Goodbye letter from Borders employee(s) (?) spills secrets of bookselling trade

A large handwritten poster (purportedly) from a laid-off employee of the defunct bookselling chain Borders entitled "Things we never told you: Ode to a bookstore death," reveals several key truths of bookselling (and some cranky griping):

Things we never told you: Ode to a bookstore death

• We hate when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie.

• We greatly dislike the phrase "Quick Question." It's never true. And everyone seems to have one.

• We always knew when you were intently reading Better Homes and Gardens, it was really a hidden Playboy.

• 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 here last week and saw this book there" meant nothing to us. The store changed once a week.

• Oprah was not the "final say" on what is awesome. We really didn't care what was on her show or what her latest book club book was. Really.


  1. Have to admit, the one-coupon-per-member-of-family-is-wrong thing seems absurd. What, just because I married somebody, now both of us have half the coupon rights compared to being two individuals? Is this really part of the social code?

    1. Why don’t you just make separate purchases? That way you can both use one. 1 coupon per family rules a lot of places. Like restaurants. It’s 1 coupon per table, I don’t care if there are 10 people at the table. Read the fine print.

      1. Well, yeah, I do make separate purchases. It doesn’t mention that loophole in the rant, I assumed I was part of the problem.

    2. It’s more so the parents that give one to every child and hand them a 20 to buy a book each, I have a feeling that your 5 year old does not have a borders rewards card and should not have a coupon.

  2. Respectfully submitted:  Borders employees, if this was the worst you had to deal with, you’ve got a big shock waiting for you in that big, wide world out there. Good luck.

    1. Shame really, because every store has the same problems, they come in regional specific or genre specific guises, but the problems are the same. As it happens the problems that Borders have had have caused them bankruptcy.  In the UK, I miss Borders. I found it to be a great store, it had patent knowledgeable and very dedicated staff. They were really passionate about books, and they did everything to keep there customers happy, even if 1 in 6 was ripping them off or stealing from them.

  3. Gosh, I wish bookstores were still open so I could enjoy more of that customer service while paying full list price. Why would I ever want to shop online?

    1. More like-

      In a nutshell: Borders employees are like any others that get laid off, and resort to bitter humor. Some are probably selling a TV at Best Buy now or something.

      I mean really, what do people think? That Borders failed because of crappy customer service? It was years of mismanagement that took Borders down. The staff had nothing to do with it.

      1. Thank you. Many under- and unemployed folks are like that- the ones I talk to, anyway… they were much nicer and happier when they had at least sort-of gainful employment.

      2. Major mismanagement and poor strategic choices were the ultimate cause, I agree (let’s let Amazon handle our  online biz, what could possibly go wrong?).  However, poor customer service _does_ IMHO, have to be listed among the causes, even if not at the top.  If Borders had offered a really kick-ass customer experience, to the point where people really wanted to go to the store, then they wouldn’t be in this mess.

        1. Poor customer service was most likely a store to store issue, not something in all of the stores. My local B&N has the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced in a book store. I used to drive 15 extra miles to go to my Borders, where everyone was treated like an old friend.

        2. Customer Service is another thing that’s managed by corporate. Turns out, Borders employees didn’t form collectivist self-management groups. They’re managed by others. Among Borders’ many follies was moving personnel around to different parts of the store for no good reason (salesperson to barista and vice-versa).

      3. “years of mismanagement that took Borders down”

        Not so much. It was years of technology that took them down . Same fate will take down BN, Blockbuster and most traders of old technology. Mismanaged company’s can usually withstand incompetent management if they deal goods people want.

        1. To be fair (in relation to Chemist’s claim), Borders management decided to stay out of the e-reader game until the Kindle, Nook, and IPad were dominating the market, and Borders initially sold their books online via Amazon, essentially giving their online presence to a competitor.  So, in a lot of ways, Chemist is right.  To your point, outdated media retailers (Blockbuster, B&N, etc.) will likely go the way of Borders because they rely on selling a product en masse.  The publishers, the movie studios and their distributors will save money on production cost by pushing the popular titles through e-readers/tablets, and the bread and butter of the Blockbusters/B&N (selling large quantities of a few different titles — James Patterson, Stephen King, Nora Roberts — or The Dark Knight, Avatar, etc.) will no longer be available to them in the physical marketplace on the same kind of level they were just five-ten years ago.  The upside (I see as a professional bookseller) is the resurgence of local, independently owned bookstores that can survive selling more of less, that is, selling many different titles a handful at a time, as opposed to depending on a Harry Potter release for 1/4 of their yearly sales.  

  4. Oh, for god sake, I guess you people whistle your way to work everyday. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE who has worked with the public has their share of gripes with them, and I’m not going to crucify this person for writing theirs down when they were pissed because of a lost job. 

      1. No, people who are literate and who hate to see good books turned into shitty movies will not fuck off. It’s fucking irritating to see something you actually sought out and enjoyed fucked over by a soulless system and made into shitty popcorn fare, and then see the little drones walk into the book store to buy what they expect to be the exact same kind of shit they saw on the screen.

        1. Little drones? Lemmings? This is the sort of attitude that makes me happy Amazon exists.  Everyone in a bookstore is literate, pretty much by definition.  Sorry if the mass market is more interested in Twilight than what you think they should be reading.  I swore off bookstores for good the day an employee gave me crap about wanting to buy a Harry Potter book for my kids.

        2. Or, and I’m just throwing this out there for consideration, couldn’t you be happy for them that they’re about to BLOW THEIR MINDS with the original text?   You were a shitty little drone at one time too, Escamillo.  People need to be exposed to fresh materials to grow.

    1. Actually, yes- while I don’t whistle, I’m happy enough at work and certainly don’t feel the need to purge a broadsheet full of gripes about my customers and end users.  Sure, I could spit out a four page report on the silly mistakes they make, but really, they all come down to one line:
      “You don’t know what I know or have time to deal with it, which is why I get a paycheck”.

  5. Things I never told my local Borders’ employees:

    1.  You’re actually, physically turning your nose up at my reading choices?      I didn’t know the human nose could move that way!

    2.  Many of your staff recommendations don’t recommend your staff as book critics.

    3.  I was well aware that you re-shelved my pile of books while I got a coffee refill because you were passive-aggressively trying to keep me from treating your store like a free reading  library.  I was, however, going to buy two of those books.

    4.  When you engaged me in a conversation about a book YOU like, it was very rude of you to turn away when I tried to respond in kind. 

    5.  Yes, I do like e-books.  Bite me.

    1. Hey man, if you abandon your pile of books for a coffee refill, how are we supposed to be able to differentiate between that pile and any other pile of abandoned books in the cafe?  I asked people whenever I could if the piles left were anyone’s.  That one is not fair!

      1. Anyone who’s ever known other people has held some number of them in contempt. And loved others… Customer service is no different.

      2. No, I haven’t, and I’m certainly not lying. I treated every customer as I’d want to be treated and put myself in the customers shoes, no matter how unpleasant they were.

    1. I would be willing to be that anyone working in customer service “nurses contempt” for a segment of their customers…I mean, have you ever MET people?

    2. In my experience, anyone who’s worked in customer service “nurses contempt” for a certain segment of their customers. I mean, have you MET people? At least let them complain now that they’ve lost their jobs, they already were behind everyone’s backs like all the other service industry workers. That’s how you get through the day.

  6. Things we (customers) never told you: ode to a bookstore death:

    While you smugly kept trying to get us to read weird, artsy, obscure books in the “Employees Suggest” section, we saw that you had “Twilight” sticking out of your rumpled rucksack.

    Every time you sighed dramatically, like we were asking you a favor, when we asked where a section was (even though it might have been clearly labeled), we felt a tug towards Amazon.

    When you gave us the stink-eye while we were leafing through a magazine, we decided then-and-there not to buy it. Before that moment, it was a 50/50 shot.

    When you told us, as we were checking out, that you read the book we were buying back in high school, we decided not to pick up that knick-knack on the end-cap with a 200% margin.

    When you let the line get to be 20 people long before you called to get one of the nine employees wandering around the store to come up and open another register, we put back the gift books and the CDs and the Itty-bitty-night-light and decided we could (maybe) come back later for the one thing we really came in for.


    Every time we read another book by that author you carefully led us to, we remember your smile (as you shared your book-soul with us) and how you told us, “Don’t read the prequel first.” And you were right.

    When we came in for the kind of human touch you can’t get online, and you were pleasant and helpful and remembered that we talked about poetry that one time… we enjoyed paying 15% more than we would have at Amazon.

    We were so grateful when you spent 15 minutes on your computer trying to help us figure out the name of *that* kids’ book… based on one word in the title… and it *was* the one we remembered from third grade and when we got it again, it was like sunshine.


    Every time we read one of these cranky, pouting, vaguely mean-spirited rants that’s trying to be so cynical and clever and above-it-all… we wonder if, in fact, you really disliked having us for your customers that much… or if you’re covering for the fact that you’re as sad as we are that you’re gone.

  7. Respectfully submitted: 

    It is the height of arrogance to expect a book store retail clerk [earning minimum wage] to simultaneously work as: – 1. a research librarian with at least one graduate degree – 2. a janitor, cleaning up café tables, the restrooms, and random cups/tissues/magazine subscription cards/whatever crap you brought in with you — not to mention human feces off of carpet along with the messes your kids make – 3. game show contestant, playing ‘name that book’ at odd intervals 12 times a day, and – 4. unpaid Amazon associate, helping you discover titles, making recommendations, and indentifying books you yourself only half-remembered — all so you can then go order them online.

    Please, whose viewpoint is unrealistic here? A retail employee who wanted a little human respect — and who was just put out of a job, mind you — or the customer base that wanted Everything from bookstores, but was willing to pay for nothing?  Not even a token purchase every now and then to keep the lovely bookstore-storefronts open.

    When all the remaining bookstores close, which seems to be what some folks devoutly desire, will Amazon play ‘name that book’?  Will Amazon let you mooch wifi, and electricity, and provide a public restroom?  Does Amazon even care about books?

    Smart, capable — & well-read — people who are good with customers will find new jobs.  I predict that in 20 years many, many creative types will recall fondly the days they spent in bookstores, perhaps as customers but many certainly as employees, and will wax nostalgic about the experience, and what it taught them.

    Bookstores are fantastic places.  I mourn the loss of each one.

    And booksellers are fabulous people.  You should meet some.  Get to know them.  Like many retail employees, they are mirrors:

    they only reflect the worse behaviours that have been inflicted upon them first.

    1. Amen,
      Self entitled, pampered consumers who demand cheap labor and prices but “expensive” high maintenance service.

    2. Thanks for that.
      For a moment there I thought I’d walked into the diner where Bill Hicks was caught reading. (shudder)

      I read the sign – it made me smile.

