“Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You: An Employee Handbook,” by Candace Webb

May 8th, 2024 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Welcome to the Book Villa! We are a family-owned bookstore (and purveyor of pornographic magazines; yes, those magazines are still available in print) located downtown. Things are rough in the city these days—you’ll pass dollar stores, a bingo hall, and empty storefronts on your way here—but take heart! The recession is temporary. We feel lucky to have jobs, and so should you. We’d say you were hired for your unique qualifications, but this is retail, so we’d be lying.

I. Hours

We will train you from 12–5 pm on weekdays. Once we’ve ensured you’re not a flight risk or a member of an organized crime syndicate, you will work alone from 5 pm to midnight. We wish you luck.

II. Responsibilities

A. Demeanour

Smile until your jaw develops a hairline fracture.

B. Customer Service

When a man in his seventies stacks pounds of girlie magazines—the ones in plastic bags with black-out panels that hide the covers—smile (see A.). You may have bile in your throat as he talks about his obsession with the Royals, but keep smiling (see A.). Note: It is not acceptable to use our customers’ tastes for your amusement; therefore, starting a contest with your coworkers to see who can sell the most porn is frowned upon.

C. Asset Protection

Your most important responsibility is catching shoplifters. Please watch the monitor that shows the four camera feeds while you’re manning the cash register. If you see the teenage boy who tries to steal copies of Beaver Hunt and Juggs, please confront him. He’ll be more embarrassed than you are.

III. Management

Please defer to the owner, Mary. Don’t take her constantly narrowed eyes personally—it’s from years of chain-smoking and working here. If Mary is out, please defer to Roxanne. However, if you ask her for help, she’ll hover and make sure you know she thinks you’re an idiot. She’ll spell “A-Y-N” out for you when a customer asks for The Fountainhead. Smile, with gritted teeth if you must.

IV. Safety

You won’t be entirely safe, but don’t worry. The cops are here all the time because the neighbourhood is what you might call criminally challenged. Don’t pay attention to any inebriated folks who burst out of the bar two doors down pummeling and/or knifing each other. You don’t want to be a witness. Also, avoid staring at the sex workers who use the apartments above the bar to entertain customers. However, we do recommend looking over your shoulder from time to time because our cash register is set up so that you’ll stand with your back to the glass wall between you and the street. Yes, we have been told this wasn’t the brightest idea. No, we don’t plan to change the layout.

V. Transportation

We realize the lack of buses after midnight at this end of downtown can be problematic for those who take public transportation. We suggest closing quickly and running for that last bus idling in front of the mall ten blocks up. The ride might not always be pleasant because the bus smells like the bus driver’s ham sandwich and the sickly-sweet solvents that teenagers sniff from plastic grocery bags, but we think you’ll agree it’s better than walking (see IV., Safety).

VI. Compensation, Breaks, Vacation Time, and Benefits

A. Compensation

You’ll be paid minimum wage, but we can pay you under the table if you won’t be able to make rent once taxes are deducted from your pay.

B. Breaks

You can take one 15-minute break during your daytime training shifts, but we can’t offer you one at night because who’s going to cover you? Sorry, not sorry.

C. Vacation

You won’t need any because you’ll quit within a few months.

D. Benefits

We don’t offer health insurance, but we can offer these skills: theft deterrence;  police and community relations; and smiling, even when you want to strangle us.

Thank you for attending to the information in this manual. We’d say we look forward to working with you, but because you’ll be working alone, we don’t need to pretend.


Candace Webb (she/her) writes and edits in Belmont, MA where she lives with her partner, two children, and two cats. Her family is tame; the cats are not. Her work has been published in Emerge Literary Journal and Five on the Fifth and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. You can find her at www.candacewebbauthor.com.

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