Saturday, September 29, 2012

Borders - One Year Later

In memoriam
Can you believe it's been one year since Borders officially closed? I know! A whole year!

Let's go back in time to 2011 when the bankruptcy was announced. Remember the chaos, the horror, the grief? Moans over the end of traditional publishing, over books, over reading, over LIFE AS WE KNOW IT(!!) reached a fever pitch. Because if Borders, that noble box-store chain, could close, who would be next? 

Readers clutched their hardcover darlings to their chests and eyed the remaining stores fearfully. Would Barnes & Noble be next? Books-A-Million? WOULD AMAZON SEIZE THE ONE RING AND RULE THEM ALL?!

Well, that's what most people remember. (And in case anyone was wondering, Amazon did not turn into Sauron and squash competition with an iron fist. We're still here!) I remember one thing from the Borders incident: The List. More specifically, I remember "Things We Never Told You: Ode to a Bookstore Death."

You remember the list, right? Employees at some unidentified Borders store had used the freedom provided by the impending shutdown to write their manifesto, a list of all those things they wished they could've told their customers. (I'd have told them to just get a blog, but whatever.)

Ode To A Bookstore Death

When this list first appeared, I didn't have a blog. I couldn't really comment on its accuracy. (Well, its accuracy for me - I'm sure it was accurate for them.) But tada! I have a blog now! More importantly, I have a blog about being a bookshelver just like those poor Borders employees. So I thought that, in honor of the dearly departed Borders, I would go through each point and tell you my take.

1. We hate when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie.

Umm... No, not so much. I can see how it would be frustrating to see a book's popularity rise and fall based on the movie (John Carter, anyone?), but I'll cheer on anything if it'll get people reading. I LOVED seeing our Hunger Games display get picked over every week by eager fans, and I'm over the moon at the attention The Hobbit is already getting. I'll take the popularity for as long as I can get it. [Oh snap. I forgot I even wrote a post about this. I'm so far ahead of myself, it's awesome!]

2. It confused us when we were asked where the non-fiction section was.

Hee-hee. Thankfully, no one's asked me this yet, but I can definitely see it happening. Everything that isn't made up is non-fiction, people. That includes history, social science, poli-sci, cooking, sports, family, etc., etc. In other words, at least half the store. Mayhap you should narrow it down a bit?

3. Nicholas Sparks is not a good writer... if you like him, fine, but facts are facts.

Maybe this is where the bitterness from #1 comes from? I personally have no opinion on this one. I've never read a Sparks book and never plan to. Replace "Nicholas Sparks" with "Stephanie Meyer," though... (Oh yes. I went there.)

4. We greatly dislike the phrase "Quick question." It's never true. And everyone seems to have one.

Most of my customers imply that a question is quick rather than say it out loud, but I understand where the Borders employees were going with this one. It's your right as the customer to ask us questions. It's what we're there for. But for Gumby's sake, spit it out! I've got things to do, lady, and odds are you caught me on my way up front to help someone else, so keep it short and sweet. Just get to the point and then shut up so I can do what you need me to do. And, sir, I'm flattered (and somewhat creeped out) by your desire to flirt with me, but you're causing quite a line behind you. Please step aside.

5. Your summer reading list was our summer reading NIGHTMARE. Also, it's called summer reading, not "three days before school starts" reading.

Aaaaaamen! Can I get a Hallelujah up in here! I've already written about how to find a book, and point numero uno was DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Don't do it. Just don't. Get your act together, don't procrastinate. You're passing down a generational curse via observed behavior to your children. Don't doom your children. Also, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None should be savored, not scarfed, so there's that as well.

6. It's true we lean to the left and think Glenn Beck is an idiot.

Oookay. I personally have no opinion on Mr. Beck. I have a feeling this "fact" is based more on the Borders store's geographical location than anything else. As I've stated before, my own store has a happy mix of employees of all different political persuasions - persuasions that we tend to keep to ourselves. I fail to see how this particular "confession" relates to being a bookshelver at all.

