The past seven and a half years of my life have been dedicated to Borders, and even now that I have a new job with better pay, I've been holding on. I always said they'd have to burn the place down with me inside to get rid of me. This may be the closest thing, and it may hurt more.
Crowds of people, many of whom I've never seen before, flooding through the store for discounts that aren't as good as they'd have gotten with their free Borders Rewards card. My store is in shambles, and try though we might, there's little we can do to recover it. It's been likened by many to vultures circling a not-quite-dead corpse in the desert, or to kneeling next to something you care about as it dies, only to have someone come up and kick it just for spite.
The shining light that remains are the regulars; the people I've come to know and care about over the years, who have come up to me to thank me for my years of service. One young man came up and pointed out that he realizes I've been waiting on him since he was little; I know it. I told him I remembered being shocked when he came in one day and was suddenly taller than I am. We shook hands, and he wished me well; a few minutes later his older brother did the same. Karen and Greg, who've been some of my most dedicated guests in the cafe, came up, and Karen gave me a big hug and said how nice it's been getting to know me. Margaret gives me a sad smile and a wave on her way out the door, and Nicole wishes us luck as we work through the next few weeks. These people are the reason I've done this, and the reason I've stayed.
And of course I can't forget my fellow booksellers. Only four people in the store have been with the company longer than I have. We're the old guard, the experienced booksellers who remember what Borders was in the glory days, when we didn't know how on Earth we'd get the store to function on less than 800 hours a week. Many of the rest are my baby birds, who came to the company after 600 hours a week seemed like a godsend.
This is a painful time for all of us. Bookselling, to me, has never been the same as the rest of retail. A true bookseller knows their customers, and knows their books. It's the only way to be good at it. To my customers, I'll say this: we are going to miss you more than you'll ever know. Please, if you can find the time, come see us, give us a smile, a hug, a handshake. You're how we will survive this with any of our sanity intact.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
A few bookseller friends of mine shared a link to this blog, where an author and bookseller in England shares her crazy stories about customers that pop into her bookshop. This, of course, led me to find this one, and this one, and this one as well... All of which have inspired me to remember a couple of my most stunning moments in the customer service industry. Most of them aren't as good as the ones I've linked, but it's worth a shot to share them anyway.