    3. Read it again. Half of those complaints fall plainly and easily under the job description. Half of them have nothing to do with getting respect and everything to do with having no respect for others. Suffering through your customers’ stupid questions isn’t hard labor.  People wanting to know where to find a book (whether you like the book or not) is not that soul-shredding unless your own ego is already grossly inflated.  I worked the same job at B&N through college. Cleaning up, helping people find book, enduring stupidit questions—IT’S NOT THAT BAD.  It’s retail.  If this angry person really thinks she’s that much better and smarter than her customers, why does she have a job in retail, not something that take a bit more skills or education?

      1. I might point out that the type of ‘customer’ who comes into a bookstore does NOT treat the store like they would any other retailer — folks do not open packages of steaks in the supermarket and start grilling, no one sleeps on the couches at a furniture store, restaurants don’t have patrons sitting at tables all day ordering nothing, and most general retailers do not have to put up with the constant calls and questions.

        How many other retailers have an information desk?

        Saying a bookstore job is just another retail job misses the point: 

        if books were just retail, we’d have a cashier, folks would select a book off the shelf, pay for it, and leave — and this whole discussion thread (to say nothing of the small act of bookseller protest that spawned it) wouldn’t even exist.

    4. As to point #1, unless you’re asking the (former) Borders employees to enter metadata or maintain a special collections then they’re not being asked to “work as a research librarian with at least one graduate degree.” It’s more akin to what a part time student assistant working the circulation or information desk might have to deal with. While it may be true that, due to the over-saturation of MLIS degrees, there are people with graduate degrees working (if they’re lucky) in entry-level librarian positions but it doesn’t follow that asking someone at a  bookstore for the same type of information is therefore outside their purview, let alone “the height of arrogance.” 

      As for the other three that you mentioned (picking up around the store, answering questions for people who lack adequate information and making suggestions) these are fairly typical of most retail positions and are generally considered to be part of the job. 

      I think the objection that is being made is that, even as far as customer service jobs go, those sorts of complaints sound pretty minimal. It’s nothing compared to what, for example, teachers or social workers have to deal with, or for that matter call center CSRs or waitresses. (As I’ve worked in every one of those jobs except for social worker, I’m speaking from experience here.) It’s not like the list complains of people screaming obscenities at you, outright harassing you, threatening you personally, etcetera…the customers are just being, well, kind of dense sometimes and kind of annoying.  I’m pretty sure some librarians could jump in with some horror stories that trump this list, too. (Especially in public libraries.) Most of the jobs I listed don’t pay much, either, and in some cases, the person may have accumulated a substantial amount of graduate school debt to become qualified to do that job. So, in the grand scheme of things, this list seems fairly innocuous. 

      Granted, the people who made the list probably did so in a joking way, and as long as it’s just venting and didn’t reflect their attitude towards customers, there’s no harm in it. I think the reaction is due to the fact, though, that there are a lot of people in customer service who would be better served in a job working behind the scenes and who often obviously and blatantly take that out on their customers, even when customers are being polite or just simply asking a question. For some customers, this list, taken out of context, probably triggered that memory for them. Absolutely a person has the right to be treated with respect, regardless of job title or salary. By the same token, customers ought not to be made the scapegoat for an employee’s unhappiness in their job, either. 

    5. As to point #1, unless you’re asking the (former) Borders employees to enter metadata or maintain a special collections then they’re not being asked to “work as a research librarian with at least one graduate degree.” It’s more akin to what a part time student assistant working the circulation or information desk might have to deal with. While it may be true that, due to the over-saturation of MLIS degrees, there are people with graduate degrees working (if they’re lucky) in entry-level librarian positions it doesn’t follow that asking someone at a  bookstore for the same type of information is therefore outside their purview, let alone “the height of arrogance.” 

      As for the other three that you mentioned (picking up around the store, answering questions for people who lack adequate information and making suggestions) these are fairly typical of most retail positions and are generally considered to be part of the job. 

      I think the objection that is being made is that, even as far as customer service jobs go, those sorts of complaints sound pretty minimal. It’s nothing compared to what, for example, teachers or social workers have to deal with, or for that matter call center CSRs or waitresses. (As I’ve worked in every one of those jobs except for social worker, I’m speaking from experience here.) It’s not like the list complains of people screaming obscenities at you, outright harassing you, threatening you personally, etcetera…the customers are just being, well, kind of dense sometimes and kind of annoying.  I’m pretty sure some librarians could jump in with some horror stories that trump this list, too. (Especially in public libraries.) Most of the jobs I listed don’t pay much, either, and in some cases, the person may have accumulated a substantial amount of graduate school debt to become qualified to do that job. So, in the grand scheme of things, this list seems fairly innocuous. 

      Granted, the people who made the list probably did so in a joking way, and as long as it’s just venting and didn’t reflect their attitude towards customers, there’s no harm in it. I think the reaction is due to the fact, though, that there are a lot of people in customer service who would be better served in a job working behind the scenes and who often obviously and blatantly take that out on their customers, even when customers are being polite or just simply asking a question. For some customers, this list, taken out of context, probably triggered that memory for them. Absolutely a person has the right to be treated with respect, regardless of job title or salary. By the same token, customers ought not to be made the scapegoat for an employee’s unhappiness in their job, either. 

  8. “Man, I don’t need this job, I got job offers from 10 more book stores last week!”

    Ha, sorry, I just wanted to know what that sentence looked like / sounded like.

  9. Dear Borders employee: When I come into your store looking for a book that isn’t the hottest new thing, don’t offer to order it for me… _I_ can order it; more conveniently and cheaper, from Amazon. You used to stock books that were interesting and odd. But then you decided to carry exactly and only what every other bookstore carried. Giving me no incentive to go to Your store. Some of us don’t read about urban vampires; some of us read Chinese literature in translation.

    1. Actually the employee has absolutely no choice over what’s on the shelves. That blame gets kicked up to corporate. Also, them offering to order it for you is generally a nice way of saying “Our corporate jackass bosses don’t keep anything interesting on the shelves but we’d really like to keep your business.”

    2. We couldn’t control the inventory at the store!  And WE AGREE WITH THIS.  

      The supply changed as the DEMAND changed.  Sorry, I was bummed watching that happen over the course of my 6 years with Borders, too.

    3. As a former Borders employee, I can tell you that WE made absolutely no decisions whatsoever about what was carried in the store– and surely if we did, Chinese literature in translation would’ve filled the shelves…

    4. Yeah, it was totally that employee’s decision to do all of the things you just mentioned, not corporate. The things he mentioned were direct customer-to-employee contact issues. Not bad choices by the higher-ups that they couldn’t help.

    5. Timothy…that is great! However, because so much support IS given to Amazon bookstores are not able to keep “odd” and “interesting” titles constantly stocked on the shelves. Real estate  is incredibly expensive, and when you have limited capital to work with you, by default, have to carry what is most likely to sell. So…if you would like to see more titles of the Chinese literature persuasion, might I suggest sucking it up, ordering the book from your local bookstore, so as to provide business to a company that might eventually become again what it is you miss. 

    6. That’s exactly why I stopped going to Borders as well. It became the worst of both worlds: you were still shopping at a corporate chain, but one that only had the most mainstream, fluff and/or trendy titles. By the time Borders closed, I hadn’t bought anything from them in years. 

    1. Not paid NEARLY enough. Kind of the heart of the matter, really… they’re wage slaves. Would you put up with that shit for 8.50 an hour and no bennies, or whatever bi-weekly insult they got paid?

      1. I’ve dealt with worse than this for the same amount of money. These aren’t even valid grievances. Did they expect that someone would pay them $15/hour with benefits to sit around and read?

        Everybody’s underpaid. Frankly, Border’s sounds like pretty easy work. The sooner these people realize they’re not special, the sooner their weekends will be freed up from writing poster-sized lists of complaints.

        1. Seriously, everyone who works has complaints. And on top of that if the business is going away why not post a list of minor (possibly humorous) complaints about the idiot customers who come in every day? What’s the big deal?

  10. Ten years ago I called the local Borders looking for a copy of “Kokoro”. I expected to have to spell out the author’s name, etc. and wait for the clerk to look it up or check the shelves… Instead I got an immediate “Oh Yes! we have three different editions in stock.”

    The obvious love of books kept me coming back. Too bad you decided that a bookstore needed movies and music and STATIONERY?!? more that it needed books.

    And now I’m down from three to one bookstore on the drive home.

  11. As always…

    My son displays a general garment and you claim it’s cut to your fit?  What a fascinating revelation.”

  12. Shorter nearly-ever-comment-above: “When Borders gave their employees paychecks, they also absolved me of the responsibility of thinking of their employees as human beings. I luxuriate in that freedom.”

    1. There should be a love button on this just for this post.

      Also it could boil down to “I don’t want to admit that I’m helping to destroy an entire industry in the name of convenience, so I’m going to blame the poor schmuck who just got fired for being bitter.”

  13. Borders deserves to die a thousand deaths for every decent bookstore they killed off along the way.  Borders took mediocrity and served it with coffee and still wonders where it went wrong.  If only they would take their girlfriend Barnes and do a Thelma and Louise and we would all be a little better off… 

  14. it is a shame Borders ran (or attempted to run) so many independent bookshops out of business, it’s amazing what can happen when the front line staff are – or at least work closely with – the owner of a store.

    I worked in a bookstore for ages, and was unintentionally rude once with regard to the “nonfiction section question” – my answer:

    “nonfiction is everywhere apart from fiction”

    glib, maybe…


    you decide….

  15. Guy loses his job, and says “fuck it. That gig was a pain in the ass anyways.” That’s a newly jobless person’s right, and nearly everyone here wants to bust his chops for it? Kick a dude when he’s down, jeez…

  16. Borders employees can bugger off.  I did work for a time at B&N, so YES I do know exactly what it is like to work retail book store.

    The reason I go to B&N over Borders, customer service.  Just like everyone else said, if you act like a hippy that doesn’t want to help me, fine.  Don’t expect me shop there any more.

    1. Really? Customer service at the B&Ns I’ve been to with regularity has always been far worse than at the Borders I’d been to with the same regularity. Not that either is/was great, but Borders had the edge there, in my experiences.

      1. Perhaps it’s the location, don’t know.  Everyone I worked with at B&N was polite and courteous, while everyone I’ve dealt with at Borders seemed to not want to deal with me.  Plus the dress code at B&N was business casual, so I was wearing polos or dress shits and some kind of slacks.  While everyone at B&N looked like all the other customers….

