Sunday, June 10, 2007

Once Upon a Time in Kinokuniya

"Tell you what, son. If you want to buy books, I will always give you the money for them – no questions asked. Buy as many as you want."

My Dad, when I was in primary five (1997)

"Err, do you really need to read this much?"

My Dad to me, during the last holiday (2007)

One of my Dad’s unexpected regrets in life. Some things just cannot be foreseen.

Now that the MPH advertisement from my sidebar is gone, I think it’s finally ethical for me to talk about one of my favourite places in the world; the Kinokuniya in KLCC.

This is a flashback post, by the way, and events which I described in it happened more than two years ago. I was suddenly reminded about it and decided that it is simply too good a tale not to share with you guys.

Welcome to my religion. Remember, Kinokuniya is the choice of King Leonidas.

I remember this particular trip to Kinokuniya for three reasons;
  1. It was my first.
  2. It was the day I managed to lay my hands (finally) on the last book of the Bartimaeus Trilogy (Ptolemy’s Gate), the entire Earthsea series and the His Dark Materials trilogy1.
  3. It was the time Kinokuniya gave me a one-receipt 15% discount on my next visit.

I arrived in KL and KLCC in the morning with my Dad and Lil’ Sis and we had a ‘rather quiet’ breakfast in the McD in the food court2 - ‘quiet’ because I was reading some novel (as usual), and Sis was reading some manga, and ‘rather’ because my Dad was having a monologue by himself about the health concerns of having breakfast in McD, and how he wishes that his kids would talk more instead of being such massive bookworms.

At about noon, after my Sis managed get the two issues of her favourite manga, Fruit Basket (or Furaba, whatever), my Dad and her left KLCC for Midvalley Megamall, leaving me on my own for the rest of the day in the company of the TGV cineplex3 and Kinokuniya there. With adequate funding, I am perfectly capable of keeping myself entertained for days in spite of having to be on my own.

I had my reservations when Keat Seong, a colleague of mine in Taylor’s College, told me that I can get ‘whatever shit book’ I want from there but nevertheless, I brought my very pregnant ‘List of Books I Want to Read Before I Die’ anyway, hoping that I can at least tick some off it. On my first visit, I was completely blown away. I almost got a bloody heart attack watching the cute girl sitting at the information counter mark title after title on my list, telling me that most of them are available (all of which were ‘not in stock’ in crummy ol’ MPH). I left Kinokuniya with two shopping bags filled to their brims. I was glad that my Mom lent me her credit card. My mom wasn't.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop writing my Declaration of Undying Love to Kinokuniya
and speed off to the part where I get the discount.

I spent the rest of the day sitting in Secret Recipe, devouring my hardcover edition of Ptolemy’s Gate from cover to cover, and a couple of cheesecakes besides. About three hours before KLCC went into lockdown for the day, I returned to Kinokuniya to see if I could fill up another shopping bag with books.

Unlike my earlier visit, which was brief and decisive (since I had my list with me), my second sojourn was slow and meandering. I carefully and systematically scanned every shelf in the Fantasy, Fiction, Classics, Sci-fi, and Children sections for interesting titles to leap up at me4. All the while, I was toting both my shopping bag filled with my prior purchases. I simply couldn’t bear to leave them anywhere when I finally have them in my hands after practically spending years to look for them (yes, I have strange attachments to inanimate objects – so go call the funny farm on me).

Unbeknownst to me, someone was shadowing and watching me closely.

At about 10 pm, my Dad and Sis came into Kinokuniya to tell me that it was time we head back to Malacca. With a heavy heart, I left the establishment with a half-filled third shopping bag, swearing solemnly that I would be back there before long.

Just as I was about to board the elevator, someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around and faced two Malay men. In that shortest of delay, the elevator closed, separating me from my family. One of the Malay men rudely relieved me of one of my shopping bags, took out my copy of Ptolemy’s Gate from it (which I’ve finished reading) and waved it in my face asking, "Where did you get this book from?" in Malay.

This is the book I'm talking about.

"I bought it from Kinokuniya," I replied defiantly in English, just to spite him.

"Where is the price tag and sensor tag5?" he questioned me further, still speaking in Malay. At this point, I guessed that they must be some sort of security officers from the bookshop.

