Introducing the Patron of the Week: Little Miss I-Don’t-Want-To-Pay-All-My-Fine-Because-(insert excuse here)

I work part-time at a library and since I’ve been there, I’ve had already a number of series here about my experiences there, including Things You Didn’t Know About Your Local Library and Old Newspapers Just Don’t Make Good Cat Litter Liner. Now I’m going to start a new one that hopefully will be a little more regular than the other ones called Patron of the Week. The series was inspired by this post in which an elderly man talked about long hair and also by this post in which a woman complained about perfume ads in magazines.

Graphic for button from New Media Consortium on Flickr

This week’s patron comes to us from the Land of Excuses. Please welcome Little Miss I-Don’t-Want-To-Pay-All-My-Fine-Because-(insert excuse here).

She came in — no, not through the bathroom window, mainly because the bathroom in our library doesn’t have a window, although I’m sure some patrons wish there was a window, but alas there isn’t* — through the front door and then proceeded to stop by the front desk, where she asked me if I could waive part of a video fine because her family had been dealing with the death of a relative and, as a result, she had forgotten to bring the DVDs back to the library in a timely fashion. I let her know as politely as I could that I, as a lowly library staff, didn’t have that authority, that she would have to talk to the director, who was in during the day about that.

She then continued to tell me her story: that she had been a patron for many years and that she thought she was entitled to at least some courtesy. I again let her know politely that she would have to talk to the director. Then the patron said she didn’t understand why library staff didn’t have the authority to waive fines. Yet again, I let her know politely as I could after the third time of telling her she would need to talk to the director. Finally, the woman left the desk. I wondered if other video stores offered the same courtesy to their customers. Somehow, I doubted it.

Later, I saw her looking over our DVDs. I thought it only polite to let her know that she would be unable to take out any DVDs until her fine was taken care of, either by paying or talking to the director. So I told her, to which she responded that she thought we (in this case, meaning “I”) would allow her to take out movies until her fine was taken care of. I informed her of the policy , which is not to allow patrons with fines over $1 to take out DVDs or books until their fines were paid, or waived by the director (which is highly unlikely, but I didn’t tell her this). Her fines, I knew, were at least $1 because overdue fines for DVDs are $1 a day and she had mentioned that she hadn’t returned the DVDs until several weeks later.

She then informed me that she lived several miles out of town, as if that was a hardship. I hate to say but I didn’t sympathize with her, not only because I live right in town, but also because our library services a wide rural area and many of our patrons travel several miles to the library. Why should she be treated any differently? If there’s one directive I was given as night staff, it was, and is, to be consistent with the rules. For the fourth time, I informed her, my polite voice reaching its tether, that she would need to talk to our director…at which point the woman flounced out the front door through which she had entered in such a fluster earlier that evening.

Later, I talked to our director and our circulation librarian about the woman, and they both agreed that I had done the right thing. The circ librarian, like I thought the previous night, said she doubted video stores would waive fines for such a reason. I also mentioned that I thought this was the same woman who had come into the library a few months earlier to ask her fines be waived because she was going through a bad divorce and hadn’t had a chance to bring the DVDs back to the library. The circ librarian didn’t think it was the same woman, but I still think it is.

In a moment of (rare) cruelty, I did think to ask the woman that I would need to see a death certificate first before we could waive her fine. Our circ librarian said she thought it too. However, lucky for me and my job security, I didn’t. I also thought of asking her where the funeral home was, because if it had been in town (our library sets across the street from one in fact), she could have just dropped off the DVDs then. Again, lucky for me and my job security, I didn’t.

I haven’t heard if the woman returned and did talk to our library director. I’m just waiting for her to return to ask me if she can get another fine waived because her dog died and the trauma was too much for her to do anything else, especially return overdue DVDs and especially since the DVD was Marley and Me.The trauma, the trauma.

For some reason, all this customer service talk reminds me of this …ahem…commercial:

Ooops, click through to Youtube, to see the video. This one was disabled by request, probably at request of NBC. Those bastards!

* On a side note, not even the staff bathroom has a window in it. So we have to deal with unpleasant odors too, and that’s not counting some of the patrons, but that’s a story for another time.

22 responses to “Introducing the Patron of the Week: Little Miss I-Don’t-Want-To-Pay-All-My-Fine-Because-(insert excuse here)

  1. Pingback: In case you missed them, my top 10 posts…EVER! | an unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  2. Pingback: Patron of the Week: Mr./Mrs./Ms. I-Leave-Random-Shit-In-Books | an unfinished person (in this unfinished universe)

  3. Lord – I get so tired of that entitlement attitude! That we all should give them a break or let them do whatever they want just because they want it. Sheesh. Man up & do what the rest of us have to. Get your stuff in on time or pay the fine. At least she didn’t start cursing at you – that seems to be the next step for most people nowadays.
    Sorry you had to deal with it!

