Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Had More Problems at Borders Bookstore

Every single time I visit the Borders book store near me, I have problems---every single time. I try to avoid going there. Each time I have these issues I feel gratitude for the simplicity and wonderful service and great inventory of

I hate buying new books at full retail price. There is usually no need to. I would rather buy books at a discount and own more books than buying less at full retail.

I get a lot of information by reading online customer reviews on Amazon, which is often more helpful than looking at the book in my hands. On the other hand, sometimes there is nothing like browsing through a book in a store and realizing that it is what you are looking for, or that it is not what you are looking for. Another ‘con’ is that often I visit bookstores to buy a certain book and can’t find it on the shelf (when it is in stock at Amazon). It is frustrating when I take my precious time to drive to the store (burning gasoline, too), go in and search around, only to realize the store doesn’t have what I want in stock.

Nearly every book that I buy is for educational use with my children. I own at least 4200 books (that is how many I have already catalogued in my computer, and I have more that are waiting to be catalogued). Yes, I am a bookworm!

I have been disappointed in the inventory of the children’s books at Borders, time and time again.

I find the salespeople either ignore me, or they are unfriendly. Some are downright unprofessional. Most cashiers also don’t know how to input discount codes for various Borders discount programs and require the Store Manager’s assistance (causing me to wait), for example.

Recently, the wonderful Cub Scouts in my Den presented me with a Borders gift card as a gift of appreciation for the work that I do. They hit the nail on the head when they selected a gift of a book store gift card for me. Too bad it was for Borders!

Yesterday after six days stuck in the house with sick children I just had to get out. I decided to go to Borders which is in the next town over and use the gift card for something special for myself. I also had in hand, a $5 off coupon from a past promotional thing they did where you buy 10 children’s books and then at ‘your next purchase’ you get $5 off. The only other stated rule was that it could not be combined with any other offer. It did not say the coupon could only be used on children’s books. I also had a gift card with some money left on it from a gift I received over two years ago! I wanted to use all of these things and finish them up. I also had my Borders educator discount card which is expired but could easily be renewed, as I am currently still homeschooling.

At yesterday’s visit to Borders, I could not find any books on paper arts or other books such as crafts and handwork, in the art books section. I could not find an employee to ask where those books were kept. They were not anywhere near the other art books (like where the Barnes and Noble store puts them). One employee walked by me so quickly, three times, with a headset on, that I could not stop her to ask for help. She didn’t seem aware of anyone around her, walking quickly and staring straight ahead, zipping here and there, as if she didn’t want to help any customers and had other things to do. I didn’t want to chase after her, so I read the store directory that said the category was on that floor but there was no map of the floor layout (hey, that would be a good idea). I finally found someone at the information desk (which had been absent of employees before that), and asked and found out that the books on collage and paper arts and also metal crafting, rubberstamping, knitting, and jewelry making were “in the reference section across from the dictionaries”. This was about 100 feet away from the art books. What an odd placement! Where is the logic there?

A quick note on headsets in case employees or store managers are reading this: when employees are wearing them, customers are unable to tell if they are listening to someone talking or if they are unoccupied. It is hard to catch the eye of salespeople with these headsets on and when they walk and talk at the same time because they seem unaware of their surroundings, as they are intently focusing on the conversation they are having. I am a polite person and would hate to interrupt their conversation but how exactly are we to know when they are listening to someone speak or when they are free? It was much easier when someone had to pick up a telephone receiver to talk into!

I knew some books that I had seen online at Amazon which were not discounted by Amazon, and they are on my ‘wish list’. I had seen some of those interesting books reviewed in magazines and wished I could purchase them. I was hoping that they would be at Borders so I could use the gift card to buy them.

I checked my stash before I left home, so I had my current proof of homeschooling my children, my expired Borders Educator discount card, my two gift cards and the $5 off coupon. Phew. The retail stores certainly don’t make it easy to shop anymore, do they?

I was happy to find six books that looked interesting. I sat down in a big leather chair to browse them. I decided on two books which I knew Amazon didn’t discount (so that made me feel better about paying full price for them at Borders plus paying state sales tax). Each book was $22.99. I was happy to have found one of the books that I had hoped to find which was on my ‘wish list’.

I approached the cashier to pay and handed him my $5 off coupon. The coupon had lots of rules such as ‘cannot be combined with any other discount’ so I was not asking for the educator discount (but I could have as they are art instruction books that will be used with my children). I just wanted to use that $5 coupon and the gift cards and then to get out of there. The cashier refused acceptance of the coupon saying that it was only for redemption on children’s books. That was not stated in the rules but I went with it anyway, just to get out of there. I didn’t have it in me to fight about it or to switch mid-stream to ask for the Educator Discount. He was otherwise a pleasant person.