"I removed them. It’s my property. I can do what I like with it," I said in English again (I kept mentioning the languages we used because it’s important – you’ll see why later). I always remove whatever stuff the bookshops stick on books – price tag, discount stickers, etc – before I read them. It’s a personal quirk of mine. I won’t read a book unless this ritual is performed. That’s why I don’t usually hang out in bookshops and read for free *throws a sidelong glance at Jen and Beverly*.

"Where’s your receipt for this," he said, loudly enough so some people turned their heads. And yes, he was still speaking in Malay.

My face went red, with a mixture of embarrassment and explosive rage. If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it is false accusations against my person. I searched all three of my shopping bags for that receipt, eager to show how badly the bastard had wronged me – but it wasn’t there. With a rising sensation of panic, I checked my wallet and dug deep into my cluttered pockets6 – but the infernal receipt would not be found at all.

"Follow us back to the shop," he said smugly, when he saw that I was in distress. Yes, in Malay.

Biting my lips to stop myself from leaping at him and chewing his nose out, I decided to do as he said. In front of the elevators teeming with shoppers wasn’t the best place in the world to start a potentially injurious scene.

There, he called his manager (a bespectacled Chinese man) and they began to bombard me with questions. I remained adamant that I purchased the book with good money and would not yield. To save you time, I’ll list my arguments down;
  1. The security guard did not see me in the act of taking the book down from the shelf, removing the price and sensor tags, and then putting it in one of my shopping bags (I can say this confidently because I knew that I didn’t).
  2. There’s no CCTV proof either.
  3. The book belongs to me so it is within my rights to remove the tags if I want to, and it wasn't written anywhere in the shop at all that I wasn't allowed to do so.
  4. The receipt belongs to me as well and if I want to lose it, it’s damn well none of their bloody business.
  5. The book could very well be something I brought from home or bought from some other bookshop and they have no right at all to detain and question me like this.
  6. The plainclothes shop detectives who detained me were ugly, and were just trying to score a promotion by framing innocent shoppers like me. Mostly because they are ugly.

The combined arguments of the two plainsclothes shop detectives (in Malay) and the manager (in broken English) was;
  1. The book had no price and sensor tags and I have no receipt to show for it (which is moot; refer to my argument #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5).
  2. I was acting suspicious because I spent inordinately long periods of time looking at the shelves in different sections, and had been wandering in the shop for the past 3 hours (I understand that the plainclothes shop detectives are probably retarded illiterates, and had never visited a bookshop to buy books before in their entire pathetic lives).
  3. Repetition of their argument #1 and #2 like corrupted mp3 files broken records because they are too dumb to think of any more to use against me.

It was a stalemate. By that time, my Dad, seeing that I did not follow him to the car park, came back to find me and had joined the fray. My Dad threatened a lawsuit, and cited numerous consumer rights etc. While they are squabbling, I reached into my pockets once again and – what do you know? – the receipt was sitting in there all along.

I smiled a very wicked smile before announcing my find.

Theatrically, I raised the crumpled receipt much higher than I need to so everyone who was watching the drama can see it. The manager, now red in the face as well (probably from trying to argue in English because I lied to him that I didn’t understand Mandarin or Cantonese, LOL) practically snatched the receipt from my hand to read it. The redness instantly disappeared from his face – and he became ghostly white. One of the shop detectives (the one that didn’t argue much and probably suspected that they have made a mistake because I wouldn’t yield and admit), inched away inconspicuously at the moment I produced the receipt. He was jumping the sinking ship.

What ensued was the most fun time I’ve ever had in a very, very, very long time. I doubled the volume of my voice and started berating the manager and the remaining (dumber) shop detective with so much gusto you’d think I’m savouring a juicy, bit of lamb chop covered in garlic-butter gravy. They tried to cover their asses lamely by saying I shouldn’t have removed the price and sensor tags, and that I should have produced the receipt earlier (by this time, the shop detective have started to speak to me in English – I consider that a decisive victory). I responded by reiterating my argument #3, #4, #5 and (especially) #6 at triple my volume. I spent at least half an hour shouting them into submission, till both of them hung their heads low in shame of being shouted at by some teenager while many people watched on. My Dad and Sis just stood by quietly, not daring to interrupt me because they were totally awed at my awesome scolding powerz7.

