A Thing I Would Have Said In Reply: Odicle to a death of one of the bookboxes that almost killed bookstores
* It’s fine, I realized and was grateful that you were willingish to look for a book — but, since you’re selling books mostly written in English, let’s be correct about the difference between the present continuous tense and the past simple and present perfect tenses: “I’m looking for n.” includes the action of asking someone else ‘Where is n?’, even in a politely indirect form; “I looked for n here today.” and “I have looked for n here today.” were not what I said or meant.
Saw this earlier and was kind of disgusted by it. It’s not like Borders (or B&N or Books-A-Trillion) were the noblest of businesses in their business practice, so fuck them and their boo-hoos (that felt mean, and forced).
Honestly, part of me (a kidney and some lung matter) thinks that the attitude that inspired this list is what ruined reading for people when it could have nurtured their reading interests. The faux-erudite marketing created a disgusting “savings” crazy shopper.
I am hoping, however, that the craftier Border’s employees realize what’s up, and start specialty bookstores of their own w/ the training they received at their now deceased Borders. All that being said, the best Christmas present I ever received was a stack of Borders gift cards from friends and family who could no longer figure what it was interested in reading.
The difference between the deeply generous way the booksellers at Stacey’s in San Francisco—which closed down in 2009 after 85 years in business—chose to say goodbye and the middle finger these Borders employees chose to give their customers on their way out is certainly telling.
clearly you’ve never worked at a Border’s. The company is fucked as hell, but most of the employees at the simple store level were, generally (not always) people who liked to read and needed a shitty job. we had nothing to do with how evil the company was and hated corporate as much as you. I worked in retail for more than a decade and never had my soul killed more than when I worked at a Border’s. It was an inconceivable nightmare for a multitude of reasons, many of them dictated by a combination between the attitude of customer’s who didn’t respect us combined with everything on this list & constantly trying to come up with new methods to completely avoid management. seeing that there were employees who were ballsy enough to put up this list makes my soul cheer.
as someone who is aware that Borders is its own particular circle of hell, and having met employees of Borders from all over the country (many of whom also ended up working at other bookstores, even including Barnes & Noble) who feel similar, it’s more these kneejerk reactions in the comments that are “disgusting” to me than the sign itself. three cheers for making public what every single Borders employee ever was constantly thinking the entire time they worked their shitty job.
I worked at a Borders for 2 years in college. Doing anything in the Kids Section really was soul-numbing. I did try, sometimes. Mostly, I put things wherever felt right. That place, wherever felt right, tended to be the first opening I found. The first, and best opening, was often behind the other books.
I tended to like customers for the most part. They’re all victims of consumer-entitlement-syndrome (CES): I’m allowed to be an asshole because you want my money. Rarely would any of them have acted that way if not in a store, I think.
What annoyed me more was when coworkers acted like assholes, especially when it was some sweet old lady looking for a book for her grandson, whom she did not get to see very often, because he lives in Florida now, and boy did she ever wish she could live there too, but oh how times were hard.
The worst part came when they started expecting you to suggestive-sell books that you hadn’t read and/or abhorred. I had no problem helping someone find a book, even if it’s one I thought sucks. But don’t try to make me convince someone to want something they don’t. I will quit. I did.
I think the worst part was seeing customers en masse, or watching them from a distance. It was really hard, at those times, to see anything there except some pathetic little child looking for the next object through which it could validate itself, or bring itself some measly moment of diversion from its pointless life. [this is what it made you feel, watching them–like they weren’t even human. I remember a guy I worked with once said, “Just watch and you can see how they move, like a herd of animals.” he was right.] And then knowing that you were part of it, that here they were just buying, not knowing there was something beyond, maybe, something beautiful and meaningful and liberating, if they could just, you know, stop doing what they were doing, stop appeasing the god of consumption, whose divine graces they had been born into.
I just googled “good passage of Nicholas Sparks” hoping I could play devil’s advocate. No. They’re right. I want Mark Leidner to do a tweet about Nicholas Sparks. “Googling a good passage of Nicholas Sparks…” Okay. There’s the first half.
