Monday, August 9, 2010

Run from the Borders

I used to moonlight at Waldenbooks, at first it was for extra money, but that didn't work out. Even with a 40% discount, I spent more than I earned. When the parent company began building the free-standing, upscale Borders bookstores, it seemed great. Borders accepted my preferred reader card, and they had great prices and excellent customer service. I even knew some of the staff.

I no longer find Borders great. Every time I go there, incompetency reigns. Today was no different. I had hoped the poor economy might have promoted better customer service, but not so.

To help out the family, I offered to do a favor and return The Girl Who Played With FirewithThe Girl With The Dragin Tattoo. As I walked up to the front door, I struggled to adjust my negative attitude and give them a chance to make my book-buying experience a positive one. Going through the doors, I dredged up patience for standing in the inevitable line. There was no line! It boded well. There was one clerk. I approached her, but first she dialed the phone to leave a message for a special order. Hm, ok. I placed the book on the counter next to the receipt. Without speaking, she picked it up, scanned the receipt and began to issue me a refund. Not what I wanted, and couldn't work, since I had not bought the book. I interrupted her to explain that I wanted to exchange it; she told me abruptly to go get the new book and come back. I went off with the book and the bag and the receipt thinking that if I had done that first and shown up at the register, a clerk could very well think I had brought in the receipt and the empty bag and gotten a free book. Her impatience with me seemed out of place, is all.

As I walked toward the books, I saw a large display of the trade paperback (read spendy, trendy paperback that makes the publisher more money) version. I had already been warned that the mass market size was hard to find. Borders has no "fiction" section. I cruised past literature and saw none in the "L" section. I went over to the Mystery/Thriller section. I'm pretty good with the alphabet, but they interrupt the purely alphabetical listing with collections and special displays, so the "L" section seemed to be farther along than it was. When I found it, there were only trade paperbacks. I asked for help. The guy flipped a thumb over his shoulder and I saw the huge glowing pile of yellow mass market paperbacks of the book I sought. I said to him, goodheartedly, "Oh, there they are! I was told they were hard to find."

"They're in the section," he answered, curtly. Sure, "in the section," but not with the others and not alphabetical.

Back at the checkout counter, a new clerk was taking over. My good attitude having completely fled with the snarky "in the section" comment by the guy at the "help" desk, I am afraid I told the clerk how much I did not like Borders and this trip had been no exception. Guess what. She promptly scanned the return book twice, thus confusing the checkstand computer, necessitating a call to a supervisor while I waited.

Customer Service! Why is it so difficult. Two days ago, the deli clerk at Safeway, Toni, went out of her way to guide me through the remodeled store, let me buy bananas at her till even though it was the deli, and let me get away with paying her 2 cents less so I would not have to change a bill since the manager had not brought her change yet. The Pearl Safeway is closer to my house, but I'll now be shopping there, Toni's customer service won a customer.

Big box stores who have no competition do not need service I guess. When there are no examples in our society of treating people well because stores don't teach their employees to do it and parents aren't around to insist their kids have manners, what hope is there for a civil society?

1 comment:

Stephanie Frieze said...

I don't spend much time at Borders since bookstores are like drug pushers for me. We head for Half Price if we dare to go to a bookstore at all, but I have to say that the few times I've been in the Gig Harbor Borders they have been very helpful finding things...willing to lead me all over the store. The median age there is a little higher than the Tacoma store so maybe that has something to do with it. Customer Service has gone to hell in a handbasket most places. Don't even get me started on J.C.Penney. Theirs is in India.