The shop detectives could have approached me while I was inside the shop and ask me about the book, but nooooo - they have to wait till I walk out of the premises and then shamed me in front of the other shoppers. It was very obvious that the prevention of shoplifting was secondary to whatever sadistic, sick pleasure the bastards get from embarrassing supposed shoplifters. I practically beat their heads to pulp with that.

Well, to stop this long story from getting even longer, my wasted time and ‘public humiliation’ was compensated with that one-receipt 15% discount I mentioned earlier and a formal apology letter. Frankly, I can demand more but;
  1. I felt bad for the manager and the shop detective since they were on the receiving end of most of the ‘public humiliation’ anyway ("...for I am a kind and merciful god," to quote King Xerxes from 300)
  2. I don’t want them to think that I’m an opportunistic asshole that staged the whole charade just so I can score a discount.
  3. It was seriously great fun to scold adults till they hang their heads in shame. I sincerely thank them for the experience. And yes, I’m thoroughly evil. ("THIS... IS... SPARTA!!!" to quote King Leonidas, also from 300)

I saved about RM100 on my next visit. I’d have bought more if I didn’t already slash out most of the items in my ‘List of Books I Want to Read Before I Die’ earlier. Damn.

Nowadays, I still tear the price and sensor tags off my Kinokuniya purchases and return later that day to browse.

I can hope, can't I?

P.S. If you’re interested in how many books I usually buy every time I visit Kinokuniya, here’s a list from my last visit before I came back here to India; CLICK ME.

P.P.S. KinoKuniya has two K's in it. See? We are made for each other.

I heart Kinokuniya,
k0k s3n w4i

1 Before that, I spent nearly a year and over a hundred MPH visits being disappointed by the same answer of, "Sorry, but we don’t have these books in stock." I mean, these books aren’t the usual obscure titles I hunt for (case in point being Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist which neither Kinokuniya nor Borders stocked). They are international bestsellers for Hitler’s sake! MPH should just fire their entire Stock Replenishment Department (or whatever you call ‘em) and hire me. They can pay me in books.
2 You know a mall is posh when they consider McD as food court food.
3 Yes, TGV is the preferred choice of k0k bL0k. I worked in GSC before so trust me, I know.
4 I bought the first book of the Bartimaeus Trilogy (The Amulet of Samarkand) and my-favourite-book-ever, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, because I thought that their titles and covers were cool. You CAN judge a book by its cover, y’know.
5 If you don’t already know, hidden in between the pages of all the books in Kinokuniya is some sort of magnetic(?) sensor tag that would set off the alarm if you try to leave with an unpaid book. Apparently, the Malay bloke spotted the missing price tag while I was browsing.
6 Those that have seen me reach into my pockets to pay for stuff before can tell you just how insanely cluttered my pockets really are. You can find paperclips, old receipts, sweet wrappers, stones with odd shapes that I have picked up, screws and once, a lighter, even though I don’t smoke.
7 It’s not often that I lose my temper completely. There’s only one other time I did it and that was to a friend of mine that ffk (‘fong fei kei’) some buddies and I on New Year’s Eve Day. Everyone was also totally awed at my awesome scolding powerz when I verbally attacked the bloke when he finally came. They said that they have never seen someone scold someone else for a whole hour with so much passion before. By the way, that bloke and I are still friends (Sorry, for that time, wei!).


michellesy, addict of the written word said...

O Awesome Mortal Who Recommends Most Excellent Reads, am I to add another skill to your list of ever-growing attributes?

Scolding Powerz WOOT - LMAO!

They behaved disgracefully indeed.
Tsk tsk - thinking they could browbeat a teenager into submission through nothing but brute force.

Did they think to reduce you to a cowering mess with their powderful England and ample use of finger-wagging (I am assuming the latter, but people of that ilk generally indulge in finger-wagging, together with sundry, equally futile, hand gesticulations).