7. We always knew when you were intently reading Better Homes & Gardens, it was really a hidden Playboy.

Nauseatingly, in my experience, our customers are not exactly bashful when it comes to their reading tastes. And Better Homes & Gardens is pretty popular in its own right in our area.

8. Most of the time when you returned books[,] you read them already - and we were on to you.

Yeah, this one's true. Some customers have legitimate returns, of course. Others had the bad habit of using our store as a library, which is VERY uncool. One customer even was banned from returning anything at our store ever again.

9. Limit One Coupon did not mean one for every member of your family - and we did know what coupons were out.

This is going to sound bad, but I didn't really care. I'm sure my manager cared, but I didn't. I get paid minimum wage, so I get how tight money can be. The only time I ever minded with coupons was when a family going one at a time lengthened the line. And really, some kids DO buy their own books with their own money, so why shouldn't they get to use their own coupons? Also, I never knew what coupons were out. We only had to check the expiration date.

10. It NEVER bothered us when you threatened to shop at Barnes & Noble. We'd rather you do if you're putting up a stink.

Yes. Yes! This was Tip #6 in the how-to post that I mentioned a few lines ago. Go away. If you're really so fed up, then we'd rather you go off and find a place that makes you happy. And if you're just being a bully and threatening us, then the $20 you plan to spend just isn't worth the hassle.

11. "I was just here last week and saw this book there" means nothing to us. The store changed once a week.

I know it makes sense to you, but you have to understand that it means NOTHING to me. First of all, books sell out. If you can't expect those killer pair of shoes to still be at Payless after a week, how can you expect us to still have that bestseller in stock in the same time frame? People will come after you and buy it! Also, even if they're still in the store, books move. New, shiny stories take the prime real estate and the older books move to different sections. Heck, sometimes even the sections themselves move! I came in one week and our "urban" (read: Afram) section had moved to the other side of the store!

12. When you walked in and immediately said "I'm looking for a book," what you really mean to say is "I would like YOU to find me a book." You never looked. It's fine, that's our job - but let's be correct about what's really happening here.

Meh. Semantics. The customers in question may have actually looked for the book in question at other stores. This sounds more like a gripe from a cranky, weary, soon-to-be-unemployed shelver.

13. If you don't know the author, title, or genre, but you DO know the color of the cover, we don't either. How it was our fault we couldn't find it we'll never understand.

Preach it! Preach iiiiiiit! Seriously, go read my post about finding a book. Just go. I'm a visual person so I can understand how when faced with such a lack of knowledge, the customer will instinctively try to describe the book, but really? Telling me that it has a green cover does nothing. What am I supposed to say? "Yes, sir, we keep all of our green books right over here. They're arranged by hue, from mint green to hunter green. Did you bring the corresponding Pantone chip?"

14. We were never a daycare. Letting your children run free and destroy our kids section destroyed a piece of our souls.

This is something else I've written about. Hellion children are a particular pet peeve of mine, I think because I was raised by awesome parents who NEVER let us get away with the things these kids get away with. Here's the thing - destroying property IS NOT OKAY. If you wouldn't want your kid graffitiing a wall or trashing your boss's home, then it's not okay to let him run loose in our store. When your kid damages something in our store, it costs us money - money, I might add, that indirectly comes out of our paychecks by siphoning from the budget.

book club
15. Oprah was not "the final say" on what is awesome. We really didn't care what was on her show or what her latest book club book was. Really.

I read YA lit. Oprah likes biographies and memoirs and gritty fiction that supposed to touch your innermost soul and make you feel all philosophical and jazz. So yes, her books aren't really my cup of tea. But whatever floats your boat.

16. When you returned your SAT books, we knew you used them. We thought it wasn't fair - seeing as we're not a library.

This one's just a rehash of #8.


Next week, I plan to air a few confessions of my own. Until then, please add your own take on the Borders employees' confessional. Borders, fare thee well.