Thursday, November 12, 2009

Borders Book Bullies

"In-Stock Guarantee on Hundreds of Thousands of Titles...Ask a Bookseller..."

Crumpled Borders Advertising Hand Bill in My Pocket

Of course they are nice,fresh-faced bullies. After being sized-up and approached three times by a Borders Book Bully in Chicago about whether I needed any help, I asked: "Is this new customer harassment a mandate from corporate, wherever that is?" The sheepish bully nodded yes, turned, and moved on to the next inocent customer who also didn't need help. My bookstore experience compromised, I also fled.

What's the rationale here? Is it about nudging? Being like Wal-Mart? Expressing a latent dislike for egg-headed bookbuyers? A desperate move to keep the Borders ship afloat? Why doesn't Borders staff panhandle or beg for donations at the information desk to keep the bookstore alive as a monument to intelligent consumption? I would donate.

I frequent the Borders computers, ask questions and even like the occasional helpful intervention when my puzzled look conveys "lost." But happy-faced inquiries take away the wonderful wandering serendipidy of bookstores. More questioning will drive me, a book-buying addict,to even more e-commerce.


Paul said...

I used to work for the "other" bookstore chain and always found visiting a Borders to be a disconcerting experience. Going back several years, Borders publicly vowed to hire "edgier" (their exact term) booksellers in an effort to create a specific "hip" store vibe. The resulting attitude either made me nervous or pissed me off. Either way, I just wanted to get the hell out of their store. How does THAT help you build sales or customer rapport?

I also found this to vary from one store to the next. As an occasional visitor to Chicago, I didn't mind browsing their Michigan Avenue store (across from Water Tower Place) but hated to even walk past the one at State & Randolph.

Of course, most chain stores push unpleasant and generally counterproductive policies onto their clerks. These ideas generally come from a corporate management team that has spent little or no time working on the retail floor. For instance, the idea that every cashier was required to ask "do you want to buy a gift card today" of EVERY SINGLE BUYER was universally loathed -- the same was true of "suggesting" a particular book title to every buyer.

Bob Giloth said...

worse than i thought