Things We Never Told You. Ode To A Bookstore Death

The slow-mo implosion of Borders has created an enormous amount of commentary, but perhaps none as visceral as the poster spotted in a Borders in Santa Rosa, California.

Things We Never Told You. Ode To A Bookstore Death

  • We hate it when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie.
  • It confused us when we were asked where the non-fiction section is.
  • Nicholas Sparks is not a good writer. If you like him, fine, but facts are facts.
  • We greatly dislike the phrase "QUICK QUESTION".  It's never true. And everyone seems to have one.
  • Your summer reading list was our summer reading NIGHTMARE. Also, it's called summer reading, not "three days before school starts" reading.
  • It's true that we lean to the left and think Glenn Beck is an idiot.
  • We always knew when you were intently reading Better Homes and Gardens, it was really a hidden Playboy.
  • Most of the time when you returned books you read them already - and we were onto you.
  • Limit one coupon did not mean one for every member of your family - this angered us. Also, we did know what coupons were out.
  • It NEVER bothered us when you threatened to shop at Barnes & Noble. We'd rather you do if you're putting up a stink.
  • "I was just there last week and saw this book there" meant nothing to us. The store changed once a week.
  • When you walked in and immediately said "I'm looking for a book" what you really meant to say is "I would like YOU to find me a book". You NEVER looked.  It's fine, that's our job - but let's be correct about what's really happening here.
  • If you don't know the author, title, or genre, but you DO know the color of the cover, we don't either. How it was our fault we couldn't find it we'll never understand.
  • We were never a daycare. Letting your children run free and destroy our kids section destroyed a piece of our souls.
  • Oprah was not the "final say" on what was awesome. We really didn't care what was on her show or what her latest book club book was. Really.
  • When you returned your SAT books we knew you used them.  We thought it wasn't fair - seeing that we are not a library.

The poster (shown in its original below) has drawn considerable ire from some, while getting sympathetic nods from others. I suspect that most of us will recognize it for what it is, the venting of a frustrated group of retailers who've worked their socks off to provide good service and who most likely appreciate the vast majority of their former customers as individuals but, after years of staying silent and doing the best job they can, just can't resist the chance to vent just once.

Will you miss Borders? See the results of the now closed poll.