        In general because of the bad service at the Borders in my hometown I’ve never really explored others…

        1. It probably had to do with the respective management. Whoever runs a store like that has a pretty considerable impact on how customer service is done, regardless of how the overall corporate culture tries to make it. There were bound to be towns where a dick manager meant bad customer service at Borders and a good manager at B&N meant good customer service, and vice versa.

        2. That is truly odd. I experienced plenty of amazing customer service at the Borders I had the opportunity to visit. I got more of the polite disinterest/can you please just piss off and quit creeping me out with the requests for small press books we don’t carry treatment at B&N.

    2. How much help do you really need? Aren’t there, like signs and things? A place to look things up, anything? Is it ‘acting like a hippy’ to feel overworked and underpaid, and gods forbid show it? Jeez… what does that even mean, ‘acting like a hippy’…? lol

      1. Usually I don’t need that much help, but when I can feel your disdain for being at work when you are doing nothing other than ringing me out it doesn’t lead to a good customer experience.

        To give you an example of what I would call “acting like a hippy”.  If you took our local Borders employees and placed them into out local independent coffee shop they would already be dressing the part and fit right in (minus the attitude).  Linen and flax skirts along with tie dyed shirts for the women, tee shirts or casual button up shirts with jeans for the guys.  I have no problem with the way they dress, but it is the care free attitude (and not care free in a happy go lucky way, more in I don’t need to be dealing with any of you right now kind of way) that irritated me.  Many of the employees in our local independent coffee shops dress this way and have pleasant attitudes, and they are wonderful to talk to.

        In reality if our local Borders had been an independent book store (just a really big one) then it might not have been so bad, and in fact maybe they would have liked to help customers more.  But given that it was a large company I, as a customer, expect some level of professionalism and respect from the employees.  I’ve worked several retail jobs and if they can’t fake a pleasant attitude they don’t need to be working there.

  17. I didn’t shop at Borders because I found them overpriced.  I’m not in the habit of interacting with retail staff very often except at the register itself (my loss, maybe, but I’m a self-contained browser and a bit shy to boot), so I couldn’t say if Borders employees were any better or worse than B&N employees or Vroman’s employees, or me for that matter.

    I guess it’s a bummer they had to deal with so many irritating people.  But that’s retail sales for you. Hell, that’s employment for you.

  18. As a library worker, I’ve often had to field questions like “where is the diet/self-help/paranormal section?” All, of course, in non-fiction.

    I’ve often wondered how many reference questions bookstore employees are fielded.

    1. Well, the confusion in those cases is understandable.  Diet, self help, and paranormal books probably contain more fiction than not…

  19. This hard done by bookstore clerk thing is a bit played out.
    Yes, we get it, you’re clever, precious and underemployed. 
    Don’t fret, it gets better. Or you’ll just resign yourself and sink into it.

    1. ‘It gets better’? Better than what? Isn’t that what that Dan Savage anti-bullying campaign is called..?

      I don’t get why one has to ‘resign’ to working at a bookstore, maybe it wouldn’t seem so lowly if it paid better…  and, it doesn’t always ‘get better’. That sounds so trite.

  20. For all the snark going on in here you’d think they finished the list “and we’re talking about you [insert BB commenter name].” Personally, I thought the list was funny, and I’d have to admit to doing at least one of those things at some point.

    Unrelated: I find it interesting that I’m more sympathetic to this than the Starbucks barista from a few days back. I can’t quite figure out why, but I suspected it doesn’t reflect well on my character.

  21. Well, as an ex-Borders employee (long ago), this made me laugh.  I’ll take your “ooh a clerk sniffed at my choices” and raise you a “the person who actually took a crap on the bathroom sink” and “spooged-on porn mags in the bathroom” and “3-year-old child abandoned in the video section.”  Oh and the one customer who was indignant that we wouldn’t use our copy machine to copy something out of a book she didn’t want to buy. That was a good one too.

  22. Caveat: I have been employed at B&N for 16 years. I work in what used to be called the Music Department but which has become the Music, Movies, Audiobook, and Select Videogame Department.

    I do know that my area of the store has been hit hard by the internet. I am aware that many customers find our stuff overpriced. In fact, I do too. Except that we can get stuff that other places can’t, and I am actually a CD collector. I like having the hard copy. Believe it or not, there are many (yes, typically over 45) customers who still want CDs. Of course DVDs are beginning their expected fade as streaming and cloud services pick up, and the book department is predictably becoming smaller and smaller due to our nook and the Kindle, etc.

    Regardless, I still think bookstores have a place. Unfortunately our company is publicly held and shareholders are not customers. This depresses me to no end, but I still try to make as wonderful a shopping experience for my customers as I can despite not having as much product in stock. And there are quite a few customers who only shop at _our_ B&N despite there being several in this medium metro area. Each store has its own unique culture despite the giant corporate hegemony supposedly placed on each one.

    One of the commenters above mentioned that stores have fewer esoteric titles. This of course is a direct relation to how many copies the store can be expected (or has already sold) of that same edition. Not that same subject, author, or  title. Again, the stockholders are looking for a different experience from the company than the customers and the amount of variety we can have in stock at any given moment has been decimated. Not the clerks’ faults.

    My job is wonderful; I work with some truly amazing people. I am fortunate enough to work part-time for a company which supplies me with health benefits. Any customer service job has its difficult moments, but for me the many great coworkers and, yes, customers make it worthwhile!

  23. The Borders and B&N superstores that sprang up in the ’90s overwhelmed independents because, with the exception of maybe a dozen indie stores spread across the country, the superstores had more of everything than they did. The big boxes weren’t giant piles of mediocrity back then, they carried a crap-ton of back catalog and esoterica. They also usually offered less snotty customer service than most of the independents in my part of the country. No one “ran” indies out of business. The indies who failed were the ones who couldn’t keep up.

    In the aughts, now… Yeah, after the iPod and HDTV and widespread broadband and such-like, the superstores really shanked it bad.

  24. Borders failed not because their stores smelled more like piss & beer from the homeless people sleeping at reading tables than it did from the paper stock of a dwindling variety of new books, but because people are choosing the Faustian short-term luxury of e-books over the liberties of real ones and Borders failed to adequately change to capitalize on this trend (see: Kodak).

  25. I suspect the coupon gripe refers to lone customers who come in with several coupons and  claim to be redeeming them all for various family members who aren’t there.

    1. It probably actually refers to spouses standing in line one behind another, conducting their transactions as separate customers to take better advantage of coupons.  

      I personally don’t understand the employees’ derision – why the hell *wouldn’t* you do this?   It’s not like the coupon savings are coming out of the cashier’s pocket or something…

  26. Service sector workers complain the most for one simple, solid reason: “Hell is other people.”

    Anytime I find myself fuming over some lackwit I work with, I just think back to my old days of having to serve the herd/public. Dealing with the herd is a kind of pure, distilled Hell I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

  27. Typical asshole customer replies….

    Why they’re paid to clean the floor so whats it to them if i throw more down there. 


  28. I feel like they don’t know what “ode” means. I mean, I know that some people at Borders thought I was a moron, and some didn’t. Some were insufferably smug, some were really helpful. However, if you’re going to call it an ode, can you make it a damned ode?

    1. What do they owe people who are not their customers. These folks took a shot on their way out the door to offend YOU, specificall. And It Landed.

      1. M.D. I think you could use a nice dose of humor this weekend. Please try to get out and interact with people. See, my post was meant to be humorous. It acknowledged that Border’s employees were individuals. Some were great, some were not. That is life. Then I made a joke about using the term “ode” for their poster. It was just a joke though.

  29. I worked at the Barnes and Noble across the corner from Borders in Santa Barbara, California. Borders hired the people we fired.

    Borders bailed first. It’s a Marshall’s now. Anch0r store on America’s Riviera. B&N Corporate, not realizing they’d WON, closed my store a month later.

    I hadna’t worked there for over a year by then, but had an attachment to the place. Borders was huge, three stories, ill-stocked and indifferently staffed. B&N was a third the size, staffed with people who gave a shit.

    Funniest thing? VoxPop middle aged woman on the local news, bitching that Borders was “the only place in town with character anymore.” Probably the same sort of VoxPop chick who bitched that Borders was destroying the l0cal character of the independents a decade ago.

    And now? I’ve got over 1.5 million volumes in my jacket pocket on a Kindle.

    Sorry. That wins. It just DOES. Get over it.

  30. Come one, come all, let us cast aside empathy for fellow humans wrought over with more frustration than their meager paycheque absorbs. Let the snarking reign down!

    Rhetorical question: If someone is getting a paycheque, is that an endorsement to abuse them, or wholesale  permission to discount their occupational frustrations?

    1. Saying “I have a quick question” or liking an Oprah book club selection or wondering why a book has moved from its former location is hardly abuse. 

      1. I think you’re missing the underlying statements here.

        1. I have a quick question usually does not mean what it says. It means I have one question that has an entire line of questions behind it, and I frankly don’t care if you have 20 things to do before you can take a break, I’m going to ask you all of these questions first.

        2. It’s fine to like the Oprah book club. It’s not fine to expect every person to find it amazing as well. Also there were people (I assume there still are) would ONLY read a book with her little sticker on it. That’s the kind of wholesale lemming behavior that that statement addresses.

        3. The last one, I would assume, has less to do with the people who are curious about a book being moved than it does about people who have no idea how to actually look for anything themselves, and will get furious at the employee for not knowing where “that sci-fi novel with the purple cover that was just here a week ago” is.

    2. I dunno. According to the people who are commenting on here? It seems that that question has an answer and getting paid obviously is an endorsement to allow crap to be poured on you.

    3. Thank you for pointing out clearly that some people think retails salespeople are sponges who must absorb any kind of abuse the public feels like dishing out.  As a former B&N employee I know first-hand how quick the public is to show temper, make unreasonable demands and insult a bookstore staff.  Its as if people think you are obligated  to take whatever dirt they feel like heaping upon you.  The worst ones are people who feel powerless in the rest of their lives.   I have one friend, a rather frustrated woman, who takes her anger out on restaurant servers regularly, keeping them hopping with constant demands.  It isn’t a pretty picture.  Most of the difficult people I had to deal were guilty of the same.  Some of the comments here reveal the same mentality.  Until you have worked directly with the public you will never understand the resentment of those  employees who tried their best to balance corporate policies, a store manager’s practices, shifting public demand and kids with sticky fingers while keeping up a pleasant manner.

  31. I will never shop at Border’s again, and all because of this employee… I’ll just buy stuff online where I don’t have to worry about Amazon’s OSHA violations or how they treat their employees because since I am using a computer, Amazon’s employees don’t exist for me. I will have the last laugh as I get rid of customer service as I dehumanize the world. Oh wait Border’s is already gone…

    The Starbuck’s employee who posted the nasty song deserved to be fired. For all of you people who are now bitter at the person who is no longer an employee of Borders, I can understand this person’s rant, because I am sure they were talking about you. That person, like thousands of others, are out of work. The fact that you can’t see the gallows humor in this shows a lack of compassion or empathy.

