From Borders to customers: We can’t stand you, so there.

by Cinda Baxter on September 16, 2011

in Big boxes, Business, Customer Service

Spotted just inside the entrance of Borders Books in Mansfield, MA:

As a nearby retailer elloquently put it, “Do you think they are a little bitter? No wonder they are closing….”

Thanks to Ann Foley-Collins (Glee Gifts) for sharing this. Wow.

Christine Baese September 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Let’s be real. Borders likely became too big for its britches over the years. Borders did not keep up with the direction reading was and is headed. However, this sign is not indicative of a Borders philosophy. It is more indicative of a cynical employee who worked his or her butt off helping customers who were overly demanding for the amount of money they were willing to spend, and probably of management fleeing the store to other work or becoming cynical, too.

Amy September 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

My family was in the Mansfield store just after the closings were announced. The emplyees there were horribly rude and mean to all of the customers there. I understand losing your job is hard, I have been there a few times, but karma has a way of evening things out. I truly hope this ‘author’ gets what she deserves.

Stephen September 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I understand that Independent retailers, especially book sellers, are going to have a healthy amount of schadenfreude when it comes to the shuttering of the Borders chain.

That being said, it seems hard to take a lot of glee in the the fact that an awful lot of people who work at your local Borders store are losing their jobs, especially in this tough economy.

Sure they’re bitter. They probably feel like everyone is out to get them…from the customers who came in to browse but ultimately bought everything at Amazon to the executives at Borders HQ who ultimately led the entire chain to its death.

That sign is an expression of frustration and despair, it’s cathartic. Was it a mistake to vent so publicly? Sure, but we’ve probably all vented inappropriately once or twice in our lives.

I think we should all (the Borders staff in Mansfield too) remember what the Operation NICE badge featured on this blog represents: If we’re all a little bit nicer, we might just make the world a better place.

Editor’s note: While I can appreciate the value of a cathartic act, making oneself feel better by putting others down is inappropriate and immature. Had they kept this sign in the stock room, it would have been one thing, but to put it at the front door to shame every grandmother who ever bought an Oprah’s Book Club listing is wildly out of bounds.

Chris September 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Stupid employees who write letters like this should consider that every penny of their paychecks come from these evil people she complains about. When she sits around on her butt wondering why she’s unemployed, she can check her attitude in this note. I suggest a job where she doesn’t have to work with people, because we don’t like working with her.

Editor’s note: Ditto, ditto, and ditto.

Linda Forssman September 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Agreed. Sadly, the “direction” that reading seems to be headed is electronic devices, not books. Personally I find this sad.
And the list is hardly radical. The day to day reality of working in retail. Try it sometime…..
Customers are no longer loyal to retailers. They’ll shop anywhere for a “deal” and move on , based on convenience and short lived trends. This is a modern shopping malaise that threatens small independent retailers, not just the big corporate ones.
Welcome to the future. No books. No bookstores……large or small. Amazon just devoured us all.

Christina September 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I didn’t shop at Borders very often. I admit it. I tend to frequent my local neighborhood bookstore, or the library. I also use the Amazon Like list as a fantastic tool for finding the next book I might like – and then purchase at that same local bookstore.

That said, I am guessing there are a number of people who do purchase and return items they have used – we can thank Nordstroms for setting up that customer service expectation. I am also quite ready to believe that all of these things ARE TRUE – it is just that no one likes to believe that they are the customer being described. Does it come across as bitter? yes. Does it make it less true? I think not.

Annie September 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I shopped at Borders in Concord, NH a number of times. The staff there were always unfailingly polite and helpful. That said, it is hard not to be bitter when you are losing your job.

Erin September 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm

As a small retailer (21 years) I know that occasionally a customer really gets under your skin (bossy, arrogant, rude, etc.) but most of the time the folks who come in and only know the color of the cover really mean well. If you can manage to unravel their mystery they are customers for life, plus its FUN figuring out their great mystery.

Many years ago I was told, “The world isn’t out to get you. The world doesn’t even know you’re alive.” The lesson I get from this is that no one is trying to disrespect the truly talented authors by reading light summer books with predictable plot-lines and silly romances. They are reading something that brings a little joy to their life (and helping pay your salary). I’m sure there’s somewhere that the author of that sign is as as s/he implies the readers to be. Even had cheap wine? Ever enjoyed cheddar cheese? Ever laughed at a “chick flick”? Ever talked on your cell phone in a store/coffee shop/ restaurant? We need to give each other a break. Maybe that Nicholas Sparks novel is for a friend with cancer who really doesn’t want to read something heavy. Maybe it’s to keep them company that night because their partner has been deployed. Maybe they will crawl up in a hammock and enjoy it with a bottle of wine. And maybe, just maybe, they are happier than you are because they don’t worry so much about pretense and just do/read what they enjoy.

In any event, the local shops normally are so excited you brought money to them that they’ll hunt down your green book that used to be right by the register around spring. We’re happy to help you.

Ed September 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

If you want to be bitter look at the pigs at, and the governments; state and federal that give them tax advantages over the brick and mortar stores.
On the other hand LONG LIVE MOM AND POP SHOPS may the powers that be only let WalMart, PetSmart, Target, Home Depot and the like follow in the steps of Borders. Good riddance to another big chain.

