October 22, 2014

How to get locked inside a bookshop (and how to get out)


But imagine you're on the inside

But imagine you’re on the inside

Last week, Waterstones made international headlines when a hapless tourist from Texas, David Willis, became locked in the Trafalgar Square branch of the bookshop for two hours.

Willis had wandered into Waterstones just before 9pm, not realising the store was about to close, and gone up to the store’s first floor to sit down and use the internet (I really hope he was going to at least look at the books too). When he went downstairs shortly after 9pm, he found himself in a darkened store, with shutters pulled down over the doors. He was well and truly locked in.

After speaking to security guards over the phone, and then to the police, Willis was still waiting to be set free. So he did what every person who has been alone for over an hour and seeks company and reassurance would do. No, he didn’t reach for a book. He tweeted.

First this:

Then this:

As well as receiving over 16,000 retweets, Willis’s predicament ignited the public imagination and made the dream of being locked in a bookshop into reality. Some recommended books to read, while others went for more direct calls to action, such as “BOOK FORT” and “TROLLEY DASH”. The Guardian even ran an article on the best short books to read for those moments when, you know, you’re locked in a bookshop and have at least two hours to kill until someone from Waterstones happens to take a look at the company Twitter account as they sit down for dinner and thinks “Wait a second…oh shit!”

Willis was eventually set free, and Waterstones admirably took the event in their stride, tweeting:

Then yesterday the book chain went one step further and announced they were running a competition with Airbnb through which readers can win a sleepover in the flagship Waterstones Piccadlly store, this coming Friday. There will be inflatable beds, midnight snacks and the bookshop promises to let guests out in the morning. The only sleepover rule? “Be considerate – other guests may be trying to read.”




Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.