you birthday wishes on Facebook, but I’d like to extend a very happy belated birthday wish here 🙂 Happy Birthday! I wish I’d been working at Whitcoulls at the time, I wouldn’t have hesitated to help you. Everyone deserves to be able to shop for books, especially those who aren’t using their feet. Be well my gorgeous friend! x

  5. Hippy burpday to you lurvely lady x.
    Wow. You got a great response from Diane at Whitcoulls. These days they give nothing away, ever. Owner policy. Just awful that their generosity had to come that way. But DO enjoy the book and voucher x.
    I am just visualising your reversing around those book stands, recalling what an adept reverser you are in a car!! Maybe they were checking out your moves? Yaddah yaddah. No excuse.
    I feel inclined to give you one of those two dollar shop extendy-grabbers for such situations but it could become too tempting to use it for nefarious purposes…

    1. …got me giggling with those nefarious purposes! oh the possibilities! As it happens, a ‘grab nabber’ was among my birthday presents. My sister got me one! 🙂 Must… go… employ…

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