Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 3

I feel bad for our liquidator. He seems like a nice man. It must be tough to go from location to location living in the cheapest hotel you can get, working at a place for anything from 3 days to 3 months, never being able to make a connection with the people you work with. That must be why he thinks anything he has to say can in anyway make this situation better for us. Its probably also why he says incredibly insensitive things with no regard for its impact.

He called at 830 this morning and made us aware of his presence, i didn't answer the phone so i've no idea what he actually said, but it was translated to me as "Cory, the liquidator is here he's going to be at our door in seconds". I was immediately reminded of an old episode of G.I.Joe whose drama hung on the impending arrival of the Viper. At the end the viper arrives but he's just a kindly old man from eastern europe who cleans windows for a living, "I'm the viper, i come to vipe the vindows". Digression.

When the viper showed up i ran out to meet him, exchanged pleasantries, shook hands. He asked me how i was doing, I gave him a Mumbly Mumblesons answer that would basically be read by anyone with any social acuity at all as " know, closing my store, looking forward to unemployment...and yourself?" He told me his name asked me about wifi and asked me the same question again. My second answer was a little more concise. "as good as can be expected."

Then, completely unsolicited and with almost no seque, he told me "I get paid very well." The context was about getting a hotel room that he had to pay for himself but not to worry...(see above).

Today was the last day that the Borders-that-was existed. Tomorrow is officially the beginning of the reign of the liquidators. I felt, as the last bits of the ships stern sink into the ocean, i needed to recognize it, to acknowledge that a 40 year old company that once upon a time tried and tried hard to be generous and responsible was vanishing to be replaced by an empty borders shaped husk. Over the intercom, before we open i made an announcement, that today was the last day, that it was a fine company that had brought many people together, and that we were great damn booksellers and we weren't here because of anything we did but because of decisions those without our interests made on our behalf. I ended with what i thought was quite a positive "lets not be any different today than we have been any other day" message. The viper didn't like it. He searched the store to find me, walked outside with me as i unlocked the doors and said "while technically it's true, we still consider this borders for the next X weeks. It's just a different regime (his word) thats all, everything is the same." To which i replied "no it isn't, it's the end of an era and i needed to acknowledge that" .

Later i heard him talking about getting new flooring installed in his house and i heard him say he isn't the enemy and he again made a point to let me know he gets paid well. I do have to remind you that he is actually a nice man. I can only sum it up this way: when one of my co-workers asked me if he was as "douchey as he seems" i gave it a moments thought and said "well...on an atomic level, yes. But within that considered he's actually very nice". Which is to say what he is, is unapologeticaly vulgar, He can't help that, he's a carrion feeder. It's because of that i think when he tells me he has to pay his own way, but he gets paid very well...he thinks i'm actually concerned for him. I can't be, and it's not because he's unpleasant, but it's because at his core what he is professionally is a feeding off of my decay. Perhaps it's good for the eco-system but it's bad for me.

And i feel bad for him because working at a borders is all about connection. Most book store employees are nerds or geeks or other denizens of the island of misfit toys. We are, many of us, a tiny bit socially awkward, or suffer from self esteem issues. We can be bashful, or occasionally seem judgemental and rude because we find making that connection difficult. Its so difficult for many of us to find a place where we can be comfortable, let alone excel and make friends with people who share many of our same values. It's almost impossible to find a place where your knowledge of obscura is helpful to your job and appreciated by your peers. For many of us books and music and coffee are the doorway to that connection. In my store that connection is a big deal. I feel bad that the Liquidator will not ever know that from us, because he rolls in with bs liquidator feelgoodspeak instead of honesty. I feel bad because being one of us is a fantastic feeling. Instead he's just going to blunder about talking about home improvement projects and hotel stays when many of us are concerned about being able to eat past October.


  1. He's waiting for one of us to steal something.....He was surprised when Lisa was giving me a bag check, "you actually do them"

    Yes, I said and on camera as well.

    I also had a bitchy customer toss her egc that had 5 cents left on it and say, "you're gonna need this more than me"

  2. Cory--best one yet. I feel a little bad I had the instant chemical dislike to the viper that I did, because I am betting your view of him is closer to the truth. But the whole day the minute I saw him I had the urge to kick him in nuts, and that's not a feeling I have much. So, for me, I think discretion is the better part of valor, and I will simply stay as far away from him as possible.

    As bad as this situation is, I am determined to get the most out of it I can, by having fun and joking with my co-workers, many of whom are the hardest working people I have ever met. I want to get the most of this experience I can, and I'm not about to let this parasite drain an ounce of the fun that's to be had out of it for me.

    Nik--That EGC thing is disgusting, but not shocking.

  3. I hope you know that you can do amazing, amazing things. So, take a step back and laugh your ass off over this guy. He doesn't get it. He might never get it. You're already loads richer than he'll ever be. Plus, you've already had a job you loved. :-)

  4. I love your description of booksellers. It was surely true in my store and our liquidator (we closed on June 30th of this year) just didn't understand it. He took our passion as rudeness and attitude, but we knew that what we had was special even if he couldn't see it.

  5. Anonymous: THIS is so true and all that the staff at "the stores formerly known as..." need to remember. The liquidators (and we had two) are okay, but they really just have their job to do. There is no understanding or compassion for how it feels when they say, "tape off the kids section--that's done," or "all that matters to me is the signage", etc.

    As the GM your control is gone, but only the control of the store. Your team is still your team and that is all that matters, of course, we did demand respect to the staff and the books and hung signs that said just that. I printed signs and put them all over the store that asked for a little compassion and respect for the staff that was soon to be jobless and for the product we loved. I also made announcements stating the very same thing while also thanking the customers, but the message was as clear as possible: stop the destruction AND show respect to the staff.

    Did it always work? Nah. But it made all of us feel better as we tried to make it through each day.

  6. I think the difference between the Viper and all of the Borders employees is that he's in it for the money.

    For better or worse, most of us weren't. I was in it for the love of the book, the love of the people, and yeah - the coffee that gave me more hours to love the book and the people even more.

    The best thing I could hear was, "The book you picked for me was perfect! I can't wait to read the next one!" Not "Here's more money." And let's face it: if we were in it for the money, we would've left when raises stopped. we didn't.

    You know what? Next time, when I'm brewing a pot of coffee, I won't be sharing it with someone like the Viper. I'll be sharing it with someone like you.

  7. I felt a little bad for my liquidator for about two hours. How much has that job got to suck right? At least i got to wake up in the morning and be excited about going to work. Then i realized that the bottom feeder knew what he was signing up for and woke up one morning and said "I'm going to go dismantle peoples livelihoods, sounds like the start of a great big sales bonus" and my sympathy stop. Hope he has fun alone in his mustang.

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  9. In his One-Of-Only-4000-Being-Made Mustang that he bought with his incentive pay for killing our store faster, you mean?