  32. I worked in a bookshop in the UK for 4 years. I recognise this attitude and maybe had some of it myself. But I certainly don’t approve of it.
    These are the kind of people who make you feel that they actually wrote all the books in the store. They fail to understand they work in a shop selling goods to customers. The same attitude can be seen in some cinemas.

  33. Bookstores are crappy places to work because they’re no money in running them, and there’s no money in running them because of long-term, criminal mismanagement by those people who are always saying they how much they love books: the Big Six publishers. For my entire life–and I’m 42–book publishing has been run by a bunch of people who think they should be exempt from the law of supply and demand, and cry conspiracy or philistinism whenever that’s not the case. The insanity goes all the way down the chain, from the Byzantine, unverifiable remaindering structures, to bookstores insisting on returnability…Borders didn’t go under because Borders’ employees were snotty, or because bookstore customers are entitled. It went under because, with an internet is full of free words, you can’t charge $21.95 for a trade paperback. (And you can’t charge $9.95 for an ebook, either–just to prove that nobody’s learned anything.) There’s a reason why wasn’t started by a Big Six publisher; they thought they could keep milking the rubes. 

    What’s gonna happen is the big chains will be squeezed to death by Amazon, and the moment they feel they can, Amazon’s going to jack up prices as high as possible. And then everybody’s going to figure out ways to get the content for free. Amazon will probably be big enough to survive that–they haven’t been a pure bookseller for a zillion years–but one thing’s for sure: piracy will make it even more difficult to get paid to write. 

    Eventually, new local bookstores will thrive, and they’ll be small, pleasant places that serve coffee and have performances/readings and have millions of books available (ebook via download, and paper via something like the Xpresso Book Machine). This has been obvious since 2000, if not earlier. 

    So, disgruntled ex-employee–or disgruntled ex-customer–if you’re looking for who to blame, start with the people in those big, useless skyscrapers in New York. They’ve systematically pissed away decades’ worth of goodwill and buying habits, and now it’s really too late and lots of good employees are going to suffer. I hope one of them moves back to whatever little town they left for Manhattan, and starts that virtual bookstore, then franchises it like Starbucks. They will get very rich.

  34. I actually like this – if you don’t, then you’re part of the problem, the problem that says, “hey buddy, I got a dollar, you gotta eat my dirt!” When “customer service” became some kind of right, not a privilege, we started down a dark road… Anyway, from here in the UK, a version attacking the owners instead: I guess it’s easy to spot which was a bookstore and which a wine shop…

  35. I worked with the people that made that sign, at the Borders that it was displayed in.  The people that wrote that sign were some of the nicest people you met when you went into the store, and they busted their asses to keep the place clean and to help people find the books they were looking for.  Many of them loved their jobs.

    It’s just a bit of gallows humor, people.

    Also, from the stories I’ve heard, the customers that came in after Borders declared they were shutting down and closing all their stores…. those were some awful people.  I probably could have added a few to the list, myself.

    1. I heard much the same thing. I went in to several of the stores while they were closing (in both the first and final rounds of store closings). Some of the people that came in? Wow….a bookstore Black Friday, without being polite enough to only trample people.

    2. I never go to going-out-of-business sales anymore.  I can’t imagine looking people in the eye who are losing their jobs and being happy that I got a good deal on something.  (And by “I can’t imagine” I mean “I used to, and I’m ashamed now.”)

  36. Regarding the “where is the non-fiction” question – depending on how these stores are stocked, sometimes this can be a worryingly legitimate question.

    The most convenient Barnes & Noble for me (across from South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa CA) essentially doesn’t have non-fiction if it isn’t a biography, religious/self-help, a cookbook, or one of those silly “value books” near the front. There’s one small shelf with everything else.

    Likewise, if the fiction you’re looking for isn’t “literature” or “paranormal teen romance”, most likely you’re SOL.

    I once walked around the entire store three times looking for two things – one was a collection of Woody Allen stories (which I’ve seen stocked regularly in the humor section in other B&Ns – no humor section here), the other was some non-fiction item that I can’t remember (it wasn’t a biography, religious/self-help book, or cookbook, though). I was baffled, frankly.

  37. I’m rolling my eyes at this “goodbye letter”. The use of “we” implies the author felt they were speaking on behalf of a large number of Borders employees. Please, have the courage to speak on your own instead of imposing your views on others. The snark and vitriol directed at people who are uninformed, confused or lost but are generally polite makes no sense.

    I had a knee jerk reaction when I read the “quick question” line. My respect for a store plummets when I’m treated like an idiot for taking an employee’s time away by asking questions. I feel that employees who are on the floor with customers should be as knowledgeable and polite as possible. But I’ve had one too many experiences where I ask somebody a question and it’s clear all they want to do is get away from me.

    Some of the points they make are valid and I can sympathize since I have worked retail before. The silly demands from rude customers get tiring. The tricks unscrupulous customers play would definitely make me irritable. But it is unfair to lump all customers together as one. There are nice people and there are rude people, on either side of the counter.

    The author’s points would have been better made without the snark and “better than the plebes” attitude. I would have enjoyed reading something with a bit more honesty. Is it wrong of me to say the entire missive reads as juvenile? I have peers in their early 20s who would probably write something like this.

    1. “I have peers in their early 20s who would probably write something like this.”

      Look those friends up, they’re probably free today.

  38. I used to shop the original Borders in A^2.  wauw! it was like nothing i’d ever seen in my corn-fed square life.  We used to call it the buck-a-minute bookstore. [smiley face thingey].   The vibe was pretty cool.  My perspective of borders is thusly colored. Visit to borders, $200, walk to Zingerman’s Deli for bread and coffee, $5, rest of the day: awesome.  

    They grew, they metastasized.  I do get that.  The little guys who got squashed were often good folks.  Some of them my friends (shout out to Alice and Mike at The Stars Our Destination in Chicago).  But that dynamic had already been played out in other areas of retail a hundred times over.  It became the new normal.  I’ve always had pretty good help from the peeps at Borders.  Never a complaint, not once.  

    But I have to say I’ve seen some pretty douchey behavior from some of the other customers, esp. after B’s added the coffee shop and wifi.   I actually saw a guy come in with a bag of fried chicken who grabbed some spendy O’Reilly books, rooted through it and dog eared the pages! getting all sorts of greasy finger prints on/in it, chicken cruft all over the floor and crumbs between the pages!!  Then he pulled out a thermos and had something to drink while he checked his email.   Then he left.  A $100+ book covered with chicken goo , a pile of bones and skin on the table and no purchase.  I saw one hell of a lot of magazines read in the coffee lounge, never to be bought, dumped in the re-shelf basket with torn pages, scratch-n-sniff cards taken out, more greasy finger prints…

    So ya, the letter is pretty obnoxious.  But ya know… that shoe don’t fit.  I know the author isn’t talking to me.  The author was always nice to me. It’s that asshole with the bag of chicken.

  39. Cute!! I can relate. The stupid adult behavior is being passed on to all those horrible kids trashing the kids section. Best wishes to the displaced employees.

    1. Possibly that hasn’t caught on, because that was written from the perspective of a customer, not a seller, and the seller WAS taken aback in that little story. It requires customers who aren’t rude, who like to interact, and who have a vested interest and appreciation for the work that the sellers actually do. It’s a two-way street. 

      When you’re treated like the scum of the earth, the drop-out idiot, the last-resort-job-because-there-is-no-degree, it’s hard not to have a little bitterness. Especially when you’re laid off without so much as a kind wish from the company you put so much into. 

      A little appreciation goes a LONG way.

  40. For all of you people who say, “Barnes and Noble has way better customer service,” just remember that when you compare most Barnes and Noble stores to Borders, at least in my hometown, B&N also had way more employees working at one time. Please don’t blame the overworked employees at Borders. Blame corporate for not letting the stores hire more employees.

    1. The stores’ hirings as well as the number of hours available to schedule employees in are directly related to dollars. At my B&N we get a certain number of payroll hours each week to use. If we haven’t sold enough, that number goes down and vice versa. Ultimately it’s the bottom line which doesn’t “let” the stores hire more employees. I could go on about the stock market and the horrible things it’s done for the American retail worker, but I won’t…

  41. This is brilliant! Having worked in both a book shop and library, I know exactly how they feel and what they mean. I hate the general public. Nice to see some honesty.

    1. Matt, time to find a job doing research or working in a lab with others who never learned the kindergarten lessons to “play nice.” The “general public” is the only reason there IS a public library or book shop. And employees like you are why the general public prefer to shop online for books. 

      1. So you now get me having read a tiny paragraph that I wrote? I’m guessing you haven’t worked in frontline customer service. If you have, I’m guessing you one of a tiny minority who enjoy it. Serving the general public is not fun. It’s a monotonous chore. Everyone fits into a particularly category of customer. Each category has its negative aspects. 

        I perhaps worded my original comment incorrectly. I hate “customers” as opposed to people. Most people are lovely. Customers on the other hand are complete imbeciles who don’t read signs or small print (before you get me on this, I always read small print), seemingly wander around in a daze, get flustered for no reason, don’t understand anything (written or spoken) and blame all these foibles on the assistant serving them. This is of course a sweeping generalisation, but on the whole, these are my findings. And I’m actually a lovely, likeable person. I’ve been corrupted by customer stupidity.You’re right. I should get another job. Believe me, I’m trying.

        1. The distinction between you as a “customer” or a “person” is made by the customer, not the staff.

          How you are treated has everything to do with how you behave, if I hear you correctly. I support that.

  42. This was made at my local Borders (well, former Borders, its now a Halloween store… sad).  They made it as a joke on a slow day the last week the store was open to blow off some steam about their impending unemployment while they looked around at their picked over, nearly empty store.  Don’t take it personal people…

  43. Let me just say, “Wah! Wah!” I have no sympathy for you. The main reason you died is that you couldn’t provide the level of personal customer service to people that mom and pop shops USED to provide before you ran them all out of business. Grow up and get a job far away from the public. Yeesh!

    1. And let me just say that if you were in the middle of a 12 hour shift of dealing with idiot questions, rude people, and folks that are angry at you for something your corporate office decided to do, you’d be pretty irritable too.

      1. You might be “pretty irritable” or you might develop mature tools to deal with those impediments. Some times and some days you might snap, but as a general matter if you are just stomping around the store irritated that customers keep bothering you, you really should do yourself and others a favor and look for work elsewhere. You’ll live longer, you’ll like your life more, and customers will be happier.

