When shopping, if we don’t see an item we’re after or they don’t have something in our size, we often find an employee and ask if they could check out back for it.
But it turns out ‘the back’ isn’t the magical place full of our heart’s desires.
A Waterstones employee has recently taken to social media to debunk the myth about staff checking out back – and what is actually back there.
In a hilariously brilliant thread of tweets on the @WaterstonesTCR account, the unnamed worker caused a stir as they confessed they simply could not “conceal the truth any longer”.
They wrote: “Do you have another copy in the back?
“I’m so sorry. The world has tricked you into believing that ‘the back’ is a magical place. You picture an awesome and cavernous expanse, filled to the rafters with great towers of books – more than could ever be fathomed by mortals. Alas.
“This is a myth. ‘The back’ is where we park our bikes and broomsticks, and it’s where the hoover lives. ‘The back’ of your dreams – those endless avenues of literature, with ceilings arching to impossible heights – are a fabrication.
” I cannot conceal the truth any longer.
“It is the bookseller’s oath that as many books as possible should be easy to find – for customers and staff alike. Books must live in sensible and visible places, as should any extra copies we have. We would never choose to hide books from you in an unknowable vault.”
They continued to explain: “The ‘back’ exists. But ‘the back’ that you believe exists is but a fiction. There are no endless and encyclopedic corridors of stock. No lamplit alleys of hardbacks stretching into the distance. No labyrinth of plushies. There is just us. Us, and the bookshop you see before you.
“And so, I am tremendously sorry, but we don’t have another copy in ‘the back’. But we do have another six copies here on this table.
“Because we are booksellers. We are purveyors of the finest words, the keepers of dangerous knowledge, wielders of the sacred fire, and we would never deliberately hide books from you. And that is no myth.”
The employee also shared an anecdote about a time a young boy came in to purchase 10 copies of the latest Wimpy Kid book and asked if there happened to be an 11th copy out back. The staff member didn’t have the heart to break it to him, so pretended to check for one.
Thousands of people have liked the tweets, with hundreds retweeting and commenting.
Some claimed to have already known this information, while others admitted it had come as a shock.
One person wrote: “My childhood dreams… broken. My imagined world…. shattered. Literally scarred for life! But thank you for your honesty. I hope to come out of this a stronger person.”
Another replied: “Even though I know better, having worked in retail myself, I still ask store employees about stock in ‘the back’.
“I still believe in the magical place. Of course, as a kid, I tried to get to Narnia through my closet.”
Someone else added: “Where I used to work, there was no back and even after telling people that, I would still be asked to check it. Like… I can go look in the fridge but it ain’t gonna be there pal.”