But never fear, awesome scolding powerz is here *wink*

And having your (righteously furious) dad there sure didn't hurt your cause either.

ps: Being a retail assitant myself, I can only conjuncture that they stopped you after you'd left the store because 'shoplifting' technically occurs the moment you step over the threshold. But those two gutless-ball-less-SOBs probably though they'd prolong your agony as they were sure your case would be a slam-dunk. Wtf.

pps: I concur that MPH does indeed, suck balls. There isn't a Kinokuniya here, but Borders isn't too shabby a substitute. And if they don't have what you want, you can get it ordered in, FOC, no-obligations. Me likes.

ppps: My mom once made the promise your dad made to me too. I repaid her by buying neither clothes nor makeup (having neither face nor figure for both, what the heck does it matter anyway) - but spending on books. She soon retracted that promise. Wise woman, my mother =P

michellesy, the word-addict who can't spell words said...

Upon reflection on my comment I have this to say: GAWD WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY SPELLING?

Sorry yeah, it's 1am here Down Under and half of my brain cells (well the ones that govern my ability to spell anyway) have gone down the gurgler it seems 0_O

ps: I er, have a confession to make, too. You see *whispers* I also read books/ magazines for free at bookstores *whispers*

But I am proud to say I do that a lot less here now that a proper, functioning entity such as a Library exists.

Er, don't banish me from this blog please? =P

bevE said...

Actually, I wouldn't have minded if this post was long-winded and drony. It would serve as an accomplishment for all English-speaking Malaysian teenagers ! =D

McD isn't counted as food court food. xD It's just that lots of people who go to KLCC aren't that rich as well or would prefer eating McD. It just happens to be placed there because it's universal junk cuisine!

>_> I resent that sidelong glance. *haughty* I'll have you know I only started reading at Kino or book stores when I was limited to only one book a fortnight - or month. I also get less disappointed that way, as I'd hate to stop reading a book halfway through and chuck it into the bin. *raises brow* I remove the sensor tags, and price tags after I buy the book, and I don't wrap them coz they'd look ugly.

MPH closed down about a year after Kino opened. xD

aya* said...

what the hell. and from a prestigious (bookshops are my sanctuaries.) company like Kinokuniya u'd at least expect much more.


*i wanna try that someday XD *

bevE said...

aya*: I don't think it's the company. It's the staff they employ.

Zzzyun said...

hmmm. i always used to wonder how u had any time at all to study... what with the many storybooks u read plus all the loooong blog posts u write painstakingly.

do u sleep at all?

michelleg said...

have to agree wit ur point no. 6, ur pockets are really cluttered with junks. haha..

oh, and tgv rulez!

pinksterz said...

visiting that place is on my top 5 list of things i gonna do when i am back in msia.

2> the part when you found the receipt kinda has a resemblance when harry got the philosopher's stone IMO. lol.

3> and yeah, kinokuniya is way better than mph. i used to be there for hours before i found another passions (clothes, jeans etc :P) and my mum had to come and drag me home. ahaha. and borders is another one i love to after kinokuniya.

here, the best bookstores is not that big, and half of it is dedicated for musics. and it is known as virgin.*eye rolling*

4> and served that securities people right! HAH!

yesterday i kena another encounter with security again (not the food court dummies). suspected me brought in some bomb because the scanning machine went beepin non stop. turned out it was my phone. securites just hate me. T_T

further note:
you asked more pics of egypt right? will be in my next post. but it won't be that soon. *wicked smile*

k0k s3n w4i said...

I'm not much a of a Borders fan. I'll visit it if I happen to be in a mall that has one, but it doesn't have that cosy, warm, bookish goodness we all associate Kinokuniya with - when the Japs do something, they do it to perfection.
I repaid my Dad by not buying any of those outdated-in-three-months gadgets :) (all my tech stuff are gifts fr him. he's such a massive techie whose enthusiasm, sadly, isn't shared by his offsprings)
My dad is a self-professed authority on consumer rights, and he love scenes like this.
P.S. I'd sooner ban myself.

