Friday, August 26, 2011

We're All Going Crazy

In my years of working retail, I've come to believe that our brains just shut off when we walk through the threshold of a retail environment. I must say that Borders took pride in our customer service, and really, we spoiled all of you. We used to come up and ask if we could find something for you, type it in the computer for you, walk you to the section, and put the book in your hands. If we couldn't do that, then we'd walk you through the online purchasing process.

Since liquidation, we can do none of this. Our stores are a mess. Nothing is where it should be. And people are pissed.

I've had several people become upset over the fact that we can't look up books, we can't take checks, and we can't accept returns or exchanges. That's understandable to a degree. However, a few days ago a woman flipped out when I told her we can't hold items. I mean, she flipped completely off her handle. Things got so out of hand that we had to call the police. There was a few hours where we all feared for our lives. We had no idea what she or her crazy family were going to do to us. The crazy thing is, it was over THINGS! Merchandise. It is now human nature to threaten lives of people in order to get THINGS. Really?

The whole time I was defending her in my head. Maybe she has a mental illness and skipped her pills. Maybe I was going through the motions at the register and not paying attention to how agitated she was becoming until it was too late. Maybe... it wasn't my fault at all and sometimes people just flip out for no reason. And for that reason it's a sad, sad world.

I don't want a job that I fear. Working at a bookstore should not be scary. But, then again, we sell blankets, perfume, make-up, and games. We're not really a bookstore anymore. We sell things "cheap" for the people who want but can't afford to want. It's a sad, sad world.

As I get ready to sleep and wake to another day at the store, I send out a little prayer that people will be understanding, that we as employees will have patience, and no one will get hurt.

And hey, it rained the other day, so maybe it's not such a sad world after all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Liquidation: We're All Going to Need Therapy

Liquidation sucks.

Let me expand on that: Liquidation sucks for employees.

To me, Borders was over the day liquidation started. We had no idea what was going to happen, but we did not anticipate the complete madness that ensued. That first Friday, the discount was only 10% but we were hammered all day long. Our normal sales goal was blown out the roof, even for Christmas standards. As we locked the doors that night, I had to fight back tears. The wreckage was unbelievable. From that day on, the store was unrecognizable. Our customers are not the same. Now we have "bargain hunters", mostly people who have never set foot in a bookstore but want great deals. These people do not care if they open merchandise and then throw it on the floor. These people have to touch everything in sight or it's not real. These people don't do math, so the constant question is, "How much is this?"

To cope with all of this, our team has bonded like I never thought we could. Instead of quitting on the spot or backstabbing each other, we've grouped together to get through this. We have rubber band fights and build forts. We blew up all the balloons in the story time supply closet and put them in our GM's office. We push each other around on carts and laugh until we can't breathe. We put random Star Wars sound effects on the overhead. We made our own mixed CDs with REM ("It's the end of the world as we know it!") and SemiSonic ("Closing time, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here.") We dance to *NSYNC out on the floor for customers to see and laugh when they don't even care. Most of all, we lean on each other for job hunting and career advise. I have some really great co-workers, and the end of Borders will mean the end of a great team. I don't know if I'll find a workplace like this again, but I hope it's out there.

My current plan is as follows: substitute teaching (again...) while I work my way into the Peace Corps. My recruiter is working with me to put together the perfect application, which is refreshing. Instead of a rejection, someone wants to give me a try! There is light at the end of this tunnel. While I wished for two years to find a full time teaching job here in Texas, it seems that Texas doesn't want me. I'm meant for bigger and better things. When I return from overseas, I hope to continue my education and pursue my doctorate degree in theatre history or theatre education. After putting this "plan" together, the future doesn't seem so scary anymore.

I'll close with a recent quote by a customer in response to the fact that we can no longer use computers to look up books: "You mean I actually have to look on the shelf??!!"