…is not really on fire. It’s not really even smoking.
I went to the Borders I knew still existed. My childhood Borders moved into Tysons proper years ago, and both it and the two-story one were part of the original shuttering back in March.
I went in, imagining myself walking out with an armload of books, like when I was child.
I came out holding DVDs. (Also? Sweating. The AC was turned off. Did I mention it was triple digits here?)
I was slightly stunned as I looked down at what I was purchasing before I got in line, but there was the cold hard facts. Books were 10% off. TEN. When you stood there and did the math (and I heard more than one couple discussing “how to figure out ten percent off”), this meant every book I picked up was still five dollars more than I could get it at Amazon, including shipping and handling.
Everywhere I looked, people were picking up books, looking at the tags, doing some math and putting the books back down. (Also? fanning themselves frantically with whatever came to hand.) And these were just the mystery/scifi sections. The Literature sections were practically pristine.
The DVD section that I’d passed on the way in looked like a tornado had been through. As I started to wonder if I was going to buy anything, I saw the sign “DVDs 50% off.” Now, I know, we’d said no more DVDs. Blu-Ray was the new format, we technically have one in the PS3 player–if we bought anything new, it would be on Blu-ray. But Blu-Ray was only 20% off….and besides, the “Blu-Ray Must Haves” included movies like “Grown-ups” and “Wall Street 2.” To say the selection left something to be desired would have been an understatement. Meanwhile the DVD box-set shelves–also marked 50% off–were all keyed open, the box-sets themselves just waiting, prizes to be taken. And there in front of me were two semi-rare Old Dr Who Box Sets–one Fourth Doctor, one Fifth Doctor. My FAVORITES. If there’d been one of the Third Doctor, I would’ve taken that too. I did consider New Whos, but the only one they had I didn’t already own was Martha. If they’d had Donna, it would’ve been a different story–my standing promise to myself that I’m going to wait for Blu-Ray be damned. But it was just Martha. I could wait.
The only other section where I saw things priced over 20% off were the magazines. They were 40% off and I found both the America’s Test Kitchen summer issues I’d eyed but ultimately walked away from in Whole Foods. Score!
As I stood in the awful long line of people not buying very many books (the only ones who seemed to have a lot of books were the children–apparently Kids Books were 30% off), it seemed to me the last time I stood in this Borders and it was this crowded was the holidays a few years back. As I made my way up to a cashier who was barely able to hide his rage at the situation, I tried to make small talk. “Guess it probably hasn’t been this busy since Christmas, huh?”
He sneered at me. “Christmas was cake!” he spat. “This….” he hand-gestured toward the huge line, “….bah!”
I remembered back to this past holiday where I shopped for family, and how hard it was to find anything at the Borders closest to my house (this was one of the ones was shuttered back in March.) Even trying to find a children’s classic, like “The Monster At The End of This Book” was a struggle. I also remembered how short the lines were. It’s been many years since I last worked retail, but some things stay with you. The holidays were many things in the retail world, but none of those were supposed to be “cake.”
And that’s how I walked out of a fire sale in a book store without buying one book. Because that’s not a fire sale. That’s a slow sludge sale. Perhaps next weekend they’ll catch on that they need to finally start pricing themselves to be competitive with Amazon. They’ve already lost. There’s no pride left to hold up. The least they could do is price the merch they’re so frantic to get rid of to actually move.
Who knew Borders management was so incompetent they can’t even go out of business properly?