Theresa September 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

All jobs have stress. All jobs working with customers involve working with stupid customers. The note is funny, and true. Book stores are a thing of the past, because people read and shop online now. Do I like it: no. Does change happen: yes.

Linda Iwaszko September 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Wow…..not a good pr move – but I understand some of the frustrations. I had a friend once say she’d like a book store to open in our town….not that she wanted to buy books, but so she could find out what’s new before going to the library. I suggested that perhaps that’s why no one opens a book store : ).
That said….the references to Oprah’s book list, the summer reading program, Nicholas Sparks, Playboy, etc….were very rude and uncalled for. Mean people shouldn’t be in retail….period.

Darla Hall September 17, 2011 at 11:13 am

I don’t mind the employee venting, though I agree that it should probably have been done in an “employees only” venue. What I do mind, however, is the thinly veiled tone of superiority and condescension throughout the manifesto. Customers may not always be right but, unfortunately or not, customers are the lifeblood of any retail business.

Laura September 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

Stephen, I don’t see anyone being gleeful that jobs were lost, and it seems like your first comments are an attempt to chastise others who have posted here. Do you happen to be a former Borders employee? I have lost not only 1 job, but 2. I was never bitter, and I don’t think that, as you imply, that’s a normal reaction. Of all the people I know who have lost jobs, the only ones who were bitter were the ones who lost their job because of their own behavior. The need to blame someone else is typically rampant in those who are unable to face the part they played in causing their current problems. I’m an avid reader and was so excited to move to a town that had a Borders (I had previously only been to B & N). After repeated visits and trying my hardest not to lose my enthusiasm for Borders, I stopped going there. The selection at Borders was more limited than at B&N, but I could have lived with that. What I absolutely hated was the rude, snarky, snobbish sales staff. I actually had a salesperson “sniff” and make a disparaging comment about an author whose book I was purchasing. Totally out of line. I asked for the manager, returned the book right then, and told the manager why. The salesclerk stood there and called me a liar. Fortunately, the next person in line had heard her comment and backed me up. THe manager DEFENDED HER!! Yes, Borders is out of business. B &N is doing well. It’s not the market that is the problem, then. It was Borders itself. THey did not survive because of flaws on their part. This sign just supports that.

Hominid X September 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

That someone wrote a bitter note doesn’t necessarily reflect their actual customer service before the company drove itself into the ground. It ~is~ an example of bitterness, but I’m no saint myself.

Rebecca Van Hout September 17, 2011 at 11:38 am

Wow, someone needs an attitude adjustment! The reason that stores no longer command loyalty in my opinion IS customer service. I do shop at places where the staff is helpful and friendly. I understand being upset at losing your job but maybe in your next one you should consider that the customer you are so annoyed with is the one providing the profits that pay your paycheck! And if bookstores want to stay in business they need to lower their prices so they can beat the competition or provide something the others are not. Retail has always been that way and those who do not adapt will go out of business!

Ryann September 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I wonder what we all would have said were this list posted in a shuttered indy bookstore? If you ran this by a employee from an indy bookstore, wouldn’t they nod and smile knowingly? Agreed that it could have been posted ib a breakroom only – and it is odd that such a list would make it to the window of a corporation owned store, but if it stops one customer from exhibiting such behavior in the future, I’m all for it…

Editor’s note: My reaction would have been the same either way: wildly inappropriate to publicly lambast customers who funded one’s paycheck. I doubt every single person who walked through their door was a reprobate deserving of public shaming and name calling.

Phil Wrzesinski September 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Anyone who felt that way about their customers should not work retail. Period. If your customers are not the way you want them, it is because you did not take care of them the way you should. A famous quote that applies here (author unknown) is, “your customers will get better when you do.”

The real lesson in all this is that if you treat your customers better than expected, if you constantly delight and WOW them, if you give them your best and make them feel they are a connected part of your store, they will treat your store that way.

I rarely get customers trying to take advantage of me because they already know I am there to serve their best interests, not my best interests. At. All. Times. And my staff is trained the same way.

As Jimmy Stewart said, “Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” You can swap the words audience and customers and the quote still works. Treat your customers as partners in your business and you will never feel the need to vent.

PS And don’t blame “corporate”. You are responsible for the attitude in your own store regardless of where the policies are created.

Merle September 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I felt a certain amount of karmic justice had been meted out when I heard Borders was closing their doors. In the 80s, when Borders and Barnes & Noble came to Anchorage AK they managed to drive out of business, 85% of the small bookshops in my city within 6 months; it does all come back around eventually. On a person to person level, it breaks my heart to know, so, so many have now joined the ranks of the unemployed; it is a harsh time to be out of work. The note: the venting of the sad, the scared, the bitter, and ultimately disposable employees of our corporate society.

Jeff September 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

At least the got the part about Glenn Beck right :-)

Chelsea September 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I love how everyone assumes the author of this note is a ‘she’ and not a ‘he’…
I found it hilarious but it should’ve been stuck in the staff room not on the front door.

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