I also worked at Borders. And I never felt this way. It didnt suck. Was kinda cool. I got to shelve books, borrow books for free like a library, and had an hour lunch. Means I could sleep on the couch in the breakroom. Now I get 30 minutes to go pee and grab my food for ten minutes of cram face.
I worked restaurant and retail for many years. Irrationally demanding, self-contradictory, petulant, and $-deranged customers are, repeated eternally, effective hell.
As a customer, if I get 49% my way, or even 35, I’m eager to move 80 your way. I don’t want you to kiss my ass–I’m a pussy customer, because I know exactly how it is to be punked by some lunatic who thinks they can get me fired by noisily ‘feeling’ unserviced.
Are you serious? Why? Everyone who works retail, even the nicest, most open-minded people on earth, occasionally have hateful and sarcastic thoughts about the customers. Have you never had to stand on your feet for ten hours, running around like a maniac serving people? I worked in bookstores for years, both independent and corporate; it is not a ‘chill’ job. Not to mention, no matter how much knowledge you have and how good you are at your job, it’s well known how replaceable you are (both independent and corporate.)
some of the other commenters above, I’ve worked in customer service
before so I understand the frustrations that can come with the job. I
also worked at two different Borders locations over the coarse of
almost four years, and it went from being one of the greatest jobs to
absolutely one of the worst work enviroments I’ve ever experienced.
Some of it has to do with a few of the things people have
mentioned—the mandated handselling of corporate-approved books, for
one thing. If you came into the store looking for a copy of Vogue or
Eat, Pray, Love, or whatever, it didn’t matter if we actually found
you what you came in looking for. What mattered was if you bought one
of the books corporate told us to recommend. We had quotas for every
shift and if you didn’t meet your quota for the time you were on the
floor, you were written up. On more than one occasion I was told by
one of my managers to only focus on customers who were white and
looked like they made more than 30K a year and sell/help them and to
ignore everyone else.
quota thing was the same for the Borders Rewards cards. If you didn’t
sign up a certain percentage each week, you were written up or your
hours were severely reduced. The pressure and the fear of losing
one’s job over BR cards was so intense that employees started swiping
and giving cards to customers whether they wanted them or not.
the time I worked at Borders, I was called a bitch, numerous racial
slurs, and my intelligence/imcompetence was questioned because I
denied a customer a coupon that was expired/didn’t exist, or because
I wouldn’t return books that were used or had a receipt with a date
of purchase a couple months to even a year (yes, a year) old.
local author used to come into our store and change the stickers on
all of her books on display (she would take buy one/get one half
off stickers or 30% off stickers and put them on hers) greatly
reducing hers, and when I finally one day told her to stop I got
yelled at because 1.) she was a customer and 2.) she was an author.
Nevermind that what she was doing was technically stealing.
homeless, drug addicts, and drunks would frequent our store late at
night (we were open every day M-F until 11) and it was only when
there were incidents involving customers when some sort of action was
taken, nevermind the employees. I have had to literally clean shit
off of walls in the bathrooms and then afterwards been yelled at
because I didn’t do it fast enough and customers needed to use the
bathrooms. Around the store and in the bathrooms, I’ve had to pick up
used tampons, dirty diapers, and condoms.
a five foot piece of concrete fell from the ceiling and (thank god)
managed to not injure anyone. Absolutely nothing was done about it.
In the stock room other chunks of concrete continued falling but
because it wasn’t out front where there were customers the managers
didn’t care. For almost a week nothing was done until I got fed up
and worried about my own safety I anonymously called OSHA. They came
and also found absbetos and the store had to be temporarily shut
of this, in addition to working long days/weeks (I was part-time but
I still always worked 40+ days during the time I was there), 2-5 cent
raises, and absolutely zero respect from everyone around you. At
times I’ve had to do the jobs of supervisors, even managers, with the
same base pay because the store kept firing employees who’d been
there for younger kids who’d work for the starting wage. I’ve been
told by my bosses that I didn’t matter, that I thought I was above my
job because I wanted respect, and that I would never amount to
I said before, when I first started at Borders (and the original
store I worked at) it was a fantastic job. I loved helping customers
and I was good at finding books. I knew the displays and nine time
out of ten could find that obscure book that no one knew the title of
but was on the display last week. I’ve known others who were equally,
if not better, at their jobs and who went above and beyond their
mimimum wage to help customers. I managed to finally leave Borders,
but since I have felt for those that managed to continue to stay,
especially those that did up until the very end. When I worked there
it was completely soul-crushing, and I can only imagine what it was
like after I left.
