Rush at the bookstore creates new energy

After the lazy, peaceful days of summer at the Fairfield University Bookstore, this past holiday weekend, my colleagues and I were swept into the University’s move-in activities and “rush” was officially underway. I think of fall rush as the transition to fall and winter activities and I enjoy having a front row seat, particularly as the incoming freshmen, parents in tow, begin navigating their college textbook-buying expedition.

I worked back-to-back, 9-hour shifts in our General Merchandise and trade-book departments on Sunday and Labor Day, trying to straighten merchandise about once an hour. Families started arriving even before our doors opened at 9 a.m. and soon our clothing and school supply areas swelled with busy buyers, trying to find the “perfect” sweatshirt, sweat pants or fashionable pullovers. I enjoyed watching freshmen parents trying to curb their over-zealous students, as they gathered way more merchandise than they’ll need to be noticed on campus this fall.

Our Follett buyers have definitely added some unusual color combinations and designs and I’m seeing more clothing in colors other than just red and black and with more insignias showing only Fairfield and the letter F. And I’ve been trying to watch which styles seem to be more popular this year.

For the two big days of rush earlier this week, I tried to walk over to the clothing area and straighten, re-hang and organize tops, sweat pants, shorts, tank tops sweat shirts and other offerings, as well as organize things by their right sizes. By the end of each day, the department looked a little like a war zone.

Meanwhile, the text area upstairs was constant crowds and to take some of the pressure off our text associates my colleagues and I fielded phone calls from harried parents (mostly freshmen) and directed families upstairs for books and restrooms.

Mainly, it was exciting, after our long, lazy summer, to see the store alive with buyers and students again. On my long two-day shifts, I definitely helped a lot of non-student buyers, as well as parents with finding best sellers, bibles and books required by our various high schools. And my boss shared the other day that our numbers were definitely up — music to any associate’s ears.

Our Starbuck’s Café was booming and at the end of each day, I collected heaping trash bags of finished and half-finished coffees, lattes and macchiatos that ended up in our tall cans near the parking lot entrance to the store. When I’m downstairs, trash duty falls to me at the end of the night.

One thing I have definitely noticed in the six years I’ve been with the bookstore is how smoothly our textbook department runs. These days, a lot more students are buying or renting books on line and larger numbers are picking up books at the Stag Spirit Shop in the Barone Campus Center.

And our associates are seeing more students who are last-minute shoppers or who placed on-line orders and are racing to pick up books before impatient professors load the students up with early assignments. As a matter of fact, I fielded a call from one frantic mom, begging us to allow her son to come in (it was 5:40 and we were closing at 6) to pick up an accounting book, because the order hadn’t arrived at the Barone Center.

Chelsea, our great textbook manager, accommodated the mom’s request, the student’s Uber arrived at 5:55 and the young man showed up with a friend, who had the same predicament. In the end, the crisis was averted and these students would be prepared for class. The mom kept blessing me, but that’s all part of the service we try to provide.

Of course, there are also cases where students wait until the last minute and end up paying the price in terms of out-of-stock books or lack of copies for rental. For those cases, there really isn’t much that Chelsea and her associates can do.

By Labor Day, the Stag Bus was running about every 45 minutes and large crowds of students were arriving all day long. The textbook department was jammed all day and we were crazy busy downstairs in general merchandise too. But that kind of chaos gives me a special dose of adrenaline and the days go much more quickly.

This is fall “rush” after all and we expect this frenzy of activity to continue for at least another week or so. Then the students will settle into their academic routines, the days will get shorter and before we know it, fall activities and Halloween will be around the corner.

This early fall season is my favorite time of year at the Fairfield University Bookstore. Now I can look for that familiar chill in the air, students walking along the post road in the evenings and nights of student studying upstairs. I get my own kind of “rush” that way.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at