Borders has a special place in my heart. It is my favorite brick and mortar bookstore but, most importantly, Borders is my first non-family employer. Getting hired was a step towards independence, spreading my wings and leaving the nest. Though the position was merely Point-of-Sales (a.k.a. cashier), I took pride in it. Who has more contact with the customers than the cashier? Who has the bigger responsibility to make the customer happy?
I was at Borders for a year. By the time I left, I could tell things were going downhill. This partnership with Amazon, where you can order a book through the website to be picked up at Borders, was a mess. We weren’t getting notifications when books were bought so the books that had been promised for easy pick-up weren’t ready. Most of the employees on the floor didn’t know about the Amazon partnership beyond that it existed. Customers and staff were equally confused and frustrated. Besides this, our management staff changed often and drastically – the woman who had been the HR manager when I started became the cafe manager, then the sales manager. She wasn’t the only one whose position changed. Multiple supervisors and managers had changed, left, replaced. To add on to all this was the new hourly staff.
Yes, retail has a high turn-over. Considering my particular Borders was right next to a college and two high schools, it had plenty of students starting and leaving left and right. But when I started, a core staff of supervisors and booksellers/musicsellers were already established. When I left, only 10% of these people remained. The new hires were not so friendly, didn’t have any real knowledge about whatever they were selling, and didn’t care. They were just in it for the paycheck.
The worst part of all this wasn’t the messed up partnerships and the uncaring staff. With good leadership, these are blips in the map. Easily fixable. But that was Border’s downfall. They didn’t have good leadership. As early as 2001, there were grumblings of dissent. I believe that’s why we had such a change in staff. The good ones left. And now? Borders is bankrupt.
In San Francisco, there were four Borders Books and Music: Stonestown, Union Square, AT&T Park, and SF Centre. The latter was always easiest and most convenient for me to get to. It was right in the mall, where I did most of my shopping. My husband would go shopping with me, get bored, and wait for me in the Borders. If I wanted more of a selection, I would go to the Union Square store. The employees were always kind of grumpy but I knew my way around. They closed the AT&T Park location a while ago. Now the only Borders store left is Stonestown. It anchors a mall but it’s on the outer edge of the city and not even convenient by public transportation. I’m left without a bookstore. Guess where I’ll be buying my books now? Online. Which will probably further the decline of brick and mortar bookstores. I’d love for another bookstore to fill in Borders’ spots – maybe Barnes and Noble?
Good-bye, Borders. You coulda been a contender.