    2. That is totally not true.  We used to be staffed enough to look up books for every person who asked and spend as much time as we needed to with them.  Over the last maybe 2 years, that changed and we no longer had enough employees to help every customer at once, but we were still constantly available.  We skipped our 10 minute breaks, we went to lunch late, we left our shifts late.  We special ordered things for you, even when you had a track record of ordering items and never picking them up.  We held items one day longer for you.  We gave you suggestions based on what you were reading or based on who the gift you were buying was for.  We did not have any control over the corporation that we worked for, and we were unable to get work in independent stores so we went for the job that would allow us to talk about books as much as we could.  A lot of us were actors or students or people otherwise impassioned by the things that we sold, and we were proud to be able to really stand behind what we were suggesting. 

      Don’t blame the employees for the corporate takeover of small businesses.  If you are a small business, you either swim stronger or you go down.  It sucks, but that’s how it is, and honestly, if people had supported their local businesses instead of going to Borders or now Amazon, those stores would have been able to to charge a little more for their coddling, but people didn’t so they couldn’t.  If local comic book shops can survive, book stores should be able to, also, but clearly it’s a consumer driven problem.

      Dig a little deeper in your pocket for that cherished bookseller relationship.  Otherwise, read some reviews and click “order now.”

  44. Wow. I work in a bookstore and very few of those things annoy me or my coworkers. The treating the store as a daycare or playground is about the only one I could get on board with.

    Yes we laugh when people say that book with the purple cover that was around this shelf last week. You know what though, 50% of the time I know what that book is. Yeah the store changes every week but I probably helped change it because I work there. 

  45. ok, so the things the employee(s) wrote weren’t so bad to most people but, just think about the things that probably happened that they didn’t want to/couldn’t put on the list. Like some of the disgusting, gross things people do to bathrooms (I won’t explain but have witnessed it firsthand) and selling areas (spilling coffee/food on books, carpets, shelves). I mean, how can someone expect another person to just be ok with being treated like they’re not a human? Would you want to clean up after someone’s mess? If it’s not your property, it should be treated with courtesy and respect. Most people, I think would want to take responsibility for damaging others property or making a mess, but the sad thing is that most people won’t do a thing and just go on their way. Wouldn’t that be a cause for frustration?
    In the end, even if you’re buying something there, that doesn’t make the shop yours also. I guess having the convenience of looking at something before we buy it, having a store close to you so you don’t have to wait for something to be shipped, and being able to talk to someone you understand and might even be able to help you or give their opinion, that is not enough to be happy about.

  46. Borders failed because they let people read books and magazines in the store without buying anything. A bookstore isn’t a library; it’s a business. They need to sell things in order to survive.

  47. If that stuff was the worst of this guy’s job, it must have been a pretty sweet gig. Have fun in the food service industry.

  48. I’ve spent a fair amount of my life working retail. I’ve never worked in a bookstore for two reasons. First, my other retail customer service experience made me cringe, when I thought about how much worse it would be when the product was actually something I cared about. Second, I like actually getting to spend my paycheck places other than my place of employment and the reality is I’d justify spending every last bit of disposable income on books if I worked there. 

    That said, I can tell you that if something similar had happened at the big box electronics store I once worked for, I very well might have come up with something similar. There are good customers, delightful people that make you love your job, but when everything else is wrong (like I’ve just lost my job and so have all of my coworkers) all you remember are the bad ones. All you remember is the six people who came in this week and demanded to know why their computer/radio/game system didn’t work and it turned out they hadn’t plugged it in, or the three people who expect you who are clearly working in computers to be able to rattle off what titles are currently in stock  for teen movies. You remember the literally hundreds of people who think you are their support desk for the computer they bought eight years ago and can’t tell you anything about, but surely you can diagnose the problem accurately.  Later, they’ll remember the good people too. They might even look back at the job fondly, and not just because they are currently unemployed. I can’t judge them for this. I find I do judge horrible customers regardless of the industry. We in retail get paid (often not very well) to provide a service, but that service is not nearly as broad or all-encompassing as some customers seem to think.

    1. Weeelllll, Ewen, most of us HAVE worked retail at some point in our lives.  Last time I checked, college degrees took time to earn.  In fact, those retail jobs, for the most part, were what kept us going in school–we knew what we didn’t want to do for the rest of our lives….Just sayin….

  49. Having worked for Barnes & Noble, Krochs & Brentanos (I miss that place), and Borders? What really set Borders apart was how they treated their employees.

    Borders employees got special stipends with which to purchase books.
    Part Time Borders employees qualified for health insurance.
    Full Time Borders employees were offered a wide variety of insurance…including PET insurance.
    Borders Group had its own charity to help employees in need.

    I left the B&N owner B Dalton book chain as an Assistant Manager and, when I obtained a Christmas Temp job for the Borders owned Walden books? I made .15 an hour less.

    Borders took care of their employees. Borders also made some VERY bad business decisions.

    That some of their employees would post something like this is a shame.

    But, for the record? I was spent 40 minutes looking for “A self-help book that had been on tv. It was red.” I found it, and made a returning customer out of a one time shopper. :)

  50. Funny how much a few of the comments here remind of Victorian documents I’ve been reading recently, commentaries on contemporaries that boils down to,  “Look at that unfortunate  group of my fellows.  This one example wanted full days off each week;  he swore; he had radical opinions; he was ungrateful to his betters. Obviously they all deserve everything bad that then happened to them.  Thank God this means I don’t really have to worry about all the others.  Thank God their misfortune will never, ever, ever happen to me.”

    Of course, that kind of magical thinking didn’t work in the end, which helps account for a lot of the social disruption and violence during the first decades of the twentieth century. Still, human nature doesn’t change quickly, does it?

  51. Jesus let the poor people rant. It’s satire. They lost their jobs! 

    Just because people complain about the customers they have had to help, doesn’t mean they weren’t good at customer service. I bet half the people who didn’t find the humor in this have never worked a day in retail. 

  52. It’s sad but funny that some of the commenters here seem to think that this employee had any say at all at what books were ordered and how the company was run. Blaming this person for bad choices by executives quickly shows just how clueless you are.

  53. I know it’s just angry griping, but this list exemplifies why Borders failed. In a highly competitive field, with thin margins and a shrinking sub-market (paper books), the ONLY advantage of a bricks & mortar book store is SERVICE. Snarky employees are the antithesis of service, and when I can buy it cheaper and faster at or, customers won’t accept condescension or pettiness. The phrase, “Quick question” was the only reason they had jobs, and their disdain is why they no longer do.  

  54. As a former Borders employee, I totally understand where this was coming from (especially seeing as how it was made in the last week this store was open). After dealing with some of the people who came in (ESPECIALLY the vultures coming in during liquidation), I would’ve liked to write a list like this. Before the liquidation started, the horrible customers who came in were rather few and far between–after liquidation started, they were the norm rather than the exception. After dealing with it for only a week I had nearly lost my chipper “do anything for the customer” attitude, let alone after a month and a half–that last week was absolute hell–horrible customers, PLUS watching the store I loved completely fallen into disrepair, people buying up bookcases and stealing toilet paper (wish I were kidding about that one), books disheveled, shelves almost completely empty, and knowing there was NOTHING that I could do that would make one bit of difference and STILL having customers complaining that we didn’t have computers to look up “that book” they saw one time, yeah, I can totally understand why this got written in that last, hellacious week.

    But the majority of our customers were great, and I loved working there. But there were a few who spoiled it for the bunch. While I loved squeeing silently seeing someone buying one of my favorite books, or recommending something to someone who seemed really open to suggestions, or even helping people who were looking for gifts for friends or relatives, literally cleaning crap off the bathroom floor (more than once in 3 months), watching people destroy books and then leave without buying them, and dealing with customers giving me attitude because I don’t know the name or author of “that book” they saw on some random best-seller list that was “probably a romance, or maybe sci-fi or something” by “some guy” (but gosh-darnit I work at a bookstore so I should have memorized the names, authors, and plotlines of every one of the thousands of books we carry!)–yeah, that part I could’ve done without. And while, yes, it is part of being in the customer service industry, that doesn’t mean I (or any other employee–formerly of Borders or otherwise) should have to deal with it in silence simply because customers don’t like hearing about how their shitty attitude ruins our day.

  55. Obligatory link to as an alternative to the soulless Amazon. First and second-hand books, out-of-prints reclaimed from library trash piles, obscure volumes, and, actually, links to other retailers on every page so you can find the best deal. Free worldwide shipping. And the proceeds go to charity. 

    I buy all the books I can’t find locally from these guys, and only if they don’t have a copy do I go looking elsewhere.

  56. I stopped hitting Borders (or any chain bookstore, really) when I went into one about 6 years ago with a list of recently published SF and reference books I wanted to buy. They had none of the ~8 books. These weren’t obscure small press books, just some mainstream SF (Sterling and Stasheff) and military history, all published in the last couple of months and, while not NYT bestsellers, fairly popular in their own categories. The SF section was in disarray, mostly media spinoff series, and the millitaria section was even worse, with no rhyme or reason to its organization. I just order online now, it’s simpler, I can almost always find what I want, and it’s usually cheaper.

  57. In my business, most of the things on the list would be considered unique billing opportunities;

    Like books that were made into movies?  Great, we have a whole shelf of them right over here.

    Didn’t get your summer reading done?  Here are the books you need, and right next to them the study guides.

    Looking for a book?  Great, let me help you find one or two or three…

    Oprah knows best?  That’s why we have all her books (and some others by her favorite authors) conveniently shelved together.

    Just here last week & saw a book?  Let’s look through the photos we take of each end cap before they get changed out.

    I could go on but hopefully you see my point.

    1. The problem with that strategy is that it creates a little bit of chaos in the shelving system.  You can’t shelve Oprah’s book club books together or people who come in having no idea that The Road was ever in O’s club would not be able to find it under M.    You could do a display of them, and we have, several times, but making a permanent display isn’t terribly practical.

      The complaint about the summer reading list is actually about people who come in about a week before school absolutely livid that they can’t get their kids’ summer reading books because, as so many other parents are rushing in with the same problem, they have sold out.  We had them on their own display all summer.

      The book into movie complaint is kind of dumb, I think.  I am admittedly not thrilled about Tom Hanks starring in Cloud Atlas, but I don’t have to go see it, so whatever.

      Above all, all of your ideas require staffing.  Staffing requires people buying.  The snake is eating it’s tail.

  58. Wow, ONE guy who is about to lose his job posts a couple of snarky comments  and everyone seems to think he speaks for every Borders employee ever? If a man at your work gets fired and screams some negative points about the customers or even the business, do you stand up and cheer him on? Gimmie a break.

