Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The store is half-empty . . . or is it half-full? I'm reminded of Dalí and Buñuel's Un Chein Andalou: In the springtime, the couple is half-buried in the sand and insects devour them.

Me? My nose got runny. Spring in Phoenix. Snot bubbles and dribbles don't bother customers any more than blood.

People keep asking about what day we're closing for good. I had to make a DON'T KNOW WHAT DAY THE STORE IS CLOSING! sign for my name tag – a few people laughed, most still asked.

Customers quibble over every discount – wanting to know the percentage off of each item. They're asking for items to be taken off the transaction when the total is too high. Or they have their children “decide” what to put back if it all costs too much, and of course, the parent forces the child to keep something “educational.”

And they keep saying how sorry they are – a never-ending funeral! And some have just now heard the news about Borders.

The homeless guy who sleeps standing up still comes, propping an open book on an empty shelf, pretending to read.

All the fixtures have price tags. Even the shelves. Pre-fab, particle-board crap slapped together by bookstore clerks that will fall apart before your get them home. Get 'em while they last!

All we're out of Harry Potter – entire kids section squeezed into a pair of shelves up front.

And the computers are gone . . . no more looking up things

They've managed to do one last ridiculously complicated coupon to give customers an additional 10% off.

Frankly, I'm sick to death of discounts.

More people ask when our last day is, they don't notice my tag. They don't believe me.

A guy bought a heavy metal boxy thing for ten bucks: “I don't know what it is, but I like it.”

All products are looking like crap to me.

A family of bikers bought Hunter Thompson's Hell's Angels and Sonny Barger's book on motorcycle safety.

An old guy ransacked the history section. Most sections are melting away and getting jumbled.

Rumors about stores – not ours – closing this weekend . . .

Later, I dreamed I was working in the new, improved Borders of tomorrow. It looked like a Las Vegas casino with lavish décor, plastic plants, costumed dwarves, and live animals. And no sign of any products or even shelves. I was called to an office where I was given poor grades for my customer service.

Borders customers are like the inhabitants of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, going haywire when their master computer dies .

A sign of things to come: “Our bathrooms will be closed as of 3-28-2011.”


  1. Why are the bathrooms closing? Are they selling the fixtures?

    Sorry you have to go through this. Having helped close a company before, it is truly depressing. Somehow, packing up the place felt like an insult. Especially all of the tags that were affixed to things like mini-fridges and what not declaring that these now belonged to this or that person who, unlike the rest of us, had gotten their golden parachute and still had a job. I needed the money, though...

    At least my job wasn't in retail -- I didn't have to deal with the public and be helpful and friendly through the process.

  2. Another sad thing is, the customers act like I'm breaking up with them. The twisted smiles I get when I tell them I found another job . . .

  3. Check out the Huffington Post bit on the sign in the closing Borders window that says "NO BATHROOM TRY AMAZON"

  4. Working in a liquidating store, one of the only positives I've found is that I don't have to take crap from anyone. "My computers are GONE. I don't have one to look things up for you. No, I will not just go searching the store to find it for you." And being able to tell people to leave. The spitting, yelling, and throwing that we'd normally put up with from people... We don't have to put up with it anymore.

    That being said, I'm sad it's over. I didn't work at Borders because of the money. I worked there despite the low pay because I love books and I loved working at Borders, and before Borders, Waldenbooks. Now, even though I have another job lined up that I will enjoy, I know I won't love it nearly as much as I loved working at Borders. If I'm still there when the lights go out for the last time, I'm pretty sure that I will cry. I'm going to miss that place.

  5. In our store we were lucky to have a pretty cool liquidator but the customers were the worst. I still had people come up to the reg with a coupon a month after we had the signs up that said, "NO COUPONS" and they would ask, "I guess I can't use this huh." And I have had quite a few people over the past few weeks who came in looking for a last minute book for a club meeting or class assignment even now that we are closing and I wonder if Amazon Prime will offer two-hour delivery for them after we are gone.

    Overall it was a good run and I made a few good friends. I laughed with them and battled the cranky old ladies with them and so we will be friends long after the store is dark. I also know an employee who met a nice guy in the cafe while on her break last year and they will be married this fall. At the end of the day it was always just a job but the people made it a great place to work.

    As for Borders the circle of life continues. The retail jackals eat the carcass of the loser only to be eaten themselves when they become weak and old in time. I fear the pursuit of profits above all else will starve this country of good jobs until all we have left is a city of Walmarts with an army of part-time wage-slaves sweeping the floors. Only time will tell.