Things We Never Told You: Ode to a bookstore death

I guess I am surprised by such a positive response to this. While I can appreciate some of the sentiment and frustration expressed, I think this shows an appalling lack of customer focus. For me, any person who is getting a book or reading, vs. spending most of their time gaming or tweeting, is a plus. Where's the "Postives" list? And truly - this is retail. My guess is it's the same type of thing no matter what type of store you work in.
# Posted By B.G. Watkins | 9/21/11 6:27 AM
I mostly sympathized with these comments. I always found my local store most helpful. Maybe they had many of the same thoughts as those expressed on this poster but they were courteous and seemed eager to serve their customers. Service industries no matter what the type have to be customer focused even when the customer is difficult. I feel that these folks are just doing what most of us would do when the people in power may poor decisions that effect people with no power.
# Posted By Joyce Knapp | 9/21/11 11:35 AM
So, I guess the author of this list of grievances must have polled her/his colleagues before writing down all this bile, hmmm? And I guess every co-worker polled must have agreed in full then to being part of the collective "we." If that's the case then I'm glad I never set foot in this particular Borders, since it seems the store's personnel were utterly without empathy, had no customer service training, and might be inclined to stick a knife in your ribs if you asked where the restrooms were! The individual who wrote this bitter, bitchy diatribe could've saved a lot of time by simply writing: "We hate people. Sadly, however, people are our customers." I can understand the frustrations involved when dealing with difficult requests or individuals, and the annoyance engendered when displays are ruined by marauding children or books are returned that obviously have been read. But how about a happy shout out to the customers who saw a book on floor, and took the time to place it back on a shelf, in the right place? Or those who got to the register, smiled sincerely, and asked "How are you today?" A nod of gratitude to the parents who didn't let their children run wild through the store. Surely you had some regular customers who came in all the time to browse and chat -- didn't those folks brighten your miserable retail existences? No? Gee, that's too bad. I have some advice for the author of the list, and all the employees at that Borders who were in favor of posting it: ladies and gentlemen -- don't get another job in retail. Really. You're not cut out for it.
# Posted By Heather M-K. | 9/21/11 5:37 PM
While I know that all of the items on the list would drive me crazy if I worked in a bookstore, it seems we should remember that the people with those annoying behaviors were the ones who came into the store and actually bought some real books - something most of America is not doing anymore...
# Posted By Katherine | 9/22/11 7:10 AM
I had amazingly LOUSY service from Borders online [although there was a man at my local store who was terrific -- and friendly], when I bought a book and tried to use two [as was allowed in that case] coupons that would have brought my total to about $0.37. Instead, Borders never acknowledged the coupons, sent me the book [despite the fact that I tried to cancel the order immediately -- over the phone, with someone who of course spoke minimal English] for a total of almost $16.00 -- and then refused repeatedly to do anything about it via their "Customer Service" [the term is used only because that's what they called themselves] e-mail address OR by phone. Finally I got my money back only because I called the home office AND sent several complaints to the home office's local Better Business Bureau. I'm GLAD the company is gone. That's the kind of "service" I had from them online, which is why I tried to shop there IRL only -- and only when necessary.
# Posted By Anne C. Marsh | 9/22/11 1:11 PM
Having worked in a bookstore myself I can say that everything on the poster is true. Really did not like when people returned books they had read.
# Posted By Mary | 9/22/11 1:46 PM
Hoorah!!!
# Posted By Vera Ussyk | 9/22/11 5:47 PM
I worked in an independent new/used books store. I totally get the comment about kids running amok in the store.....these days, many parents seem to think this is okay in any establishment (child grocery carts??? Ugh!! And I am a parent!). But the other comments are a bit too judgmental for me. The favorite part of my job was to help people find/discover books, even by the color of their cover. This poster makes booksellers look bitter and petty.
# Posted By Randi | 9/22/11 8:36 PM
I worked in an independent new/used bookstore. I totally get the comment about kids running amok. Many parents these days allow this behavior in all types of establishments (grocery carts for 3 year olds? Please! And I'm a parent!) However, the favorite part of my job was to help people find/discover books, even if by the color of their cover! This poster paints booksellers as bitter and judgmental.
# Posted By Randi | 9/22/11 8:45 PM
Hey, this is any exzperience in any retail situation _ get over it
# Posted By Sue Zimmerman | 9/23/11 11:17 AM
I used to spend lots of time in bookstores before I had a computer. Remember the book and the "phe-nom" The Ugly American"? Similar traits apply to bookstore purveyors. My doctor, of all people, bragged because he read his books at the bookstore. I found Amazon in 1996 and have never darkened a bookstore again.
I enjoy NEW books, not ones with coffee stains, crumbs etc. If I wanted to hear and see kids I would have had my own. Why would anyone think I wanted to buy a used book for a new price - same goes for magazines et al. I didn't stop going to bookstores because of the people who worked there -- they tried to control all of you that took advantage of them...when I found away to get away from all of you I took it. YOU PEOPLE NEED TO SEE THE TRUTH. ACT LIKE ADULTS FOR A CHANGE --
# Posted By Penny | 9/23/11 11:52 AM
I think all of their responses were fair. Why should these things not frustrate or upset them. They love books and magazines and have made it their lives work to help people find/buy those books or magazines that they need or want. I totally respect their list.
# Posted By Laura Adams | 9/23/11 12:02 PM
I think it's important to remember that the people who wrote this had just lost their jobs. Everyone needs to vent now and again, especially in this circumstance. Lighten up people, it actually a pretty funny list!
# Posted By Julie | 9/26/11 5:14 AM
Oh! So this was in the window at Borders, The People's Republic of Santa Rosa, CA...and maybe it's the undercurrent of proletarianism disguised as democratic demogoguery snobbery!
# Posted By Cathy Morticia | 9/29/11 11:54 AM
What I find most interesting is that the people on here with no sympathy for what is expressed in the poster are exactly the kind of people being addressed in the poster. We have become ruder in general as a society - especially with people who we perceive as "providing a service" to us. We have somehow morphed into thinking we get to treat them any way we want and they just have to put up with it. I was raised better than that.
# Posted By mc | 9/29/11 12:21 PM
Perhaps these sentiments are part of the reason customers started coming. If customers were not invited to browse why were there chairs? You were there to satisfy all requests, not just the ones you approved of - and don't pretend you kept your opinions to yourself.
# Posted By Jean Adams | 9/29/11 1:18 PM
As a former Book Dept. Mgr at the no longer with us Broadway, I sympathize with book retailers everywhere. When you get the same poor behavior day after day, it becomes really tedious. I don't blame them for venting and I'm sure they treated their customers with courtesy and kept these feelings to themselves, even if with a forced smile. My Borders always treated me with respect and did their best to help me when I needed help and leave me alone when I didn't. I know that people like me are responsible for their closure... I am infirm now and have to shop on line. I miss going into the store and I wish I could live forever and have time to read all the great books inside.
# Posted By Betty | 9/29/11 1:49 PM
All I see is the cry of a broken-hearted book-seller. I weep with you.
# Posted By Mary Ann | 9/29/11 4:28 PM
I did work in a bookstore for 6 years and everything this poster says is spot on. As for a lack of customer focus; that's hardly fair. The focus was always on the customer and all of their requests staff attempted to meet but in this day and age of beating up on staff for poor customer service I'd like to send a shout out to ask customer to display their own common sense and courtesy. In so many situations I've seen and heard customers treating sales staff as something less than servants in the middle ages with an appalling sense of entitlement to be forgiven for their own rudeness and lack of manners. These poor kids (for the most part) earning minimum wage in an understaffed store (because of budget cuts it's always easiest to reduce staff hours) do not make the policies, hide the books deliberately, or for that matter have the location of every book in the 2000 sq ft store memorized. Nor do they have the time to watch Oprah or whoever else is making book recommendations on TV because they are at work.
Good on whoever made up this poster.
# Posted By Linda | 9/30/11 5:39 AM
Those saying things like "lack of customer focus" and bad booksellers need to note that this was not put up until the closing started!
I worked for Borders for 6 years, and Waldenbooks before that. I'm also a teacher, so it was an EVERY weekend and EVERY holiday job. There were dozens of customers that I loved seeing and helping, and I miss them.
However, the ones who let their kids destroy merchandise, the ones who dumped coffee on books, the ones who defecated on the bathroom floors, the ones who broke open packages...you get the point.
I think the poster is simply a listing of the things that frustrated the booksellers and since we were always told we couldn't say anything, it was a way of finally voicing that frustration!

