Monday, January 17, 2011

Borders patrol

More news about Borders Books' financial trouble.

Quick anecdote:

I was at a local Borders just before the holidays to take advantage of a half-off coupon they sent me. (I make most of my book-related purchases on, but for 50 percent off, I'll make the drive.) Apparently, many others received the same coupon and the store was packed -- the checkout line stretched from the front of the store to the back ... and it's a big store.

I was having difficulty locating the book I'd gone there for and asked a Borders sales associate for help. Her response?

She sighed, rolled her eyes, and said "You know we're about to close, right?" Then, she looked up the title I sought and informed me, no, they didn't have it.

Now, here's the thing:

Did she act like a person working for a company desperately trying to hold onto whatever customer walks through their doors? No. Would a customer in my situation be inclined to repeat this very negative -- albeit brief -- interaction with a Borders sales associate? Yes. (Right now, in fact.)

The very point of distributing what I can only assume were hundreds, if not thousands, of half-off coupons before Christmas was to get people in the store, to break their online shopping habits. Wouldn't management gather the employees around and tell them, "Hey, listen, you might work long and hard today, but let's all do the best we can until the last customer is out of the store. Okay? We can do it!" We! Are! Marshall!

Apparently not. However, I should have expected just such an experience.


Because this particular store is famous for it.

This Borders location has a reputation among the locals for shoddy service and pretentious salespeople. My interaction wasn't the exception: it was pretty much the rule. If this was a problematic little bookstore in a far-off land, that would be one thing. But this Borders is one of the most prominent -- and heavily trafficked -- locations in the country. And it has a reputation for bad service and lousy employees.

The story I link to above talks about bad Web strategies, poor management decisions, the rise of the e-book reader. How about, um, not treating your customers as if they're a nuisance? You know which prominent bookseller doesn't do that? I'll give you a hint. No, better yet, I'll just leave the link right here.