  59. To all the people commenting about how “messed up” or “rude” this is. Clearly you haven’t worked retail. Do you know how annoying it is to work retail? Do you know how rude YOU (the customer) can be? I have had people walk into my work and degrade us because of our employment position. If my employment position is so low why are you paying ME to make your COFFEE. Do you know how to make that double tall, soy, no foam, 2 splenda, 150 degree latte? Clearly you don’t and never will. So before you judge or critic someone’s performance or attitude about a retail job, how about you actually work one. We’re working a job just like you, should be, doing. We don’t come into your establishment and yell at you because you didn’t do something “correct” enough.

  60. And this is why Borders went out of business.  If this is how they really think of their customers, they to heck with them.  Barnes and Noble has always been a better bookstore experience.   And I happen to like Nicholas Spark’s books.   And yes, I have worked retail.   Spent years doing it.   Also spent years as a CSR talking with people on the phone.   For the most part people are nice.   Regardless: this really shows WHY Borders went out of business, and I remember the feeling whenever I ventured into their stores: Borders employees hated their customers.   Well: they don’t have to worry about that anymore, do they?    Bye bye, nasty pseudo-bookstore: we didn’t like you either!

  61. Former Borders employee here.  

    I love books.  I love talking to people about books.  And I loved my job.  I spent almost 20 years of my life in retail and I am in fact a shining example of someone who gave a damn about customer service.  Trust me, I wouldn’t have spent as much time working in a bookstore for the shitty pay and lack of benefits I got if I didn’t love what I was doing and the people I was doing it for.  That would be you, the customer.  

    I can tell you how many customers over the course of my years at Borders who sincerely thanked me and showed some appreciation for the effort I was putting out for them, because I remember all three of them with genuine fondness and happiness.  

    (Tangent: if a company attempts to provide a pleasant relaxed “indie bookstore” atmosphere, they’re a bunch of snobby goddamn hippies; if they attempt to provide an efficient businesslike atmosphere, they’re soulless corporate drones.  This is reality.)

    To all the people who have said that Borders had crappy customer service, I’m truly sorry you feel that way; if you’d come to my store I would have done the utmost to serve you to the best of my ability.  I know that’s not true of everyone, but people are people; some are nice, some are jerks.  Believe it or not, employees of most retail stores ARE aware that the customer’s money is what gives them a paycheck…so if you are going to come into the store, use an hour of my time helping you find a book, and then tell me it’s too expensive and you’re going to order it used online…well, yes, as soon as your back is turned I’m going to flip you the bird.  When I tell you I’m not going to refund you cash on a book I watched you pick up off the shelf and bring to the register saying you ‘lost the receipt’, you call me a “f***ing kike,” please don’t expect that I’m not going to kick you out of the store.  And if, while I’m unclogging the restroom toilet because someone jammed it with a wadded up newspaper that they’d taken from the cafe, you think the only solution for your immediate need is to take a dump in the urinal… well damn.  I *still* don’t know what to say about that one.

    Honestly, I could go on and on.  And on.  It’s the Golden Rule, people…. or an eye for an eye, if you prefer.  If you don’t want crappy customer service, don’t be a crappy customer.

  62. Man, people seem to be taking huge offense that someone hated their customer-service oriented job and then complained about it when they got laid off.  Seems most of the commenters here at BoingBoing have either never worked customer service in retail, or it’s been a long, long time.

    Reminder:  It fucking sucks.

    And if you claim that you’ve never complained about a horrible job, you are a liar.  Unless you’ve been lucky to never have worked a horrible job, in which case you’re luckier than most.

  63. Anyone who says “this is why Borders went out of business” :

    I worked at Barnes and Noble for a year over a decade ago, and yeah, I can attest to pretty much all of these (and add a few things to the list). They’re not Borders things, they’re bookstore things.  We had a lot of wonderful customers, but then we had quite a few customers who made our souls die inside.

    I wish the Borders employees all the best.

    1. And, in general, it’s just “working in customer service” things.  Customers kind of suck.  People in general just aren’t that bright, or self-aware, and they tend to be selfish/entitled.  Not everyone, but a good chunk of people.  We live in a very individualistic society, so that’s just how things are.  Working in retail sucks.  Period.  It’s soul-sucking! 

  64. I worked at Borders for 6 years.  I started there part-time because I was living in New York and I wanted to save up money to buy my mother a very expensive handbag for Christmas, and a part time job was the only way to do it.  I had a full time job at a company I loved, so I figured if I had to go somewhere to work AFTER work, it should be somewhere I really liked being.

    I worked almost every Saturday over the next 6 years.  When I got laid off the week before Christmas in 2009, Borders was there for me, my coworkers were very supportive and my manager gave me as many hours as he could.  I found another full time job less than a month later, and I was so grateful to have had the support I had from my friends and managers during that time. 

    Once management started to change, we started losing hours, losing benefits (no more monthly gift cards, no more raises) and had to implement all kinds of ridiculous sales techniques as imposed by whoever was CEO/head management at the time (and they usually only lasted a few months.)  Anyone remember make titles?  Two books a month that Borders DEMANDED we recommend?  I refused to do it.  I called out my mandatory “conversations with customers” about the book to my managers, but I was making it up and they knew it, and appreciated it.  I would not suggest something I have never read.   We tried to keep it genuine.  We tried to keep the customers who were obviously nice, interested people happy.  I will admit that there were times when customers were rude to me, and I was rude right back.   Most times I let it roll off of me, sometimes I couldn’t.   Don’t blame us for corporate, we weren’t corporate.  We did what we could do with one person staffed per floor with only two people for register back up.

    We knew each other’s strengths.  If someone was looking for a suggestion for anything in the new age or metaphysical section, I called on Nigel for help as it’s not exactly my forte.  Kids?  Definitely Jennifer or Anne.  Young adult?  Holly all the way.  Graphic novels?  Psychology or medical narratives?  That’s all me.  We knew each other.  We worked together to help you.

    Losing Borders, to me, has been like losing a very close friend.  If you came into my store on any Saturday and you got me to help you, I was helpful.  Even if I wasn’t familiar with what you were looking for, I was helpful.  I suggested The Phantom Tollbooth to more parents or relatives looking for gifts than I could count, and I bought a copy myself to donate to the bookdrive almost every time we had one.  If you were rude to me, got mad at me for not knowing your book off of the cover image or a really terrible description (like “that book about the man who ran with Indians” – really?) then I was very short with you, but I helped you nonetheless. 

    That list, I think , is pretty far off.  I don’t care who wants to read the Dragon Tattoo series.  My mom loved it,  I can say that much for it.  I would NEVER make fun of someone reading Jodi Picoult or whoever because late at night when no one is awake, I watch Kristen Bell rom coms behind my closed and locked door.  Oprah has every right to have a book club, and I encourage her to do so if it gets more people to read.  I wish she’d go for ballsier titles a la The Road once in awhile, but hey, it’s her club.  Your quick questions sometimes were just that, sometimes they weren’t.  It was my job to answer them, and I honestly loved to do it.  There were times when someone would just wordlessly hand me a list, and that was a little frustrating because I was a bookseller, not a personal shopper, but I get it, you are in a hurry.   If you walked in and said “I am looking for a book” I welcomed you.  If your kid needed a book for a class that starts in two days and we are out of it, well, sorry dude.  I’d say call the used book store a couple of train stops up, as it’s so popular that they’re likely to have a copy or two and not many other people think to try the used book store. 

    I loved that job and I miss it fiercely, even the assholes.  I miss the Jodi Picoult reading, kid toting suggestion seeking regulars even more. 

  65. I worked in a bookstore for sixteen years. The customers were mostly nice as pie.
    The digital world is great, but I’m going to miss wandering the stacks…

  66. Sorry, I don’t have too much sympathy for Borders employees… after all of the independent bookstores and cafés they put out of business.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    1. Borders didn’t put indies out of business, customers did.  No one forced you to pay a little less to go to the big, faceless corporate bookstore.  All of you people blaming big bookstores for pushing small bookstores out of business, look at your own buying practices.  Consumerism is pretty simple.

      1. You’re assuming I went to Borders. I deliberately didn’t. I shopped at independent bookstores and cafés exclusively, until they went out of business one by one. Then I started shopping at Amazon. Hey, if I have to deal with a soulless mega-corporation that sucks money out of my community, I might as well make sure they suck as little of it as possible.
        Also, I refuse to shop at Walmart or Target. I know some people don’t have a choice, but I do.

        1. I was referring to a collective “you,” the consumer, not you the one who is complaining about consumerism. 

    2. You do realize that a large number of the employees of those independent bookstores ended up working for Borders and B&N right? So, you are pleased that they lost their jobs…TWICE?

  67. I’m a librarian, and frankly, none of these complaints are new to me or particularly bother me–you should check out The Society for Librarians* Who Say “Motherfucker” sometime–but some of his/her complaints, like, oh, the very first one, for example, are sort of antithetical to a business that actually needs to sell books to stay in business. And, even though this particular employee may not be responsible for corporate policies, regardless, my sympathy is limited when someone who works for a business that explicitly and repeatedly promoted itself as a replacement for my institution bitches about being asked to perform librarianesque functions. I remember all the fawning news stories and blog posts about how much better chain bookstores were than the library because they had plenty of copies of the latest best sellers plus coffee. How’d that work out for your business plan?

    If I seem to be getting the venti-sized cup of schadenfreude, well, I don’t mean to say that I hate bookstores–quite the contrary. But I’ve dedicated my working life to a profession that doesn’t pay well, but serves an important function in a democracy, and I’ve watched in recent years while other people who wanted to join my profession went begging for jobs because the public was led to believe that they could actually get better service for less money from a business that was being run by people who weren’t even that knowledgeable about the book business, and ran that business straight into the ground. I really like my job, mofos and all, and I’m sorry that the person who wrote this up bottled all this in and only felt free to vent it in the most spiteful manner possible as they went out the door.

  68. I am a former Border’s customer.  

    My wife and I went to a Borders coffee shop nearly every Friday night for almost six years.  We had five Borders in town, and there was one where the employees were consistently unpleasant.  However, the others were all better than Barnes and Noble’s.  We got kicked out of a Barnes and Noble’s coffee shop for feeding baby food to our infant. This never happened at Borders.  Borders would have local musicians come in, and they cleared an area in the coffee shop for the kids to dance.  When we moved to this city, we made our first friends at Borders.

    As for support, I do buy books on Amazon, and I did use coupons.  But I also bought books and magazines at Borders.  I occasionally spent as much as $300 in a month there.  They could hardly ask for more than that. 

    When I found out Borders was closing, I stopped in and gave “one last tip” to the barrista’s who knew us by name.  I thanked everyone I got a chance to talk to for the years of pleasure the store had given us. Some of them started to cry, and I might have gotten a little misty as well.