True, I never worked at Border’s. But I have (and currently still do) work retail. I’m very ambivalent about Border’s closing. I know what it’s like to get that shitty customer that talks down to you, condescends, is an idiot, etc. And dealing w/ these people is not unique to any retail environment.
It’s more about dealing w/ the general public. The general public has so many conflicting ideas and backgrounds, it seems more about misunderstandings than plan ignorance. I’m not saying it’s easy to navigate through the sea of smelly citizens that is the general public.That said, I went to my local Borders a time or two during their closing sales. All I could think was this:
Why are all these people buying books? Why are there these long long lines? If there were lines like this to begin w/, Borders wouldn’t be closing. Do people only want to get books if they are cheap? Why don’t they just go to the fucking library?
That’s a fine reverse-Dantesque catalog – too tidy, a bit … complete, but compellingly told. The compression of detail both works and works against (that’s a, – , busy “almost four years”), and a couple of the details ring plainly false (“OSHA”? “anonymous”–of course! or you’d have been fired . . . did you make sure that they do respond to “call[s]” like this? –maybe you know that other workers, or a customer! and therefore ‘corporate’, “called” . . . “asbestos” is egging the pudding badly, though . . . and 30k?? no wonder they went belly-up ha ha). The “quotas” are psychologically demonic and familiar to anyone who’s worked even penny-ante retail IRL; if there isn’t a way to make a motif of them (by repeating them at the end), then put them last, even after the racial shit.
to MJ – I literally did all the stuff you listed, too. Man, that couch was gross though. The first year wasn’t bad: a lot of cool people that distracted from the work I was actually doing. It was when a lot of them left, and I had to face up to what I was doing, that it started sucking.
to deadgod- I think the library card is the best, but clearly doesn’t work out for the author (unless the world was ideal, and libraries all over the country bought the book). I would like to live in a world where no one needs to buy or sell anything.
Not that I have any reason to be thinking of such things yet (or ever), but I worry how I’ll go about publishing my book. I would like to simply give it away for free. I don’t want to charge people money. Maybe people will be able to buy it by donating a can of beans or something. God I love beans.
Reading your post, I was picturing retail and waitstaff people each, for even one day of the year, wearing a t-shirt w/ a phrase of how they truly feel. For example, 1) I hate the guy who comes in and always gives me a bible tract for a tip. 2) The customer is rarely right. 3) Why are you people obsessed with Ken Follett?
Nothing directly against the Borders/B&N employees and formers on here, but customers in your stores being allowed to sit on couches and trash stock, let their kids run around, etc., has allowed them to now feel like they can do that in the indie stores too. Was corporate policy there to just let the customer do anything?
I’m so sorry to hear that. And I thought I had a general sense of the nonsense there. What a pity that while someone well-read like Steven Moore was ordering books nationally, the brass had the staff act like a Mc Donald’s employee trying to push extra fries.
I can’t tell if you’re mocking my response or not.
My long-winded point was that the job was a shithole from the time I worked there and I don’t begrudge anyone complaining about it, but then again we’ve all had shithole jobs. Still, that doesn’t make it right or that things like this shouldn’t happen.
I’m not sure if you’re trying to insinuate that I made that stuff up about the concrete and OSHA, but it did happen, and it sucked as well as all that other stuff sucked.
I worked at two different Borders stores, from 2006 to 2009-ish. I started at a store in North Carolina and then worked at a store in Massachusetts. The OSHA/concrete thing did happen and I’m sorry if you think I’m making it up.
Well then we’d have to clarify what meaning is cool and what isn’t. I don’t think this is possible, as one of the definitions of “nerd” per dictionary.com (sorry for the lack of authority, stingy people!) is an “unattractive person,” a term so broad that anyone can readily be called “nerd” by anyone else and it’d be correct usage, as attraction is in the eye of the beholder.