  4. My experience is that people who ask for exceptions to rules are the ones least deserving. I’m betting you’re right about her being the victim of “a bad divorce” and this is just a pattern. I hate being such a skeptic, but people being people, I can’t be any other way.

  5. I love the fact that you cannot be trusted if your fine is $1 or more. At my library it’s $5. And most of the time I don’t let it get over $2. But it is $1 a day for DVDs, whereas it’s 15 cents per day for a book.

    Can’t this chick renew them online at home so she has another week to take them back? That’s what I’ve started doing and I haven’t had a fine in at least a month.

    Re: Jen’s Niece

    She sounds like she using that library card like a credit card. Dang.

    • unfinishedrambler

      Ours is 10 cents a day for books.

      Actually (the word of the day, at least here in the comments) DVDs are non-renewable. So nope.

      Re: Jen’s niece.

      Doesn’t sound like the sharpest knife in the drawer.

      Sorry, Jen.

  6. Some people are always looking for a hand-out. She probably complains about her food in restaurants hoping to get it free.

    Good for you for following the rules.

    • unfinishedrambler

      If I changed the rules for her, then I’d have to change it for everyone and then there’d be…


  7. not to allow patrons with fines over $1 to take out DVDs or books until their fines were paid

    Goodness – your library system must be severely underfunded or broke !

    I love Rosanne’s style reminds me of me cousin Gretta (Not her real name) πŸ˜€

    • unfinishedrambler

      Yeah, Jaffer, we don’t live in the Socialist Republic of Canada so everything isn’t funded here like up there. πŸ˜›

      Actually, it is underfunded and it’s a small library. Also if you stop them at $1, it helps from them getting out more books and more fines. There is a method to the madness.

      • Well, libraries up here can be anal about fines too !

        Some library systems work with credit collection agencies – and if fines accumulate that can screw your credit rating – just like failing to pay for credit card debt !

        • unfinishedrambler

          You don’t have to shout ! πŸ™‚

          Actually I like that idea about working with credit collection agencies. I wish we did that here in the states.


            I am sure some libraries in the US do dispatch repo men to collect library fines. I (risk to) confess I heard that on John Tesh.
            (Was teased on twitter big time once when I mentioned John Tesh – “You a ninety year old woman ?” and sorts )

            • unfinishedrambler

              I won’t tease you. I think he has a radio show, doesn’t he now?

              Kim says she used to listen to it when she was driving for her job.

  8. Oh, and I can’t see the video, didn’t you get the memo? We can’t embed anymore.

    • unfinishedrambler

      My bad. I was posting this quick before I went to work.

      Yes, we can embed…just not on videos where it says “embedding disabled on request” like this one, which I didn’t notice, but if you click through to the video, you still can see it.

      So there :P.

  9. I really want to know what her fees amounted to. I’ve checked out videos from the library and they are always scratched beyond repair. I don’t get my money back, why should she? Oh, wait, I guess I didn’t pay anything for them.

    My niece, who is a huge reader, had library fines upwards of $500. She is a little forgetful. When she wasn’t allowed to take anymore books out she stole my brother’s (her dad) library card. And managed to run that one up too. After working for an entire summer she managed to pay all the fines off so all is good. When I was her age I often borrowed my dad’s credit card and ran it up, never in my wildest dreams would I have stolen (borrowed, whatever) another person’s library card.

    • unfinishedrambler

      Our DVDs are usually in pretty good shape, plus we just got a lot of new ones through a grant from a local company. I’d like to know what the fees amounted to also, but she didn’t give me her name and I referred her to our director (as I think I might have mentioned a few times πŸ˜‰ ).

      If your niece was at our library, she would have been taken to court. Also she wouldn’t have been allowed to use her dad’s library card. We live in a small town, so here, we would have known who she was and kept her ass — and well, the rest of her too πŸ™‚ — out of the library until she paid the $500.

  10. Hey, why doesn’t your library staff have the authority to waive fines? The staff at my library here in Denver does. Are you that hierarchical there that you have to follow a rigid chain of command? Can’t you make even the most simple decisions on your own?

    Anyway, hadn’t this lady ever heard of NetFlix?

    • unfinishedrambler

      We’re a small library…and um, no. Sorry, we’re not like in the big urban, metropolitan city large places (whatever other redundant expression you care to use). And it’s not a simple decision.

      As for Netflix, no, some people here in the rural, East Bumf**k, sticks, hills (whatever other redundant expression you care to use) haven’t caught on to Netflix. We actually still have VIDEOS. Imagine.