    When my five year old daughter found out Borders was closing, she cried all night.  The next day she cried again.  

    I don’t begrudge the employees a bit of dark humor, and it’s hard for me to believe the “internet community” would either. Borders may have driven smaller vendors out, and other bad things.  But Borders was also a place with a community, and relationships, and happiness. For the loss of all that, this closing is a shame.  It is a crying shame.

  69. I have a friend who worked at Borders, and his complaints were never about the customers (well, except the one creepy old guy who was hitting on him), they were about the management making amazingly stupid and irritating decisions. This was just months before they went out of business, and apparently they were taking out some of their frustration and desperation on the employees.

    My impression as a customer was that there were a lot of fun, friendly, book-loving employees working at a store that, as a corporate entity, hates books. Half the store was coffee, music, DVDs, stationary, and other items that should be in their own, separate stores. The selection was pretty terrible, and according to my friend, employees were NOT ALLOWED TO READ during their breaks or when not assisting customers, yet were expected to give glowing reviews of crappy books they’ve never read, as long as they were best-sellers. Meanwhile, “employee picks” of their own, actual favorite books were more and more strictly regulated. I’m glad it’s gone.

  70. Borders Employees- people who liked books but could never hack it as English teachers. 

    Also- too bad being surrounded by all those books didn’t improve your spelling, like “imediatly.”

    One less store full of smug, perpetual “college students” to waste my time in.

  71. I stopped visiting BORDERS years ago because of the CUSTOMER HATING staff. Borders, for some reason, attracted the worst workers. That is usually because the core of the company is poorly managed by bad people. Glad to see them go..Outdated and the company management sat by and allowed Amazon and others to forge ahead. Lastly Borders actually asked their publishers to tear up the stack of unpaid invoices they held.  Small publisher were in danger.
    Finale here:

  72. Another former Borders employee here. Definitely understand the “us vs them” mentality that retail creates, but not so impressed with the list.  

    I don’t agree with half of it, first off. I enjoyed talking books with customers, even if they liked stuff I didn’t and even if they only read something because of the movie. At least they were reading and buying books. I also didn’t mind families using multiple coupons as long as they had multiple cards/accounts (my own family did it). And I def. didn’t mind answering questions or helping people find a good book. That’s the job.

    My bad customer list would include people like:
    *the guy using the free wireless internet to look at porn right beside the children’s section
    *the unmedicated psychotic who followed me around at night whispering things like “I’m gonna kill you bitch” and “stank ass you stank” for months on end (management refused to do anything about it)
    *the lady who fell asleep and peed herself in one of those giant black chairs, then refused to take responsibility for it, saying the pee was there when she sat down (heard this one secondhand, thank god)
    *the couple who bought fifteen sex books, then returned them over 1 year later (without receipt; this was before they required a receipt for returns) and used the store credit to buy 15 pregnancy books 
    *the shoplifter who grabbed my wrists and shoved me into a wall (I’m a 5’4″ female, not exactly threatening)

    Now imagine dealing with those types of people on weekly or daily basis for $7-9/hr. Add the numerous customers who are rude and unpleasant, but at least not crazy (call them the “if you wanted a nice job, maybe you should have gotten a degree” types [a lot of us, including me, had degrees or were students]). 

    Couple all that with abusive corporate management (most of whom had never worked in a store or last worked in one before Amazon), no hope in hell for a raise or benefits, and a rapidly shrinking number of labor hours/personnel (the work load remained the same).  

    That said, I loved my coworkers, loved working with books, and really enjoyed the good customers. But the bad stuff was bad, and some bitterness is only human.

  73. I just got to relate my story:
    A little over a year ago my husband and I went to Borders to buy a couple of things even though we generally purchase books, music, and movies through B & N (both in-store and online with my membership card).  There were very few people at this Borders in Long Beach, California, and none of them were anywhere near the checkout.  We walked up to the lone cashier whose register was right next to the entrance to the store rather than walking through the convoluted maze designed to trap impulse buyers.  I said hello and the cashier responded, “You need to go all the way around to get to the register.”  I briefly laughed, thinking he was trying to be funny (there was no one else within 50 feet of the cash register).  Then I looked into his eyes and suddenly realized he was ABSOLUTELY serious.  I even responded, “Seriously?”  He was.  We left the full-priced items (three of which were unplanned) at his register and walked out.  Once we got outside, I decided to go back inside and speak with a manager.  Since the economy was (and is still) in the crapper, I thought she/he might want a little feedback about the entitled passive-aggressive a-hole who is giving customers their last impression of Borders as they walk outside the door.  
    I have worked a lot of minimum wage retail jobs as well as several restaurant/bartending jobs that didn’t command high tips, well into my 30’s and with a college degree.  Only once did I snarl at customer who was incredibly rude to me, and I was 19 years old at the time.  I felt so guilty that I ratted out myself to my manager, who told me never to do it again.  I haven’t.
    It never ceases to surprise me how entitled some people have become…

  74. Long ago I worked at Crown books. Before they went under, before bookstores tried to be anything more than BOOKSTORES. The complaints of the employees are still valid. CUSTOMERS would try to return books that had obviously been read. Books that had been sold as remainders were brought back and people tried to convince us that they had bought it for $25 not $8. CUSTOMERS  took their toddlers into the kids section and let them CHEW on the books AND THEM PUT THEM BACK….or not.
    On the other hand, I loved helping people find the books they wanted to read. Even if I had never read the book in question I could figure out what it was they thought they wanted. If we didn’t have it maybe another of our stores did. No? Then I called up another specialty store to see if they did.  Customer service works both ways. You want good service from the worker, treat them better. You want a better customer, don’t act like a pompous git.

  75. OK, call me uninformed, but a sign of common sense goes to those who rather stick with hard copies of real books; if all techno-satellites and air waved clouds and signals fail, won’t the Kindle and like to?
    I think we as a society have lost it for real when we resign to buying things that aren’t tangible, that can be swept away as fast as they were bought and downloaded, by letting others (unknown) own your books.

  76. While standing at customer service to see if I was looking in the right place for a book, someone called to ask if a book was in stock. The employee stopped a manager walking by to ask if she could take the call (because the employee was currently helping me). The manager responded, “They need to get off their lazy butt and come look for themselves!” The clerk told her it was B&N calling to see if the store had a book in stock they didn’t so they could send a customer over to purchase it. The manager said, “Oh! In that case! Of course *they* don’t have it in stock!” Last time I helped keep them in business. I used the cafe to study but didn’t make another book purchase until they were 50% clearance. My local library, B&N, and independent stores got my business because THEY CARED. 

  77. I bought many books at various Borders stores, but I only recall a single interaction with a salesman at Borders:  I was interested in buying a big, expensive textbook, encased in a plastic wrapper.  “May I remove the wrapper, to browse through the book?”  I asked.  “No, you may not” was the answer.  I didn’t purchase the book.

  78. As a long time bookseller, I get the sentiment, but the execution is smug and points the finger in the wrong direction.  Instead of being antagonistic towards former patrons, the ire of Borders booksellers should be directed at their company’s execs who were complicit in turning the profession into selling units, and not books.  When Amazon took over the units/inventory game, and the E-Reader took a chunk out of the deep discount market that had previously been exclusive to big box stores, Borders and many B&N stores had to fold due to high overhead costs; stagnant, low selling, and returned inventory; and — in my opinion — an unhealthy dependency on blockbusters and bestsellers that are now better suited for the E-Reader (less production cost, cheaper distribution, and a built in consumer mentality vested in purchasing ‘what’s popular’ without needing a bookseller’s input).  Just an opinion, but the the brick and mortar bookstores that will survive the progressive transition to digital publication and compete against the reach/scope of Amazon are the kind of bookstores that invest in talent (and not high school kids looking for summer jobs), cater to niche tastes (instead of mass appeal), and offer a more intimate shopping experience (instead of an impersonal warehouse-sized sales floor dedicated to pushing specific, publisher-approved authors and titles).
    Borders reacted slowly to the E-Reader.  They initially sold their online market space to Amazon.  These employees, while voicing frustrations familiar to many booksellers, fail to acknowledge that the very structure of their employer’s business engendered these frustrations.

  79. I normally don’t ever respond to articles that I read or to comments that I see posted in response.  I do read a lot of them, though.  There was just something about the farewell list and some of the responses that made me want to chime in–not that I think my response is absolutely needed.  But, while I do admit that I found some of the farewell list funny, I think it is regretably unprofessional on many more levels.  First of all, the farewell list will forever be hung around the necks of ALL Borders employees.  Every person who has read the article will associate the business with the rude comments.  To the poster who said he worked with those people, and they were some of the nicest people around…I say, it’s truly a shame we will never remember them that way.  For those of you who take up for the list writers by saying, “well, have you ever worked retail?  They were probably treated poorly,” I must ask: does that justify rudeness and unprofessionalism in response?

    For the poster who asked others is they ever worked 12 hour shifts, I respond by saying: yes, I do.  I also work 16 hour shifts.  I work in the Emergency Room at one of the busiest Childrens Hospitals in the United States.  I, too, could list the multitude of irritations I face.  I could post a list saying things like: we laugh at you for bringing your child in with a fever, rash, ear infection….etc, etc, etc…as those things are not an emergency….To that, your response would be a bit different, I am thinking?  I surmise you wouldn’t find my list of irritations funny-even though I could write my list infused with enough humor to make you smile.  Why wouldn’t you think my list was funny?  Is it that I am dealing with serious issues?  Is it that I am considered a professional and thus held to a higher standatd?  Is it that I deserve to be treated with complete disrespect and talked to like I am dirt, because I make $60/hr instead of minimum wage?  The fact of the matter is this: we all choose, to some extent, what we do for a living.  Don’t like working with the public?  Last I checked, this wasn’t a communist country.  Go do something else. 

    We can all write a list of things that irritate us about our jobs.  To the Borders employees…I am sorry I asked you a question.  If I posed it as a “quick question,” it was because I was afraid of bothering you.  If I seemed overwhelmed coming into such a large store and didn’t know my way around, forgive me for asking you dumb questions like, “where is the non-fiction section?”  I personally didn’t think of it in terms of all being non-fiction with a small fiction section.  I thought of it in terms of fiction, non fiction, diet/self help, travel, etc etc etc..  That mistake does not make me an idiot worthy of your scorn. Come to my turf…I bet you, too, would be overwhelmed.  It’s my mileau.  I’m comfortable there. The difference would be this: yes, I am treated like dirt and yelled at in triage for not getting you back immediately.  But, instead of rolling my eyes at you, laughing at you or complaining publicly, I choose to look at things from your point of view.  I am dealing with your child.  I understand that you do not have the ability to look at your child objectively and understand that I have a duty to assess who has the most life threatening illness.  I could say, you don’t like the wait time for your childs ear infection?  Well, that is what the PCP is for.  But, I choose to realize that none of us can be that insensitive to our children crying in the middle of the night.  To those of you who say one cant compare the seriousness of what I deal with to a retail employee, I say, at the root, it’s all customer service. 

