I went to our Borders store in Waterford, Connecticut, the other night to burn up my gift card before the USS Bankruptcy, having taken on too much water to stay afloat, heads keel-first, for the bottom. Between the really big box store in the Waterford Commons and the a-little-bigger-than-a-push-cart size shop in the Crystal Mall, close to four dozen people will be former employees probably by the end of September.
It was not a happy place to be Tuesday. I hadn't been in there since the fiasco after Christmas with the delivery (and lack of same) of compact discs I ordered on line to be delivered to the local store, vice mailed to my house. The problem wasn't the shipping- the problem was their system was too stupid to get out of its own way. I ordered three discs at the same time-the then-new Springsteen, a Best of Old 97's (though NOT that one) and a middle-aged Gaslight Anthem.
Springsteen arrived within forty-eight hours which proved a bar later orders could not ever clear. Eventually (preceded by a gerund that looks like 'firetruck' but shorter) the Old 97's stumbled in but Gaslight Anthem, after numerous false starts, reminiscent of Monty Python, failed utterly and epicly. Three times in two months after having been called to pick up my order only to learn there was nothing to pick up, I received in the mail unannounced (because surprise is an accountatnt's ally) a 'we're sorry you didn't like the thing you didn't like' consolation gift card, minus a restocking fee, and Borders.com went silent.
After a vigorous (see previous note on firetruck for adjectival descriptor) exchange on line and via telephone with folks more outsourced than in the loop, it was decided to waive the restocking fee and yet another card was snail-mailed to me to join the original gift card which still had a balance, plus the oopsadaisy card for GA no-show and the 'yes, we'd fuq up a one car funeral procession' gift card for the restocking fee snafu.
I had already decided to never shop there again, a vow I broke after realizing that once the S. S. Borders sinks beneath the breakers of bankruptcy, the cards will be worthless. Mom raised crazy children, not stupid ones (stop looking at me). I grabbed Elliot Smith music that was the best possible purchase given the locale and the situation.
I should point out none of my bad feelings about Borders had anything to do with the flesh and blood people in the brick and mortar footprint, where, just as they have been doing since the store first opened (in 1498, maybe?) people were sitting having a coffee and reading books and magazines as the afternoon bled out into the evening hours.
Had anyone been reading a newspaper, perhaps they'd have noticed the front page story about the impending closure of the store but, as it was, the only ones who seemed to know that were the employees, and, I assume, some nervous vendors hidden out of sight waiting for the rest of the vultures to form a really large swarm before zoning in and moving on. I'm not sure what people who used to work in bookstores next do for a living since all the folks I've ever encountered, in indy shops as well as Mega-Box, have always seemed to be genetically pre-disposed towards book selling.
Even places like Borders who, I guess, made a not inconsiderable amount of business from DVD's and CD's, the passion was always in the printed pages of the book carrels and stacks. For my part, and I've bought thousands and tens of thousands of books in my life, though very few in recent years (my seeing eye dog prefers the ones on tape), I still cannot buy a new, not familiar to me, book on line. It has to be in person; I don't know why.
And now, because the business model proved to not be economically viable, forty more people will join the 9.2% of the Connecticut workforce that doesn't work at this moment as state and national leadership continues to tell one another, and attempts to tell the rest of us, a story on how things are turning around and looking up. And all I can hear is "I can see me bound and gagged, dragged behind the clownmobile" and fear we're running out of places to store the big shoes and the red noses.