In a series of interviews conducted by ABC’s Maria Minaya, we’re going to introduce you to (almost) everyone who works at The American Book Centers in Amsterdam and The Hague.
Books form an integral part of our lives not only because they’re our bread and butter, but because our passion for them came first. Our mission is to pass them on. By reading these interviews you’ll discover the faces behind your favorite sections and get a glimpse of who we are.
I was born in Vlissingen, Zeeland. And I don’t remember a thing about it because we left before I was two. My father was in the navy so we moved around a lot. He was part of the mijnendienst. This was a mine detail to make sure all ports and sea routes stayed free of mines. After we left I never went back, haven’t even set foot in the province of Zeeland once in the past 35 years.
What was your favorite food as a kid and what did you hate?
I loved fish, including herring. When I was three I went for a walk with my grandfather and he gave me herring and I ate it right up. He was very surprised and told the whole family when we got back. I didn’t dislike anything as a child. I was an easy eater and quickly adapted to bitter, sour and hot tastes.
Were you read to as a child?
Yes, I was often read to by my mother.
Did you have books in your house while growing up?
Yes, we had a lot of books. My mother’s side was very literary. My maternal grandfather was an authority on the Netherlands. He had a lot of first editions signed and dedicated to him by authors. Of his twelve children nine became teachers eight of whom were language teachers. We had a lot of books in the house.
Quick free associations:
Piano: Preferably not.
Price gun: Missing. [This is probably because of The Great Amsterdam Price Gun Shortage of 2008 in which employees were forced to steal each others guns in order to keep customers supplied with bargains. — Hayley]
Cash Register: Easy.
Discount Card: A good idea and we should ask more often if customers have them.
“I’m looking for a book…”: Tell me.
What is your connection to books and the written word now?
I have irregular reading habits. For two or three months I’ll read very little except for some magazines and the newspaper. But then I have periods in which I’ll read six books in a week. I’m a very fast reader. When I focus I fly right through a book. I read Dutch books very quickly. I can read a 200 to 300 page book in a single evening.
What sections do you oversee and what are your other responsibilities in the store?
The music, calendars, bargains, keeping tabs on the turnover of the books in the sale section, architecture, interior design, street art, design and graffiti. I share some of these sections and hopefully in the near future I’ll share them all. I’m also the retail manager of the ground floor.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part is the interaction with customers and ordering books for my sections, especially the music section. I do a lot of research to find new and interesting music books.
How would you describe your customer service, i.e., how do you do your job in terms of: cars (Ferrari or Fiat?), pastries (Hema or Holtkamp?), or shoes (Puma or Prada)?
My customer service is quick and efficient.
How long have you worked at ABC?
My initial interview was on September 11, 2001. That was rescheduled. I’ve worked at ABC for 7 years.
Who is your favorite author? Or what are you reading now?
I’m reading two books at the same time. One book is about Ajax in the European Cup. The other book is entitled Bugaloo. It’s about the role of African American music in America in the twentieth century. It not only concerns the musical influence but also the social impact on American society.
What is the opposite of bookselling?
Watching T.V. because there is no real active mental exertion. It reminds me of a job pumping gas I had when I was a student. I had lots of fun with the customers, but the product was boring. The customers were interesting because all sections of society need gas. So the opposite of bookselling is either watching T.V or selling a boring product.
What do you think people should know about ABC?
That there’s a lot of expertise in the store and people should take advantage of that. Customers should come to the store when that respective buyer is working.