You're saying this post ISN'T long-winded and drony? 0.o
You should have seen the unedited version before I brought the scissors to it.
You don't wrap your books? *gasps*. You... you... book abuser!!! ALL my books are carefully wrapped using my distinct signature method with the best embossed polyvinyl wrapper money can buy - I wouldn't read them otherwise.
P.S. Strangely enough, A&W isn't in the food court in KLCC.

all this while, I thought clubs are your idea of sanctuaries (esp since ur Dad owns the OMG popular Station 3 XD). Bookshops are for no-lifers like me, innit? I'd like to pick your brain further on the stuff you read someday :)

4 hours a day of sleep. 6 on weekends ;)
Most of my posts are work-in-progress in Microsoft Words. All I do most of the time is just pick one half-finished post I feel like completing, finish writing it and post. Most of them never get completed (i got some backed up till last year)

I call them footnotes ;)
All Hail TGV!!!

No wonder it felt so familiar when I wrote that part!!! LOL... But unfortunately, the receipt wasn't what the 'bad guys' want.
Kinokuniya is on my top 3 list. I can finally start ordering the books they don't stock (because they always need one month to fill the orders and my hols all last only one month)
And I heard about the Virgin group of companies before - owned by one Sir Richard Branson, IIRC.
P.S. Ur phone ealking radiation la. Be careful, later kena mutate become greensterz.
P.S.S I await your next post ;)

bevE said...

A&W has bad food.

I AM NOT A BOOK ABUSER! how DARE you accuse me of such ! wrapping books makes it UGLY. and when the pages start to yellow, only the part where the book is wrapped on the covers don't turn yellow. UGLY. UGLY.

michellesy, book addict and chronic Borders browser said...


There isn't a KinoKuniya here in BrisVegas =(

Having said that though, I've taken advantage of Border's comfortable leather seats (I swear the seats have taken on the shape of my butt cheeks) and laissez-faire approach to browsing far too often to be whingeing about them now =P

Jen said...

"*throws a sidelong glance at jen and beverly*"

hey! i resent that! hahahah! i honestly wish i could afford more books or that my parents were as nimble with their credit cards as are their tongues. alas, i am reduced to leaning against bookshelves, fidgeting on the itchy, furry, unforgiving carpets of such establishments.

most of my books are unbelievable steals from book warehouse sales. i try to make the best of it, since buying them at normal price is almost out of the question. "stardust" for rm20? i got lucky.

borders vs. kinokuniya? i'm on the fence with this one. i love big bookstores. part of the fun is getting lost and feeling overwhelmed, surrounded by high shelves of books, each one more heart-wrenchingly magical than the one before. its like a maze of page after page of absolutely unimaginable literary escape. a maze where i stay in my corner so that no one would ever find me. a maze i wish i never have to leave.

having said that, my short working stint at mph gave me a glimpse into the inside world of in-house security. at least they were civil when suspicion of shoplifting occurs. those brutes at kinokuniya were probably unaware that no, their pay does not run on some twisted form of commission from nabbing book thieves. glad you stood your ground. a lesser person would have been rendered speechless.

a 15% discount? after what they did to you, they ought to have given you an empty trolley and say "knock yourself out, kid."

P.S. i actually stand at the entrance of said bookstores, heave a contented sigh, give the place a complete once-over, smile satisfyingly to myself, THEN walk in. bliss!

P.P.S. you know what? i think i'll pop down to klcc this weekend! yes! =D

michelleg said...

oops. sorry, now i'll remember for life. haha..

sXydeViL said...

I'd pay millions to watch that humiliated expressions of those dogs. Sometimes, they juz melebih too much. Tssk.. tssk...

k0k s3n w4i said...

A&W has better fries than McD and better chicken than KFC! Plus, they have rootbeer!!!
So you rather your books turn thoroughly yellow (and therefore, thoroughly ugly), rather then wrapping them and having them suffer only partial ugliness?

Leather seats doesn't make no diff to me. I simply can't stand reading in the bookshops for some reason.

I got Stardust for about RM20 too fr MPH!
I've never been to the Borders in Times Square (tho I've visited the The Curve one). From what I've heard, the bigger Borders feels very 'warehousey', 'cold' and 'empty'.

Speechlessness is one malady I don't suffer from when I'm wronged. I have to defend myself a lot in my childhood because both my parents work outside the state.

P.S. I always look back over my shoulder when I leave Kinokuniya XD
P.S.S You're evil.

Who say blogs aren't educational?

Do the same thing I did and stage your own drama. It's rip-roaring fun I tell ya.