Monday, May 2, 2011


Things broke down in the last few weeks at Borders Paradise Valley. With no bathrooms and not much merchandise, business got slow. It was an endurance test. I had a hard time thrashing my notes into something coherent.

Little Old Ladies From Hell were out in force. They were making the circuit of all the closing stores. “The other stores look nekkid compared to yours,” they chortled. A lot of them suddenly had use for shelves and fixtures -- and of course they're connected to non-profit organizations, so they have to ask about tax exemption.

An old fart pulled up a long horse-trailer and filled it up with shelving and fixtures.

They kept asking “When's the last day?” I started to to fear we may be the last store to close in the area.

The “Area-e” desk that once glowed in the center of the store like a sacrificial altar became just another fixture for sale, its red, particle board & plastic veneer tops pried off, exposing a complex tangle of wiring that once ran the computers.

Customers” who don't need bathrooms stared at empty shelves and exposed wires – for hours.

The official close date of 4/16/2011was announced. I put it on my name tag. The information didn't make customers happy.

There was a lot of impulse buying of marked down Sony and Cruz readers. “Hey, gimme one of those, too!”

A man bought one of the fixtures holding up a LAST TEN DAYS! sign.

An effeminate boy showed his mother the least disturbing illustration of a manga he could find to convince her let him buy it.

A workshop on applying for unemployment, doing a resume, etc. at the North Scottsdale store was announced.

Nerdy teens in lame manga-inspired costumes complained about the graphic novel selection.

Then they changed the final day to the 17th! I amended my name tag . . .

While moving the science fiction section, the seat of my pants split – I had to tie my overshirt around my waist & show my HOMELAND SECURITY/Indian war party T-shirt. Once again, I went naked before the world, and nobody noticed. They weren't paying attention

We got a delivery – all the stuff the Tucson store couldn't sell.

The guy giving the unemployment/job hunting seminar showed up at our store by mistake. He didn't believe he was wrong. After some arguing, he got out his cell phone and called them.

Finally, we sold out of e-readers – even one of the original Sony's without a touchscreen.

A new sign appeared in the back room: “Attention – Our new Closing date has been moved to the 19th or the 20th.” I drew a big question mark on my name tag.

Then they committed to the final date: Wednesday, 4/20. It was my day off. I didn't mind missing it. The customers were having some heavy emotions, and I didn't want to deal with it:

What if something happens and there's no internet and ebooks don't work – what will we do to pass time?”

What am I going to do on Friday nights?”

Where are those homeless people going to go?”

Then, because someone complained, a health inspector made us reopen the bathrooms that hadn't been cleaned in weeks, a couple of days before the end.

Another note appeared in the back room: “Paychecks for 4-22-11 will be sent to your homes. Then your check for this week will come in your mail mid week next week.”

I'm glad to be out of there. Hope those checks clear.


  1. Although what you described makes me very sad, the way you used your nametag reminds me of the fun and quirky people I worked with at Borders. Borders employees are a special breed. Good luck to you!

  2. Unfortunately, the fun and quirkiness are not part of the corporate program.

  3. Yes, Ernest, fun and quirkiness aren't part of the current corporate vision. But they used to be. Thank you for contributing and for writing until the end. God help me , I am in a going forward store and just wish it was over. Besides slitting my wrists with a broken toltec, I too am recording our history. You have continued to make me smile, help me remember, and inspire. I wish you happier days, solid employment and encourage you to do a Borders book. I'd buy it for sure.

  4. Thanks, Ernesto, for your candid comments. As a former Borders employee (who closed a store in the Waldenbooks purge), I share your pain. Best of luck, as you know there is life after Borders, and it can be sweet!

  5. Oh Ernesto, we could have sold the stuff at the Tucson store....if you looked, we were still in the top percentages for sales even after they shipped off most of our stuff....sadly it looks like they closed us early because corporate failed to pay the water bill or the garbage company -> at least you didn't have to go dumpster diving to clean up. - Former Tucson employee. Oh and Mike Edwards, should you read the comments: can you please explain the value add you provide to warrant very large bonuses (see 2010) while telling your employees to stay scrappy and humble (and giving them nothing)?

  6. Yeah, Corporate kept yelling at us over nickels and dimes while they flushed millions down the toilet, and now they give themselves fasto bonuses for it. How long do they think they can keep running this scam?

  7. Well my store is still open for now...I really enjoy the drawings, I think I might hang them in our break room.
    Its so frustrating knowing the top 15 individuals in Borders Corpo are receiving over 5 million in bonus' so that when they sell the company 6 months after bankruptcy is over they can still go out on their new yachts for that mediterranean cruise they've wanted to go on for so long...or at least since they got back from last years trip...

  8. Good luck to you Ernie. It sounds like it has been some pretty crazy days.
    See you guys soon. Stephanie

  9. Good post, Ernest. I left Biltmore last summer (after thirteen years with the company) but kept abreast of Borders' antics through my pals Stan and Lorraine, who stuck it out until the bitter end. Their descriptions of the store's final months always came with a moral: "Be glad you're not here!" I hope your new job agrees with you, while leaving you plenty of time to write!


  10. Good to hear from you, Dallas. My best to Stan. And Lorraine -- who I don't remember, but probably talked to on the phone many times . . .

  11. Ha, my name tag for St. Patrick's Day: KISS ME, I'M FIRED"