A woman tries to panhandle a reader in Barnes & Noble

A basket of books in Barnes & Noble in Gulfport, Miss.

I sat in a chair in one of my favorite spots in the middle of Barnes & Noble in Gulfport on Friday, 1-31-20.

It was 5:15 p.m. and I was in the area of the bookstore that has two brown hardwood chairs and a small black table between them. The seating arrangement is in front of the Personal Growth section and just steps away from the cafe.

I had a copy of “Agency,” William Gibson’s new novel, and was intending to read the first five pages until I sensed a person walking toward me.

I looked up and saw a 40ish blonde woman in casual attire carrying a basket that had eight books and I assumed she was going to sit in the other chair, place the basket on the table and browse through the books.

Instead, she stood in front of me and tried to panhandle me.

She asked if I would give her $12 to help her pay for the books in the basket. She said she works at the Applebee’s down the road and if I gave her the money, she would reimburse me if I saw her at her place of work.

I told her I had no money and that if you have the time, you can read for free in the store. I do that all the time, though I’ve never read an entire book in Barnes & Noble. I believe a seller would have me arrested for a breach of etiquette.

After I declined to give the woman $12, I never saw her again, although 15 minutes later, I noticed she had left her basket on a display table across from where I was sitting. I took a picture of the basket, which had about half the books I saw earlier, and I have the photo as the featured image for this post.

I was unable to get past the first two pages of Gibson’s novel because the woman had distracted me.

I considered telling a seller about my experience, but I left the store without saying anything to anyone, though I texted my wife and daughter about what happened.

Maybe the next time I’m in the store, I will tell a seller about the panhandler.

Now, I would like to hear from you. How would you have dealt with the incident? Would you have reported it and how would you have done that?

4 thoughts on “A woman tries to panhandle a reader in Barnes & Noble

  1. That’s so strange, I’ve never heard of this! As a librarian I would have definitely referred her to the local library as a source of free print and ebooks! Hopefully she finds her way there!

    1. The library is an excellent idea. I wish I had been quick enough to mention that. I recently renewed my love for the library and right now I’m reading the digital edition of “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel.

  2. John,
    I commend you for taking the time to go and sit in the libray to read a book. Congratulations.
    Would you have asked more questions to understand why that ’40ish blonde woman’ panhandled you? Or would you have taken extra time to visit the said office across the street? These are the type of questions that flooded my mind after reading this article.
    Appreciate you for sharing.

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