Then I wondered whether my time would be better spent jacking off.
When something is taken “way too seriously/personally,” that means it is being taken more seriously/personally than it warrants, and comes off as immature or childish, i.e. taking the time to write down a stupid Thought Catalog list of all the reasons patrons pissed you off and hoping to hurt someone’s feelings. What’s even classier is the lack of signatures or photos of those who listed the grievances, which betrays the seemingly heroic act by making the people who actually wrote the list appear afraid of being punished for being assholes.
“taking bullshit no one else pays attention to seriously/personally.”
“taking bullshit no one else pays attention to way too seriously/personally.”
are two statements with different meanings.
Also, your misspelling of Borders was a little TOO trolly, you know? Might keep that in mind for next time.
Also, I’m aware that this comment sort of makes me look like a nerd.
It is really obvious that you didn’t realize this was from Borders and thought it was some snobby indie book store (thus your comments about nerds and people still having jobs) and now are just doubling down on your mistake in embarrassing internet fashion!
As maybe you know – and if you do, you’re probably more familiar with the details than I – , Britain has a tax-sharing scheme whereby authors (it would have to be ‘living’?) get a micro slice every time a book of theirs is checked out of a public library. Way too rational and just for a geology-denying teabagger ever to understand.
Not “mocking” the shittiness of retail, just dubious of the neatness of your compendium. If the account was altogether of your experiences, and not first-hand witness cobbled with exaggeration, report, and rumor, then I’m misjudging it.
–but it seems to be no sure thing to get OSHA out lickety-split to a decrepit school or hospital, much less a big-box box.
I did in-fact laugh at the “quotas”, which (I’m convinced) many of us recognize, and which would make a hilarious thread in a ‘retail novel’.
yall shouldn’t mock the nerd rage of former booksellers. It’s fo real.
I think it’s worse when you’re a writer. Something about seeing the actual workings of bookbuying that’s kind of disgusting. Like working in a slaughterhouse. AhahahaaAlso, I think that maybe some stores/locations are better than others. I worked at a 3 story b & n in a major city and then was a manager at a b & n textbooks, where they had put every other textbook place out of business except for one other. Bizzy. Lots of behavior modification. Fucking insane
[–uh, not that I meant to imply that you think fossils were put in the dirt to test our ‘faith’, but rather, to refer to why a reasonable writer-income program (of the British sort) would probably never fly in the US. Well, ‘never’ for now.]
uh, there was just as much oprah influx at the independent (lots of well-meaning ppl who wanted to support the bookstore) and one of the reasons why the independent stayed in business was because they had nyt bestselling authors and the like there doing signings readings at least once a week. a better selection of titles than the chain though, yes.
This is correct. Independent bookstores make most of their money off Nick Sparks, Oprah, and the NYTB list. The only exceptions tend to be stores in large urban markets, like DC or NY. I don’t see how taste has anything at all to do with this topic.
I didn’t know that about OSHA. Maybe it is suspect when they came, but then again, it was a huge-ass piece of concrete that fell from the ceiling and was behind our upstairs info desk. That and the gaping hole was something hard to disprove. The store was shut down for a day and when I came back tarp was put up on the ceiling and certain sections of the store and we all just had to walk around it.
Anyone in Boston at the time would remember seeing it. The place was a mess for months.
Stacy’s was not the corporate monster Border’s was. I’m sure Stacy’s booksellers were gracious in their good byes because they had been valued employees. Border’s did not care about anyone who worked for them. There were periods of of time when we received threatening emails from the home office on a daily basis literally calling us failures for falling short of impossible quotas. Many times I saw booksellers actually buying a book they could ill afford to make these quotas. The level of intimidation and fear cannot be over emphasized. I have worked at many independent book stores and my experience at Borders was the worst retail experience in my job history. I do not imagine employees at Stacy’s were abused in the way Borders abused its employees. One cannot make a gracious farewell when one has been treated ungraciously. Ask any former Borders employee and they will give you an ear full. Ultimately they mistreated their employees so badly this bad blood was passed onto the customers in the form of this sign.