I went to leave but realized that still having that $5 coupon in hand was going to bug me so I went back upstairs to the children’s department to find one book to buy and to use the $5 coupon on. I selected a book which I saw at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, the revised edition of “My New York” by Kathy Jakobsen.

I had resisted purchasing it at the Festival because it was full price (even though I could have had the author sign it since I met her and heard her speak twice at the Festival). I hate having to set limits on my spending but that is reality!

I stood in line to pay and a different cashier offered to help me. I presented the $5 coupon and the book and tried to pay. He was polite and friendly, asked me if I wanted to join the Borders Reward Program. I asked if that was some program whereby I pay a fee and then get a discount on books (such as Barnes and Noble and B. Dalton stores have). He said, “No, it is free and if you open an account today with it you get 30% off of all your purchases today.” I was aghast. I asked why, 10 minutes earlier, did I not get offered this when I had just spent $46 on two books (which is a sizeable amount to me!)? He replied in a professional yet slightly robotic tone, “I can speak only for my own actions, not those of my co-workers.” I then indicated it was the cashier right next to him. I could tell that the first cashier was listening, and then the guilty cashier began pretending he did not overhear what was going on. I quickly figured in my head that the $5 coupon was more than a 30% savings and I declined his offer and said I wanted to use the $5 coupon but that afterward, I wanted to return the two books I did buy and reprocess them with the 30% discount. He said something the $5 coupon is basically the same as the 30% off so would I sign up for the Borders Reward program? I politely said, “No, because I want the 30% discount to come off of these two books which total to $46.” He understood what I was saying; he was not dense, but he seemed to be on a big sales push to sign people up for the Borders Reward card. He tempted me by saying something about when I spend $50 I then get some kind of discount or something. I didn’t care about the future discount as I hope I never go there again. I just wanted the 30% discount off of the $46! He agreed that it could be done that way but that I’d have to see the store manager and go stand in another line to handle that. I was annoyed with cashier #1. Cashier #2 was friendly and professional.

So I stood in the other line and when the store manager was free, she began processing my transaction. I did not speak to her and she did not speak to me. There was no apology or explanation from her about this mix-up, or anything. The cashier had already told her what was to be done so I guess she didn’t feel the need to communicate with me. What ever happened to employees or managers apologizing for mistakes or problems their employees caused? No one seems to apologize anymore. She asked me to sign the credit card slip and I had to ask what it was for and she replied it was permission to put a credit onto my credit card. I resent any cashier or manager asking me to sign credit card slips without telling me the price of my purchase or whatever it is! I had added in a box of candy (“Harry Potter Bernie Botts Every Flavor Jelly Beans” which is something they had asked me if actually existed ‘in real life’ and I had said, “I don’t know”.), as a special treat for my kids. There was no price on the box anywhere but I bought it anyway (how much could a small box of jelly beans cost anyway?) So I walked away as a Borders Reward member (still not really understanding what that is).

When I got to the car I looked at the receipt and saw she processed the first book with a 30% discount and the second book with a 25% discount and the candy had no discount and that cost $6.50! Wow! I don’t quite know what went on there. I was too disgusted to go back in and ask for the discount on the candy and also the other 5% off of the book. Since the cashier indicated “my discount was on 30% of my entire purchase that day”, I still feel that I was cheated here.

I was also turned off and annoyed to see a large display of what I consider to be child porn books which are being published and heavily marketed to pre-teen and teenaged girls. If you don’t know what I am talking about, it is the series of books such as these: Gossip Girls, The It Girl, The Clique and The A-List. I saw a girl of about 11 years old scanning through them and I was tempted to go speak to her about what trash they were and to not fill her mind with rot but really it is not my business so I kept my mouth shut. I did look around for signs of a parent nearby as I was curious if her mother or father knew what she was considering buying or at least what she was reading, but if there was a parent in the store, they were no where near her and must not care what their daughter is reading or they would be right there next to her helping make the purchase. When my back was turned she left the display and I didn’t see if she was making a purchase or not. She had been skimming the pages of the books when I saw her. I also would have loved to hear what she would say about other girls her age reading those books.

One last funny thing was in the middle of the display of the racy books, someone had placed an entire set of “Anne of Green Gables” books! What a great counterbalance! I have a feeling it was NOT a Borders employee.

I don’t ever want to go back to Borders again. I have a 7/10th finished Borders Explorers card which I may give away to a fellow homeschooler who likes to attend their educator days.