     Yes, I am a lightening rod for vitriol, disrespect. Yes, I am treated as if I am expected to not care that your child coughs in my face when I am assessing his/her breathing.  Yes, I am expected to be so used to bowel and vomiting that you think it is part of my job to clean up after your child when they make a mess in my waiting room.  Yes, I notice when you don’t even make an attempt to clean it up.  BUT, you will never see me write or post a list ridiculing you or making you feel stupid for being out of your element when you come to my turf.  Why?  It’s simple.  I step back and try and see things from your point of view.  I realize that I am a mother, too.  I realize that my child is the most important person in my life.  I realize I do not have the ability to be objective when it comes to my child.  I realize that, no matter how much knowledge and training I possess, it counts for nothing when it comes to my child. I realize that you are probably so worried about your child and focused on his/her getting better that you probably don’t even realize you didn’t make an attempt to clean up after their mess.  My point of all of that: respect, professionalism and, above all…humanity.  At the end of the day, I want you to remember the caring and compassion I felt for you and your child.  I want you to remember my place of business as one worthy of your respect.  If my hospital closed down, I would forever wish for you to remember it fondly.  Whenever someone mentioned it..As in…remember when…?  I would want you to look back with a twinge of sadness and regret that it was no longer there.  I would be mad as hell if the voices of a few undid all the good things I would want to be remembered for doing.

    So, in closing, I say to the farewell posters…Shame on you.  I will forever remember Borders book store as the snarky, unprofessional group that left that lasting impression in my mind.  Now that you don’t have your comfort zone, perhaps you will be forced out of your element when you step into the newest book/music/coffee hybrid that comes along.  In this economy, none of us is safe in our jobs.  We should count ourselves lucky we have one.  And, I probably don’t have to mention this….But, let me submit this for your consideration…..In the age of the Internet, Facebook, Myspace, etc, etc, etc….All of our private information and mistakes are open books for the public, and I dare say, perspective employers.  Good luck finding a job!  I certainly wouldn’t hire you to interact with my customer base.

  80. Yes, everyone who has worked in retail/customer service has wanted to say these things. But most of us don’t. We tamp down the urge for immediate gratification.
    There are reasons for this. If you can’t find a book store with material on the subject, search the web. You’ll find the answer.

  81. Oh, you hate your job?
    Why didn’t you say so?
    There’s a support group for that,
    It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.
    -George Carlin

  82. I would like to echo the sentiments of 4whatitsworth in saying that I am not normally someone who posts responses to these kinds of things; in fact, I am not normally someone who reads these kinds of things. However, as I read the comments being posted, I am saddened by how many people are quick to insult and belittle Borders employees, or bookstore employees in general.  This is disappointing to me for a number of reasons.  First, it is this attitude (that booksellers are simply pretentious, apathetic young adults who, in the words of  Matthew L, “couldn’t hack it as English teachers”) that fueled the list in the first place– retail employees of any kind can probably relate to being treated poorly and disrespectfully (And for the record, Matthew, I did manage to hack it as an English teacher, even while working part-time at Borders).  Second, the comments indicate that people now view this list as the opinion of every former Borders employee– and this is simply not the case.  While I will admit that a number of the complaints sounded more than familiar to me, and I chuckled at more than a few, what the list doesn’t say is all the good things many Borders employees would have shared with their customers if they could.  For every person who was rude, impatient, or downright cruel to me (I once had a customer tell me I was going to hell), there was someone whose gratitude simply made my day.  When I was able to suggest a title that someone came back to tell me they loved, or when I helped someone find the perfect gift– those are the memories that I took from my time with Borders, not my anger or irritation.  And the people who composed the list are entitled to their anger.  But please be aware that they are not the only people who worked at Borders.

  83. Things you never told us, because we knew it already. It was so obvious from your attitude that you were thinking those things about people wanting to maybe spend some money at your store. So, we took the hint and started ordering what we liked on the internet and we quit subjecting ourselves to your sneering pretentiousness. You were there to SELL BOOOKS, not make value judgements as to what people wanted to buy. Go ahead and blame management all you like but book stores that treat their customers right can survive and even thrive with repeat sales because of customer service. Borders was no different.

  84. This is heartwarming. I thought it was a unique occurrence that the workers at my local Borders were a-holes, which is why I stopped going and went to Barnes and Noble. Turns out it was actually company policy.

    Oh, and the Playboys at my Borders were wrapped in plastic. I actually WAS intently reading Better Homes and Gardens.

    Enjoy your well-deserved unemployment (note: to the rare Borders employee who didn’t fit the above profile, I am not addressing this at you).

  85. As a former Borders employee myself (from long ago), I don’t think this alleged employee sounds smug, like a smart-ass, whiny, etc.,etc. because this is the way customers actually are!!  A lot of it is true (especially the line about the Oprah books and the people who know what color a cover is–believe me, I’ve had those customers before) and these people made it extremely difficult for us to do our job.  Before you start throwing stones, ask yourself if you’ve ever treated a cutomer service person like this.  If you haven’t, good for you, you aren’t the target audience here.  And if you have, please learn from this sign!!  Us booksellers (at least at my store) were very kind and courteous and we would have done anything to help you (conversely, every time I go into a B&N nowadays (which isn’t often), someone is trying to sell me a Nook and then becomes disinterested once I tell them that no, thank you, I don’t want one).  Please don’t let one person spoil your whole experience.  I will always look at my time spent at Borders (off and on for 5 years while I was a college student) with fondness.

  86. I did not write this. I wish I had.

    “Ode to a Laid-Off Borders Employee.

    •When a book became popular for any reason, that was good for you,
    regardless of who wrote it, who recommended it or who made it into a

    •You worked in a bookstore; your store’s customers did not. They asked
    you where books and sections are because they assumed that you knew
    where they were.

    •Your job was to follow Borders’ policies, so if Borders allowed
    customers to return books that you think they already read or used, it
    was up to you to do whatever your store’s policy on the matter
    instructed you to do.

    •That paycheck that you’re not getting every week is, in a very real
    way, a result of your contempt for your customers, for which I’m sure
    the workers at Barnes & Noble are grateful.

    •When a customer walked in and said “I’m looking for a book,” you
    failed to recognize that this person went significantly out of their way
    to walk into a Borders and ask for your help.

    •Coupons are marketing tools, so the more coupons a family uses means
    the more effective your company’s efforts were to keep your store open
    and running.

    •A list of complaints, technically speaking, is not an ode.

    •People can be pains in the ass. Deal with it.

    •When people started a conversation by saying “Quick question,” it was
    untrue but polite in the same way they ended these conversations with
    “I appreciate your help.”

    •Knowing the color of a book’s cover is oftentimes very helpful.

    •It’s not only true that you lean to the left, it’s obvious. For all
    your deficiencies, left-leaning people such as you never suffer a
    shortage of rules for other people.

    •Unfortunately, your list of grievances to those who signed your
    paychecks in invisible ink will go unheeded by everyone. Contrary to
    what you likely set out to do, you did not change the world, even in a
    small way. You did not make a difference.”

    1. All I’m going to say (and I’m not complaining here, I’m just passing along a story), is this: I honestly had a woman one time tell me that she was looking for a children’s book with a blue cover that was about “this big” (moves hands apart to about the size of a picture book).  So, off we went to the children’s section.  I asked her if she knew the title?  No.  The author?  No.  The subject?  No.  Not even if she knew if it was about birds, dogs, fish, airplanes, trains, cities, etc.?  No.  I tried.  I really, REALLY did.  I even went so far as to scan through the first 20 shelves or so for her, pulling out all the books that might fit her criteria.  And then she got exasperated with me.  I don’t know how it was my fault or what more I could have done but, at the end of the day, I, apparently, was the one to blame.
      On the flip side, I LOVE helping people find books, especially for children!  There were so many books that I loved as a kid and I got to pass along that magic and wonder to another child, that always made my day.

  87. this should be the headstone inscription over retail’s grave. When you get better service, lower pirces and a more human touch from a computer than you do a at a live store its game over.

  88. To ex-Borders employees: When you felt contempt for your customers, who were your sole reason for employment, it showed and they noticed. Your air of superiority was palpable, and was a huge turnoff, hence your current unemployment. Yes, some people are difficult, and exasperating, and clueless, but they are coming to you for help. You should see that as a challenge and even as a compliment, not as a disrespectful interruption of your otherwise meaningful existence.

  89. I don’t get that kind of snark and haughtiness from Amazon’s website.  I guess you won’t be bothered dealing with us any more, so you’re happy, right?

    I’ll miss Borders because sometimes I like to browse, but I won’t miss the attitude.

  90. I wonder if the employees attitude towards their customers played a role in the downfall of Borders?  When you act like a smug asshole, people shop somewhere else.

    “It NEVER bothered us when you threatened to shop at Barnes & Noble. We’d rather you do if you’re putting up a stink.”

    That’s nice – apparently, the customer did leave Borders and shop at B&N and now you and your smug-ass attitude are out of a job.  Congratulations.

    I am an avid bookstore shopper.  I love Amazon because of the prices, but still like to go into the book store just to browse and see what catches my eye.  We had a really cool Borders in my town that was an old movie theater turned into a bookstore.  The ambiance was dynamic but the employees and customer service sucked big hairy balls.  I stopped going there because of the rude, obnoxious employees.  I’m not surprised they are out of business because this “ode” indicates my location was not an isolated situation…sounds like a company wide problem.

  91. Yes, this is the rant of an employee(s) who are now out of a job who is publicly venting all the things that he/she/they felt when business was good.  But what is wrong with that?  I see so many negative comments here, which I am surprised at.  Have you even been dropped by someone you really cared about and then went on to justify it to yourself and others by pointing out their negative points anyway?  I have.  I ignored the negative things or put up with them when things were good but when she dropped me, why ignore them any longer?  The truth is/was the truth.  Anyone who has worked with the public knows how difficult that can be, I did as a young guy and I hated it at times but I put up with it since I was “making my bones,” and hoped something better would come along – which it did.  But many look down on service workers and don’t stop to consider their feelings, they think just because that person works at a place (usually for minimum wage) that that person is there to serve their every whim.  A know a lot of service workers today who have Bachelors degrees, and even Masters degrees and are working service for a number of reasons, many times as second jobs.  Bottom line is – don’t look down on service workers.  They deserve respect just as much as someone who wears a suit and tie everyday.  

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