Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 2

Thank you to all of the people who commented and passed along this blog to friends. I'm very moved to know that there are so many people who care about the observations of a soon to be unemployed bookseller, and who are there to lend support.

If even half of the days of the previous year had been like today, I can assure you liquidation would be the furthest thing from the minds of the powers that put us there. Today was a chaotic eruption of walkers-in and walkers around. There wasn't a moment where the cash register was silent. There was never a person standing in line without a person behind them. When our computer system went down, which was apparently intentional, I thought briefly, I was witnessing the entrance of a new predatory species to a here-to-fore balanced eco-system, as the pack gathered, licking their teeth, just waiting for their chance to pounce. People were out to buy books today, they were going to buy books today , and gods and goddesses help you should you get in their way.

Or were they? It was a lot of new faces today and old gift cards. People were wandering our store as though they had never been there. Mostly, they hadn't.

This was every other phone call i answered : "okay, Where is your store?"
"Route 38, next to Ruby Tuesdays"
"okay so what exit is that?". The phone was wringing almost non-stop.

So what brought all these new patrons out? These new deep pockets that could have blown wind into our sales over the past years? I'm going to go ahead and call them "Rubber Neckers" I believe these rubber neckers were no more there to buy books than they were to measure my feet for shoes. I believe they were here because it was news. It was a grim economic freakshow that they all had tickets to. They could wander the store and cluck their tounges in disapproval at how our society could so casually cast aside such a shrine to intellect and creativity. They could approach us and mourn our passing while at the same time verifying whats to come. I don't think those people cared about deals, because the liquidation hasn't started yet. I think they cared about the spectacle of it all. The opportunity to participate in the last days of something. Like funeral lurkers, who didn't really know the person who died, but can't wait to sidle up to someone and say "oh it was such a beautiful service, and she lived a beautiful life." only to later turn to a mutual acquaintance and say "I can't believe they served Brie en-croute at the wake...we're supposed to be mourning for petes sake" Like my fictional funeral lurker I'm sure many of these rubber neckers went home and had conversations like "well no wonder they went out of business, they don't have any staff to help you and their computers don't work and they don't have the Jaycee Duggard book anyway."

Never will it occur to that person that we went out of business because they only came out when there was a news item on the television about us. Nor will it occur to them that they don't have an independent book store to shop at now for the same exact reason. These audience members aren't there to support us, they are there to point and gasp, and the fact that they buy is largely an accident of convenience.

Which is why i am doubly saddened for our regulars. I looked out today and saw Mr. Smith (more to come on him, i'm sure) looking about as though he'd accidentally stepped into to traffic.The really pretty brown haired woman (whose name i don't know because I secretly harbor a crush on her and i'm too bashful to approach), she held her books to her chest as she walked through the store like a first year student on her first day of highschool. Her look of confusion seemed to say "which way to the computer lab." Their last days, in their Borders, (even though regulars get a bad rap sometimes, it's their store too) Marred by rubber neckers. Despite the chaos and the confusion, and the pinball motion of the booksellers, Mr. Smith still took a moment to come up to me, offer a letter of recommendation, put his hand on my shoulder and say "I'm really sorry". He meant it...and it made, for a second, all of those rubber neckers disappeare and suddenly it was a quiet Wednesday morning and i was talking to a kind old gentleman over coffee.


  1. I'm physically and emotionally drained and it's only day 2. M-F'er you made me tear up.

  2. such a good writer ... thanks for sharing at this difficult time

  3. I, too, feel bad for regulars. Sometimes it feels like there are more bad customers than good ones. But whatever the real ratio, well... I've felt bad b/c of the poor business decisions from corporate (as you discussed in Day 1) that led to weaker customer service despite the best efforts of those of us on the sales floor. Our store was a basically safe place to hang out, a nice place for fund raising for local non-profits, and a place to buy books for schools that no longer receive enough funding to buy the books for students. Some of them did try to do their part to keep us open (& employed). I learned some cool stuff from them, and hopefully I returned the favor. Those experiences with certain regulars are part of what made working at a book store nice. I'll miss it. And them.

  4. I did not experience the "rubber necking" phenomenon where I am, although 3 out of 4 customers whom I helped today were only there to use up their unused gift cards while they still could. Few of them knew what their gift cards were worth, and walked up with a stack of items, only to leave half of it behind once they had used up their cards. And while most of my interactions were unusually pleasant, even humorous, our many regulars were not at all shy to lament the sad state of affairs.

  5. Your post made me cry. I will never forget the first weekend of the liquidation of the Southbury, CT Borders. The staff was crying at the disregard and complete destruction of our much loved store, the regulars were filled up and offering sincere condolences, there were countless offers to write a letter (to who?), and an overwhelming sadness that I will never be able to put into words.
    All we could do, after the initial weekend of heartbreak, was get our sense of humor on, suit up on sarcasm, and have as much fun together in our final days as we possibly could. For example, for several days we all work "fixture not for sale" signs, I wore Roller skates, and we had theme days ('80's day, '50's day, etc.) and we brought in tons of food daily. This type of ridiculousness saved our sanity.

  6. I left store 281 about a month ago. I am flabbergasted at the way folks are running out to buy like animals. Those being the same folks that would try to scold you when you didn't offer them a coupon to grant them additonal savings. I so miss my Borders family as well as the regulars that made shifts a pleasure to work. Your blog is definitely on point. At this time I wish all my BORDERS family the best in the midst of this BORDERSAPOCALYPSE!!!!!