Frankly I am wondering if these book stores are losing money to online book discounters or what? It seems they offer discounts all over the place in order to lure customers in. I know these programs confuse the customers and the employees alike. I have an educator card for use on books to use in the classroom. They have educator days in which everything in the store is discounted for educators. They have the Borders Explorer punch card, buy 10 children’s books and get $5 off ‘your next purchase’. They now have this Borders Reward program. What is next? They have us all confused, the customers and the employees!

I just found some confusion with Borders employees online for all to view about their Reward Program. Here is an online discussion board of the dislike of the new Borders Reward program.

In case you are wondering what my past problems were, I will briefly state these problems:
1. Cashier challenging me as to whether I really am a homeschooler or not, even when I showed paper proof and showed a current Borders Educator card.

2. Store Manager not understanding that my homeschooling proof does not come from the state because in Connecticut the state does not issue any kind of paper proof to homeschoolers, and not wanting to renew my Educator discount card.

3. Cashier not believing those children’s books on subjects of math, history, science, and nature (birds) was really going to be used in my homeschool ‘classroom’. I got angry about that and finally got my discount. How obvious is it that non-fiction ‘school subject’ children’s books are for use in ‘the classroom’?

4. A different cashier on a different day, questioning me as to why I was buying books on multiple non-fiction children’s book subjects and how they could be used in my ‘classroom’---telling me that a classroom teacher teaches only one subject in her job. I explained I was a homeschooler and they didn’t get it. I had to spell out that I teach EVERY subject. I got dirty looks for that but the discount did go through.

5. A different cashier refusing to grant children’s picture books with fiction content as being ‘for classroom use’ as they were fiction. I fought that and got the discount.

6. I once went to buy picture books from the Five in a Row unit study booklist and had a hard time finding books which are considered ‘classics’ and books which have been in print for many years. I remember not being able to find “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Story about Ping” or any of the dog-themed Marjorie Flack books. I was hard pressed to find any of the Five in a Row books on their shelves. However they did have loads of twaddle books and television and movie tie-in’s.

7. I was once refused an Educator Discount on non-fiction children’s books that came from the ‘bargain’ section and was told that bargain books can’t be further discounted.

8. I was told once that an art instruction book and that a book about fine art history is not considered ‘educational’ and I could not use my Educator Discount on them. I explained that they are to teach art and art history and they are being used in my ‘classroom’. I got the discount in the end along with dirty looks.

The way the employees have acted in the past is as if they resent giving discounts and honoring money off coupons that their own company dreamed up.

Ugh! Just writing this makes me angry all over again!

It is so much easier to just order from Amazon, order over $25 worth of stuff and get free shipping plus no state sales tax. I have enough problems and hassles in my life and the last thing I care to deal with is battling Borders employees for legitimate discounts from programs that Borders dreamed up in the first place.

While writing this entry I got curious about what the Borders Reward program really is and found that it is really not as great as it seems. I read on the Borders site that one must spend $50 IN ONE MONTH and then they get something called a ‘personal shopping day’, at which they get 10% off the purchase made on that ‘personal shopping day’. A Borders employee stated on the chat forum that if the customer spent the $50 then went in and spent $10 on their 10% discount day they’d have saved $1 off of a total $60 purchase. Not much of a discount is it? That comes out to a 1.6% discount.

If you want to read some interesting and frustrating Borders employee chat about this program, go here. The discussion gets very interesting on pages 3 and 4 in which it is revealed that if cashiers don’t sign up a certain percentage of customers for the program they get warnings and then are ultimately fired.

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1 comment:

Melissa O. Markham said...

I love reading your blog! Really! I don't have a Borders in my neck of the woods, but boy, did you get the run around.

On the other hand, we have a Barnes and Nobles here that I love (though mostly I buy my books on Ebay or at library book sales). They offer a free 20% discount card for home-educators and they have workshops for home educators. They have an extensive collection of children's books and games and educational stuff. If you say you are buying books for educational purposes, I have never been challenged.

And on top of that, I had a wonderful experience there this past year. We went to the midnight party to get our Harry Potter The Half Blood Prince this year. I read it, DH read it, then my 9 yo son started reading it and it literally fell apart! I have never seen a book do that and I knew DS hadn't been mistreating it. So I took it back (this is a month after purchase and I didn't have the receipt) and she took the book, handed me a brand new one off the shelf and said it definitely shouldn't be falling apart that way. She said they had gotten a memo that the glue was bad on some of the books and that she hadn't had any returned yet. She also said if I had problems with the new copy to bring it back and she would give me another! I was thrilled! What service!

But you are right, overall service is sadly lacking these days. Everytime I go into a grocery store, I am appalled at the way the cashier's behave, we would have been fired 20 years ago!