I really do miss those good customers though! Our book discussions were wonderful.
# Posted By Pat | 9/30/11 2:49 PM
This truly spoke to my heart. The lament and their pain is also mine.
# Posted By Lucy | 9/30/11 2:58 PM
As a former Borders employee I agree with everything the poster said, however, I also remember that because of our huge deep inventory, we had regular customers who spent hours perusing our extensive history section, our literature section containing every work by famous and not so famous authors and a cooking section that carried books on every possible cuisine. We not only had a great children's and young adult reading section, we offered cookies and milk and professional storytellers. What made us unique was our depth of inventory, store employees who loved to read and an ability to make a "big corporate" company still appear friendly. We were passionate about our stores and proud to work there. A few years ago, we had a major upheaval at the top and we changed. Suddenly, we had displays of Bobble Head Jesus and Electric Pink Christmas trees. We were told to "upsell" and recommend books selected by a corporate headquarters that cared little about books and the love of reading. Some books that were selected were offensive to a number of employees, yet we were held accountable (read punished) if we failed to meet a quota on the selected book. This was not what the Borders brothers envisioned when they opened their store in Ann Arbor. This was corporate greed and it ultimately killed a bookstore chain that had loyal passionate customers and employees alike. Several of my friends stayed with it to the end. I admit I bailed after seeing the change in merchandising. I fled, as many others did, and began ordering online. Our stores became shabby and filled with people whose disrespect for our books was evident by the way they trashed our merchandise. As you can see from this, I am still passionate about Borders. It was a wonderful place to work and I met fascinating and literate customers along the way. My heart is broken. I just passed my former store and it is now a 'Halloween Costume Super Store." How sad.
# Posted By Deborah D | 10/1/11 11:50 AM
I too worked in bookstores for a number of years, and I did have someone say "I was here 3 years ago and saw a book there with a blue cover - do you still have it? I don't remember the author or title." The other ones resonated with me as well. RIP Borders. The Mt Kisco, NY branch was especially loved and welcoming to new authors and writing groups.
# Posted By Josephine Jones | 10/4/11 1:12 PM
I applaud this list of grievances. I must admit up front that I am a card-carrying library user who only buys books as gifts. But it is a fantasy of mine to have a job in which I might connect someone with a book that they truly enjoyed, or changed them somehow. So I applied for a job as a bookseller and found I was the only one applying who lacked an advanced degree for a job that paid minimum wage and included working nights and weekends. My bookstore had sellers I came to know and trust; I would seek them out personally when I was looking for specific books.
I could see the children's book section full of kids abandoned by parents, leaving books on the floor, toppling displays. I saw someone spill coffee on their pile of magazines, ruining the lot of them, and leaving them on the cafe table.
I think it's fine to try something on before you buy it--but wear it and you own it, I say. People who wouldn't dream of returning the shoes the wore for a week, think nothing of returning a book.
Get a library card, I say! No, I take that back. I don't want them in my library either.
# Posted By Pepper | 10/6/11 6:25 AM
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