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It always makes me uncomfortable when I hear someone is going to be executed on no firmer proof than a witness's statement. A victim remembering is one thing, but random witnesses who may or may not have seen someone at a certain time in a certain place? Witnesses for whom something is at stake, who profit personally, who actually have motivation to lie?

I've had (and these are not isolated cases, or obviously confused people; it happens all the time, and twice as often before Christmas, with people with academic titles, government jobs etc.) people insist that we had books (I saw it last week! Right there on the table! In the shop window! A small/large/green/book! It cost 9.99!) that I knew we never carried. I've had them insist that they've seen books in our advertisement folders when I knew they were wrong. In a few cases, like when they're actually trying to return a book with the receipt from another bookstore, they can actually be proven wrong, but mostly the best you can do is to remain politely regretful, drag out older advertisement folders and hope that maybe you can ultimately bring them to agree that they might have seen it somewhere else. Or tell them that no, we don't have and never had a male co-worker, or that a person with a certain name never worker here; and no, sorry, our shop never had a second floor, either.

These people aren't consciously lying, they're just convinced they're right; their only possible motivation is that our shop is conveniently near, or that they like us and want to buy their books here.

I've made mistakes myself, simply not remembered a book, and was convinced I was right.


I have no idea how judges, who must know this better than your average retail person, make these decisions.

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